15 Minute Hard-Core Workouts Top Trainers Swear By

By Cassie Shortsleeve September 24th, 2020 | Image Source: Men's Journal

Fitness is often the first thing to fall to the wayside when work gets chaotic, you’re traveling more, or you’ve just started a family. Trainers get it. They’re busy, too. (Imagine if fitness were your job—think you’d want to work out after a long day at the office?) But c’mon. You can squeeze in a functional workout in as little as 15 minutes.

We tapped some of the top fitness professionals across the U.S. to see what their go-to sweat session looks like when they’ve only got 15 minutes to spare, since your quick workouts probably entail hopping on a treadmill for a slow slog. (Are we close?)

These routines run the gamut from lung-torching HIIT workouts that burn fat to total-body complexes that build strength and endurance. You’ll come to find shorter workouts are sometimes better than spending hours in the gym, because you’re more motivated to work at a higher intensity and less likely to waste time between sets.

So before you tell yourself you don’t have time to work up a sweat, try one of these nine next-level workouts. They take next to no time, but really deliver where it counts. Bonus: Some require minimal equipment and space, so you can do them at home or at a hotel gym.

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Workout 1: Treadmill Tabata Run + Strength Training Intervals

The trainer: Jordan Gluck, manager of West Coast curriculum at Barry’s Bootcamp in Los Angeles, CA

Why it works: “Aerobic exercises are crucial to burning fat,” Gluck says. And weight loss is further intensified when the cardio is performed as a tabata-style workout (aka short bouts of super-intense cardio). When you couple that with AMRAP (as many reps as possible) interval training, then you’ve got a knockout combination. “[This routine] burns fat and builds lean muscle by pushing your body to its limits.”

How to do it: You’ll complete all-out intervals for 45 seconds (increasing the speed each round for a greater challenge), then rest for 15 seconds before gearing up for the next set. Complete 7 total sets. After, perform the interval strength-training workout described below for as many rounds as possible in 8 minutes.

Treadmill Tabata

0:00–0:45—Set the treadmill to a 6% incline. Start at 7.5 mph (if you’re increasing the speed on subsequent rounds, work up to 8.5, 9.5, or higher).
0:45–1:00—Jump on to the side rails of the treadmill to rest, then carefully hop back on the belt to continue after 15 sec.
Complete 7 total rounds

Strength Intervals

Complete the first five exercises with weights. Choose moderately heavy weights since the goal here is to get your heart rate up, not max out each exercise.

10 Situps (hug a plate to your chest)
20 Reverse Lunges (hold a dumbbell in each hand; perform 10 per side)
10 Biceps Curls (hold a dumbbell in each hand; alternate if necessary, but perform 10 per side)
10 Squats (hold dumbbells at your sides, arms fully extended)
10 Renegade Rows (add a pushup in between to make it harder)
Without weights

10 Pushups
20 Reverse Lunges (hold a dumbbell in each hand; perform 10 per side)
10 Squats
10 Burpees
Complete as many rounds as possible in 8 min.

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Workout 2: EMOM With Weighted Vest

The trainer: Gerren Liles, MIRROR founding trainer and Equinox Master Instructor

Why it works: “Timed workouts create the sense of urgency to perform, along with the assurance of knowing where the finish line is,” Liles says. “If I only have 15 minutes, I’ll make sure the exercises target all major muscle groups, or combine strength and conditioning. I’ll also spice things up by wearing a 10-pound weighted vest, preferably the Hyperwear Hyper Vest Elite because it fits so well and is unobtrusive during workouts.”

How to do it: EMOM stands for “every minute on the minute.” Start the clock, then go through the prescribed number of reps per exercise. Use the remainder of that minute for recovery. Repeat 3 total sets with no rest in between.

0:00–1:00 — 15 Squats
1:00–2:00 — 5 Pullups and 10 Pushups
2:00–3:00 — 15 Burpees
3:00–4:00 — 15 Situps
4:00–5:00 — 15 Superman Back Extensions

Repeat 3x

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Workout 3: Jump Rope Intervals

The trainer: Betina Gozo, Nike Master Trainer

Why it works: “Jumping rope is my go-to workout,” Gozo says. “The rope is so easy to pack wherever you’re going, and you don’t need a ton of space.”

How to do it: Start off easy by jumping rope for 3 minutes to warm up. Then, complete 5 intervals (1 min. on, 30 sec. off) and 5 double-under intervals (30 sec. on, 30 sec. off).

