There will always be those days, or even those seasons, when getting to the gym is just not going to happen. Fortunately, you can get in a great workout at home in 20 minutes with just seven exercises! All you need are some dumbbells and an exercise band.
Why These Seven Exercises?
Four of the seven exercises are compound (push-up, bent-over row, goblet squat, and Romanian deadlift). “Compound” means the exercise involves multiple joints and works multiple muscles groups at once. As a result, just these four lifts will hit every muscle group in your body. Additionally, these four lifts are well balanced. The upper body exercises incorporate both a push (push-up) and a pull (bent-over row), while the lower-body exercises include both an extension (goblet squat) and a hinge (Romanian deadlift).
The other three exercises (lateral raises, banded glutes bridges, and lateral band walks) are isolation lifts. Isolation lifts are used to polish a muscle group. Here we are polishing the shoulders and glutes, because you really can’t go wrong with a nice set of shoulders and bum.
What further makes this workout so great for the time-challenged is that these seven lifts can be broken up nicely into one upper-body tri-set and two lower-body supersets. A “tri-set” is three exercises performed back-to-back, with little to no rest in between. A “superset” is the same concept, but involves two muscle groups. Lifting in this manner allows you to keep your heart rate up and to work efficiently.
Begin by getting your body warm for two to three minutes, using whatever method works best for you. Suggestions: jump squats, jump rope, run in place, etc. Warm muscles are less likely to get injured, and performing the warm-up helps wake up your neuromuscular system to prepare it for the work ahead
Complete two to three rounds of each tri/superset. Regarding the rep suggestions (for example: eight to 12 reps of bent-over rows), you will want to use weights that challenge you. If 12 reps aren’t enough to challenge you anymore, and you don’t have heavier dumbbells around, increase the reps to whatever does challenge. Eighteen? Fine, but add “get more dumbbells” to your shopping list.
Tri-set 1, Upper Body
Main Muscles Worked: pectorals (chest), triceps, front deltoids (front of shoulders)
Lay on the floor, hands in line with your chest, a little wider than shoulder width. Angle your hands in a way that feels comfortable. Your feet should also be placed where they feel comfortable.Take a breath in, engage your core, and on an exhale push your body up, in one straight line, until your arms are straight. If keeping your body in one straight line is too difficult, keep your knees on the ground.On an inhale, lower your body back down until your elbows are bent at about 90 degrees and your body hovers above the floor. That’s one rep.
Do as many reps as possible. Then go immediately into bent-over row
Main Muscles Worked: latissimus dorsi (back), rhomboids (back), biceps, and rear deltoids (back of shoulders)
Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other. Bend your knees slightly, and angle your torso forward. Keep your back flat, and your head in line with your spine. Your arms should be perpendicular to your torso. Take a breath in. On an exhale, retract your shoulder blades and pull the dumbbells back toward your torso, keeping your elbows hugged in tight. At the top of the contraction, imagine squeezing an orange between your shoulder blades. Inhale and return the dumbbells to their starting position. That’s one rep.Do eight to 12 reps, then go immediately into lateral raise.
Main Muscles Worked: medial deltoid (middle shoulder head)
Stand with your feet about shoulder-distance apart. Keep your knees soft.With your palms facing each other, hold a pair of dumbbells. Bend your elbows 90 degrees. Take a breath. Exhale and lift your elbows away from your torso until your arms are parallel to the floor. Ensure you’re not swinging the weights, but instead lifting them with control. Inhale and lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position. That’s one rep.Do eight to 16 reps. Rest for about 30 seconds, and either repeat the tri-set (back to push-up), or go on to superset 1.
Superset 1, Lower Body
Main Muscles Worked: glutes, quads, hamstrings
Hold a dumbbell with both hands at chest height. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Inhale, and bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Exhale, drive into your heels and press back up to the starting position. That’s one rep.Do eight to 12 reps, then go immediately to Romanian deadlift.
Main Muscles Worked: hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae (lower back)
Hold a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip in front of your thighs. With a slight bend in your knees, stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Inhale, hinge at the hips, and with a flat back, lower your torso until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings (back of your thighs). The weights should be tracking along your legs, not dangling out in front of your body. You are not trying to touch the ground. Rather, you are just coming down until you feel the stretch. Exhale, and raise your torso back up to the starting position. That’s one rep. Do eight to 12 reps. Rest for about 30 to 60 seconds, and either repeat the superset (back to goblet squat), or go on to superset 2.
Superset 2, Lower Body
Main Muscles Worked: glutes.
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place a dumbbell right in line with your hip bones.
On an exhale, squeeze your glutes, push through your heels, and drive your hips up so that your body makes a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
Hold this position for a second and really squeeze your glutes.
On an inhale, slowly lower your hips back down. That is one rep. Do 10-20 reps. On your last rep, isometrically hold the lift at the top for about three seconds, concentrating on the burn. To increase difficulty, use a resistance band. Place a resistance band around your legs, either above or below your knees. When finished, go immediately into lateral band walk.
Lateral Band Walk
Main Muscles Worked: abductors, glutes
Place a band around your lower legs wherever the resistance feels right for you.
Bend your knees a bit, and staying low, begin to walk side to side, resisting the band.
Place your palms on your glutes so you can feel your muscles working.
Do 10 to 20 reps, taking the set to burnout.
When finished, either rest for about 30 seconds and repeat the superset (back to banded glutes bridge), or celebrate
But wait! Where’s the core work?
You’ve been working it the whole time! It’s been holding you in plank during the push-ups, keeping you from toppling over during the standing free-weight exercises, and helping to lift your hips during the glutes bridges.
Perform this workout any time you have 20 minutes to spare. Allow at least 48 hours for recovery before hitting it again. Take a few minutes to stretch when you’re done. It’s great to have a strong body; a strong body yields a strong mind. Make time for it.