A Full-Body Workout You Can Do in Just 15 Minutes

When you’re strapped for time, but want an intense, full-body workout, compound exercises are the way to go.

Compound exercises are movements that work multiple muscle groups at once, as opposed to isolation exercises, which recruit just one muscle group at a time (say, a single-arm row versus a single-arm bicep curl). Because compound exercises involve simultaneous effort from several areas of the body, they are also a great way to quickly increase your heart rate, giving you some of the benefits of a cardio workout—especially if you do them in circuit programming.

Another perk of compound exercises? They more closely mimic movements we do in sports—and in everyday life, Janeil Mason, a certified group fitness instructor and creator of Fit and Lit who has a master’s degree in exercise physiology, tells SELF.

Think about it: Whether you’re walking, running, playing a sport, or simply carrying a bag of groceries up the stairs, you’re never really using just one muscle group at a time. Instead, you’re relying on different areas of the body to work together in a coordinated fashion. By doing compound exercises in a workout, you can improve your coordination and ability to perform similar movements in other scenarios. This can help make sports-based movements—and day-to-day life—feel a little bit easier.

To make a great full-body workout from compound exercises, it’s important to incorporate moves that work both the front and backside of your body, says Mason. You can do that by including a combination of upper-body push movements (like push-ups, which especially work your chest muscles) and upper-body pull movements (think rows, which challenge your back muscles). Mason also recommends including exercises that involve bending at the knee (like squats and lunges, which work both the front and backside of your lower half), plus those that require hinging at the hip (like deadlifts, which especially target your butt and hamstrings).

Don’t forget your core, she adds, which you can smoke in a variety of ways—from total-body exercises to specific moves like leg lifts.

With all that in mind, Mason used a variety of compound exercises to create a simple-yet-super-effective full-body workout for SELF. It’s a 15-minute circuit-based routine that will get your upper body, lower body, and core fired up. You’ll also get your heart rate going as you perform each of the five moves at max effort.

It’s important to warm up your muscles before you tackle this routine—three to five minutes of simple, dynamic moves can do the trick, says Mason. She suggests moves like jumping jacks, walking knee hugs, and other dynamic stretches.

The Workout

What you need: An exercise mat for comfort and a pair of dumbbells. Start with 5-pound weights if you’re a beginner, suggests Mason. More advanced exercisers can go heavier.

The Exercises


Perform each move with good form at max effort for 45 seconds and then rest 15 seconds before moving onto the next move. Complete the entire circuit for two to three rounds. If your form falters, take additional rest, or decrease the intensity at which you’re performing reps.

Demoing the moves below are Rachel Denis (GIF 1), a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and Amanda Wheeler (GIFS 2-5), a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Formation Strength.

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