Ten-Minute Bodyweight Workout

Updated on June 6, 2018
Mike Esco profile image

Dr. Mike Esco has a Ph.D. in exercise physiology and has over 20 years of experience in the health and fitness industry.

The Exercise Habit: Priority #1

At the beginning of a new fitness routine, there is a lot of excitement! Setting goals and thinking of the “new you” can be very motivating. During this time, you may overcome some initial barriers related to time management and start off strong. But eventually the enthusiasm wears off, and you may become less motivated to perform long bouts of exercise. When that happens the new exercise program becomes a brief, faded memory. It is no surprise that most people beginning a healthy lifestyle program quickly stop. Has this ever happened to you? How many New Year’s Resolutions have never been reached? How many gym memberships have been cancelled? Are there any lonely pieces of exercise equipment just sitting around the house? Workout books collecting dust? Too often we start out energized but quickly fade. Then, “lack of time” comes back to haunt us.

Certainly, time management is crucial on the road to fitness. After all, an exercise program that interferes with other obligations is unsustainable. Be aware, however, that the fitter you are the better you will be able to handle life’s responsibilities! It is because of this that I feel the duties related to being a responsible person are reasons, not excuses! Outrun your children. Be a role model. Have the stamina to make it through a long day of work. Feel “young” and energized for just about anything! How? By being dedicated to you personal fitness regime.

But, how is that even possible when there is no time to exercise? The answer...a good workout may not take as long as you think!

The program outlined in this article accounts for two things: TIME and HABIT. The 10-minute workout program described in this article is meant to be effective and habit forming. The only weight that is required is your own body. The workout can be completed anywhere; in the privacy of your home, office, or while traveling. No complicated equipment or intimidating fitness environment is required.

Lack of Time? No Problem!

Source

The Ten Minute Circuit Workout

Circuit training is described as performing one exercise after another in a given time period with little to no rest until the circuit is complete. This method of training increases heart rate and burns calories. It can provide an aerobic stimulus similar to running, while also strengthening muscles (something running cannot do). If performed correctly, it can be the most efficient type of exercise training by serving to aid muscle building and stimulating cardio conditioning in a shortened time frame compared to traditional methods.

The routine described in this article involves a series of 4 exercises that target: 1) the front portion of the upper body; 2) The back portion of the upper body; 3) the lower body; 4) the "core" (or abs). For each exercise, perform 5-20 repetitions (depending on your level of fitness). After you complete an exercise, move to the other with little to no rest. The idea is to complete as many rounds as possible within 10 minutes, not longer. Set a stopwatch and go at your own pace. This will take some getting used to. At first, you may need to take rest breaks. If at any time you feel your technique is being compromised because you are feeling tired, take a breather or stop altogether. Do not sacrifice form. Gradually decrease the time you spend resting between each exercise and soon you will be doing more in the same 10-minute time period.

Ideally, the 10-minute circuit should be performed on three non-consecutive days per week, such as Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

An outline for the this exercise routine is provided in the following Table.

Outline for the 10-Minute Circuit Routine

Targeted Area
Repetitions
Front Upper Body Exercise
5-15 reps
Back Upper Body Exercise
5-15 reps
Lower Body Exercise
5-15 reps
Core Exercise
15-20 reps
Go from one exercise to the next without resting. Perform as many rounds for 10 minutes.

Example Routines

Below, are three examples of the 10-minute circuit workout. With each workout, go from each exercise to the next without rest. When finished with the fourth exercise, repeat the circuit. Set a stopwatch and do as many rounds as you can within 10 minutes. Go at your own pace, but try to rest as little as possible.

Example Circuit #1

Exercise
Repetitions
Knee Push Ups
10
Superman/Superwoman
10
Bodyweight Squat
10
Basic Crunch
15

Knee Push-Ups

  1. Place your hands flat on the floor with your fingers pointing straight ahead, with your arms slightly wider than shoulder width. Place your knees on the floor, too, while holding your feet in the air. Keep your abs isometrically contracted (tight) during the entire movement, you do not want you butt to pop up or sink down. This will help stabilize your torso and make sure your back stays in a straight, neutral position.
  2. Lower your body toward the floor. Keep your torso rigid and straight. Bring your chest an inch or two from the floor. Your elbows should be tucked in toward your body. This position will increase the activation of the chest muscles more than if you had your elbows wide.
  3. Following a brief pause, extend your elbows and push your body away from the floor to return to the starting position.

Knee Push-Ups Demo

Superman/Superwoman

  1. Lie face down on your stomach. Extend your arms over your head. Your legs should be extended also. Keep your neck in a neutral position. (Like superman/woman flying)
  2. Keeping your arms and legs straight, lift your arms and legs at the same time up toward the ceiling by extending your back. The arms and legs should be several inches off of the floor. The shape of your body should be in a wide “u-like” position. Make sure that you are not tipping to one side or the other, try to stay evenly elevated.
  3. Hold for about two seconds then lower back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat

Superman/Superwoman Demonstration

Bodyweight Squat

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip width apart with feet very slight angled out. Your arms can be placed out in front of you, straight down by your side, or with your elbows flexed and hands placed on your hips (my preference). Whichever position you choose with your arms, try to keep them in the position during the entire exercise, unless you bring them in front of you to control balance. Make sure your abdominals are isometrically contracted and your back is in a neutral position throughout the exercise.

