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15-Minute Workouts

No time? No problem! These quick 15-minute workouts are the perfect fit for your busy schedule.

15-Minute Workouts

Let’s face it, life can get pretty hectic. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to fit a full session in at the gym. That’s why I designed these 15-minute workouts, so that even on your busiest days you can squeeze in a routine. But don’t be fooled by their length—these programs pack a serious punch, and are brutally effective. Despite the paltry time window, you can do some serious damage to a muscle group to encourage real muscle growth. So if you’re really pressed for time, don’t skip the gym! Give one of these workouts a try instead.

15-Minute Chest Workout

This 15-minute chest workout is perfect for those days when you don't have the time to spend a full 30-45 minutes on chest, or when the gym is so busy that you don't dare move from the bench you have in fear that someone will swoop in and take it, leaving you with nowhere to hit pecs.

This routine uses the classic technique known as tri-sets. A tris-et involves doing three exercises for the same muscle group back-to-back-to back with no rest between sets. It's a brutal protocol that really pushes a muscle to its limit, which in turn helps spur muscle growth. The non-stop nature also maximizes calorie burn during and after the workout to encourage greater fat loss.

This chest tri-set isn't just three random pec exercises. It involves three moves that target the different areas of the pecs—upper pecs, middle pecs and lower pecs—to promote balanced development of the entire chest.

One problem with doing tri-sets is the fact that if you have three different stations to move through, such as the bench press, incline bench, or cable crossover station, you'll likely lose one or both of the first two stations to another gym member before you get back to them for the next tri-set. So I designed this workout to be done in one spot: The bench press. You can do the entire workout without ever getting up from the bench and yet it still hits all three areas of the chest. The key is the grip used and your body position on the bench.

The first exercise in the tri-set is the reverse-grip bench press. Most of you who follow my training tips should know that using a reverse-grip on the bench press increases the involvement of the upper pecs to an even greater degree than doing incline presses. Hard to believe, right? I explain in this video.

The second exercise in the tri-set is the decline dumbbell flye to hit the lower pecs. How do you do a decline flye on a flat bench? By getting into a bridge position on the bench. To do this, turn around on the bench so that your feet are where your head would normally be. Place your feet flat on the bench so that your lower legs are perpendicular to the bench. Raise your thighs and torso up to a 45-degree angle with the bench so that your lower back is raised and only your upper back (traps and shoulders) is touching the bench.

The third and last exercise of the tri-set is the dumbbell bench press, which will target the middle pec muscle fibers.

Depending on how quickly you move through these tri-sets, you'll be able to complete a minimum of three rounds and maybe even as many as four before 15 minutes is up. Choose a weight for each exercise that normally allows you to complete about 12-15 reps on the first set. Don't worry, by the final tri-sets you won't be getting close to finishing that many reps—just perform as many reps as possible to reach muscle failure.

To watch me perform this tri-set chest workout, check out this video:

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15-Minute Back Workout

I have no problem with spending 30-45 minutes training my back with high volume and several exercises, but when time is of the essence I'm totally confident that I can hit this large muscle group sufficiently in 15 minutes.

The key is using the right techniques to not only boost training intensity but also drastically reduce the time it takes to complete the workout. And of course, just the act of reducing the duration of the workout while keeping total work completed the same boosts training intensity. This is one reason why you should consider doing some of my 15-minute workouts from time to time, even on days when you have all the time in the world.

This back workout utilizes single-arm training with no true rest periods. You basically go back and forth from right arm to left arm, taking no rest. Each arm gets a little bit of a break while the opposite arm is working, but your body doesn't get a full rest so it builds your lats while it burns your body fat.

The workout starts off with standard one-arm dumbbell rows to build back mass and thickness. Alternate arms with no rest until you've completed 3 sets for each arm.

Then you'll move to one-arm pulldowns to build some back width. For these, sit side saddle on the pulldown seat with your right side facing the pulley when doing pulldowns with the right arm, and your left side facing the pulley when doing your left arm. You won't need to keep your legs under the pads since you'll be using less weight than your body weight. Again, alternate arms until you've completed 3 sets for both.

