June 22, 2021
A 15-Minute Cardio Workout for When Your Body Just Needs to Move
When you’re stressed, adding an hour-long workout to the mix might make it even worse. But if you still want to move, a 15-minute cardio workout can be just what you need.
This workout is super efficient if you’re strapped for time or simply don’t want to spend all the time you do have working out. That’s because the 15 minutes includes both your warm-up and your workout. Warm-ups are especially important for cardio workouts because they prime your muscles and reduce your chance of injury—plus, studies have shown that they can even boost your workout performance.
This warm-up, which hits your core, glutes, hamstrings, and shoulder muscles, is meant to “rev up your engine” without being too sweaty and strenuous while preparing you to continue on with your workout. If you have a few extra minutes, Duncan suggests adding a couple more of your favorite dynamic stretches—like high knees or lunges—to the warm-up for a bit of added mobility and strength.
What you’ll need: An exercise mat for extra cushioning.
- Glute bridge
- T-spine windmill stretch
- Plank to downward dog tap
- Curtsy lunge to squat
- For the warm-up, you’ll complete 5 reps of the frogger, 10 reps of the glute bridge, and 8 reps per side of the T-spine windmill stretch. Complete the circuit twice, taking breaks as needed.
- For the workout, you’ll do three rounds of the three circuit exercises. For the first round, perform each exercise for 1 minute, taking a 30-second break in between each move. For round two, do each exercise for 45 seconds, breaking for 20 seconds in between each move. For the final round, perform each exercise for 30 seconds, taking a 15-second break in between each move.
- Start in a low, wide squat position with your feet wider than hip-width apart and your hands planted on the floor in front of you, in between your legs.
- From here, jump your feet back to extend into a high plank position with your wrists directly under your shoulders, core engaged, hips level, and legs straight behind you.
- Pause for a moment in your high plank, then jump your feet forward and wide again to return to your low-squat starting position. Lift both hands fully off the floor so all of your weight is on your feet.
- Place your hands back on the floor, to return to starting position.
- This is 1 rep. Continue for 5 reps.
To make this cardio move easier, step back to a high plank one foot at a time rather than jumping back.
2. Glute Bridge
- Lie face-up with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and heels a few inches away from your butt so that your fingertips graze your heels when arms are at your sides.
- Squeeze your glutes and abs, and push through your heels to lift your hips off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
- Pause and squeeze your glutes at the top, then slowly lower your hips to return to the starting position.
- This is 1 rep. Continue for 10 reps.
The glute bridge is a hip extension exercise, which really works your glutes and your hamstrings—and prepares those muscles to move safely and efficiently in your workout.
3. T-spine Windmill Stretch
- Lie on your right side with your knees stacked and bent at 90 degrees and your hips bent at 90 degrees. Stack your arms and hands together on the floor, extended out to the right. This is starting position.
- Slowly open up your body, bringing your left arm up and over to your left side, to form a “T” with your arms. In this position, both shoulder blades should be planted on the floor.
- Slowly reverse the movement to return to starting position.
- This is 1 rep. Continue for 8 reps on each side.
This move stretches your shoulder muscles, including your deltoids, trapezius, teres major, and teres minor, as well as your thoracic spine.
4. Plank to Downward Dog Tap
- Start in a high plank with your wrists under your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart.
- Push your hips up and back to move into a Downward Dog with your heels reaching toward the floor. At the same time, lift your right hand off the floor and gently tap your left ankle (if possible).
- Return your right hand to the floor and shift your weight forward to come back into high plank.
- Now, shift back into Downward Dog but this time tap your left hand to your right ankle. Return to high plank.
- This is 1 rep. Continue, alternating sides, for your set amount of time.
To make this core exercise easier, try plank taps. Stay in a high-plank position with your feet wide behind you. Keeping your core engaged and hips level, lift your right arm to tap your left shoulder. Try to keep your hips from rotating or sagging. Return your right arm to the floor, and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating.
5. Curtsy Lunge to Squat
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips or relaxed by your sides. This is the starting position.
- Step your right foot diagonally behind you and lower your right knee until it almost touches the floor. Your front knee should bend to about 90 degrees.
- Drive through your left heel to stand back up and drop into a center squat position, with feet hip-width apart. Repeat on the other side.
- This is 1 rep. Continue alternating for your set amount of time.
This combo move fires up your quads and your glutes.
6. Push – Up
- Start in a high plank with your palms flat, hands shoulder-width apart, shoulders stacked directly above your wrists, legs extended behind you, and your core and glutes engaged.
- Bend your elbows and lower your chest to the floor.
- Push through the palms of your hands to straighten your arms.
- This is 1 rep. Continue for your set amount of time.
This exercise targets your core, pectorals, deltoids, and triceps. To make it easier, try elevating your hands on a step, table, or wall. Elevating your hands is actually a more effective regression than doing push-ups from your knees because it allows you to hold tension and stability throughout your core and the rest of your body.