  2. Before you begin to lower your body to the floor make sure your feet are firmly pressing against the ground and without moving your feet “twist” the foot slightly to the outside, this will activate your glutes (butt) right before you squat. Lower your body toward the floor by flexing your knees and hips and pushing your buttocks back. Make sure the weight of your body is supported by your heels and not toes (you should feel most of the weight on the outside edges of your foot and heel). Do not allow your knees to go forward over your toes. As you descend, keep your chest up and shoulders back. Your eyes should be focused on a point in front of you to keep your head in a natural position.

  3. Come to a point to where your knees are bent approximately 90 degrees and parallel to the floor. Again, your chest should be up and shoulders back, with your head straight forward.

  4. Following a brief pause (DO NOT RELAX, KEEP TIGHT), slowly stand back up to the starting position.

NOTE: Your knees should not wobble during your squat, try to keep them in the same position.

Bodyweight Squat Demonstration

Basic Crunch

  1. Lie on your back on a comfortable surface like a yoga mat. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Your feet should be about hip-width apart. Your hands can be placed behind your head, crossed over your chest, or beside your body with your arms extended. Most people prefer putting their hands behind the head to keep the neck muscles from getting fatigued. If you do this, be sure to keep your elbows out to the sides and do not pull your head with your hands. Keep your head up and do not round your neck.

  2. Contract your abdominals and curl your trunk up and forward to lift your head, neck, and upper back off the floor. Breathe out as you do this. Keep a natural position in your lower spine and make sure your lower back remains on the floor. Pause for a second or two at the top and try to tighten your abdominal muscles even more.

  3. Breathe in and slowly lower back down toward the starting position. When you reach the bottom, keep your head, neck, and upper back from resting on the floor. This will make sure the your abdominal muscles are continually contracted.

  4. Repeat until the desired number of repetitions has been achieved.



Basic Crunch Demonstration

Example Circuit #2

Exercise
Repetitions
Push Ups
10
Chair Assisted Pull Ups
6
Alternating Lunges
8 on each leg (16 total)
Bicycle Crunch
10 on each side (20 total)

Push-Ups

The basic push-up is one of the simplest yet one of the best exercises for strengthening your upper body. It requires no equipment and can be performed anywhere.

  1. Place your hands flat on the floor with your fingers pointing straight ahead, with your arms slightly wider than shoulder width. Your legs should be straight and feet should be together or slightly apart with the toes on the floor. Keep your abs isometrically contracted (tight) during the entire movement, you do not want you butt to pop up or sink down. This will help stabilize your torso and make sure your back stays in a straight, neutral position.

  2. Lower your body toward the floor. Keep your torso rigid and straight. Bring your chest an inch or two from the floor. Your elbows should be tucked in toward your body. This position will increase the activation of the chest muscles more than if you had your elbows wide.

  3. Following a brief pause, extend your elbows and push your body away from the floor to return to the starting position.

Push-Ups Demonstration

Assisted Pull-Ups

  1. Grasp bar with an overhand grip. Position your feet on a chair or bench that is placed on the floor directly under the bar. Stand up and bring your chest as close to the bar as possible with support from your lower body.

  2. Inhale and lower your body under bar until arms and shoulders are fully extended. Control the descent with minimal assistance from your lower body. Allow your knees and hips to bend and keep your feet flat on the bench or chair.

  3. Exhale and pull your body up until chin is just above bar. Allow your lower body to assist by extending your hips and knees. Remember, the focus of the exercise is your upper body so make sure there is not an excessive amount of assistance from your legs. Lessen the assistance from your lower body as you become stronger.

  4. Repeat.

Assisted Pull-Ups Demonstration

Alternating Lunges

  1. Stand with your hands on your hips (my preference), out in front of you, down by your sides, or clasped behind the neck. Keep your abdominals isometrically activated during this movement.

  2. Lunge forward with your (right or left) leg. Land on your heel then place your entire foot flat on the floor with the toes pointing forward. Lower your body by flexing the knee and hip of the front leg. The knee and hip of the back leg can also slightly flex, but the bulk of your weight should be supported by the front leg. The knee of the front leg should never go past the toes. Lower your body until the back knee is almost in contact with the floor, but does not touch. Your torso should be upright during the descent (do not lean forward). If you become too unstable, try staying a little higher in the lunge.

  3. Following a brief pause, extend the knee and hip of the front leg. Return to the standing position and bring both feet side-by-side.

  4. Perform the lunge with the opposite leg.

  5. Repeat by alternating each leg until you achieve the desired repetitions.

Alternating Lunges Demonstration

Bicycle Crunch

  1. Lie flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head and point your elbows outward. Do not pull the head up during this exercise. Bend your knees and hips at 90 degree angles and lift your feet in the air. Lift your shoulders off the ground and curl your trunk up and forward position. This will be the starting position.

  2. Do a cycling motion with your legs by extending your left leg and bring your right knee in. At the same time, rotate your trunk and bring your left elbow close to your right knee.

