30-Minute Cardio and Strength Workout for a Full-Body Burn

Christine Torde Doing Single Leg Deadlift Rows
Photo: Photo: Anthony Cunanan / Design: Mehroz Kapadia

Short on time? The 30-minute gym workout combines cardio and strength for a sweat sessionthat maximizes every minute.

01 of 09

Your 30-Minute Gym Workout Plan

Christine Torde Doing Single Leg Deadlift Rows
Anthony Cunanan

Why spend an hour sweating at the gym when you can finish an effective workout in just 30 minutes? This two-in-one cardio and strength training workout, demonstrated by Christine O'Leary Tordé, NASM-certified personal trainer, delivers the boost of endorphins you get from cardio and the muscle fatigue that comes from resistance training. Plus, this cardio-strength combo elevates your metabolism for up to 24 hours after your last rep (aka the afterburn effect). Consider this 30-minute gym workout the most efficient way to squeeze in a heart-pumping workout when you've got a packed schedule.

Even though this cardio and strength workout is only 30 minutes long, don't skip the warm-up, which primes your muscles and prepares them to work at max capacity, advises Tordé. "Definitely do a quick warm up or stretch so you can give it all you got during the full 30 minutes," she says.

One other thing to note: If you truly want to maximize your 30-minute gym workout, challenge yourself to go heavy knowing that you have limited time to fatigue your muscles. "For the strength portions, use heavier weights to get the biggest bang for your buck!" says Tordé.

How it works: After warming up for 5 minutes, do 1 set of each exercise back to back. Once you've completed the full circuit, rest 1 minute, and repeat 2 more times. For best results, do this workout two to three days a week.

You'll need: three pairs of dumbbells (light, medium, and heavy) and a jump rope

02 of 09

Pendulum Lunges

Not only do pendulum lunges burn out your quads and glutes, but they also engage your core, as your abdominal muscles will help you stabilize and balance on your standing leg. "Challenge yourself to go forward and back without stopping, but if you are feeling unstable, feel free to break the movement up into forward and backwards lunges," says Tordé.

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a pair of medium dumbbells at sides.

B. Step forward with right leg, then bend both knees to lower into a lunge, keeping weight in right heel. Keep torso upright and shoulders drawn down and back.

C. Press through right heel to stand. Immediately step right foot backward and bend both knees into reverse lunge. Engage core to maintain balance.

Do 10 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

03 of 09

Alternating Jump Lunges

For an instant heart-rate elevator, add alternating jump lunges into your 30-minute gym workout. To modify, alternate reverse lunges at a quick pace.

A. Start in a split lunge position with left leg forward and both knees bent at 90 degrees, arms at sides.

B. Swing arms upward while explosively driving off the ground, switching feet in mid-air.

C. Land softly with right leg forward and left leg back, both knees bent into a lunge.

D. Continue jumping off the ground, switching front foot each time.

Repeat for 1 minute.

04 of 09

Single-Leg Deadlift Rows

For this single-leg deadlift row, start by using a light dumbbell until you feel confident with your form, then progress to using a heavier dumbbell. As for form, "keep the hips square and down, make sure to softly tuck the chin, and try not to look forward at a mirror," says Tordé. "Think of having tension throughout the entire body, especially the back leg that is floating in the air. And to regress this move, softly step back into a [kickstand] Romanian deadlift." (ICDYK: In a kickstand, or staggered stance, deadlift, your weight will be in one foot while you balance lightly on the toes of the other foot.)

A. Stand with one dumbbell in right hand, arms at sides, feet hip-width apart. Shift weight onto left leg.

B. Take a slight bend in left knee and hinge forward at hips, allowing right leg to raise straight behind right hip. Simultaneously lower torso until parallel with the ground or until you feel a stretch in left hamstring, keeping right arm long.

C. Holding the deadlift position, bend right elbow and pull straight toward the ceiling, bringing the dumbbell up toward ribs and squeezing shoulder blades together. Keep core engaged by drawing belly button in toward the spine.

D. Slowly extend right arm back to straight. Engage glutes and return to standing. That's one rep.

Do 10 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

05 of 09

Jumping Rope

Jumping rope is an effective way to boost your cardiovascular health; even better, it engages your arms, shoulders, legs, and core for a full-body move. No jump rope? No problem — you can mimic the movement without an actual rope.

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding one jump rope handle in each hand, arms at sides and elbows tucked in close to ribs.

B. Swing jump rope up and over head to begin. Jump rope as fast as possible, bouncing lightly on the balls of feet in between jumps. Keep shoulder blades down and back, and rotate the rope with wrists, not arms.

Continue for 1 minute.

06 of 09

Squat Thruster

The squat, a classic strength move, gets a cardio twist when you add in a thruster — making it an efficient, full-body move. Don't be afraid to grab your heavy dumbbells for this move; your lower body will help power the weight up overhead.

A. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and toes slightly turned out, holding two heavy dumbbells at chest height.

B. Bend knees and shift hips back to lower into a squat, keeping chest lifted and weight in heels.

C. Return to standing and press the dumbbells directly overhead, in line with shoulders. Lower dumbbells to return to starting position. That's one rep.

Do 15 reps.

07 of 09

Jump Squat

When you've only got 30 minutes for your gym workout, few things get your heart rate up faster than a minute of jump squats. To make the most out of this cardio move, try doing these jump squats with as little rest as possible between reps, landing softly and immediately jumping back up again.

A. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width and toes slightly turned out, arms at sides.

B. Bend knees, shift hips back, and swing arms backward. Explosively drive off the ground, jumping as high as possible in the air while swinging arms forward and up to add power.

C. Land softly with knees slightly bent and chest lifted.

Repeat for 1 minute.

08 of 09

Biceps Curls

On the surface, biceps curls may be an arm exercise. However, as you're curling, think about engaging your glutes and tucking your pelvis under to engage your core. Bonus: Core engagement will keep you from excessively arching — and potentially injuring — your lower back.

A. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart with arms at sides and elbows tucked in toward ribs, holding a medium dumbbell in each hand.

B. Curl the dumbbells up to shoulder height with palms facing up.

C. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to starting position, keeping elbows in by sides and shoulder blades down and back.

Do 10 reps.

09 of 09


Why add just one move to your 30-minute gym workout when you could add a mash-up of all your favorite strength exercises? Enter the humanmaker, a combination of a renegade row and a squat thruster. Feeling extra strong? Add in a push-up before your renegade row.

A. Place the medium dumbbells on the floor and start in a high plank with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, grasping the dumbbells with each hand. Shoulders should be above wrists and tuck pelvis under to keep core engaged. This is your starting position.

B. Row right dumbbell up by driving right elbow toward ceiling and pulling dumbbell toward right ribs. Lower dumbbell back to floor and repeat on left side, keeping hips square toward the ground throughout.

C. Jump feet forward behind wrists and lower into a squat position, weights up at chest height.

D. Drive feet into ground and explosively stand up, pressing weights overhead.

E. Lower weights and return to starting position.

Repeat for 1 minute.

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