Effective 20-Minute, Strength Workout You Can Do at Home

man doing bulgarian split squat

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For the time-crunched masses, even the thought of driving to-and-from the gym can be a big enough deterrent to prevent you from fitting in a workout. That round-trip drive, all by itself, can take more than 20 minutes. This is exactly why you should consider adding a few home-based workouts to your routine for the days when your schedule is particularly packed.

The reality is, with the right 20-minute routine, you can build strength and cardiovascular health while keeping your fitness goals on-track. The key is to focus on targeting all the major muscle groups of your body while performing a circuit-style routine that keeps your body moving.

For this 20-minute strength workout, you'll need dumbbells, a small looped resistance band, a bench or sturdy surface (a plyo box is also a good option), a medicine ball, yoga mat, and a timer (many workout apps provide integrated interval timers) to help keep your workout on track.

Benefits of 20-Minute Workouts at Home

All too often, people get caught up in the idea that workouts have to be at least 1 hour long in order to be worthwhile. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Any workout, whether it is 5 minutes or 45 minutes, is better than no workout at all.

And the American College of Sports Medicine's recommendations for physical activity state that healthy adults should aim for at least two days of strength training as well as accumulate between 75 and 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise throughout the week (the more vigorous the exercise, the fewer total minutes you need to accumulate).

This means if you can squeeze in 15 to 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise five days a week, including two, 20-minute strength workouts, you can effectively meet the national guidelines. And if those strength workouts also raise your heart rate to the level of a moderate-intensity cardio routine—as many circuit workouts are intended to—your strength workout can count as both a strength and cardio routine.

Plus, when you choose to workout at home, you are reducing the extraneous time often required to start and complete a workout. There's no packing a gym bag, no commuting to-and-from the gym, and if you choose to do your workouts at the beginning or end of the day, you can naturally incorporate your daily shower into your routine.

Plus, there is the potential cost savings to consider. A well-rounded, home-based routine doesn't require much in the way of equipment, so if you can stay motivated to exercise at home instead of paying monthly gym fees, the savings can add up.

In short, home-based workouts can be effective, efficient, and affordable. And they ultimately maximize the time and energy you dedicate to your exercise routine.

20-Minute Strength Workout

This 20-minute strength workout is designed to be performed as a circuit that will challenge every major muscle group of your body while also keeping your heart rate elevated with minimal rest periods between exercises. This cardio-strength combo makes the workout more efficient overall, negating the need to do additional cardiovascular exercise on the same day you perform this strength routine.

You will perform two rounds of the exercises. Set an interval timer to track 50-second work periods followed by 10-second rest periods between exercises. This will give you enough time to transition from one move to the next. After completing the exercises once, allow yourself 1 minute rest before you perform the moves a second time through.

If you find you need more rest between exercises, adjust the work period to 40 to 45 seconds, followed by 15 to 20 seconds rest. This will keep the workout to 20 minutes while reducing the intensity of the workout. Here is what this 20-minute workout entails.

Bench Step Ups

Bench step ups are a good way to start a circuit routine because they will help increase your heart rate while warming up the major muscle groups of your lower body. For this exercise, all you need is a sturdy bench, chair, or plyo box.

  1. Stand facing the bench, your feet hip-distance apart, your core engaged.
  2. Step up onto the bench, leading with your right foot, and following with the left.
  3. Step back down, reversing the movement, leading with your left foot, following with the right.
  4. Step back up again, this time leading with your left foot, and following with the right.
  5. Step back down again, reversing the movement, leading with your right foot, following with the left.
  6. Continue for the duration of the work interval (50 seconds).

Dumbbell Squat Press

The dumbbell squat press is a full-body exercise that engages nearly all of your major muscle groups, particularly your legs, glutes, shoulders, and core. For this exercise, all you need is a set of dumbbells. Here is how to incorporate this move into the workout.

