By Mike Kubas
I’m going to try to make this one short and sweet in line with the topic at hand. I get asked a lot, “If I only have 15-20 minutes, I can’t really work out, so what should I do?” Well crazy thing is, you can work out in that short of a time period and some studies show more frequent, shorter, mod-high intensity workouts can be just as effective, sometimes more effective in the long run than your standard, long drawn out, “full” workout. In these situations, exercise selection is key. Not just to be sure there’s no wasted time transitioning to the next exercise, but also to be sure it’s a fresh muscle and that you’re hitting all the necessary movements.
Now these aren’t the exact 5 exercises I would use in a 15-20 min workout, but they are the exercises I feel are best suited for people who are crunched for time. Sometimes I even call these workouts the “Better than nothing” workout. Quite simply if you squeeze in 15-20 mins of exercise in spots where you would previously have foregone exercise completely, it really does add up, bring great benefit, and becomes a beneficial habit. Another way to look at this is if you could only perform 1 exercise for the rest of your life, which exercise would provide the most benefit?
1. The Deadlift – My personal favorite. This one hits large groups of muscles and allows you to move a lot of weight relative to your body weight. Both very important in building and maintaining a large amount of muscle mass. Glutes, hamstrings, low back, lats, traps all get crushed with this one making it an invaluable tool to learn and master. When used appropriately it’s great for back health and strength and it’s one of the best overall exercises you can do.
2. DB Curl + Press – This one is great for hitting the glamour muscles, while also being versatile enough to be used for a metabolic burn. Here you’re hitting the biceps and the shoulders. I like to do a hammer curl into a neutral grip overhead press because it tends to flow a lot better and allows you to vary how you perform the exercise. Whether it’s done quickly and explosively for power, or if you focus more on the full contraction and reducing momentum, it hits a large amount of muscle and is very time efficient, combining two exercises into one. I like to even superset it with a back fly or face pulls.
3. Offset Front Squat – This is a great exercise to really challenge your core and shoulder stability while you are building your legs. Using one dumbbell and holding it on one side in a front rack position provides a challenge to your core to maintain neutral posture, your shoulder to remain stable and control the weight, and your hips to control the squat movement while under an uneven load. To perform quality reps, you’ll need shoulder stability, core strength, and leg strength and control. Perform X number of squats with the weight on each side. There’s a lot going on here which is why I love this one, it addresses several key areas in one exercise. Don’t forget to do both sides!
4. 2-1-1 DB Bench Press – This one is just adding a different tempo and time under tension to your typical dumbbell bench press. You begin by performing your regular bench press, pressing both dumbbells up towards the ceiling (2), once locked out, you’ll hold one dumbbell up while you perform a single arm rep with the other (1) then finally a single arm rep with the other arm (1). From there you will go back to the 2-arm press again, beginning your second rep. Essentially there are 3 reps in one, hence the 2-1-1; as you press 2 dumbbells, then 1, and another 1. Another great exercise for shoulder stability as you need to stabilize one side while the other works. Additionally, it adds time under tension for your pecs, triceps, and shoulders to build more muscle and strength.
5. Renegade Row – This last one is a bear and if you find it easy, there’s a good chance you’re either in fantastic shape or doing it all wrong. You grab two dumbbells and start in pushup position, but with a wider base, feet further apart. Stabilize your core and while maintaining a neutral spine and hips squared with the ground, perform a row with one arm. This one really challenges your core to stabilize on 3 points (hand and 2 feet) and keep control of your hips and back while performing the row. You then perform the next rep on the other side. A great way to hit your abs, back, and shoulders all in one exercise. Essentially a plank with a row added to it, it requires a great deal of core strength, shoulder stability and coordination to perform it properly. With so much going on, it’s a great choice if you’re short on time.
So those are my Top 5 Bang 4 Your Buck Exercises. Again, I’m not saying to perform all these in the same workout, but when you’re pressed for time, using these exercises in a tri set or pair can help to get a great workout in within a short period of time. So next time you think you don’t have time to work out, try taking two of these exercises and ripping off 3-5 sets of them. I’ve never known anyone to leave the gym and say to themselves, “Man, I really shouldn’t have done that workout today! What was I thinking?!?”