Ultimate 20 Minute Workout Routine

For a while now I’ve been working out the best kind of all over muscle and cardio workout that you can do at home with minimum equipment. For any plan of this nature to be fully effective it needs to fulfill the following requirements:

  • To work all muscle groups in the body
  • To elevate the heart rate for a minimum 20 minutes
  • To use minimum equipment and be performed with no assistance

My routine ticks each of these boxes in the following way:

  • Using compound exercises, to work the legs, upper and lower back, shoulders, chest, arms and core.
  • The routine lasts 20 minutes and elevates the heart rate at a manageable level over this duration.

The routine uses two pieces of equipment – a barbell and a flat bench. These are both cheap and easily obtainable. A relatively low amount of weight is used on the bar, which means that assistance is not required during the routine.

Movements Used in the Routine


The squat is the classis leg exercise. Put the bar over your shoulders, behind your head, and hold it in place. Stand with your back straight and your feet shoulder width apart, toes pointing slightly outwards. Keeping your back straight, bend at the knees and lower your upper body until your thighs are close to being perpendicular to the ground. Pause for a second and then smoothly push the weight back up to a standing position. That is one rep (repetition).

The squat is compound movement that works many muscle groups including the glutes (bum), quads and hams (thighs), lower back, and many other supporting muscles that help keep you balanced and upright during the movement.

Shoulder pressShoulder Press

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with the barbell behind your head, resting across your shoulders. Grasp the bar with a comfortably wide grip, and push the bar overhead until your arms are straight. Pause for a second and lower the bar steadily back down to the shoulders. That is one rep. As in the video, you can also do them with the bar starting in front of your head. I like to do them alternately – one rep in front, the next behind and so on.

The shoulder press is another compound movement that works many muscle groups including the posterior, anterior and medial deltoids (shoulder muscles), triceps, and many other supporting muscles that help keep you balanced and upright during the movement.

bench-pressBench Press

Lay flat on your back with your feet on the floor. Grip the bar with a shoulder width comfortable grip and allow it to rest on your upper chest in a place that feels natural. Steadily press the bar upwards until your arms are staight. pause for a second and slowly let the bar come back down to the starting position. That is one rep.

Yet again, the bench press is a comppund exercise that works many muscle groups including the chest, front part of the shoulders and triceps, and many other supporting muscles that help keep you balanced and stable during the movement.

bent-over-rowBarbell Rows

The final exercise in the group is the barbell row. It is another compound movement that works the back, biceps and rear shoulders as well as building a strong grip and further working on the core.

Stand up straight and hold the barbell in front of your thighs with your arms straight down. Now bend at the waist so that your upper body is angled forwards. Pull the weight up towards the middle of your stomach and hold for a second before slowly letting the weight return to its starting position. That is one rep.

The Routine

The idea of the routine is that a low amount of weight is used, and that you rotate through the different exercises for a 20 minute period. This means that the weight is manageable, so falls somewhere between a cardio exercise and a weight training exercise.

Each routine is performed for one minute, and in that minute you simply do as many reps as you can, before quickly switching over to the next exercise in the routine with as little gap as possible. Do them in the folowing order:

  1. Squats
  2. Bench Press
  3. Barbell Row
  4. Shoulder Press

The amount of weight on your bar will need to be tweaked to suit all of the different routines so that it’s possible to keep going steadily for the full minute without having to stop, but making sure that it’s challenging so that it starts to get tough towards the end of the minute. if you find that some exercises are much easier than others, it’s okay to use more than one barbell with different weight on each.

Keep going for 20 minutes and you’re all done! You’ve achieved a perfect all over body muscle workout, and had a great cardio vascular workout into the bargain. You won’t get massive, or be running marathons overnight, but if you’ve only got 20 minutes three times a week, and you want to cover all bases, this is the workout for you.

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