15-Minute Workout

Maybe it’s a business trip, or a busy day that has managed to crowd into your traditional workout time. Let’s face it: there are dozens of everyday life circumstances that often get in the way of the perfect workout routine. But what can we do to keep these occasional challenges from becoming excuses to forgo a workout altogether? Sometimes flexibility (of a non-physical variety) is key. Enter the 15-minute workout.

A 15-minute workout routine should be easy to do, shouldn’t take much – if any – equipment, should be able to be performed just about anywhere, and should work the core as well as the upper and lower body. It’s a program you can do at home when you’re short on time, when you’re on the road and don’t have the time/opportunity to hit the gym or go for an outdoor workout – even when you’re in the hoosegow awaiting bail. Alternatively, you can also use it during a “normal” day to break things up.

Before we move on, we should stipulate that we aren’t proposing the 15-minute routine as a basis for your regular workout, but we think it can be a solid, full body program that you can rely on in a pinch.

That said, let’s break down that 15-minute routine. Think “boot camp calisthenics” with short, intense segments of 30 seconds to 1 minute with at least 10 seconds rest between exercises. Here’s a simple option.

Pushups (Do as many as you can do in 30-60 seconds.)
Sitting monkey (Lie on your back with hands at your sides and lift your upper body and legs. Position your arms and lower legs to be parallel to the floor. Do as many as you can do in 30-60 seconds. You get the idea.)
Free squats
Handstands (Walking your feet up and down the wall)
Burpees (video example)
High-step run
Inchworm (Beginning in standard push-up position, walk your feet toward your hands and then back again to initial position. video example)

Repeat as often as needed for a 15-minute program, but the sky’s really the limit. You can always make up new exercises using a towel, a chair, the bed, etc. For more ideas and video demonstrations, go to www.crossfit.com and check out their “exercises and demos.” The point is, anything you do intensely for 15 minutes will buy you another day of fitness maintenance.

Comments or suggestions for additional exercises in the above workout? Other ideas you use for quick routines? We’d love to hear them.

svanes Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Mark’s Weekly Workout Routine

Mark’s Beach Sprints Video

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

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19 thoughts on “15-Minute Workout”

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  1. I love CrossFIT 🙂

    I have to get my boyfriend doing it too because when we go to the gym and I do Crossfit I am done and ready to go usually within 20-30 minutes (depending on how much warm-up I do) but he wants to stay 45 minutes to an hour.

  2. Yeah, I’m one of those guys that has to spend at least an hour at the gym every time I go (mostly cardio). I usually don’t have time for the gym on weekends, so this is something I’ll give a try. Do I have to worry about my knees at all while doing this?

  3. Hindu press-ups (push-ups) are great, especially to alternate with a fast exercise like (superspeed) jumping jacks.

  4. I just noticed the book on top of the gym bag in the photo. Whoever can read Faulkner while working out deserves a gold medal just for that.

  5. I just finished a crosstraining article and was embarrassed at how much Id scoffed at it before/my fitness level improved during the 6 weeks I did it.
    Im lucky to live in a warm climate (and have no shame? who can say) so I used monkeybars at a park and hula hoop as well.

    I was amazed at how much more fatigued I was after those workouts than after my 40 minute stationary bike ride!


  6. Between my previous body comp test on March 7th and my last on April 23rd, I was in a middle of a house move and was only able to hit the gym once a week (30-45 min). In between I did wind sprints at home and either stair running or hindu squats at work. I also ate primarily a high protein/fat, high fiber diet in addition to partial IF 2-3 times per week. The results of my last body comp surprised me. On March 7th I was at 170 lbs at 14.1% bf. Last week I measured in at 167 at 12.3% bf. What surprised me was the loss was 3.5 lbs of fat versus an actual GAIN of .5 lbs of lean mass. Secondly, my previous fitness/diet regimen over the prior 12 months netted all of 2% bf reduction. I’ve been a convert to high intensity for years now but this is the biggest change I’ve experienced. I think I can realistically target 10% bf for this 48 year old body now.

  7. Ron,

    Nice work. Isn’t it amazing how concentrating on briefer, but more intense workouts can have such an impact? Also, your diet is designed now to alter body composition towards musclebuilding/preserving and fat-burning. Keep up the great work. 10% is not that far away…and once you get there you’ll see how easy (and painless) it is to stay there.

  8. Thanks Mark. I’m frankly boggled why so many people (guys?) seem so afraid to try this regimen. I’m not a professional athlete, so I don’t stress myself out scheduling my workouts, I take what time is available and work with that. Even my weight training is pretty retro. I do nothing sitting or lying down…squats, deadlifts, olympic presses, dips…mostly 3x8s or 5x5s, in and out in 45 min or less. Nothing sexy, all compound exercises. Nothing ego driven, just what gets the results I want.

  9. why rest between exercises?

    come up with a rep scheme, say..40, 30, 20, 10 – meaning 40 of each, 30 of each, and so on until complete.(scale the volume for your current capacity as appropriate)

    storm through for time (3,2,1, GO…) – Better yet, find a couple friends and do it together – keep score.

    Keep track of your time and compare the next time you do it. If you perform better, then what you’ve been doing is working. (empirical based fitness)

    That’s CrossFit

  10. I agree, Norm, omit the rest and you’ll be getting an authentic CrossFit workout.

  11. I am a 79 yr. young widow with MS, Arthritis and many other handicaps and need a wheelchair exercise setup. I was an acitivities coordinator over 40 yrs. ago until felled by MS, diagnosed in 1978. I did passive exercises with bedridden residents and regular wheelchair group sessions. But my memory is faulty due to the MS and a mild stroke last year. I live with one of my sons and am primarily confined to my room and do most of my ADLS alone. Thank you for any help as I have been on the Phase I Diet for a year and your Master Formula for a few months. I have lost about 35 # so far. Have at least that much to go. My health is better but I am still looking for more. I now have an electric chair but without ramps still cannot get outdoors. Hoping to get an electric treadmill to start walking. May GOD continue to Keep and Bless you and yours. In His Love, Colleen

  12. Mark,

    I may be missing something, on the weight days are you doing zero cardio or just low intensity?


  13. Hey Mark,

    You hit the spot with this post. I would add that even 10 minutes can give you a great workout. Many times at night if I’m really strapped for time but want to add a little high intensity work I’ll alternate 20 pushups and 20 situps as fast as I can for 10 minutes. If you do it fast enough you don’t want any more than 10 minutes! Any two bodyweight exercises can be alternated but I really like the basics…pushups, situps, squats, burpees.

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  17. Can someone link an illustration of the sitting monkey exercise mentioned above? I can’t seem to imagine what one has to do in it.