Creating the Most Effective 20 Minute Workout

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In nearly any social setting, cookouts, community events, and even just random run-ins on the street, I am asked nearly the same question.

“What is the most effective 20 minute workout? “

In fact, even Men’s health magazine asked me a very similar question and I’m going to give you the same answer I gave them.

My answer though is always the same, and not because I’m boring, but because I know from the tens of thousands of individuals we have worked with that a workout structured in the following way is extremely effective.

To design the most effective 20 minute workout we want to consider the following things:

– Train the entire body, or work as many “muscle groups” as possible.
– Be realistically possible in the time available for the person working out.

With this as the goal all you have to do is choose an exercise each from the following categories.

This category can get neglected, but for a really effective workout you must do something that makes you move weight quickly and powerfully. When you move fast with weight you are recruiting the most possible muscle fibers to complete the job.

Choose exercises like: Olympic lifts (if you know how), kettlebell swings, medicine ball throws, and plyometrics (that are appropriate for your body).

These exercises should typically be done for lower repetitions because they are the most fatiguing.

Lower body push or pull
This category is another big one because our lower body muscle groups are the biggest and allow you to the most external loads possible.

We divide the movements into push and pull, basically dividing the body across the midline for front side and back side muscle groups.

You get bonus points if you choose single leg exercises because they will require an extra level of stabilization.

Choose exercises like: squats, deadlifts, RDL’s, lunges, step ups, split squats, and single leg RDL’s.
My favorite rep ranges are 5-8 repetitions which will mean you can handle some decent weight but will still challenge your conditioning.

Upper body push or pull
Again we are dividing the body for front side and back side respectively. This is a big point to make because so many people default to only doing the push versions of upper body training. Make sure during a week you are doing equal pulls to every push type exercise you do.

Choose exercises like: Push ups, pull ups, chin ups, inverted rows, dumbbell rows, kettlebell rows, push press, and overhead press.

Same number of repetitions as the lower body exercises.

Your core acts as a stabilizer to maintain good position through your spine, so its important to train it that way. No more crunches or sit ups necessary, a truly effective core should be able to brace and hold position.

Choose exercises like: Planks, side planks, band anti rotation presses, farmer’s walks, deadbug, birddogs, and hip lifts

Do these for time or reps, and BIG bonus points if you do them for a number of breaths (which will really make you engage your core).


This section is the time to do a lot of fun exercises, but it’s always important to raise your heart rate for a period of time to train both the aerobic and anaerobic system. We are big advocates of interval training for most goals, but there is definitely a place for steady state “cardio.”

Choose things like: Rope slams, higher rep kettlebell swings, bike sprints, treadmill sprints, prowler pushes and sled drags.

When fitting them in a training session like this do them for reps, or a set distance.

Fitting it all together
The simplest way to do this is choose 5 exercises, one from each category and do them in one giant circuit. If you are limited on time this is extremely effective because you can set a timer for 20 minutes or 30 minutes and do as many rounds as possible in that time.
Then the next time you train if you do the same circuit if you do more rounds with the same weights, you have improved, if you do the same number of rounds, with more weight, you have improved.

In Health,


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