To watch me perform one-arm lat pulldowns, check out this video:

The next exercise is the one-arm seated cable row, which will build more back thickness and lower lat size. To perform these you'll sit "sort of" sidesaddle. To do rows with the right arm, sit with only your right leg and glute in contact with the bench and your right foot on the left side of the foot plate. Your left leg should be bent with your foot flat on the floor. Do the opposite for the left arm. Once again, alternate arms without resting until 3 sets per arm have been completed.

Last, you'll isolate the lats with the one-arm straight-arm pulldown done with a rope pulley. Once you've completed all three sets for each arm, you're done. In under 15 minutes you'll feel your lats like never before!

Workout Notes:

Choose a weight that allows you to complete 12 reps on the first set of each exercise. The non-stop pace of this workout will have the reps dropping fast on each successive set. Depending on how conditioned you are, you'll end up somewhere between 6 to 8 reps on the final set.

Definitely consider using wrist straps for this back workout. Going from arm to arm like this with no real rest will fatigue your grip fast, and you don't want your forearm or hand muscles limiting your back strength, as that can limit the results you get.

Try to keep your rest between exercises just long enough to move to the next station and set it up.

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15-Minute Leg Workout

Leg day—you either love it, or love to hate it. I've loved torturing myself with brutal leg sessions for as long as I can remember. There's just something thrilling to me about loading up a bar with hundreds of pounds and doing squats. Plus, it taxes the body so nicely that those of us who are masochists can't resist a good leg day.

Leg training is a real challenge—that is, when you do it right. Since the legs make up the majority of your body's muscle mass, it makes sense to put a lot of effort into training them. If you've done any of my leg workouts, you're all too familiar with what they call the #StoppaniShuffle!

I've been known to spend two hours or more training just legs. Sometimes I have to force myself to stop and get on with the day. If you're anything like this, when you're short on time on leg day you may tend to skip the workout until you have more time scheduled. Yet, as you've seen from my other 15-minute workouts, you can get in one brutal workout in 15 minutes—even for legs.

My 15-Minute leg workout combines leg training with high-intensity interval training (HIIT)—specifically, Tabata interval training. With this form of HIIT, you'll be working for 20-second intervals and resting for 10-second intervals. You'll complete eight cycles (or "sets") of this 20/10 work/rest ratio per exercise.

That means that each of the three exercises—squats, leg extensions, leg curls—will take four minutes to complete for a total of 12 minutes of exercise time. You'll rest one minute between exercises, which will get you done in just under 15 minutes. And by done, I mean DONE! Your legs will be wobbly. Get ready for some more of the #StoppaniShuffle.

These 15 minutes of torture will not only build well-defined legs, but they'll melt fat off your entire body as well.

Tabata intervals were originally designed by Dr. Izumi Tabata to better train Japanese speed skaters. He discovered that when he had athletes perform eight cycles of 20-second intense exercise intervals, followed by 10 seconds of rest, they increased both their aerobic (endurance) and anaerobic (what you use when lifting weights) capacity.

Since it enhances explosive energy—the kind you use in a typical set of squats—it can help you get more reps with a given weight or use more weight to get a given number of reps. That not only crosses over to more strength but also more muscle growth, since a greater overload on the muscle results in greater size gains.

The benefits won't end there. Because you're doing fairly high reps and taking very short rest periods between sets, you'll increase growth hormone levels and the amount of blood vessels you have feeding your muscle fibers. This will help to get more nutrients, oxygen, and anabolic hormones to your muscles, which means they'll have more energy during workouts and better recovery and growth after the workout is over. Tabatas also enhance endurance and boost your body's ability to burn fat.

Workout Notes:

Choose VERY light weight the first time you do this workout.

