These short but powerful plans are perfect for a busy schedule
The Primal Blueprint Workout
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Paleo diets are all the rage these days but exercising like our distant ancestors also has great benefits. Whether you're lifting heavy things to build your hut or build your biceps, research supports the perks of lifting as heavy as you can handle for short sets. You'll increase your strength and your contribution to the gene pool.
Try this primal workout from Mark's Daily Apple: Grab a weighted object (two dumbbells, sandbag, barbell, kettlebell) and do not put it down until you have completed 3 full cycles of the workout below. Do 1 set of 6 reps for every exercise, and then repeat the entire circuit two more times.
6 Overhead presses
6 Bent-over rows
You can take a break in between each cycle, but you may find that you just want to power through since you can't put down the weight.
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Don't let the small movements and light weights fool you. The high reps in this ballet-inspired workout will make you feel the burn while you sculpt lean muscle and improve your balance at the same time.
Grab a pair of light weights (3-5 lbs) and stand next to a chair or barre. Repeat the following sequence twice.
50 plie squats in first position (heels together, toes out)
50 plie squats in second position (heels wider that hip-width apart, toes out)
50 overhead shoulder pulses
50 biceps curls
50 triceps kickbacks
50 leg raises to the front (25/leg)
50 leg raises to the back (25/leg)
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Why the name? Prisoners only have a small cell to work with, and while you may never be in the exact same setting (hopefully), sometimes you need a workout that hits every muscle group without needing a lot of space or equipment. Pushups and squats may not be the most exciting moves, but there's a reason they're staples in almost every workout: They work!
Complete this circuit as many times as you can in 15 minutes to burn fat and build lean muscle fast!
10 regular pushups
10 lunges (on each leg)
10 narrow (triceps) pushups
10 jump squats
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Rachel Cosgrove, author of The Female Body Breakthrough, says this workout is part of her build-a-butt plan because of the awesome shape and definition it gives your backside. Alternating squats and lunges and grounded and plyometric moves keeps all of your leg muscles engaged while offering enough variety to take your mind off the burning sensation!
Complete the full sequence twice, resting just enough between sets to catch your breath.
50 alternating forward lunges
50 jump squats
50 jumping lunges
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The simple design of this workout can be deceptive (It's hard!). By combining these two power moves, you'll be able rest one muscle group while fatiguing the other without taking a break.
Start by doing 1 rep of each exercise. On the second set, do 2 reps of each exercise. Continue this pattern until you've done 10 sets, and then come back down the pyramid until you're back to 1 rep.
1. Pull-ups (jumping pull-ups, assisted pull-ups, or lat pull-downs, depending on your fitness level)
2. Burpees with a pushup and a jump at the top.
Plyometrics Power Plan
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Plyometrics refer to any move where both of your feet leave the ground at the same time. While these intense exercises aren't for everyone (skip them if you have knee, hip, back, or other injuries), they amp up the intensity of your workout like nothing else can. You'll be soaked in sweat long before your 15 minutes are up!
Do each exercise for 1 minute, moving from one to the next without rest in between. After you finish the last move, rest for 1 minute and repeat the circuit 2 more times, 3 times total.
Jump Rope Intervals
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Nothing beats jumping rope for ease and accessibility. Plus, research shows that intense interval training like this workout burns more fat than steady-state cardio and increases your metabolism for up to 48 hours after your workout is over. When you add the strength moves, using your own body weight for resistance, you've got a killer total-body routine—not bad for a 15-minute investment!
1. Jump rope for 1 minute
2. Hang the rope over a tree, railing, or other stationary object at shoulder height or higher and use your body weight to do:
15 biceps curls
3. Jump rope for 1 minute
4. Secure the rope to a solid base again and use your body weight to do:
15 triceps extensions
15 lat pull-downs
5. Jump rope for 1minute
6. Finish with 10 CrossFit double unders
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Why settle for one or the other when you can have the fat-burning benefits of kickboxing and the strength work of kettlebells? This killer combination allows you to incorporate on the hottest fitness tools into a traditional, heart-pumping workout.
Grab medium weight kettlebell and try this high-energy mashup designed by Dasha Libin from Kettlebell Kickboxing in New York City. Perform each exercise for 1 minute and then immediately move to the next. Rest for 1 minute between each circuit.
1. Alternating front kicks
2. Kettlebell swings
3. Kick to kettlebell raise (Hold the kettlebell at chest level and raise it overhead as you kick your leg up to head level or as high as you can.)
1. Alternating front kick followed by a sprawl (Squat down and jump your legs back like you are going to do a burpee but open your legs wide and allow your back to arch so that your knees touch the floor.)
2. Kettlebell swings (Every 5 swings, catch the kettlebell up and rotate it around your head)
3. Squat then kick with a kettlebell raise overhead, alternating legs with each kick
1. Alternating double front kick followed by a squat thrust (Bend your knees, place your hands on the ground and jump back into plank position. Jump back in and stand, squeezing your glutes at the top.)
