We know, we know. Trying to find the time and energy to work out might have fallen dramatically down your list of priorities since the onset of COVID-19.
Between worrying about the news, keeping up with work, and staying present for your friends and family, the gym feels like a different time and place.
But if you’re looking for the best 20 minute workout to lose weight and feel great, then we’ve got you. A bodyweight workout is the best way to push hard for a short period of time, and you don’t need any fancy equipment or to fork out hard earned cash on gear.
In this guide, we’re going to explain the benefits of a bodyweight workout circuit for losing weight, before showing you the dream circuit and some modifications for the exercises if you’re not quite at your physical peak.
By pushing hard for 20 minutes you’ll start to develop your core strength, open up your tight hips and aching back, and enjoy a cardio workout that feels satisfying.
Why a body weight workout is the best routine to lose weight
When you’ve got a limited amount of time to dedicate to your workout routine, a bodyweight workout goes from a good idea to the best idea.
That’s because each exercise within the workout focuses on several different muscle groups. Alongside this, your heart rate will increase for the ever-important cardio exercise, and you’ll be able to burn through calories.
Circuit training also requires little by way of gadgets and gizmos, and helps you develop your strength. Strength training, can also burn far more calories than interval training or regular cardio.
So a bodyweight circuit will help you to develop your strength, burn calories, and can be done in twenty minute bursts. If you’re looking to lose weight but you’re not confident in how well you’ll stick to daily exercise, this routine is also fantastic because you only need to do it two or three times a week to feel the benefits.
That’s because “rest days” are the times when your muscles are rebuilding themselves, and so you don’t want to interrupt that process with more training.
The Best 20 Minute Workout Routine to Lose Weight
Before you get started on any of these exercises, make sure that you get yourself warmed-up. This doesn’t have to be a particularly involved process – stretch out your leg muscles and swing your arms so that you don’t force your muscles to go from still to stretched.
After your workout, or if you’re looking for a way to do a little cool-down, you may also find that a brief yoga session lets you stretch out your sore muscles.
We’ll recap the best way to start your weightloss routine, but in general we recommend doing 12-15 reps of each exercise.
If you’re starting off with modifications (adjusted exercises that can be a little easier if it’s been a minute since you last worked out), then you may want to build yourself up by taking a week on one modification before gradually increasing the difficulty.
1. Push Ups
Target Muscles: Shoulders, chest, and shoulder blades
- Start on your hands and knees with your palms flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart, and your feet and legs together, stretched out behind you.
- You should be resting on your toes with your legs stretched out straight and your palms directly underneath your shoulders.
- Try to envision a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.
- Then bend your elbows and lower your body until your nose touches the floor. Try to keep your chest tense and keep that straight line going.
- Then push back up to a starting position, but be careful not to lock your elbows at the return.
- Repeat for 20 push ups.
Modification 1: Wall Push ups
As floor push ups require you to lift all of your body weight, an easier alternative to start with is a wall pushup. This means you can practice your form, without straining your chest.
- Stand about two feet away from the wall with your arms straight out in front of you. Your palms should be in line with your shoulders, and flat against the wall.
- Envision a straight line from the top of your head to your heels, and keep this position.
- Bend your elbows and lean towards the wall until your nose touches the wall.
- Push back to the starting position, and be careful not to lock your elbows.
Modification 2: Knee Push ups
If wall push ups aren’t providing a challenge anymore but you don’t feel ready for standard push ups, you can always try knee push ups.
- Start on your hands and knees with your hands placed slightly wider than your shoulders.
- Move your knees back far enough to lean all your body weight on your hands, and you can flatten your back from your head to the back of your knees.
- Keep the line strong from your head to the back of your knees, and then bend your elbows.
- Lower your body to the floor until your elbows make a 90 degree angle, and then push back up.
Target Muscles: Butt, hips, thighs, lower back, and hamstrings
- Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes slightly pointing outwards. Tense your stomach muscles, and face forwards with a straight neck.
- Bend your knees slowly and drop your hips, while still keeping your heels flat on the floor. You want to keep your back as straight as possible, so if it helps, hold your arms out in front of you at shoulder height.
- Pause at the bottom of the movement before pushing back up into standing position again.
- Repeat for 20 squats.