  1. Stand tall, your feet roughly shoulder-distance apart, your knees slightly bent, your core engaged.
  2. Hold a pair of dumbbells "racked" at your shoulders with your elbows at your sides, your palms facing inward.
  3. Press your hips back and begin lowering your glutes toward the floor as your knees bend to perform a squat.
  4. Keep your weight evenly distributed between your feet, your chest lifted tall and your shoulders squared forward.
  5. Continue squatting down as low as you can while maintaining good form, aiming for your knees to bend to at least 90-degrees.
  6. Press through your heels and reverse the movement to return to standing, squeezing your glutes as you rise.
  7. Press the dumbbells over your head as you stand, extending your elbows fully as you rotate your palms forward.
  8. Lower the dumbbells back to the "racked" position at your shoulders, and immediately start the next squat.
  9. Continue for the duration of the work interval (50 seconds).

Dumbbell Renegade Row

A dumbbell renegade row is a great exercise to challenge your upper back, triceps, chest, and core. All you need to perform this exercise is a set of dumbbells and a yoga mat.

  1. Start in a high pushup position on a yoga mat, gripping a dumbbell with each hand.
  2. Make sure the dumbbells are positioned directly beneath your shoulders so they are parallel to your body (your palms facing inward).
  3. Engage your core and check to make sure your body forms a straight, diagonal line from your heels to your head.
  4. Keep your neck aligned with your back, so you aren't arching or dropping your head.
  5. Shift your weight to your left hand and draw the right-side dumbbell up to your chest, squeezing your right shoulder blade toward your spine as you do so. Your upper arm should graze your side as you draw your right elbow past your torso.
  6. Reverse the movement and lower the right dumbbell back to the mat.
  7. Repeat to the opposite side, this time shifting your weight to your right hand as you draw the left-side dumbbell to your chest.
  8. Lower the left-side dumbbell back to the mat.
  9. Continue for the duration of the work interval (50 seconds).

Banded Side Steps

Banded side steps help challenge the often-overlooked abductor muscles of your legs (the outer thighs) along with the glutes. You may also feel the exercise in your quads and core. You need a small, looped resistance band to perform this exercise.

  1. Place a small, looped band around both legs, positioning it slightly above your ankles.
  2. Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart so the band is taut, but not stretched tight. Weight should be evenly distributed between your feet.
  3. Engage your core and press your hips back and bend your knees as you lower yourself into a quarter- or half-squat,
  4. Step out to the right with your right foot as far as you can, pressing against the resistance of the band as you step. Plant your right foot firmly before following with your left foot, returning your feet to a hip-width distance.
  5. Step back to the left with your left foot as far as you can, pressing against the resistance of the band as you step. Plant your left foot firmly before following with your right foot.
  6. Continue stepping to the right, then back to the left, for the duration of the work interval (50 seconds).

Triceps Bench Dip

The triceps bench dip targets the triceps muscles that run along the back of your upper arms. You may also feel the challenge in your shoulders, forearms, and core. All you need to perform this exercise is a workout bench or sturdy chair.

  1. Sit on the edge of a bench or chair with your hands flat on the bench, positioned to the outside of either hip.
  2. Grip the front edge of the bench.
  3. Step your feet forward so your knees are straight, your heels on the ground and your toes pointing upward.
  4. Press through your palms and engage your triceps to lift your glutes up and away from the bench.
  5. Shift your weight slightly forward so your glutes are positioned just in front of the edge of the bench. This is the starting position.
  6. Bend your elbows and, as you do so, lower your glutes toward the floor.
  7. Check to make sure your elbows are pointing backward (not splaying outward to the sides) and that your hips naturally bend as your glutes lower—you want your back to almost "graze" the front of the bench as you go—you don't want your hips to press forward, away from the bench.
  8. Continue until your elbows form a 90-degree angle.
  9. Press through your palms and extend your elbows to return to the starting position.
  10. Continue for the duration of the work interval (50 seconds).

Dumbbell Chest Press With Bridge

The dumbbell chest press with a bridge is a good way to work your chest, shoulders, triceps, core, and glutes at the same time. For this exercise you need a set of dumbbells and a yoga mat.

