To Your Health
March, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 03)
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The 20-Minute Workout

An At-Home 10-Week Conditioning and Fat-Loss Program

By Dr. Jeffrey Tucker

The modern gym is the ideal place to develop strength and lose fat. The only problem with going to the gym is finding time to go to the gym! So, what do you do when you have the time for (or access to) a gym and are limited to your home - complete with screaming kids, countless daily responsibilities and other distractions - for workouts? Turn to the 20-minute at-home workout, of course. Believe it or not, you can lose fat and build muscle safely in just 20 minutes.

Whether you are exercising to get in shape or you train to stay in shape, it's all about contracting your muscles so your body will add muscle. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn. The ideal fat-burning routine involves high-intensity exercise (80 percent of maximum) for 20 minutes at a time. A complete body-weight training program means just that: pushing or pulling your body against the force of gravity. And a free-weight resistance training program can be performed at home using minimal equipment. So, are you ready to build a better you in just 20 minutes? Here's how:

Exercise bands - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark The Only Equipment You'll Need

  • Stability ball
  • Pair of dumbbells or one kettlebell
  • Steps or a "step-up" platform
  • Resistance bands with handles
  • One mini band to place around the ankles
  • Chin-up bar

What You Need to Know Before Starting

Begin each workout with 3-5 minutes of warm-up exercises (see below). Then chose a workout from one of the eight routines I've provided and perform the 3-4 exercises in that routine as a circuit for the rest of the time (approximately 15 minutes). Complete just one set of each exercise before progressing to the next one, and then repeat the entire circuit. In other words, do as many rounds as possible of each exercise in the routine for 15 minutes. All exercises are explained in detail below.

Stopwatch - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Complete at least four different exercise routines per week, choosing one routine each day. Rest at least one day per week. (If you have the time and energy, try to do 20 minutes of aerobic exercise (jogging, cycling, etc.) two other days of the week. See the Interval Training section at the end of this article. So, you might train with the routines on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and do interval training on Tuesday and Thursday. Do 8 to 10 reps of each movement in the routine as a circuit, resting a maximum of 30-45 seconds between exercises. The goal over time is to be able to complete three circuits of the routine within 15 minutes.

Warming Up Your Core

The exercises in this warm-up are geared toward developing good core stability. They target the strength endurance of the abdominal, obliques, low back and gluteal muscles.

Plank: Start to get in a push-up position, but bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms instead of your hands. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Make a bridge with your body by supporting yourself on your elbows and toes, forming a straight line with your body, like a "plank." Make sure your low back is in a neutral position, bracing your stomach to maintain it; imagine you're trying to move your belly button back to your spine. Don't let the low back sag. Start with holding for 20 seconds, breathing steadily. As you build endurance, you can do one 60-second set, then progress to two sets of 60-second holds.

Side plank: On your side, form a bridge with your body by supporting yourself on one elbow and the outside edge of one foot. Your body should form a straight line from head to ankles as you lift your hips so your body stays in a straight line, like a plank. Pull your abs in as far as you can and hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds, breathing steadily. Make sure your top hip and shoulder are directly above the bottom hip and shoulder. Hold the straight-line position. Relax. Try for any combination of reps that gets you up to 30 seconds; build up to holding for one minute. Repeat on your other side. Perform 1-2 repetitions on each side.

Gluteal bridge: Place your feet on the floor and your neck and head on a stability ball. Squeezing your gluteal (buttocks) muscles, push your hips up until your back, hips and knees are in a straight line. Make sure your back is in neutral and focus on your gluteals to hold the position. Complete three sets of 30 seconds each, double leg. Progress to one-leg bridges, three sets of 30 seconds each per leg.