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20-minute workout: Firestarter

The Pro: Joseph Manuel, group fitness instructor and program lead for athletic training and running classes at Equinox River Oaks in Houston, Texas

The Workout: This six-move routine is based off of Equinox’s signature Firestarter class, which uses nothing but a step with two risers to give you a full-body workout. “The class increases VO2 max, calorie-burn, and plyometric power,” Manuel says.

The circuit he developed below does the same. It has a pyramid structure, with work periods that start relatively short, then max out at 45 seconds before dropping down again. Meanwhile, the rest periods always last 15 seconds. This protocol ups your VO2 max more than those with lower work-to-rest ratios do, he explains.

In each of the three rounds, you’ll alternate between two exercises for four and a half minutes using the timing pattern below. Take active recovery between rounds by marching in place, doing butt kicks, or jumping an imaginary rope. Perform this workout 2 to 3 times per week for the most benefits.

Exercise 1: 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off
Exercise 2: 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off
Exercise 1: 45 seconds on, 15 seconds off
Exercise 2: 45 seconds on, 15 seconds off
Exercise 1: 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off
Exercise 2: 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off
0:00 to 3:30: Warm-up

Do movements that mimic those in the workout below, such as bodyweight squats, hip-openers, reverse lunges, and inchworms into plank.

3:30 to 8:00: Round 1
  • Exercise 1: Plank jump to plank jack

  • Get in a high plank with hands on a bench. Use your core to jump both feet forward and to the right (underneath your right elbow and as close to the bench as possible). “You should feel this in your obliques,” Manuel says. Return to start, then perform a plank jack by jumping the feet out and in. Switch sides and repeat. Continue, alternating sides.

  • Exercise 2: Plyo lunge to squat jump with heel click

  • Perform one plyo lunge on each leg by lowering into a lunge, then simultaneously driving up through the legs and switching sides. Follow that with a squat jump: Lower until your knees are bent at 90 degrees, then jump up and click your heels together in the air before landing softly on the balls of your feet. Continue this sequence.

8:00 to 9:30: Active recovery
9:30 to 14:00: Round 2
  • Exercise 1: Knee and foot taps

  • Stand tall with arms extended overhead. Perform two high knees (one on each side), tapping the knee with the opposite hand as it reaches its highest point. Then bring each foot up, rotating the knee out to the side and tapping the foot with the opposite hand. “This exercise tests your core, glutes, and coordination,” Manuel says. “Think knee, knee, foot, foot.”

  • Exercise 2: Double squat thrusters to burpee

  • Get in a high plank with both hands on the end of a bench. Jump your feet forward, staying in a squat (like a frog jump). Your hands should be planted firmly on the bench and feet on either side of it. Jump back into a plank. On the next rep, jump your feet forward and then do a vertical jump, reaching your arms overhead, landing softly on the balls of your feet, and returning to plank. Continue this sequence.

14:00 to 15:30: Active recovery
15:30 to 20:00: Round 3
  • Exercise 1: Donkey heel clicks to diamond jump

  • Get in a high plank with both hands on a bench. Kick both legs up at the same time, clicking your heels together while they’re in the air, then land back in plank. Jump your feet forward and then jump straight up, reaching your arms overhead while simultaneously bending the knees and tapping your heels together in the air (so your legs create a diamond shape) before landing softly on the balls of your feet. Get back in high plank and repeat.

  • Exercise 2: 180 squat jump to jump shot

  • Stand tall and lower into a squat, with knees bent at 90 degrees. Simultaneously jump up and rotate 180 degrees in the air, landing in a squat facing the opposite direction. Repeat, rotating the other way, to return to start. On the next set of squats, extend your arms overhead while you jump as if you’re shooting a basketball or blocking a shot. Continue this sequence.