  1. Lie on a yoga mat with your knees bent, feet roughly hip-distance apart.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand—your elbows should be bent at 90-degree angles, your upper arms flat against the mat, your elbows pointing out to the sides, perpendicular from your torso. Your palms should be turned toward your knees.
  3. Engage your core, press through your feet, and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips away from the mat.
  4. Continue lifting your hips until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulder blades. This is the bridge position.
  5. Press the dumbbells straight upward and toward each other as you extend your elbows fully over your chest.
  6. Reverse the movement and lower the dumbbells back down.
  7. Maintain the bridge position and continue the chest press for the duration of the work interval (50 seconds).
  8. Lower your hips and the dumbbells carefully back to the mat at the end of the interval.

Medicine Ball Wood Chops

Medicine ball wood chops are an excellent exercise for strengthening the core, particularly the oblique muscles. All you need for this exercise is a medicine ball, or a dumbbell.

  1. Stand tall, your feet roughly shoulder-distance apart, your knees slightly bent.
  2. Hold a medicine ball at your hips with both hands.
  3. Squat down slightly and extend your elbows. Keeping your hips and head squared forward, rotate your shoulders slightly to the left as you position the medicine ball just to the outside of your left hip. This is the starting position.
  4. Swing the medicine ball upward and diagonally across the front of your body as you press through your feet and extend your knees and hips to return to a standing position.
  5. Shift your weight to your right foot and rotate your shoulders and hips to the right so you end with your torso facing the right side of the room with your arms extended up and in front of you. It's fine if your right heel lifts away from the floor as you rotate.
  6. Reverse the movement and sweep the medicine ball back down and across your body, returning to a slight squat position with the medicine ball positioned to the outside of your left hip.
  7. Continue for the duration of the work interval (50 seconds).
  8. Repeat the exercise a second time through after the rest interval (10 seconds).
  9. Switch sides, starting with the medicine ball positioned to the outside of your right hip before sweeping the ball up and across your body to the left side of the room.
  10. Continue for the duration of the work interval (50 seconds).


Finish your round of exercises with a plank to target your core, hips, glutes, quads, shoulders, chest, and triceps. All you need to perform this exercise is a workout mat or a yoga mat.

  1. Start on your elbows and knees on a workout mat.
  2. Check to make sure your elbows are aligned directly under your shoulders, your forearms and palms flat against the mat.
  3. Engage your core and step your feet backward, extending your legs fully. Your body should form a straight line from your heels to your head.
  4. Hold the position for the duration of the work interval (50 seconds), or as long as you can maintain good form without exceeding the designated work interval.

After completing your plank, rest for a minute before repeating the exercises a second time through.

How to Make Your At-Home Workout Effective

To get the most out of your home workout, it's incredibly important that you have a plan and that you follow your plan. Here are some tips to help you accomplish your goals.

  • Have a designated workout space with all the required equipment. Even if it's just a corner of your living room or bedroom, setting up a space as your "gym" will make it easier to focus on your workout when you enter that space.
  • Follow a schedule. Carve out the days and times you plan to workout at home, schedule them into your calendar, and honor them as pre-set appointments you can't skip.
  • Know what your daily workout consists of. Make a plan at the beginning of each week, then follow the plan. This means choosing the workouts and exercises you intend to do ahead of time. That way when your scheduled workout time commences, you're not scrambling to figure out what you're going to do.
  • Change into actual workout clothes. Even if you work from home and wear athleisure clothing all day long, it's important to mentally prepare yourself for your workout. Changing into workout-specific clothing and shoes, putting on your favorite workout playlist, and filling up a water bottle are small and simple ways to transition between "home life" and "workout life"—even if they take place in the same space.
  • Set up your equipment and timer(s) in advance. If you're doing interval training or circuit training, it's important to be able to move quickly between exercises. Take a minute or two at the start of your routine to get everything organized and ready to go.
  • Turn off phone notifications and ask family members not to interrupt you. It's incredibly easy to get distracted when you're exercising at home. Turn your phone to airplane mode to avoid getting calls or messages while you're working out, and ask family members to respect your time as if you were exercising outside of the home.
  • Track your workouts and make changes accordingly. Take notes about the resistance levels you use for each exercise and how each workout makes you feel. As an exercise or workout starts to feel easier, continue challenging yourself by increasing the weights, time, intensity, or type of workout you perform.