2. Kettlebell swings (Every 5 swings, catch and raise the kettlebell overhead)
3. Sumo squat followed by a kick with kettlebell raise overhead (Alternate which leg kicks with every rep.)
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This quick workout incorporates a resistance band, one of the least expensive pieces of fitness equipment available, to help intensify strength moves beyond what you'd get using just your body.
Michael Schiemer of Frugal Fitness recommends going through this circuit three times. You'll need a resistance band, a Swiss ball, and a 10-15 lb dumbbell.
Resistance band biceps curls: 20 reps
Resistance band shoulder presses: 12 reps
Alternating bodyweight lunges: 40 reps (20 on each leg)
Triceps dips: As many reps as you can do with perfect form
Swiss-ball crunches holding 10-15 lb dumbbell straight up to ceiling the whole time: 15-20 reps
Plank: 30 seconds
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Called "the home workout revolution," Bodyrock.TV made its mark on the fitness world by providing short and intense workouts, but they earned their legion of devoted fans by coming up with creative moves like "the drunk chicken."
There's a reason this plan is called 12-minute madness! Perform each of the following moves for 50 seconds, resting 10 seconds between each. Work through the entire circuit once.
(You can watch a video demonstration of the exercises here.)
1. Jump squats
2. Lateral jump
3. 5 high knees, down, jump tuck
4. Pushup core rotation burpee
5. 2 side jumps, 2 squat jumps
6. Comando up and down, 2 kickouts
7. V-abs roll left to right
8. Superman abs
9. 5 high knees, 5 switch lunges
10. 2 dive bombers, 2 drunk chickens
11. Surfer kickouts, 2 jump tucks
12. 2 pushups, 5 mountain climbers
Photo credit: BodyRock.TV
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Kettlebells have become the workout du jour for a good reason: The swings amp up your heart rate while the power moves engage every muscle in your body, resulting in a workout that's as effective as it is fast.
Choose a kettlebell you are comfortable swinging and try this circuit, created by Jenn Nims of Girl-Heroes. 2-3 times. Do each move for 40 seconds, resting for 20 seconds between moves. Complete the entire circuit 2-3 times. (You can see a video demonstration of the moves here.)
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You'll notice the cardio burn first during this short-but-intense kickboxing circuit, but thanks to the punching and kicking drills, you'll feel the burn in your upper back, lats, quads, and even calves the next day.
Use a heavy bag if you have one available. If not, ask a friend to hold focus mitts/pads for you or simply punch and kick the air. Do each exercise for 50 seconds as hard as you can, rest 10 seconds, then move on to the next exercise. Go through the entire circuit once.
Alternating front kicks
Alternating cross-body punches
Alternating side kicks
Alternating round-house kicks
Jab-cross-hook (switching your lead hand every 10 reps)
Alternating knee raises
Low hook, high hook (switching hands every 10 reps)
Alternating round-house kicks, changing levels 3 times (low, medium, high) in quick succession
Exercise Ball Challenge
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Incorporating an exercise ball into your normal routine not only challenges your core strength and balance, but it forces you to focus on performing the moves in a controlled way.
Grab a large Swiss ball and a set of dumbbells. Choose a weight that is heavy enough so that you can complete no more than the prescribed number of reps with perfect form. Repeat the full circuit below 3 times.
Lie with your upper back placed firmly on the Swiss ball to do:
Dumbbell chest press: 12-15 reps
Dumbbell fly: 12-15
Overhead triceps dip (AKA "skull crushers"): 12-15 reps
Lie faceup on the floor and place your lower legs and heels on the Swiss ball to do:
Hip raise: 12-15 reps
Leg curl: 12-15 reps
Get into pushup position and place your feet on the Swiss ball to do:
Pushup: 10 reps
Jackknife: 10 reps
Stand holding the Swiss ball overhead to do:
Squat: 25 reps
Sumo squat (set your feet about twice shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly): 25 reps
15-Minute Yoga Flow
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You don't have to know where your chakras are (or even what one is) to get the physical and mental benefits of a vinyasa—"a steady, dynamic flow of connected yoga asanas linked with breath work in a continuous movement." The continuity and focus on breathing helps release serotonin (the feel-good hormone in your brain) to calm your mind, while the movements challenge your balance and strength.Go through this vinyasa flow once, moving through the steps as fluidly as possible.
1. Start in mountain pose
2. Swan dive to forward fold
3. Step back to downward facing dog
4. Plank to low pushup
5. Lift our chest into upward facing dog
6. Raise your hips and return to downward facing dog
7. Step one foot through to a low lunge
8. Bring your back foot in to a forward fold
9. Stand back up to mountain pose
Quick Cardio Blast
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Sprint training is powerful medicine. Studies conducted by Izumi Tabata found that short, intense sprints (by "intense" we mean "run as if the zombie apocalypse is upon you") offer benefits like increased aerobic capacity, fat burning, and production of human growth hormone—the closest thing to the fountain of youth that scientists have been able to find. Try this killer cardio blast:
Sprint for 1 minute
Walk/jog for 1 minute
Sprint on an incline for 1 minute
Walk/jog for 1 minute
Repeat the circuit 3 more times (4 times total), cutting the walk time in half every time.