0:00–3:00 — Warm up
3:00–4:00 — Jump rope with high knees and quicker jumps
4:00–4:30 — Rest (either stop for recovery or do some easy skips)
Repeat 5x
10:00–10:30 — Double-unders
10:30–11:00 — Rest
Repeat 5x

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Workout 4: Burpee Intervals

The trainer: Angelo Grinceri, movement specialist, coach, and author of Intrinsic Strength Training: A Breakthrough Program For Real-World Functional Strength And True Athletic Power

Why it works: Have you ever done 225 burpees in 15 minutes? Let’s see if you can. It’ll spike your heart rate and absolutely torch calories. “[This workout] is a form of active meditation for me,” Grinceri says. “I don’t have to focus on anything else except keeping my form precise and my pace up. When accepting this challenge, please be mindful of your form. When done poorly, burpees can wreak havoc on your knees, back, and shoulders.”

How to do it: Set a timer to beep every 12 sec. for a total of 15 min. On every beep, complete 3 burpees with perfect form.

Need a refresher on proper burpee form?

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down until you can touch the floor with your hands. Move your weight onto your arms and jump your feet back into a pushup position. Keep your core engaged and don’t let your low back collapse. From here, either perform a pushup or touch your chest to the floor. Then, jump your feet toward your hands to stand back up, then immediately explode up to jump with hands overhead.

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Workout 5: Full-body Complexes

The trainer: Ariel Foxie, wellness and fitness advisor and New York City-based Nike trainer

Why it works: “Complexes are my in-the-bag go-to because they require little equipment or machines and keep my heart rate elevated the entire time,” Foxie says. “If my recovery time is quick and I’m able to increase my work capacity, I can work my way up to 5+ rounds, increasing strength endurance while working up a major sweat.”

How to do it: Aim to complete all exercises in the group set before placing your weights down for rest. For larger or stronger muscle groups, move toward a higher rep range with tempo. (Ex: For front squats, take 3 counts to lower, hold for 3 sec. at the bottom, then explode up for 1 count.) Rest 45–90 sec. between rounds. Perform 3+ sets.

Warmup: Complete light cardio, movement prep, mobility, and activation drills for 5 min.

8–12 Push Press
8–12 Front Squats
8–12 Romanian Deadlift
8–12 Bentover Rows
8–10 Reverse Lunges (each side)
Rest 45–90 sec.

Ian Maddox for Men’s Journal
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Workout 6: Full-body Density Training

The trainer: Ryan Maciel, R.D.N., C.S.C.S. at Catalyst Performance Training in Cambridge, MA

Why it works: “When I only have 15 minutes to work out (which is quite common these days with a 4-month-old), I turn to full-body density training,” Maciel says. “This workout combines both strength and cardio, and allows me to get a lot of work done in a short period of time. Density training is great for building lean muscle, increasing strength, losing body fat, and increasing your work capacity.”

The workout: Complete as many rounds as possible in 15 min. Challenge yourself by trying to set a new personal best each time you do the workout (by completing more rounds in the given time period or increasing your weight).

5 Pushups
10 Goblet Reverse Lunges (5 reps per side)
5 Suspension Strap Rows (TRX)
10 Hammer Curls
Complete as many rounds as possible in 15 min.

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Workout 7: Straight-Arm Scapular Strength (SASS) Workout

The trainer: Will Torres, founder of New York City-based movement studio Willspace

Why it works: “Whether I’m short on time or have two hours to kill, I always try to work on the development of muscles and body systems that don’t get much attention with traditional fitness routines,” Torres says. “SASS training strengthens the muscles around the most important joints of the upper body: the scapula and the tendons and ligaments around the wrist, elbows, and shoulders.” Straight-arm strength training is exactly what it sounds like. It’s any move that requires you to keep your arms straight throughout its duration. In some cases, that’s not just your arms. For example, Torres also does deep squat holds to open his hips and relieve leg- and low-back pain associated with driving.

How to do it: The SASS workout is broken up into supersets. Repeat the two exercises in each exercise group for the prescribed duration before moving on to the next superset.

Superset 1

1-min. Bent-Knee Handstand Hold: If you’re new to yoga, position your mat close to a wall. Place your hands a few inches from the wall, in a crouched position. Put your weight in your hands, then kick up, resting your legs and heels up against the wall to steady yourself. Keep your eyes fixed on your hands, then, when you feel confident, slowly bend one knee to draw it in toward your chest. Practice doing one leg at a time, then progress to bringing both knees toward your chest without using the wall for support.
3- to 6-min. Standing Shoulder Extension: Stand holding a towel or barbell behind your back, hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing your body. Keep your chest up as you engage your back and lift the towel or bar as high as you can. Starting off, aim for 45 degrees, working up to 90 degrees.
Rest 1 min.
Repeat for 3 sets

