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This 20-Minute Morning Workout is Quick and Effective

Woman doing ab scissors in a gym.
Karla Tafra

When you can’t spare more than 20 minutes for a workout, every second counts. That’s why carefully planning it out and using a timer can make a huge difference. Here’s an example of a quick and effective morning workout you can do any day of the week.

Before You Start

Being crunched on time means you need to set up everything beforehand, including all the tools and equipment you may need, add-ons to challenge yourself even further, background music, and even a water bottle so you don’t end up running to fill it up in the middle of your circuit.

You also need to know exactly what exercises you’re doing and in which sequence. Short workouts are no place for freestyling as chances are you’ll forget what comes after the third round of squats. We recommend writing it on a clearly visible surface you can easily glance at throughout your entire workout. Whether you decide to get a whiteboard, write it down on a piece of paper, or type it into your phone, it doesn’t matter as long as you have it close by.

Counting reps during a short, 20-minute workout risk of not completing your exercises or not doing them right because you’re rushing through the motions. That’s why we believe having a timer is a much better option. It doesn’t matter how many reps you do as long as you perform them correctly without risking injury. It’s better to do 10 reps in 45 seconds than aim for 15 and rush through the last five.

Yoga Mat

The perfect mat for passive stretching.

Circuit One

This 20-minute workout is divided into two 10-minute circuits that each consist of four exercises. You will perform every exercise for 45 seconds and take a 15-second break. You will repeat each circuit two times for a total of four rounds with a one-minute rest in between.

Air Squats

Start in a standing position, feet separated at a hip-width distance. Inhale and engage your core. Bend your knees and start lowering your hips down as far as they will go, preventing your knees from caving in. Exhale and extend your legs, exploding upward, and squeezing your glutes at the very top. Repeat for the full 45 seconds, rest for 15.


Start in a standing position, feet separated at a hip-width distance. Engage your core muscles and on your inhale, jump vertically into the air. On your descent, bend your knees and bring your palms to the floor, shooting your legs back into a plank position. Get down into a push-up (or a modified version with knees on the floor), exhale, and come back to plank. Jump from plank to a low squat and then straight back up to a vertical jump. Repeat for 45 seconds, rest for 15.

Back Lunges

Start in a standing position, feet separated at a hip-width distance. Inhale and step back with your right leg, coming high on the ball of your right foot. Bend both knees until your knee, hip, and ankle are at a 90-degree angle. Exhale and push yourself back to the starting position using the ball of your right foot. Inhale, and step back with your left foot. Alternate for 45 seconds, rest for 15.

Bear Crawls

Come to a plank position and bend your knees, letting them hover one inch above the floor. Feel your abs engage and on your inhale, move your right arm and right foot forward, following with your left. Move 10 crawls forward and 10 crawls back for 45 seconds. Rest for 15.

Rest for one minute, then repeat everything one more time.

Resistance Bands Set

This complete set allows you to make the most of your workouts wherever you are.

Circuit Two

After you’ve completed two rounds of circuit one, take a one-minute break and then get right back into it with a new set of exercises.

Knee-Drive Jumps

Start in a standing position, feet separated at a hip-width distance. Step with your right leg back, coming high onto the ball of your foot. Engage your core and leg muscles and keep your hips squared. Bend your knees to prepare, inhale, and on your exhale, explode vertically into the air, driving your right knee into your chest. Repeat for 45 seconds, rest for 15.

When you perform this exercise the second time around, step back with your left leg. This way you’ll burn out one leg at a time without the hassle of alternating and losing balance.

Squat to Plank

Come into a plank position, with your wrists right under your shoulders and ankles stacked right under your heels. Engage your core and ensure your hips are in line with your body. Inhale and jump into a squat, with your feet outside your hands. Exhale and jump back to plank, carefully maintaining a strong and solid position. Repeat for 45 seconds, rest for 15.

Side Plank Twists

Come into a side plank on your right side, ensuring your right wrist is stacked right under your shoulder. You can keep your feet stacked or bring your left foot back for added support. Inhale and bring your left arm straight into the sky, exhale and twist, bringing your left arm underneath your body like you’re trying to reach for something far and under. Repeat for 45 seconds, rest for 15.

When you perform this exercise the second time around, come into a side plank on your left side. The set-up for a side plank makes it impossible to alternate without compromising form or balance.

Ab Scissors

Come into a lying position on the floor and place the top of your palms underneath your seat. Lift your legs vertically into the air and activate your leg muscles. Inhale and lift your head off the floor, exhale and start lowering one leg down to the floor without touching it while the other stays vertical. Inhale and bring it back up and lower the other one. Go as fast or as slow as you want, really feeling your abs work. Repeat for 45 seconds, rest for 15.

Rest for one full minute, then repeat everything one more time.

And remember, you can always modify or intensify each and every one of these exercises. For example, you can add resistance bands to any squats or lunges, grab dumbbells or kettlebells to load more weight, or even combine the two and create a killer muscle-burning workout.

Yes4All Vinyl-Coated Kettlebell

Challenges your every workout.

This is a great workout if you only have 20 minutes to spare. But, what if you only have 15? Yes, you can still do an effective workout. Here’s what we propose.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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