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ASK ANDY: ‘What kind of workout should I do if I only have 30 minutes a day?’

So what’s the most effective workout if you only have 30 minutes to train? I love this question for several reasons: One, because it implies that the person is ready to commit to exercising every day — and consistency is the most important factor in creating change in how we look, feel, and perform. And two, quite frankly, 30 minutes of focused and smart exercise is plenty of time to get in a terrific workout!

Let’s start with a quick discussion of a few specific goals that various people might have for dedicating 30 minutes a day toward exercise. Maybe someone wants to lose weight or build muscle or run faster — or even just move around easier. There are many different motivations — the key is to find what motivates you — and make your goals specific and achievable.

For example, instead of saying, “I want to lose weight,” say, “I am going to lose 25 pounds by the Fourth of July.” This gives you a realistic goal and a finish line — and then once you achieve that, you celebrate, then go on toward creating your next goal!

For this answer, I’ll create a sample workout program for someone who is already reasonably healthy, but extra motivated to improve their general level of fitness over the next two months and get lean and mean. Good weather is coming, and there are many people who would love to have their summer bods ready! So, for the goal of getting leaner while also getting stronger and feeling better — in eight weeks with 30 minutes to exercise each day — here is what I recommend.

This program is built around one basic concept, and that is, KEEP MOVING! With only 30 minutes to train, there is no time to waste. Of course, if you are feeling unhealthy in any way, or just really need a rest, then by all means, rest. Pause, drink water when needed, catch your breath. But if you’re healthy and feeling good, then keep going! We want to keep our heart rates up, fire our metabolism, and keep it running hot for the rest of the day (more on the EPOC Effect in the next article). We’ll focus on three strength training days, three aerobic training days, and one “active recovery” day each week.

As I said in some of my previous columns, if you want to see real change in how you look, feel, and perform, then your intake is critical. This workout will put your body in a position to take huge strides forward, but if you are not paying close attention to what you eat and drink, then you will be taking two steps forward and two steps back.

Day 1: Upper-body Pushing and Pulling

NOTES:

  • You can pick any exercise, based upon your available equipment, location, ability, etc. Most importantly — pick an exercise that makes you feel strong and confident. That might sound funny, but confidence and self-esteem are huge factors in you continuing your workout program.
  • For the strength-training exercises: shoot for 15 repetitions of each movement.
  • For the active rest, try to complete one minute of the movement. This is great for the metabolism (fat-burning) and also as a “reset” for the muscle systems which you are targeting

Warmup/Movement Preparation: 5 Minutes. Here is an example of the “bare minimum” pre-workout movements for preparing our bodies and minds for workouts:

  1. Chest Exercises
  2. Back Exercises
  3. Triceps Exercises
  4. Biceps Exercises
  5. Core Exercises
  6. Active Rest

Day 2: Core, Aerobic Training, Stretch

NOTES:

  • Take 5 minutes to warm up, work on mobility, and do three core exercises.
  • For 20 minutes, choose some type of aerobic exercise: walking, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, etc. Try to complete an interval workout, along these lines:
    • 5 minutes of slow ramp-up
    • 10 minutes of: 1 minute moving quickly, 1 minute of moving slower to catch your breath.
    • 5 minutes of slower movement to “cool down”
    • Take the last 5 minutes to slow stretch, paying particular attention to hamstrings, glutes, hips.

Day 3: Lower Body and Shoulders

NOTES:

  • You can pick any exercise, based upon your available equipment, location, ability, etc. Most importantly — pick an exercise that makes you feel strong and confident. That might sound funny, but confidence and self-esteem are huge factors in you continuing your workout program.
  • For the strength-training exercises, shoot for 15 repetitions of each movement.
  • For the active rest, try to complete 1 minute of the movement. This is great for the metabolism (fat-burning) and also as a “reset” for the muscle systems which you are targeting.

Warmup/Movement Preparation: 5 Minutes. Here is an example of the “bare minimum” preworkout movements for preparing our bodies and minds for workouts:


Day 4: Core, Aerobic Training, Stretch

NOTES:

  • Take 5 minutes to warm-up, work on mobility, and do 3 core exercises.
  • For 20 minutes, choose some type of aerobic exercise: walking, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, etc. Try to complete an interval workout, along these lines:
    • 5 minutes of slow ramp-up
    • 10 minutes of: 1 minute moving quickly, 1 minute of moving slower to catch your breath.
    • 5 minutes of slower movement to “cool down”
  • Take the last 5 minutes to slow-stretch, paying particular attention to hamstrings, glutes, hips

Day 5: Upper Body Pushing and Pulling

NOTES:

  • You can pick any exercise, based upon your available equipment, location, ability, etc. Most importantly- pick an exercise that makes you feel strong and confident: that might sound funny, but confidence and self-esteem are huge factors in you continuing your workout program.
  • For the strength training exercises: shoot for 15 repetitions of each movement.
  • For the active rest, try to complete 1 minute of the movement. This is great for the metabolism (fat-burning) and also as a “reset” for the muscle systems which you are targeting.

Warmup/Movement Preparation: 5 Minutes. Here is an example of the “bare minimum” pre-workout movements for preparing our bodies and minds for workouts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQTN0D5kVOs

  1. Chest Exercises
  2. Back Exercises
  3. Triceps Exercises
  4. Biceps Exercises
  5. Core Exercise
  6. Some thoughts on Active Rest

Day 6: Core, Aerobic Training, Stretch

NOTES:

  • Take 5 minutes to warm up, work on mobility, and do three core exercises.
  • For 20 minutes, choose some type of aerobic exercise: walking, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, etc. Try to complete an interval workout, along these lines:
    • 5 minutes of slow ramp-up.
    • 10 minutes of: 1 minute moving quickly, 1 minute of moving slower to catch your breath.
    • 5 minutes of slower movement to “cool down.”
  • Take the last 5 minutes to slow-stretch, paying particular attention to hamstrings, glutes, hips.

Day 7: Active Recovery

This is not exactly a day off, but it is a day to reset, recover, and recharge. Try something new, get outside, be active, play something, move around, breathe deeply, stretch, take a nap — and drink plenty of water…

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