30-Minute Workouts for a Busy Schedule


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Written by Guest | Last Updated February 24th, 2020
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Women doing pushups
Guest Post by Rebekah Miller

One of the most common reasons that people halt their exercise regimen is due to time constraints. In today's world, we are busy. Whether it's work, school, kids, or a combination of all of the above, our time is precious.

Many people believe that if they cannot get in a solid hour of fitness, then it's not worth it — but that certainly is not the case. There are plenty of movements that we can do that will help us reach our goals without spending countless hours in the gym.

PJ Glassey, CEO of X Gyms in Seattle, personal trainer, and exercise researcher, has pioneered a science-based approach and developed a targeted 20-minute workout program for busy professionals who still want to stay fit. That inspired us.

We've put together five different workout ideas that will take 30 minutes (or less) to complete. Since many people like variety, we made sure to include varying styles of exercise to give you a little bit of everything. Best of all, each workout is extremely efficient and when completed consistently, will yield results.

Most of these exercises can be done in the comfort of your home or outside with minimal equipment, but if you do better working out with a partner or in class setting, check out these pointers for choosing the perfect gym.

Always make sure to warm up prior to your exercise routine and cool down afterwards to help prevent injury and alleviate soreness.

Workout #1: Flying Solo

shoes and weights

Location: Home or gym
Equipment needed: A single dumbbell (approximately 10–25lb) and a timer/watch
Duration of workout: 20 minutes

This style of workout showcases that you don't need more than just a single dumbbell to get a workout in. You can place the dumbbell in your car for a midday workout and/or keep it near the television to complete rounds during commercials while you watch your favorite shows.

In this workout, there are four dumbbell movements along with a CYOC (choose your own cardio) exercise. Depending on where you're exercising, you may choose to run on a treadmill, sprint down the street, jog in place, jump rope, or choose your own.

Four rounds of the following:

  • 60 seconds of Alternating Dumbbell Snatches
  • 60 seconds of Reverse Lunges (holding the dumbbell on your chest)
  • 60 seconds of Renegade Rows
  • 60 seconds of CYOC (choose your own cardio)
  • 60 seconds of Rest

Workout #2: The Adventure

woman running with headphones

Location: Comfortable walking trail, park, neighborhood sidewalk
Equipment needed: Just yourself and a timer/watch
Duration of workout: 30 minutes

In this workout, we are mixing in walking/running with some bodyweight movements. This takes a normally boring walk/run route and mixes it up.

You'll begin with four minutes of walking/running.

Then you'll stop where you're at and complete the following movements:

  • 10 Air Squats
  • 10 Jumping Jacks
  • 10 Walking Lunges
  • 10 Push-ups

Continue going through this sequence until you reach your destination and/or the thirty minutes is completed. How many rounds can you go through in 30 minutes?

Additional movements you can add in are step-ups on a park bench, burpees, sit-ups, etc. The options are endless. Children also love these styles of movement so bring them along for the adventure and tire them out before you get home.

Workout #3: Compound Supersets

Man doing pushups with weights

Location: Home or gym
Equipment needed: Pair of dumbbells, kettlebell
Duration of workout: 30 minutes

In this workout, the movements are called compound exercises because they recruit multiple muscle groups to help you gain more strength and mass while also burning more calories than standard isolation exercises.

In order to build cardio into the weighted workout, we are following a superset structure. Supersets are when you take two or more exercises and you alternate through them for a particular amount of rounds/sets.

Since you are moving right from one movement to the next with little rest, it begins to generate a cardiovascular effect. Once you've completed the specified rounds/sets, you'll rest, then move onto the next superset.

Superset 1 — 3 rounds

  • Exercise 1: Dumbbell Thrusters x 10 repetitions
  • Exercise 2: Reverse Lunges with a Twist (holding kettlebell) x 10 repetitions

Superset 2 — 3 rounds

  • Exercise 1: Bicep Curl into Shoulder Press x 10 repetitions
  • Exercise 2: Kettlebell Swing x 20 repetitions

Superset 3 — 3 rounds

  • Exercise 1: Curtsy Lunge with Lateral Raise x 10 repetitions
  • Exercise 2: Sumo Squat into Upright Row (holding kettlebell) x 10 repetitions

Workout #4: Tabata Workouts

Woman jump roping

Tabata training was discovered by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and a team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo. They studied the effectiveness of high-intensity interval training (HIIT)

Each exercise in a given Tabata workout lasts only four minutes, but it's likely to be one of the longest four-minute sequences you've ever endured. The structure of the program is as follows:

  • Work at full intensity for 20 seconds
  • Rest for 10 seconds
  • Complete 8 rounds

You can do almost any exercise you wish including squats, push-ups, burpees, or any other exercise that works your large muscle groups.

Location: Home or gym
Equipment needed: Varies depending on the movement
Duration of workout: As little as four minutes to as long as you'd like

Each movement: 20 seconds on then 10 seconds rest, for 8 rounds
At least four minutes total for any of the following:

  • Jump Rope
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Sit-Ups
  • Burpees

#5: Group Fitness Workouts/Circuits

Woman working out with resistance bands

When your motivation to get workouts in on your own isn't working, or if you want to take your training to the next level, you have the option of group fitness classes that cater to those with busy lifestyles.

Innovative gyms like 9Round have thirty-minute circuit training classes that scorch upwards of 300+ calories. Other fitness centers have metabolic conditioning classes that run 15–30 minutes in duration and encourage you to push to your max to get the most out of your workout

In conclusion, never allow a lack of time to hold you back from getting in some type of exercise. Whether the workout is four minutes or thirty minutes, your body will benefit greatly from the effort you put forth. Get creative, try different styles of exercise, and soon you'll be reaping the rewards of your hard work.

Rebekah Miller is a writer for Exercise.com and MS of Kinesiology, CSCS, NASM- CPT, RYT-200, and Precision Nutrition, Level 1-Certified. She founded Iron Fit Performance, a strength and conditioning facility located in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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