If a workout is on the agenda, but you’re feeling time-crunched, lacking weights, or feel low in energy, look no further than the 15-minute no-equipment workout. Despite being short in length, 15 minutes of focused exercise can do wonders for the mind and body and is more than doable to slot into your daily routine.
Much of the fitness industry agrees that we should be doing a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily or 15 minutes of intense exercise daily. “For most of the general population, it is recommended to complete these 30 minutes a day to reap the everlasting health benefits of exercising,” explains ACE CPT Jen Polzak. “But adding a 15-minute no-equipment workout, alongside other fitness regimens throughout your week, is a great balance for a busy individual.”
Meet the Expert
- Jen Polzak, ACE CPT is director of fitness at Asphalt Green.
The Benefits of Shorter Workouts
Despite what many might conceive as being ineffective, a short bout of exercise has its benefits. “If we take a look at what one could absolutely gain by doing a 15-minute bodyweight workout, you can see why it’s effective,” says Polzak. “Some of the main benefits of moving your body just 15 minutes a day are improved circulation, lowered blood pressure, and increased lung capacity, and it is also a boost to your mood as dopamine and endorphins are released!”
It also depends on your current exercise routine. If you are used to long, intense workouts, you may not feel the added benefit of 15-minutes of exercise, but if you use this time to focus on a different type of workout, it can be really impactful. For example, if strength training is your main focus, you can use these 15-minutes to try a complimentary workout, such as Pilates and yoga, which incorporate more core work and stretching into your routine.
If you are the type to dabble in a workout here and there, a 15-minute routine can do wonders. “With someone who is more sedentary, an improvement in their general health could come in leaps and bounds, especially in the early stages of adding a 15-minute workout to their daily regimen,” explains Polzak. “Of course, one’s state of health is made up of many other factors that would also need to be altered to make these healthy gains, such as proper nutrition, ample sleep, and drinking plenty of water.”
Workout One: Low-Impact (Suitable For All Levels)
This 15-minute workout designed by trainer Jen Polzac works every muscle in the body with no jumping required.
Complete the following three movements three times through:
March or Jog In Place for 30 seconds
- This warms up the lower extremities and raises the core temperature to decrease the risk of muscle injury.
Walk Outs x 3
- Reach down and try to touch your toes with straight legs before walking your hand out to a plank position with wrists directly under both elbows and shoulders. Then walk your hand all the way back to your toes with straight legs and roll the body back up.
Bodyweight Squats x 5
- Feet shoulder-width apart, toes angled 30 degrees out, push the hips back like you're sitting in a chair to your full comfortable depth, keeping weight in your midfoot, and push through the heels to stand back up.
Complete the following circuit three times
Hip Bridges x 12
- Lying flat on your back, feet planted flat on the ground with knees bent, press the arms into the ground as you lift your hips and squeeze your glutes. Hips should return slowly back to the ground.
Plank Shoulder Taps for 30 seconds
- Palms flat on the ground, wrists should remain directly under your shoulders in a high plank start position. Feet are shoulder-width apart, hips square to the ground. The right hand taps your left shoulder slowly, resisting the urge to twist through the core, before returning the right hand to the ground. Alternate your shoulder taps in a slow and controlled movement.
Split Squats x 8 on each leg
- In a staggered stance with legs hip-width apart, keep your weight evenly distributed between both legs. The front leg’s foot is flat on the ground, with the rear leg weight only on the toe. Bring the back knee to the ground and slowly return to an upright position.
Pushups x 12
- Start in a high plank position and lower your body, elbows angled like arrows, until your chest is a fists distance from the ground. Exhale as you push the floor away back to your original plank. This exercise can also be performed on your knees as well, leaning forward to bring your hips to a slope as you lower the body down and push back up. Remember to engage the core throughout.
Hollow Hold for 30 seconds
- Lie flat on your back as a starting position with your arms over your head. Next, pull your belly button into your spine, tucking in your ribs and ensuring there’s no arch in your lower back. Next, lift your head and arms off the ground so that your biceps are next to your ears, and lift your legs with feet together, six inches or so from the ground (creating a banana-like shape with your body). For beginners, try this exercise with knees bent at a 90-degree angle to build on your core strength.
Tabata Finisher: 4 Minutes
Complete eight rounds of high knee tap with 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. Raise the arms high and bring them down to meet your right raised knee (hovering at a 90-degree angle) before lowering the leg and raising the arms back up straight. Alternate between both sides at speed!
March in place to decrease the heart rate and stretch for a few minutes.
Workout Two: High-Impact (Suitable For Intermediate and Advanced)
Below is a high-intensity workout that blends cardio, functional, and core-centric movements.
Complete a series of side leg and forward leg swings, leg circles, arm circles, and side to side lateral flexion for one to two minutes.
40 seconds on, 20 seconds off for each movement. Repeat for two rounds.
- Bend down and place palms flat, fingers facing forward, on the mat. Jump both feet back simultaneously and then jump them forward before pushing up through the heels and leaping into the air. That’s one burpee.
- Start in a plank position with palms flat, fingers facing forward, legs hip-width apart, and core engaged. Maintaining a straight line from the neck down the length of the spine, start to jump the feet out and then back in at speed. Make sure the glutes stay in line with the spine.
- In a standing position, with feet hip-width apart and toes slightly angled out, hinge the hips back and stick the glutes back as you lower down into a squat, ensuring your knees track with your feet (i.e., not going over the toes). Next, push through the heels and engage the glutes as you perform an explosive jump into the air, landing softly and with control back into a squat position.
30 seconds on, 15 seconds off for each movement. Repeat for two rounds.
Jumping Jack Punches
- In a standing position, engage the core and start jumping the feet out and in at speed. At the same time, alternate both arms to perform powerful punches directly above the head. For this exercise, coordination is key!
- In a reverse tabletop position, align the arms and shoulders, fingers pointing straight towards the toes, and bring the feet hip-width apart. Then, keeping the glutes lifted high, bend at the elbows and lower the body down toward the mat before pushing through the palms to return to the starting position. Make sure to bend all the way down to complete the full range of motion.
- Lunge the left leg back, maintaining a 90-degree angle at the right leg. Pushing up through the front heel, drive the left leg up and kick in front—alternate legs.
Finisher: Shoulders and Core
Commandos x 10
- In a full plank position, lower one arm down onto the elbow and then the other, holding for a second before pushing up on the palms, one at a time, to return to full plank. That’s one rep. Remember to alternate arms between each rep!
Mountain climbers x 30 seconds
- In full plank, maintain a straight spine, engage the core and keep your head neutral. Start to run one leg in at a time and build up speed until you are ‘sprinting’ in plank position.
Pike jumps x 30 seconds
- Back in full plank, jump both feet forward towards the hands so that your glutes raise up into the air, legs and arm straights, to bring the body into a reverse ‘V’ shape. Jump the feet back into plank and repeat at speed.
Cool Down and Stretch
Swing each leg back and forth, circle the arms back, and then forward to release any tensions in the muscles. Next, hit the mat and perform a series of static stretches, including reaching for the toes to stretch the hamstrings, pulling one arm over at the elbow to target the shoulders, and then grabbing each elbow with the opposite hand behind your head to stretch the triceps. Hold each position for 10-20 seconds.