Effective 20-Minute, Full-Body Workout You Can Do at Home

Woman working out with weights while exercising in home

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When it’s time to workout, do you ever feel like pressing the snooze button on your fitness? If so, you’re not alone. A recent study conducted by OnePoll found that eight in 10 Americans reported having less motivation for exercise now than before the pandemic, and 67% of participants said they tend to put off exercise.

We’re all guilty of skipping workouts on occasion. Between commute times, expensive gym memberships, and hectic schedules filled with responsibilities pulling you in every direction, it’s a miracle any of us find time for exercise some days. Fortunately, there’s a way you can build and maintain your fitness while still making time for everything else you have on the go. How? By incorporating full-body at-home workouts into your routine.

“Working out at home is great for people who don't have a lot of time or an irregular schedule," says Jennifer Fidder, CPT, CPPC, CTRL, certified personal trainer and owner of Jennifer Alice Training and Coaching LLC. "You can get a workout in before you head out the door, in between meetings (if you work from home), or while the kids are getting ready for bed."

In general, some activity is always better than nothing. In 20 minutes you can get in a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) or circuit workout that will get you closer to your goals, Fidder says. Read on for an effective, high-intensity 20-minute workout that will work your whole body and requires minimal equipment. The best part is it’ll boost your fitness, increase your energy, and lift your spirits—all from the comfort of your home.

Benefits of 20-Minute Workouts at Home

If there are any positives from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the collective realization that at-home workouts are a convenient way to save time and stay fit when you can’t make it to the gym. According to a 2019 study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science, home-based exercise training programs, when combined with a healthy diet, are an effective means of improving cardiometabolic health.

You don’t have to sacrifice hours of precious time to get fit. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that healthy adults should do a minimum 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days per week or engage in just 20 minutes of vigorous activity three days per week. Examples of vigorous activity include HIIT workouts, running, cycling, swimming, brisk walking, and playing cardio-intensive sports like basketball or soccer.

“It’s not the duration of the training that matters, but the intensity at which it’s performed and the quality of the movements," says Antoine Hamelin, CPT, a personal trainer and CEO of First Step Fitness. "Thus, one can work on many different muscles and produce great results in as little as 20 minutes, given that the choice of the exercises and the weights used are appropriate and that the exercises are done with good form.”

Plus, regular exercise offers several health benefits, such as increased strength, more energy, better sleep, improved balance, lower risk of falls as you age, less stress and anxiety, healthier body weight, improved cardiovascular health, and reduced risk of disease. Regular exercise also offers significant mental benefits, such as boosting your mood for up to 12 hours and improving your working memory.

To help kickstart your fitness motivation, here’s a 20-minute high-intensity workout that will work your entire body and get you one step closer to reaching your fitness and health goals.

20-Minute Full-Body Workout

This 20-minute workout—courtesy of Hamelin—is designed to build muscle, improve posture, and burn fat. The exercises are to be performed consecutively with short rest times to keep the intensity high. This will elevate your heart rate, causing your body to burn more calories than a traditional weightlifting workout.

This is a circuit-style workout, meaning you should perform each exercise consecutively without breaks. After completing all four exercises, rest for 60 to 90 seconds. Then, repeat the circuit four times. You’ll need a few pairs of dumbbells and a resistance band. Here's how to get started.

Dumbbell Squat

woman doing a goblet squat

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Squats are beneficial for everyone because they work the major muscles of your lower body and improve core strength and stabilization. Squats also activate the stabilizing muscles surrounding your knees and ankles. Here is how to do a dumbbell or kettlebell squat.

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold a dumbbell (or kettlebell) in front of the chest with your shoulders and neck relaxed. Select a weight that’s difficult to do 10 reps but not approaching failure.
  3. Bend your knees and lower into a squat. Stop when your knees reach 90-degree angles.
  4. Contract your glutes while keeping your core stabilized.
  5. Drive your body back up to the starting position without locking your knees.
  6. Perform 10 repetitions before moving on to the next exercise.

Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

woman doing a bent-over row

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Whether you use dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, or machines, rows are beneficial for people of all fitness levels. Dumbbell rows build stronger back muscles, tone your arms by working the biceps, enhance core stabilization, improve your posture, increase grip strength, and widen your range of motion. Here is how to do a bent-over dumbbell row.

  1. Tilt your upper body forward from the hips while keeping a straight back (with a slight arch in your lower back) and chest facing the floor.
  2. Hang your arms in front of you while holding dumbbells that are difficult enough to do 10 reps but without reaching failure.
  3. Pull your elbows back toward your hips while lifting the weights.
  4. Pause at the top of the movement for 1 second before slowly lowering the weights back down to the starting position.
  5. Complete 10 repetitions before moving to the next exercise.

Lying Leg Curl with Resistance Band

Leg curls target hamstrings and calf muscles, making your legs stronger and more flexible. As a result, stronger legs improve your overall stamina and balance. Here is how to do a lying leg curl with a resistance band.

  1. Loop a resistance band around something secure in your home to use as an anchor point.
  2. Wrap one end of the band around your heel.
  3. Lie face down on the floor with your legs stretched out fully and your heel raised holding the band.
  4. Lift your heel toward your butt, pause, then slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Do 10 repetitions for each leg before moving on to the next and final exercise.

Flat Dumbbell Chest Press

Like the previous exercises, the dumbbell chest press delivers several benefits that can help people of any fitness level build upper body strength. The dumbbell bench press activates several muscle groups in your upper body, including the triceps, pectoral muscles, and anterior deltoids.

Other benefits include improving your range of motion through your shoulders and elbows, activation of stabilizer muscles in your arms, core, shoulders, and back, and enhanced muscle symmetry from using dumbbells. Here is how to do the flat dumbbell chest press.

  1. Lie down with your back flat on the floor while holding two dumbbells at chest height.
  2. Press the dumbbells up until your arms are fully extended.
  3. Avoid locking your elbows.
  4. Lower the dumbbells slowly back down to the starting position.
  5. Perform this movement for 10 repetitions.
  6. Rest for 60 to 90 seconds before repeating the circuit.

How to Make Your At-Home Workout Effective

To get the best bang for your buck when it comes to at-home workouts, Fidder advises keeping your heart rate up. You also should consider limiting breaks between exercises, supersets, circuits, or HIIT workouts when you only have a short amount of time to workout.

Meanwhile, Hamelin indicates that in order to make your at-home workout as effective as possible, you should warm-up for 5 minutes using a cardio machine or do a light set of each exercise first. Once you are ready to start, use a 10 to 12 repetition bracket for most exercises.

Hamelin also suggests using a weight that makes the exercise challenging on the last two to three reps as well as maintaining proper form while focusing on the muscles that you are targeting. You also want to stay hydrated during the workout by drinking at least 500 milliliters of water and eat a high protein and complex carbohydrate meal within 1 hour following your workout.

Safety Tips

Keep these important safety tips in mind when exercising at home:

  • Warm up and cool down properly for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Start slowly and increase your activity level gradually.
  • Pay attention to your body and avoid exercising when you're sick or fatigued. 
  • Reduce your workout intensity or stop completely if you feel faint after exercise, exhausted during the day, or experience persistent joint aches and pains after exercise.
  • Stay hydrated and consider drinking fluids containing electrolytes.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and footwear appropriate for the exercise you’re doing.
  • Use proper form when exercising, never sacrificing form to rush through sets or lift weights that are too heavy.
  • Avoid exercising in hot, humid conditions.

A Word From Verywell

Whether you’re planning your first workout routine or fitness is your lifelong passion, adding 20-minute full-body at-home workouts to your regimen can significantly benefit your body, mind, and well-being. The workout provided above is a great example of a workout you can do in the comfort and convenience of your home while exercising your whole body.

Use it as a guide for creating your own full-body workouts that you can switch up and do at your leisure. As always, speak with a healthcare provider before starting any new workout routine. They can answer any questions you may have and give the best advice on getting started with your at-home workouts.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is 20 minutes long enough for a workout?

    Twenty minutes is sufficient for getting in a quality workout. However, it may not be long enough depending on the type of workout you’re doing and what your fitness goals are. For example, if your goal is to build lots of muscle mass, you’ll need to focus more on muscle hypertrophy training and 20 minutes won’t be long enough.

    Instead, to make your 20-minute workouts effective, do high-intensity workouts where you choose at least two different muscle groups and perform two to three exercises per muscle. Alternatively, you can do multiple compound movements that target different body parts, such as squats for your lower body or bent-over rows for your back.

    To optimize efficiency, repeat your workouts, or do a different one, every other day to cause enough muscle stimulation to increase strength and fitness.

  • Can you build muscle with a 20-minute workout?

    Building muscle doesn’t follow a time-related rule but a stress-response one. Performing two to three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions that are challenging is enough to make any muscle stronger. Your intensity, form, and quality of workout are what matters, not necessarily the duration of it.

    In addition, knowing you only have 20 minutes to work out can help you reduce unproductive activity and eliminate distractions like checking your phone, or taking long rests, which allows you to focus entirely on your workout.

  • What are the benefits of home workouts?

    There’s no shortage of perks when it comes to working out from home. At-home workouts save you time because you don’t need to commute to the gym. Home workouts also are a great option for people who don’t like going to a gym for whatever reason. Plus, you can easily build a home gym at an affordable cost and get a great workout anytime you want.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. OnePoll for Curad. Americans say that getting back to their pre-pandemic shape has proven to be more daunting than expected.

  2. Roberts CK, Segovia DE, Lankford DE. Effects of home-based exercise training systems, combined with diet, on cardiometabolic health. Int J Exerc Sci. 2019 May 1;12(2):871-885. PMID:31156746

  3. American College of Sports Medicine. Physical activity guidelines.

  4. National Institute on Aging. Real-life benefits of exercise and physical activity.

  5. Sibold JS, Berg KM. Mood enhancement persists for up to 12 hours following aerobic exercise: a pilot study. Percept Mot Skills. 2010 Oct;111(2):333-42. doi:10.2466/02.06.13.15.PMS.111.5.333-342

  6. Harvard Health Publishing. 10 tips for exercising safely.