15–, 30– and 45–Minute Circuit Workouts

Long exercise sessions do not necessarily yield better results. Sometimes less is more. If you find yourself strapped for time, don’t fret! Increasing the intensity of your workout can be just as effective, and in some cases more effective, than simply increasing the duration.   

Dedicating one hour (or more) of uninterrupted time for any given workout can be intimidating or seem out of reach, especially when juggling the everyday demands in today’s culture of “busyness.” A belief in the common misconception that, in order to stay fit, one must spend hours in the gym can even discourage some individuals from working out at all. The good news is that you may be even more inclined to work out harder when allocating only 15, 30 or 45 minutes for exercise – simply because you are aware of the short time frame.   

Shorter, high-intensity workouts (such as circuit workouts) increase VO2 max levels, which measures an individual’s maximum aerobic capacity.  As your VO2 max increases, so does your fitness level. Even endurance athletes, such as long distance runners, implement short, high-intensity workouts into their schedules to help improve overall fitness.   

Conversely, longer workouts can be quite taxing especially if they are intense, as you are expending much energy over an extended period. What happens after those long, demanding workouts? We tend to overcompensate for those depleted energy stores by eating an excess of calories after a long workout.

And honestly, a shorter workout is better than no workout at all!  Engaging in physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week positions you to reap potential health benefits including reduced risk for cardiovascular diseases, weight loss, stronger bones and an overall improved quality of life.   

It’s okay if you can’t start with 150 minutes per week right away. Set a goal to increase your total minutes each week and simply aim for progress – no matter how small or great – progress is progress!    The length of each workout has no bearing on whether or not you reap the health benefits associated with regular exercise.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one minute of vigorous-intensity activity is about the same as two minutes of moderate-intensity activity.  So no matter how much (or little) time you have available, you can still fit in a workout without sacrificing too much of your time.

Here are a few suggestions of 15-, 30- and 45-minute total body circuit workouts that will help you get in a quick – and effective – sweat.    And, remember, you can always modify your workout and substitute body weight exercises if you don’t have the appropriate equipment required for a specific exercise.

 

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15-Minute Total Body Circuit Workout: The 5-4-3-2-1 Workout

  • Continuous Aerobic Activity – 5 minutes
  • Option #1
    • Brisk walk or jog
    • Cycling (indoor or outdoor)
    • Stairmaster, elliptical or other cardio machine
  • Option #2
    Choose five aerobic activities from the list below and complete each exercise for 1 minute.

    • High Knees
    • Jumping Jacks
    • Jump Rope
    • Burpees
    • Mountain Climbers
    • Alternating front, back and/or side kicks
  • Lower Body – 4 minutes
    Choose four lower body exercises from the options listed below. Perform each move for 1 minute.

    • Walking Lunges
    • Standing Squats
    • Glute Bridges
    • Box Jumps
    • Calf Raises
    • Plié Squats with Dumbbells
  • Upper Body – 3 minutes
    Choose three upper body exercises from the options listed below. Perform each move for 1 minute.

    • Push-ups
    • Tricep dips
    • Tricep kickbacks
    • Shoulder raises
    • Front and lateral raises (alternating)
    • Bicep curls
    • Bicep curls with shoulder press
    • Upright rows
  • Athlete’s Choice – 2 minutes
    Choose any of the four exercises from the options listed below. Perform each move for 30 seconds.

    • Jump squats
    • Upper cut punches
    • Split jump lunges
    • Plank Hip Dips
    • V Tuck Combo OR Superman Raises
    • Jab punches
    • Diamond pushups
    • Bicycles
    • Oblique high knees
    • Run in place
  • Core – 1 minute
    • Traditional Plank or Side Plank (30 seconds each side)

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30-Minute Total Body Circuit Workout: 40/20 Training
40 seconds work // 20 seconds rest // complete circuit three times

  • Squats with Dumbbells
  • Push-ups
  • Reverse Fly
  • Walking Lunges
  • Mountain Climbers
  • One Arm Dumbbell Row
  • Plié Squats with Dumbbells
  • Front and Lateral Raises (alternating)
  • Plank Hip Dips
  • Bicep Curls, Overhead Press and Tricep Extension

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30-Minute Total Body Circuit Workout

  • Warmup (brisk walk or jog) – 5 minutes
  • Round 1, three sets of each exercise – 5 minutes
    • 10 air squats
    • 10 sit-ups
    • 10 lunges each leg
  • Rest – 2 minutes
  • Round 2, three sets of each exercise – 5 minutes
    • 10 pushups
    • 20-second plank hold
    • 10 mountain climbers each leg
    • 10 jumping jacks
  • Rest – 2 minutes
  • Round 3, three sets of each exercise – 5 minutes
    • 5 burpees
    • 10 box step ups each leg
    • 10 tuck jumps
  • Cool down – 5 minutes

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45-Minute Total Body Circuit Workout

  • Warmup (brisk walk or jog) – 5 minutes
  • 10 sets of each exercise – 25-30 minutes
    • 5 push-ups
    • 10 sit-ups
    • 15 air squats
    • 20 second glute bridges
    • 30-second rest
  • 10-minute  EMOM*
    • 5 burpees
  • Cool down – 5 minutes

*EMOM stands for every minute on the minute. For this circuit, do five burpees as soon as the minute begins. Rest for the remainder of the minute. When the next minute hits, do five burpees again, and rest for the remainder of the minute, etc.

Before beginning any exercise program or changing your physical activity patterns, you should always consult with your doctor or physician, particularly if you have been injured or have a medical condition.