Although 20 seconds of exercise won't seem long on the first interval, by the time you get to Set 5 or so you'll wonder how you're going to complete another three 20-second intervals with only 10 seconds of rest in between. The burn will be like nothing you've ever felt before—that is, unless you have done my HIIT 100s leg day, which feels very similar.

For squats, you may want to start with just the bar or even just your bodyweight. I'm serious! In fact, the next time you're stuck somewhere with no gym and it's leg day, do a Tabata workout of bodyweight squats and lunges and you'll be covered.

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15-Minute Bodyweight Leg Workout

This is the second Tabata-style 15-minute leg workout I designed for JimStoppani.com. The difference with this one is that it's not only doable in the same time allotment, but it can also be done at home. I figure if you don't have time for a full-length workout, you may not have time for a gym commute, either. This routine is also great for when you're traveling and don't have access to a gym, since it can be done with nothing more than your own body weight.

A bodyweight-only leg workout? Doesn't sound very hardcore, but it's actually fairly brutal. In this workout, you'll be doing three different exercises, each in Tabata fashion. It might look easy on paper, but it's not. Tabata intervals are super intense and usually dish out a fair amount of pain. It's not the best workout for building lower body size, so think of it more as a conditioning and fat-burning routine. Save your strength and hypertrophy sessions for days when you have more time.

The Workout

Exercise Sets/Reps Rest
Jump Squat 8/20 seconds 10 seconds (standard Tabata protocol)
Squat 8/20 seconds 10 seconds
Walking Lunges 8/20 seconds 10 seconds

Workout Notes:

For jump squats, use only your body weight. Trust me, that will be plenty of resistance.

For squats and walking lunges, use whatever weight you have available. If you have a barbell with a rack, use that. If you have dumbbells, do dumbbell squats by holding the weights at shoulder level and walking lunges with the weights hanging at your sides. If you have a kettlebell, do goblet squats and walking lunges holding just one weight (alternating which hand you hold it in every other set). If you don't have any dedicated weight equipment, use whatever you can find—milk cartons filled with water or sand, a medium-sized rock, etc.

Keep in mind, you'll need to use a VERY LIGHT WEIGHT to get through all eight 20-second Tabata intervals, especially if you've never done Tabata before. That said, body-weight-only squats and lunges will probably work for most people, so don't worry if you're short on weights at home or in your hotel room.

If you have more than 15 minutes, finish off with abs done in Tabata fashion. I recommend crunches or reverse crunches.

15-Minute Shoulder Workout

We've all been there. It's shoulder day, but you've literally got about 15 minutes to spare to make it to work, a dinner reservation, or that 9:00 pm movie on time.  Whatever responsibility you have that's hijacking your workout time, you might as well just skip the gym that day, right? After all, what kind of workout can you do in only 15 minutes?

Before you skip out on the gym, I have just the 15-minute delt workout you need. It involves five shoulder exercises done in extended-set style for three sets. It will hit all three deltoid heads in under 15 minutes and will annihilate your delts better than most shoulder workouts that take three times as long.

This workout is not only handy if you're short on time, but it's also great for when you're stuck at a hotel gym with nothing heavier than 20-pound dumbbells. It's even great when you have ample time, as a change of pace to burn your delts in a novel manner to stir up your training.

So what's an extended set? It's a method that involves successively changing to a biomechanically more advantageous position for the muscle being trained. In other words, you move to exercises that get easier to perform than the previous ones. That way, you can stick with the same weight and keep going.

For this 15-minute shoulder blast, you'll start with the dumbbell bent-over lateral raise, which is the dumbbell shoulder exercise that you should be the weakest on compared to the four that will follow. Choose a weight that you can complete for 6-8 reps with on this exercise.

Once you've reached muscle failure on bent-over laterals, immediately stand upright and perform standard dumbbell lateral raises. You should be stronger on regular lateral raises than you are on bent-over lateral raises, provided you do both with strict form. There's no set rep range here; just go until you reach muscle failure, whether that's two reps or 20 reps.