Superset 2

30-sec. Single-arm Plank: Come into the top of a plank/pushup position. Bring your feet wider than shoulder width to provide a more stable base. Engage your core, glutes, and quads to create a strong foundation. Put your weight in one hand, evenly across your fingers, as you extend the other arm out straight. Your body should stay in a straight line without rotating. Repeat on the other side.
30-sec. Half-Hanging Leg Raise: Hang from a pullup bar. Engage your core and lats as you draw your shoulders down your back. Slowly raise both legs until they’re parallel to the floor, keeping them straight. Hold.
Rest 1 min.
Repeat for 3 sets


1-min. Deep Goblet Squat Hold With Kettlebell: Come into the bottom position of a goblet squat and hold.
Rest 1 min.
Repeat for 3 sets

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Workout 8: Bag Work + Jump Rope

The trainer: Javier Lee, fitness director at UFC Gym SoHo in New York City

Why it works: “When I only have 15 minutes, this HIIT workout helps me maintain and improve my functional strength and cardio levels, while burning massive calories,” Lee says. “It keeps me active until my official training session.”

How to do it: Work through prescribed bag work, jump rope, and exercises.

0:00–5:00 — Hit the MMA bag with a combination of punches, kicks, elbows, and knees
5:00–6:00 — Kettlebell Swings
6:00–6:30 — Burpees
6:30–7:30 — Assault Bike at 85 RPM
7:30–8:30 — Thrusters
8:30–9:00 — Burpees
9:00–10:00 — Kettlebell Swings
10:00–13:00 — Jump Rope
13:00–13:30 — Plank
13:30–14:00 — Mountain Climbers
14:00–14:30 — Pushups
14:30–15:00 — Plank Jacks

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Workout 9: Animal Flow + Clean and Press

The trainer: Matthew N. Berenc, C.S.C.S., director of education at the Equinox Fitness Training Institute

Why it works: The bulk of the work comes from one total-body movement: the clean and press. Keeping quick routines simple, either with the number of moves or equipment, reduces the time it takes to decide on exercises and transitions. “Setting a timer keeps me focused, moving, and doesn’t let my rest periods get too long,” Berenc says. “As a father of a 2-year-old and a 3-month-old, time and energy are definitely at a premium. This is efficient and provides a total-body challenge.”

How to do it: First work through 5 min. of progressive animal-flow movements, starting with basic, static postures and movements, progressing to more of a flow. Then, set a timer for 10 min. At the top of every minute, perform 5 kettlebell clean and presses, alternating arms each minute.

  • 1-min. Static Beast With Limb Lifts: Get into a quadruped position on hands and knees with toes tucked. Lift knees off the ground by an inch, then lift one hand an inch off the ground, fighting your body’s urge to shift or rotate. Hold for a second, then return your hand to the ground and repeat with the other hand, then one foot. Alternate lifting hands and feet with the main goal of holding your position—no shifting or letting your hips/knees travel higher.
  • 1-min. Static Crab With Limb Lifts: Sit with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place hands just outside of and behind your hips with fingers pointing behind you. Lift hips off the ground by an inch, then alternate lifting one hand or foot, all while maintaining level hips and shoulders.
  • 1-min. Crab Reach: Maintain the crab position with both hands and feet on the ground. Pick one hand up, holding it just in front of your face. Initiate the reach by lifting your hips as high as possible, coming into an arm-supported bridge. As you reach the top of the hip lift, reach your free hand behind, extending it toward a point on the ground. Your eyes should look at that point. Hold this top position for a second, then return to start position. Alternate hands/sides with each reach.
  • 1-min. Beast Reach: Begin in a quadruped position with knees lifted an inch off the ground. Extend your hands and arms, then drive your hips back toward your heels, as if you were coming into a downward dog. Bend your legs, sinking into your hips and flaring your knees out so they hover an inch over the ground. Start to flow in a wave-like motion by lifting your hips up toward the ceiling, rolling vertebrae by vertebrae to create a hollow position (with chin tucked), pushing through your hands the entire time. As you slowly lower your hips as you “wave” into the plank position, tuck one knee up to touch the same side’s elbow. As you return to the start position, replant your foot, then reverse the “wave” action until you find yourself back in the start position: hips back, arms extended.
  • 1-min. Forward-Traveling Beast: Start in a quadruped position with knees one inch off the ground. Start the forward travel by lifting your left hand and right foot off the ground, stepping both an inch or two forward simultaneously. Alternate this crawling pattern.

Author: Cassie Shortsleeve

Source: Men’s Journal: 9 Workouts Trainers Do When They Only Have 15 Minutes to Sweat

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