  3. Go back to the starting position.

  4. Do the cycling motion on the opposite side by extending your right leg and bring in your left knee. Rotate your trunk to bring your right elbow to your left knee.

  5. Go back to the starting position to complete the repetition.

  6. Continue this cycling motion until the desired repetitions have been achieved.

Example Circuit #3

Exercise
Repetitions
Feet Elevated Push-Ups
10
Pul-Ups
10
Bodyweight Squats Followed by Squat Jumps
10 and 5
Reverse Crunches
15

Bicycle Crunch Demonstration

Push-Ups With Feet Elevated

This is more of an advanced version of the push-up. The technique is similar. Place the front portion of your toes are on an elevated surface, such as a chair or bench. Your upper body should be elevated over the floor with your hands flat and directly underneath your shoulders. Your arms should be extended. Your upper and lower back, hips, and legs should form a straight line. Everything else remains the same as with the basic push-up. The important thing with this version is to not allow your lower back to sag. Keep your abdominal wall isometrically contracted during the entire exercise.

Feet Elevated Push-Ups Demonstration

Pull-Up

  1. Grasp the pull up bar with an overhand grip that is slightly wider than shoulder width. Once your hands are secure, bend your knees to lift your feet off of the floor so your body is hanging in the air.

  2. Pull body up until chin is above bar. While doing this, retract your shoulder blades by bringing them toward each other. Exhale during this portion of the movement.

  3. Lower your body until arms and shoulders are fully extended. Inhale as you descend.

  4. Repeat.

VARIATION NOTES:

To add variety to this exercise, perform the pull up with a narrow grip by bringing your hands closer together, less than shoulder width. You can also rotate your arms and have your palms facing toward you. This version is often referred to as the chin up.

Pull-Up Demonstration

Bodyweight Squats Followed by Squat Jumps

Do 10 bodyweight squats (technique explained above) followed by 5 jump squats with the following technique:

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and arms by your side.

  2. Lower your body toward the floor by flexing your knees and hips and pushing your buttocks back. Make sure the weight of your body is supported by your heels. Do not allow your knees to go over your toes. As you descend, keep your chest up and shoulders back.

  3. Squat down to a point where your knees are bent approximately 90 degrees and parallel to the floor.

  4. Following a brief pause, quickly stand back up allowing your feet to “jump” off the ground.

  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Jump Squat Demonstration

Reverse Crunch

  1. Lie down in a supine position on the floor. Your arms should be extended to the side of your torso with the palms flat on the floor. Keep your arms in this position for the entire exercise. With a slight bend in your knees, move your legs up so that your thighs are perpendicular to the floor. Your feet and knees should be together. This is the starting position.

  2. Inhale, contract your abs and curl the hips and lower back off the floor as your pelvis moves towards the ceiling. Keeping the slight bend in your knees. Your head, shoulders, and upper back should remain on the floor or mat.

  3. Following a brief pause, move your hips back to the starting position while exhaling.

  4. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Reverse Crunch Demonstration

Is Ten Minutes Really Enough?

You may be asking, "is 10 minutes really enough time to become a fitter and leaner person?" The answer truly depends on how active you are when you are not exercising. There is virtually no amount of exercise, aside from running a marathon, that will help you achieve a healthy body composition if you are completely sedentary outside of the gym. Many exercisers do not understand this concept and end up frustrated. Remember, there are differences between physical activity and exercise. Understanding these differences can help you tremendously with becoming fitter.

A ten-minute bodyweight workout performed three days per week is enough exercise to help you become a fitter person if you are also accumulating at least 10,000 steps per day.

As mentioned above, the exercise circuits are meant to be performed over 3 non-consecutive days per week. However, it is very important to pay attention to your activity level when you are not exercising. The more active you are in your daily life, the less time you have to spend specifically exercising to maintain a healthy bodyweight. So, be sure to wear your physical activity tracker and accumulate at least 10,000 steps per day, in addition to the 3 days per week of 10 minute circuit training.

Think about it. There are approximately 2,000 steps in 1 mile. That means that if you accumulated 10,000 steps during your day then you basically walked 5 miles. This amount of walking every day plus the quick and intense circuit workouts 3 days per week makes a great combination!

Stay active when you aren’t exercising if you want the best results. This is cannot be overstated. The Table below shows an example of an “ideal” week.

Example of an ideal week

Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
At least 10,000 steps
10-minute circuit workout plus at least 10,000 steps
At least 10,000 steps
10-minute circuit workout plus at least 10,000 steps
At least 10,000 steps
10-minute circuit workout plus at least 10,000 steps
At least 10,000 steps
Remember to stay active when you are not exercising!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Mike Esco

    Comments

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      • Mike Esco profile imageAUTHOR

        Mike Esco 

        6 months ago from Alabama

        Thank you for the comment Pamela. Please let me know if I can help you with your exercise program. Best!

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        6 months ago from Sunny Florida

        This is a good article for anyone wanted a plan for their exercise routine. it is always hard to get started it seems, but when it becomes a habit all is well. Great examples were shown throughout your article. nice job.

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