After you've reached muscle failure on lateral raises, immediately adjust the dumbbells to the front of your thighs and go into dumbbell front raises. You can do these two arms at a time or, if you prefer, one arm at a time as alternating dumbbell front raises, which will allow you to complete more reps than the two-arm version. Again, there's no set rep range here other than muscle failure.

After that, immediately switch to dumbbell upright rows. Again, go to failure without worrying about the number of reps you can complete.

From there, you'll finish by swinging the dumbbells up to shoulder height and doing dumbbell shoulder presses to failure. Now, you can finally put the dumbbells down on the floor, catch your breath, enjoy the burn in your delts, and rest for just one minute.

You'll repeat the extended set in the same manner two more times for a total of 3 sets.

Yes, all five exercises are done with the same weight. If you think a light set of dumbbells like 20s or 25s aren't enough to do shoulder presses with, think again. By the time you get to the presses your delts will be on fire and even the lightest dumbbells will be difficult to press overhead.

This method takes full advantage of the link between muscle fatigue and muscle growth. So even though you're using ridiculously light weight on shoulder presses, the pre-exhaust nature of this extended set will instigate new muscle growth. This also makes a great way to instigate more fat burning due to the non-stop nature of the sets.

To see me perform this shoulder extended set workout, watch this:

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15-Minute Arm Workout

If at the beginning of this article you thought it was impossible to train just one muscle group in 15 minutes with sufficient volume to promote real size gains, by now it should be clear that just isn’t the case. But now I'll go one better than that: Here you'll push the envelope and hit two muscle groups in under 15 minutes—and rest assured, this is no half-assed arm workout where you do a couple exercises and get on with it. When you finish this workout your arms will be so pumped and sore that it will feel like you've been training them for over an hour!

This workout uses the popular superset technique, which involves doing two exercises back-to-back with no rest between them—and no two opposing muscle groups are better suited for superset training than the biceps and triceps. They're easy to do at the same station, so you don't lose the equipment/machine you're working on, and the opposing movements help to enhance muscle strength, resulting in such a massive pump that your arms will feel like they're going to explode.

You'll start the workout by supersetting barbell curls and lying triceps extensions. You can use either a straight bar or an EZ-bar for both—whatever you prefer. Load the bar with a weight that allows you to get about 8-10 reps on barbell curls. Complete as many reps as possible to reach muscle failure. Then, immediately lie down on the flat bench and perform a set of lying triceps extensions with the same weight taken to failure. Do three supersets in this fashion, resting less than one minute between supersets. On the third superset, perform a "super" drop set by immediately dropping 20%-30% of the weight from the bar and going immediately into a final superset of barbell curls and lying triceps extensions.

The next superset will consist of cable triceps kickbacks with behind-the-back cable curls. Choose a weight that allows you to get about 15 reps on kickbacks and cycle through three sets on each arm by doing kickbacks on the right arm and immediately supersetting with behind-the-back cable curls on the right arm. Then do the same on the left arm and immediately switch back to the right side. Continue in this manner until you've done three sets for each exercise on each arm. Your arms will be blasted after going through these two superset pairings non-stop. But you're not done...

You'll finish the workout by supersetting dumbbell hammer curls and dumbbell overhead triceps extensions. This is fairly straightforward. You'll need a set of dumbbells for the hammer curls and one heavier dumbbell for the overhead extensions. Set up your dumbbells at a low-back bench and go to it, resting less than one minute between supersets.

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15-Minute Forearms/Abs/Calves Workout

If you counted up all the major muscle groups that you should train regularly, there'd be about 10: Chest, back, shoulders, traps, biceps, triceps, legs (quads, hams, and glutes), abs, forearms, and calves.

With so many muscle groups to train every week, if not twice or even three times a week, it's no wonder that many people focus on those first eight, and some guys just focus on the first six. I can understand their dilemma.

