When it comes to exercise, it’s what you do that counts. In other words, you can truly get a heart-pounding, muscle-burning workout in a lot less than an hour. As long as you choose the right exercises and go all out, a half hour will do the trick. The biggest bang for your buck will be an interval routine that combines both strength and cardiovascular exercises. Of course, you're still going to have your heart pumping even during the strength work, but that is exactly why you don’t need much time.
Here’s a great 30-minute routine that will blast some serious calories:
For the strength exercises, aim for three sets of 8-12 reps. The heavier the weights, the less reps you may be able to do, but that’s okay since the goal is to increase your strength and build muscle. For the cardiovascular exercises, do them in between your sets for 60 seconds at a time. If you're struggling at 60 seconds, try going for 45 seconds instead.
Strength: Push-ups. Either on your toes or your knees, balance yourself on your hands making sure they are underneath your shoulders. Slowly lower your chest to the floor and then push yourself back up to the starting position.
Cardio: Step-ups. Find a high step or bench and alternate stepping up and down with your right foot and then your left. Make sure the bench is high enough—around knee height—or it won’t be as challenging as it should.
Strength: Assisted pull-ups (or inverted rows). You can use either an assisted pull-up machine or place a band underneath your feet while it is suspended from an overhead bar. If either of these are not an option, lie underneath a low bar, hold onto it with an overhand grip and pull yourself up so that your chest is to the bar. On the inverted rows, do not let your body rest at the bottom when you lower yourself back down. On the assisted pull-ups, be sure to completely lower your body down so your arms are straight.
Cardio: Mountain Climbers. Get into push-up position (on your toes this time) and bring your knees into your chest one at a time. The faster you go, the higher your heart rate.
Strength: Thrusters. Hold either a weighted bar or dumbbells at shoulder height. Lower yourself into a deep squat and then press the bar or weights overhead as you are coming up from the squat. Don’t wait until you are completely up to lift the weights. It should be one fluid motion.
Cardio: Burpees. Bend down and place your hands on the floor at shoulder width. Kick both legs back so you are in a push-up position. Jump your feet back in so you are in a squat and then stand up and jump. That’s one. For a challenge, hit your chest to the floor when you kick your legs back.
Strength: Reverse Lunges with a Bicep Curl. Hold a weight in each hand and then step your right leg back so that your knee nearly touches the ground and be sure to keep your upper body tall with no hunching. As you do this, perform a bicep curl with both arms. When you come out of the lunge, lower the weights back down to your sides. Alternate legs on the lunges, but do the bicep curls every time.
Cardio: High-Knee Run. Jog in place bringing your knees as high as you can in front of you. Aim for getting them hip or belly button height.
Strength: Skullcrushers with Leg Lifts. Lie down on a bench or even a mat while holding one weight or bar directly over your chest. Lift your legs so that they are straight up and making an “L” with your body. Without using the upper part of your arm and only bending at the elbow, lower the weight so it is just hovering over your forehead. As you're lowering the weight, lower your legs (keeping them straight) so that they are practically in line with your body. When you lift the weight back up, lift your legs back up as well. Basically, everything will lower at once and everything will lift at once. (image below is skullcrusher without the leg lifts)
Cardio: Jump Squats. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and toes slightly turned out on an angle. Lower your body into a squat getting as low as you can and when you come up, jump up as high as you can.
Not only will the cardio exercises get your heart racing, but so will the strength ones—especially if you opt for lifting heavy weights. Again, if going for a full minute is too much, aim for 45 seconds and then go back to your strength set. If you keep moving throughout this routine, you will feel like you just did hours of exercise rather than just 30 minutes. Remember, it’s about quality, not quantity and you get plenty of that with this routine.