Modification 1: Assisted Chair Squat
If a squat is making you feel anxious then you can help yourself get used to the movement by performing chair squats. As a squat is designed to imitate how we sit and stand, you can get a similar workout using a chair.
- On a sturdy chair, sit with your knees bent to make a 90 degree angle with your arms out in front of you. Your knees should be directly above your heels, and your shoulders should be directly above your hips.
- Rather than pushing through the balls of your feet, push up through your heels – making sure your gaze is forward, chest is up, and your back is straight.
- Once you’re standing, keep your gaze fixed forwards and chest up, before retuning back to sitting.
Target muscles: Butt and thighs
- Stand up tall and straight with a straight back and a tense stomach.
- Take a long stride forwards with one leg, and then bend your knees until your back knee almost touches the floor. Make sure your front knee doesn’t extend past your toe.
- Step back until your feet are together.
- Then repeat on the other side.
- Repeat for 20 lunges on each side.
If you’re finding lunges a little too hard, you can start with shorter steps and work up to longer ones.
4. One Arm Row
Target muscles: Back, shoulders, triceps
This is the one exception to needing equipment, but the good news is that if you don’t have a dumbbell you can use… anything else. We can recommend a can, a large bottle of juice, or even a suitcase.
- Step into a lunge position, keeping your front knee in alignment with your ankle and your back leg straight.
- Lean forwards a little, and rest your free hand on your front thigh. Tighten your stomach muscles and keep your back straight.
- Lower the dumbbell (or can, or juice, or suitcase) down to the floor until your arm is fully extended. Make sure you don’t curve your spine or lean with your neck.
- Then lift your elbow up towards the ceiling until the dumbbell is in a straight line with your chest.
- Repeat 20 times, and then repeat on the other side.
Target muscles: Stomach and back
- Stretch on the ground, resting your forearms on the floor, and your legs stretched out, resting on your toes.
- Tighten your stomach muscles and maintain a straight back from forehead to heels.
- Hold the position for as long as you possibly can, with 60 seconds being the goal.
- Rest, and repeat.
Modification: Side Plank
The plank is one of the most effective ways to build core muscle strength without having to engage in crunch movements. It’s also a great way to build up your stability, which means that there are no specific modifications here – simply hold your body for as long as you possibly can in the right position.
- Rest on your right side with your legs stretched out and heel to heel. Your right elbow should be directly under your shoulder, and your head needs to be in a direct line. Rest your left arm along the left side of your body.
- Tense your stomach muscles and then lift your hips and knees while slowly exhaling. The aim is to keep your body rigid and straight as possible. Hold the position for as long as possible.
- Repeat on your left side.
6. Jumping Jacks
Target muscles: Shoulders, thighs, and calves
- Stand with your arms by your side and your feet hip-width apart. Make sure you bounce on your tiptoes.
- Jump off the ground and spread your legs so that they land with your feet further apart than your shoulders. At the same time, lift your hands above your head (and with an optional clap if you want to add a little fun!)
- Then jump again, bringing your arms and legs back to the starting position.
In the same way as other modifications, it’s possible to change the jumping jacks to make them slightly easier. In this case, it’s about focusing on one side of your body and then the other.
- Stand with your arms by your side, feet hip-width apart, and balancing on your toes.
- Step out your right leg so that it’s further out than your shoulders, and stretch your right arm so that it’s up and over your head.
- Then step back in so that your legs are together again.
- Repeat this on both sides.
Target 20 Minute Workout for Weight Loss: One Circuit
- 20 squats
- 10 push ups
- 10 lunges (on both sides)
- 10 one arm row (on both sides)
- 15 planks
- 15 side planks
- 30 jumping jacks.
Your aim to make the workout successful is to complete the circuit without a break between any of the activities.
Once you’ve completed one circuit, start again. And if you can, complete a third circuit for a full workout.
You’re going to find yourself tired at the end of the end of the exercises – and that’s the point! If you find yourself struggling to complete a circuit, or to finish an exercise, it’s important not to push yourself if it means doing the exercise incorrectly.
This isn’t a case of having to get it right, but as these exercises involve multiple muscle groups working together, it’s important not to risk injuring yourself.
All together, you should find that as you get into the habit of this 20 minute routine it gets easier, and you notice that you’re feeling stronger and healthier than ever!