20-Minute Workout: Circuit Combo

A high-intensity workout to blast calories, boost endurance, and strengthen every muscle.

When you’ve only got 20 minutes to move, time is of the essence. That’s the thinking behind this challenging plan. You’ll perform two circuits of total-body exercises back to back. “Moving quickly through total-body movements keeps your heart rate up throughout the session, so you’re burning calories and toning in the most efficient way possible,” says Equinox Toronto’s regional group fitness manager Mark Hendricks, who created the first circuit and stars in the video, below. (The second round of moves comes from former Equinox trainer Rafael Cruz.) Use this heart-rate revving workout when your schedule is tight, and reap the rewards of a longer session.

Perform each move in circuit 1 in order, resting for 30 seconds between exercises. Then take one minute to catch your breath, and do circuit 2.  

Circuit 1

1. Power Jump: Begin in a deep lunge, left foot forward, right fingertips on floor, left arm extended behind you. Push off left leg and jump to stand, driving right knee forward, foot flexed, as you swing left arm forward and right arm back. Continue for 30 seconds. Switch sides; repeat for another 30 seconds.

2. Renegade Row: Start in push-up position, holding a weight in left hand. Engage abs to stabilize and lift left hand, bending elbow to 90 degrees, then extend left arm back. Bend elbow, then return to start for one rep. Continue for 30 seconds. Switch sides; repeat for another 30 seconds.

3. Lateral Skaters: Stand with feet together, knees bent, holding a weight at either end at chest level, elbows bent. Push off right foot and jump to left, bringing right foot slightly behind left and lowering weight toward floor. Push off left foot to return to start for one rep. Continue for 30 seconds. Switch sides; repeat for another 30 seconds.

4. Bear Squat: From plank position with elbows bent and tight to sides (Chaturanga), push body back toward heels, bending and rotating knees to right. In one fluid motion, drive body forward back to start, then push body back toward heels bending and rotating knees to left for one rep. Continue for 30 seconds.

5. Swing Release: Start with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, arms extended overhead, palms facing. Bending at waist, release arms behind you as you bend knees and jump. Return to start, then squat, keeping arms straight overhead for one rep. Continue for one minute.

6. Dumbbell Rotation: Hold the end of a dumbbell in each hand at waist height in front of you, elbows slightly bent, and kneel. Rotate torso, bringing weight toward left hip and turning head to follow it; rotate to the right, then left, and then step right foot forward at a slight diagonal, knee bent 90 degrees and swing the weight overhead. Repeat for 30 seconds. Then repeat on the opposite side for 30 seconds. 


Circuit 2 

1. 2-Minute Run

Start off slowly and gradually increase your pace until breathing becomes difficult and you are only able to speak a few words at a time (working at approximately 70 percent of your max effort).

2. Burpee

Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms at sides. Squat, placing hands flat on floor under shoulders, and then jump or step feet back into plank position. Immediately jump (or step) feet back up to hands, and jump straight up, extending arms overhead. Do 10 to 15 reps.

3. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms at sides. Lift right foot a few inches off floor, balancing on your left leg. Keeping back flat and abs engaged, hinge forward from your hips, sending right leg (and hips) behind you, reaching hands toward floor. Lower as far as possible while maintaining a flat back, and then squeeze glutes as you return to standing. Do 10 to 15 reps; switch sides and repeat.

4. Squat Chop

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms extended overhead, palms facing each other, keeping shoulders down. Squat as you rotate torso to left and diagonally lower hands to beside left knee. As you return to standing, rotate torso, lifting hands diagonally over right shoulder. Do 10 reps; switch sides and repeat.

5. Windmill

Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, with right foot facing forward and left foot facing left. Keeping a slight bend in left knee, back flat and abs engaged, hinge over to left from hips, pushing hips to right, sliding left hand toward left foot, extending right arm overhead. Lower as far as possible (while maintaining a flat back), and then reverse movement to return to start. Do 10 reps; switch sides and repeat.