With the busy work schedules we have to keep—heck, I spend many hours every day answering questions on Twitter, never mind writing and creating programs for JimStoppani.com, as well as working on eBooks, print books, and consulting for numerous companies and a few exclusive clients—it's a wonder that anyone with a full-time career can get in his or her own training every single day.

Busy people often have no choice but to let the smaller and, dare I say, less important muscle groups go. That's why you see so many guys with big upper arms and no forearms, or big quads and small calves. Of course, that's bad for numerous reasons: Not only does it lead to strength imbalances, but there are also aesthetic drawbacks—the forearms and calves are the most visible parts of the body during the warm months of the year when you're wearing a T-shirt and shorts. You want these areas to look good, right?

The good news for those of you who lack the time to regularly train your forearms, abs, and calves is that I created this 15-minute workout just for you. If you can find 15 extra minutes at the end of one or two workouts per week, you can target these muscle groups for better balanced strength and muscle development. And you also won't look silly wearing a T-shirt and shorts!

This workout utilizes a training technique known as staggered sets. It's very similar to supersets—or in the case of training three muscle groups, tri-sets. The major difference is that tri-sets are typically done for one muscle group with the goal of resting as little as possible between exercises. Supersets are also typically done in this fashion for either two exercises for the same muscle group or two exercises for antagonist (opposing) muscle groups.

The main difference with staggered sets is that the time you take between exercises is not critical, unless of course you want to finish the workout in 15 minutes. Another difference is that staggered sets are often used with one big major muscle group and one smaller muscle group that has no impact on the larger muscle group—for example, chest and calves. Or you can use it as I have here and stagger three small (but I won't say insignificant) muscle groups.

The faster you go between sets the faster you're done, and the more intense the workout—as well as the calorie burn during and after the workout is over. Since each muscle group has little impact on the other two, each one gets a rest while you train the other muscle groups. So you won't need much rest, if any, between exercises.

The workout is quite simple: You do three exercises—barbell wrist curls, crunches and standing calf raises, in that order. Keep cycling the exercises in this order until you've completed four sets of each, there you have it. In 15 minutes you've just trained forearms, abs and calves. Consider changing up the exercises from time to time to hit other areas of each muscle group. For example, barbell reverse wrist curls to hit the forearm extensors, hanging leg raises or reverse crunches to hit the lower abs, and seated calf raises to focus more on the soleus muscle of the calves.

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15-Minute Power HIIT Workout

What makes high-intensity interval-training (HIIT) so great is that, for one thing, it's the best form of cardio for maximizing fat burning. (Read about the science behind HIIT here.) But more than that, it does so in a bare minimum of time, making it a no-brainer for the busy guy or gal.

This 15-minute workout is a style of training I call Power HIIT. Power HIIT involves intervals of powerful, explosive exercises with accompanying rest periods in a 20-seconds on, 20-seconds off format (1:1 work-to-rest ratio).

This particular Power HIIT routine involves six different exercises that collectively target all the body's major muscle groups in explosive fashion: the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves via jumping lunges and jumping in place; the chest, as well as shoulders and triceps, via power push-ups; the shoulders more directly via dumbbell push presses; the back via dumbbell power rows; and more or less the entire body via dumbbell cleans.

The exercises are laid out in a pyramid-style arrangement (some people may call this a ladder), where you'll do two intervals of each exercise and then do them all again in the reverse order. The one exception is jumping in place, which you'll only do for two intervals total at the "tip" of the pyramid.

I designed this workout to be able to be done at home with minimal equipment—just one set of dumbbells. As I mentioned in another 15-minute workout article, if you only have 15 or so minutes to spare for a workout, chances are you don't have time for a gym commute. In lieu of dumbbells, a light barbell can be used for cleans and push presses.

You'll want to warm up for this one, so I recommend that you do 30 seconds of jumping jacks alternated with 15 seconds of rest for 5 minutes. Then get right into the workout. The Power HIIT routine takes just under 15 minutes, but including the warm-up the entire session will be closer to 20 minutes. So you may need to carve out another five minutes to get it all done, but I know you can do it!

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