Safety Tips

When it comes to home-based workouts, it's important to function as your own, personal "gym manager." Take a risk-assessment of the space and equipment you're using. Ask yourself if the space is large enough to move around comfortably. Is the equipment fully-functional?

Check to make sure dumbbells aren't loose or that resistance bands aren't starting to tear. Also, make sure there is nothing lying around on the floor that could cause you to slip or trip in the middle of your workout.

Aside from making sure your space is safe, it's a good idea to talk with a healthcare provider to make sure you are cleared for exercise. And if you haven't worked out in awhile, it's important to start slow and work your way up gradually. Start with lighter levels of resistance, shorter intervals, or less intensity than the last time you exercised. It takes time to rebuild strength and stamina.

Finally, if you're not sure you're performing an exercise correctly, or if you're working around old injuries that are affecting your range of motion or mobility, consider enlisting a certified personal trainer for a few sessions to help with your form. Trainers can also offer modifications to exercises that feel uncomfortable or too advanced for your fitness level.

A Word From Verywell

Home workouts are an excellent, efficient, and affordable way to maintain or improve your health and fitness. But staying motivated can be a challenge.

Make sure you are comfortable with the exercises and workouts you plan to follow. And treat your workouts like an appointment—show up, be prepared, and follow through.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is 20 minutes long enough for a workout?

    Any workout is better than no workout at all with health-related benefits of exercise start accruing at just 5-minutes. Plus, workouts of all durations help you accumulate minutes toward the ACSM's exercise guidelines that suggest healthy adults aim to perform 75 to 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week, depending on the intensity level.

    Given that the same guidelines also suggest two, total-body strength training workouts per week, a 20-minute workout that hits all the major muscle groups while simultaneously increasing the heart-rate to a moderate intensity level (or higher) helps hit two birds with one stone, so to speak.

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

    The key to building muscle is to challenge your muscle groups to the extent that they need to rebuild and repair following a workout. It's the process of rebuilding and repairing muscle fibers that stimulates the muscles to grow back stronger and more prepared to handle the same challenge at your next workout. In other words, it's not so much the time you spend exercising as it is the manner in which you challenge your muscles. If your goal is to build muscle mass, then you should focus on lifting heavier weights and taking your muscle groups to near-failure by the end of each set.

    That said, there also is a dose-response effect. The more resistance training you do, the greater results you'll see. If you only have 20 minutes to resistance train each day, this may mean focusing on only one or two muscle groups per day, and increasing the volume and intensity of the exercises you're performing on those days.

  • What are the benefits of working out at home?

    There are lots of benefits to working out at home. First, it's convenient. You don't have to travel to a separate location. Second, it's efficient—you can easily incorporate workouts at the start or at the end of your day, making it easier to get by with a single shower following your workout. Third, it's cost-effective, as it's possible to perform a full-body routine with little to no equipment and no ongoing gym fees required. Finally, it's effective. Just about any workout you can do at a gym you can modify for home-based routines. For those who can stay motivated to exercise at home, it's an excellent option for maintaining health and wellness.

5 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.
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  2. American College of Sports Medicine. Physical activity guidelines resources.

  3. Myers, TR, Schneider, MG, Schmale, MS, Hazell, TJ. Whole-body aerobic resistance training circuit improves aerobic fitness and muscle strength in sedentary young females. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000790

  4. Levers K, Vargo K. Building muscle mass: physiology, nutrition, and supplementation. In: Greenwood M, Cooke MB, Ziegenfuss T, Kalman DS, Antonio J, edsNutritional Supplements in Sports and Exercise. Springer International Publishing; 2015:123-157. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-18230-8_7

  5. Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysisJournal of Sports Sciences. 2017;35(11):1073-1082. doi:10.1080/02640414.2016.1210197

By Laura Williams
Laura Williams is a fitness expert and advocate with certifications from the American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine.