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Top Workouts When You’re Short on Time

HIIT, Tabata, and EMOM are three quick workouts that can help you burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time.

Is it hard finding time to squeeze a workout in with your busy schedule?

I mean, who really made up this whole 24 hours in a day thing...And is there someone we can speak to about getting that extended???

When you’re super busy, 24 hours might seem more like 24 minutes, and finding time for basic human needs like eating is almost laughable.

But when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade...Am I right?

Next time you find yourself pressed for time, here are 3 quick workouts you can fit into your schedule, no matter how busy you are:

Who’s Ready to HIIT This Workout?

See what I did there?

All jokes aside...

Whenever you’re in a time crunch, shorter workouts done at a higher intensity give you the most bang-for-your-workout-buck, which is HIIT to a T. There are many reasons why you might want to make HIIT a regular part of your workout routine. Research shows that HIIT workouts can help you burn fat in a lot less time than traditional exercise. HIIT has also been shown to improve heart health, blood pressure, and your overall cardiovascular fitness level.

Since everyone and their mom’s brother’s cousin’s friend are talking about HIIT workouts these days, I’m just going to hop on the bandwagon like a lot of Warriors fans after they signed KD (Don’t worry, I won’t expose any of you). But for those unfamiliar, what exactly is HIIT?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and you can make a HIIT workout from just about any type of exercise -- from running to biking, rowing, or even resistance training. During a HIIT workout, you alternate between short bursts of intense exercise and recovery periods. The key phrase here is high intensity because a HIIT workout means going all out, balls to the wall, and giving max effort during your short bursts of exercise. When it comes to the rest and recovery side of things, you can either rest completely or do some type of low intensity exercise (such as walking or jogging) if you want to keep your body moving. 

HIIT Pro-Tip:

You should be resting long enough so that you feel ready to attack your next burst with maximum, 100% intensity.

Because of how intense HIIT workouts are, they can trigger something known as the afterburn effect. This is where your body continues to burn calories even after you’re done working out. I’m down to binge on Netflix and burn some calories at the same time. What about you?

If you’re looking for a quick, fat-burning workout (ding ding ding, bonus points: you can do it from home), give this total-body HIIT circuit a try. No equipment is required and the entire workout only takes 10 minutes:

Total Body HIIT Circuit:

Complete each exercise in the circuit for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest before moving onto the next exercise. Once you get to the end of the circuit, run through it one more time for a total of two rounds:

  1. Burpees

  2. Lateral Skater Jumps

  3. Jump Lunges

  4. Plank Shoulder Taps

  5. Mountain Climbers

Wanna boss up and take things to another level? Try adding in some weight on your jumping lunges with Ironmaster dumbbells. Having a pair of reliable dumbbells can make getting a workout in from home super convenient, especially on those days when a drive to the gym is the absolute LAST thing you wanna do.

4 Minute Tabata Workout

If you can find just 4 minutes of time in your busy schedule, then you can squeeze in a Tabata workout. No, that’s not a typo...You read that right. You know that quick workouts are the way to go when you’re short on time, but Tabata takes it to another level.

A Tabata workout is just 4 minutes long -- 8 rounds alternating between 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. But don’t let the length of this workout fool you.

Ironmaster Adjustable Kettlebell

A study conducted by Dr. Michele Olson, who is currently a sports science professor and member of the SHAPE Magazine advisory board, found that Tabata workouts are 5 times as effective as traditional cardio when it comes to burning calories. To put it another way, the study determined that a 4 minute Tabata workout can burn just as many calories as a typical 20 minute cardio session (like brisk walking).

Tabata is actually just a variation of HIIT. But the 20 seconds on/10 seconds off format is what makes Tabata, well...Tabata. And that’s where it’s a little different from HIIT. With HIIT, you might work for 30 seconds and rest for 30 seconds one workout, and on your next workout, go for 20 seconds and rest for 40. But with Tabata, the key is that you always stick to the 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest formula.

Are you up for Tabata? Keep this workout in your back pocket and pull it out whenever you’re running super low on time. Or, give it a try if you want to burn some serious calories in a short amount of time:

Fat-Torching Tabata Workout

20 seconds on/10 seconds off of each exercise. Once you get done with the circuit, repeat one more time.

  1. Kettlebell Swings

  2. Dumbbell Thruster (Squat to Overhead Press)

  3. Staggered Explosive Push-Ups

  4. Renegade Row

If you struggle making it through just one Tabata, that’s okay! After my first Tabata workout, I may or may not have ended up in a fetal position in the corner of my basement crying mama, sucking on my thumb, and telling myself to think happy thoughts...Not exactly my proudest moment, but it happens.

Tabata Pro-Tip:

Don’t expect so much out of yourself right away. Practice makes perfect, and the more fit you become, the more Tabata rounds you’ll be able to add to your workout.

Jack of All Trades EMOM Workout

Like the other two workouts on this list, EMOM workouts can help you burn a lot of calories without spending a whole bunch of time in the gym.

The cool thing about EMOM is that you can personalize your workouts to meet the different fitness goals you might have. Looking to build some lean muscle and flex on your ex? EMOM has your back like the inside of a T-shirt. You can easily customize your EMOM workouts to focus on hypertrophy training. Maybe you’re a runner and your main goal is muscular endurance. EMOM workouts can help you build up the strength you need for that final kick at the end of a race.

So what’s the dealio with EMOM? How do you set one up? And what does it even stand for anyway?

EMOM stands for “every minute on the minute.” It’s really easy to set this workout up, all you need is a timer. And then depending on your fitness goals (i.e. building muscle, burning fat, training for power, etc) you might need some equipment, like a weight bar and some plates, adjustable dumbbells, or kettlebells.

The format is this: First, set a workout time with your timer. Let’s say...10 minutes. You choose an exercise (or exercises) and complete a predetermined number of reps within 60 seconds. Whatever time you have left of the 60 seconds is your rest. You’ll cycle through this circuit until time is up. Easy enough, right? 

EMOM Pro-Tip:

The faster you get through all your reps, the more time you have to rest in between each round BUT...Don’t rush through your exercises just so you can have more recovery time. Focus on muscular tension and attacking each rep with purpose. Form over speed. As coaching legend, John Wooden, used to say -- “Be quick but don’t hurry.”

Give these quick 10-minute EMOM circuits a try. I would suggest starting on the lower end of the rep ranges and building your way up slowly to the higher end, especially if you’re new to EMOM workouts:

Bodyweight Muscular Endurance EMOM

Muscle Building Hypertrophy EMOM

These two EMOM workouts should be a good start. But if you’re looking for some exercise ideas to make your own EMOM workouts, check out our top 10 list of dumbbell leg exercises you can do at home. Friends don’t let friends skip leg day, and I’d hate for you to end up being the poster child of one of those leg day memes. 

Key Takeaways

Life can get a little cray-cray and sometimes squeezing a workout into your day might really seem impossible.

Next time you find yourself stressing about fitting a workout in, just remember…Shorter workouts done at a higher intensity can help you maximize your calorie burn.

Workouts like HIIT, Tabata or EMOM can help you take advantage of the limited time you do have and fit a quality workout into your schedule, even on your busiest days. Combine your workouts with a proper nutrition plan (that includes staying hydrated and drinking enough fluids!) and you’ve got a recipe for success.

Do you plan on using any workouts from this list? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

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Chad Richardson, author
Chad Richardson, author

About the Author

Chad Richardson is a freelance writer from Cincinnati, OH. It’s actually been rumored that Chad came out of the womb doing bicep curls, so it should come as no surprise that he enjoys creating content to help others get in shape and live healthier lives. When he’s not in the gym impersonating Arnold Schwarzenegger, you can probably catch Chad at a local bar with some friends watching the game, frustrated with his hometown Redlegs’ inability to stay above 500 for a whole season. His philosophy on life? Take action starting TODAY on that thing you’ve been putting off. Not tomorrow, next week, or whenever you feel motivated. A small step might not seem like much right now, but even small steps add up to a mile eventually.

Website: Chad’s Business Website
LinkedIn: Chad’s LinkedIn





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