You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Military Muscle: 20 minutes, maximized

Shorter workouts need planning

Feb. 6, 2013 - 10:58AM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 6, 2013 - 10:58AM  |  
(Getty Images)
  • Filed Under

About the author

Bob Thomas is director of the Navy Wellness Center in Pensacola, Fla. Email him at jomof14@cox.netail.

Army Capt. Alexander Humes at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., wrote to ask whether a regular regimen of intense 15-minute workouts has any value.

"This seems like a godsend to soldiers who look to have a personal fitness program since the early morning is taken with unit PT, lunch hour is unrealistic for an hourlong workout since the gym is going to be packed, and most soldiers just want to go home to their families" at the end of the day, he says.

I'm not a fan of short workouts as the norm, but there's no denying that sometimes you can't get in a full, hit-all-the-parts training session.

One answer is to count those as rest days. Or, you can put "quickie" in your book.

One idea is to pick a CrossFit Workout of the Day that fits your schedule.

Or, for a start-to-finish of 30 minutes or less, you can pick one focus area such as cardio, or you can put together a five- to six-station strength circuit. You might also do a quick combo. To be effective, you'll need to operate at higher intensity. Your quickie does not get results if you do your shortened session at the same pace as a regular workout. It's critical that you go in focused, with every step preplanned.

It's also important to remember your body temperature will still be up as you go back to the job.

A few sessions for busy days:


Do this 10-part timed effort on a treadmill, bike or rower. Use the same speed and resistance on the first two time trials. On the third, dial up the resistance. On the fourth time trial, keep the resistance the same as on the third, but increase your speed.

Time/Event/ Degree of effort (1-10)


3:00-5:30/Time trial/6-7


6:30-9:00/Time trial/6-7


10:00-12:30/Time trial/7-8


13:30-16:00/Time trial/7-8

16:00-20:00/Cool down/3-4


Strength circuit


Two rounds of:

5 x pushups

5 x crunches

5 x body squats

5 x lunges (each leg)

5 x jump squats


Five rounds of 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds between stations:

Hammer curls (dumbbell arm curls with palms facing in)

Shoulder press (press weighted bar or dumbbells from shoulders to full overhead)

High row (close hand grip on weighted bar, raise from waist level to chest level)

Bent-over row (bend forward 45 to 90 degrees, head up, hands on weighted bar wider than shoulders; raise bar to touch navel; return to arms fully extended)

Triceps overhead press (both hands grip single dumbbell or kettlebell; position weight behind head, keeping upper arms vertical; moving lower arms only, raise weight to full extension; return to behind head)

Squat (execute with weighted bar on shoulders or hold dumbbells at sides)

Stretch after workout.

Combo circuit


Two rounds of:

5 x pushups

5 x crunches

5 x body squats

5 x lunges (each leg)

5 x jump squats


Four rounds of 30 seconds on each station; runs for distance rather than time:


4-count burpees (standing; to hands on floor and feet fully extended behind you; to feet up close to hands; back to standing with a jump)

Ball slams (raise a heavy medicine ball overhead; then throw it hard to the floor just in front of you)


40-foot runs (set two markers 40 feet apart; run three round trips at 70 percent to 80 percent effort)

1 minute recovery

Stretch after workout.

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In OFFduty

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.

This Week's Air Force Times

This Week's Air Force Times

CrossFit vs. unit PT
Troops will do the training plans in a $2.5 million study

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook