Twenty minutes may not sound like a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, but when it comes to working out, sometimes it's all you really need. If you choose the right routine, that is. And who better to ask for the most efficient 20-minute total-body workout than a very busy trainer like Kira Stokes, who somehow always manages to squeeze in her own workouts between back-to-back clients?
Stokes, a NASM-certified celebrity trainer, group fitness instructor, and creator of the Stoked Method, is a pro at finding ways to fit physical activity into her day. Peep her Instagram and you'll find a slew of creative exercises, each dubbed "Stoked Move of the Day," with backdrops from the gym to her driveway to a sandy, tropical beach. Stokes finds ways to move and sweat no matter where she is or how much equipment or time she has on hand—so we asked her to share what she likes to do when she needs a quick, effective, total-body workout.
"Typically what I’m trying to do in 20 minutes is something that boosts my energy as well as challenges my muscles," Stokes says. "When I do a workout where my heart rate is really high and I'm moving quickly from one move to the next and don't have rest time, I feel a real surge in energy from that. There are days when I have 15-20 minutes in between clients, and instead of running and getting on my phone, I’ll bust out a 20-minute workout so I’m energized for my next five clients."
When deciding what exercises to include, Stokes says it's all about picking things that will be most beneficial in working a variety of muscle groups, getting you energized, and leaving you feeling good the rest of the day.
The workout she shares below "hits what's most important to me, the posterior chain," or back of the body, she says. That includes the glutes, hamstrings, and many back muscles. "I don't sit during the day, but many people do, and getting that whole posterior chain fired up is important to do." She also adds that this workout is very focused on the core, another area that's really important to strengthen. "The core is the powerhouse of your body—all your strength pretty much stems from your core—so it’s important to me that within each circuit there’s a focus on straight core or a cardio-core exercise. Everything is about the core," says Stokes.
She also suggests taking as little rest as possible throughout the workout and instead, "think of moving, or flowing, from one move to the next as part of the workout. The flow of movement is an important part of the Stoked Method." Of course, she adds, that's the goal. "If you're trying this and never moved like this before, you obviously might need to take a little bit of a break. But the ultimate goal is to make transitions as smooth and seamless as possible," Stokes says. Think about "getting comfortable with being uncomfortable," and "give 100 percent of your focus to this workout for 20 minutes, nonstop." (That being said, if you feel any sort of pain during this workout, stop what you're doing and see a medical professional before continuing. If you're unsure if this workout is safe for you, make sure to check in with your doctor before trying it.)
This workout is pretty advanced, but there are some simple ways you can modify it. If there's a movement you are unfamiliar with, try doing it first without weights, only adding them once you feel totally comfortable. You can modify any moves done in plank position by simply holding a plank instead, until you've built up enough strength to add the more complex movements. And of course, if the cardiovascular challenge is too intense, slow things down and take breaks whenever you need them. Moving with proper form is always more important than speed.
Got 20 minutes? Jump right into Stokes' workout, below.
Equipment you'll need: A jump rope, one set of heavy dumbbells, one set of medium-to-light dumbbells, one medium-weight (about 10 pounds) soft medicine ball, a set of gliders (or two small towels), one medium-weight mini looped resistance band. (Here's some info on how to choose the right weight for you.)
Don't forget to warm up before you start! Stokes likes to jump rope and do some sprints and lateral hops, for about five minutes. Anything that gets your heart rate up quickly will do.
- Goblet Squat — 12 reps
- Jump Squat — 20 seconds (roughly 20 reps)
- Butt Kick — 20 yards down/back
- Push-up to Knee Tuck — 12 reps
- Do 3 sets.
- Renegade Row + Tricep Kickback + Push-up + Floating Burpee — 10-12 reps
- Ball Slam — 30 seconds (roughly 15 reps)
- Plank Saw — 30 seconds
- Do 3 sets.
- Deadlift to Biceps Curl — 12-15 reps
- Overhead Triceps Extension — 12 reps
- Bodyweight Triceps Extension — 10-12 reps
- Rotational Ball Toss — 12 reps
- Do 3 sets.
- Forward Hop + Burpee + Backward Hop + Jump Squat — 45 seconds
- Mountain Climber — 15 seconds
- Jumping Rope — 1 minute
- Do 2 sets.
- Banded Glute Bridge — 5 full bridges, then press knees out on the band 15 times
- Do 3 sets.
- Handstand Walk — 20 yards
- Do 2 sets.