We all want exercise that works us hard in hardly any time at all and slims us down fast, so we challenged Prevention fitness expert Chris Freytag to create a routine that packs about an hour's worth of fat blasting into just 20 minutes. When a panel of Prevention readers tried the exercise and diet program, they lost an average of 4 1/2 pounds in just 2 weeks—and two women lost twice that, and another shed 10 inches off her arms, chest, waist, hips, and legs. All the testers found the short workouts easy to fit into their crowded schedules, whether in the morning, at lunch, in the evening, or even after 10 PM. (If you don't even have 20 minutes to spare, try this super quick living room workout instead!)
What makes this plan superefficient and extra effective is that most of the workouts are circuit routines. By performing high-energy strength moves with little rest in between, you burn 25% more calories during the workout and double your postexercise calorie burn—all while building firm, shapely muscles. These pumped-up circuits go one step further: The 30-second power drills you do between circuits will rev your metabolism even higher than regular circuits.
For best results, follow a balanced 1,600-calorie eating plan.
Workouts At A Glance
Rather than lift weights for 20 or so minutes, then do another 30 or so of cardio, you get both in just 20 minutes with circuit workouts. Yoga and your favorite cardio round out the week for variety. (Perfect your yoga form and pick up a copy of Slim, Calm, Sexy today.)
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What You Need: One or two sets of dumbbells (3 to 8 pounds), yoga mat, and supportive sneakers.
Warm-Up: For circuit workouts, march in place, do arm circles and half squats, and twist and bend your torso, all without weights, for 2 minutes. For your favorite cardio workout, begin at an easy intensity and build up to a moderate or vigorous level over 2 to 3 minutes. A warm-up is already built into the yoga routine. (Search: Best warm-up routines)
Cool-Down: Finish circuit and favorite cardio workouts by stretching the muscles you just worked for 2 minutes. A cool-down is already part of the yoga routine.
Days: 1, 2, 3, and 5; Do Circuit moves and Power Drill sequence 6 times. After each Power Drill, rest 20 seconds (easy march or side-to-side steps) before repeating.
The Expert: Certified personal trainer and yoga instructor Chris Freytag designed this workout based on her DVD 10 Pound Slimdown ($18; exercisetv.tv/slimdown).
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Day 01: Upper-Body Circuit
For both moves: Do 16 reps, then do 8 more with a balance challenge (knee lifts for Move 1; rear leg lifts for Move 2). Choose a weight that you can lift with good form for the recommended number of reps. If the last few reps don't feel hard, pick a heavier weight.
1. Arm Arc Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms at sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Raise arms out to sides to shoulder height (not shown). Bend elbows so arms form a goalpost. Press dumbbells up overhead. Reverse actions to lower weights.
2. Row With Rear Fly Hold dumbbell in right hand, arm extended below shoulder. Lunge with left leg bent, right one straight behind you. Rest left hand on left thigh. Bend right elbow and pull dumbbell toward hip. Slowly lower. Then raise right arm out to side to shoulder height. Slowly lower. (Do opposite arm next round.)
3. Power Drill (30 seconds): Jumping Jacks For less impact, you can alternate stepping out to sides.
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Day 02: Lower-Body Circuit
For both moves: Do 8 slow reps (2 counts down, 2 up) per leg, alternating sides. Next, hold and pulse (up and down 2 to 3 inches) 3 times. Do 4 sets per leg. Then do 8 fast reps per leg, alternating.
1. Side-Step Squat Hold dumbbells in front of chest. Step right foot to side, wider than shoulder width. Bend hips and knees; sit back, knees behind toes. Stand, bringing feet together. Repeat stepping with left foot.
2. Curtsy Lunge Hold a dumbbell in each hand at sides. Cross right leg 2 to 3 feet behind left leg. Bend knees and lower until left thigh is almost parallel to ground. Keep front knee behind toes. Return to start and repeat with left leg.
3. Power Drill (30 seconds): Split Jump Hop, scissoring legs forward and back. Arms swing in opposition.
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Day 03: Core Circuit
For all moves: Do 8 slow reps, then 16 fast ones.
1. Knee Lift With Twist Stand with feet apart, hands over right shoulder. Raise left knee and pull arms down across body. Repeat all reps with opposite leg.
2. Legs-Up Crunch Lie on back with legs straight up in air, arms extended over chest. Curl head, shoulders, and upper back off ground, reaching fingers toward toes.
3. Side-Plank Hip Lift Lie on right side, left foot crossed over right, right elbow under shoulder, and left hand on hip. Press into right forearm and raise right hip and thigh off ground. Lower hip without touching mat, then lift again. After the fast and slow reps, hold in up position for 8 counts. (Do opposite side next round.)
4. Power Drill: Knee Lift With Hop Alternate lifting knees as you hop about an inch off ground. Reach opposite arm overhead as if climbing a rope.
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Day 04: Yoga
Flow from move to move, focusing on your breath.
1. Cat/Cow On all fours, exhale and round back, tucking pelvis. As you inhale, reverse the motion, arching back and looking up. Do 8 times.
2. Arm/Leg Extension Extend right arm and left leg as you exhale. Inhale and switch sides. Do 8 times on each side.
3. Child's Pose Sit back on heels, lower forehead to mat, and reach arms forward. Hold for 6 to 8 deep breaths.
4. Downward-Facing Dog Tuck toes and lift hips toward sky so body forms an upside-down V. Press heels and hands into ground; relax head and neck. Hold for 6 to 8 deep breaths.
5. Plank Lower hips into a push-up position. Keep shoulders over wrists, abs tight, and spine long. Hold for 4 deep breaths.
6. Hover Bend elbows, keeping arms close to body, and lower chest almost to mat. Hold for 4 deep breaths.
7. Cobra Lower body to mat, tops of feet on mat. Press into hands, lift and extend spine, and raise chest. Hold for 4 deep breaths.
8. Repeat from Downward-Facing Dog at a slightly faster pace (2 breaths per move). Do 4 times, ending in Downward-Facing Dog.
9. Warrior 2 Step right foot forward to lunge, right knee bent. Hips face side. Extend arms. Hold for 4 to 6 deep breaths.
10. Reverse Warrior Lower left hand to back leg, reach right arm overhead, look up. Hold for 4 to 6 deep breaths.
11. Side Angle Lower right forearm to right thigh. Reach left arm overhead. Look up. Hold for 4 to 6 deep breaths.
12. Lower hands to mat on either side of right foot, and step foot back into Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat from Warrior 2 with left foot forward.
13. Do entire sequence, from Move 4, 4 times total. Finish in Child's Pose with some deep breathing.
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Day 05: Total-Body Circuit
For all moves: Do 8 slow reps, then 16 fast ones. (For Moves 1 and 2, switch sides after each round.)
1. Lunge Cross Chop And Knee Lift Hold a dumbbell overhead. Step right foot back into a lunge as you twist to left, lowering dumbbell. Return to start with right knee lifted. Immediately lower into next lunge.
2. Tap Lunge With Biceps Curl Hold a dumbbell in right hand, arm extended at side. Lunge with right leg behind you and straight. Bend right elbow and raise dumbbell toward shoulder as you bring right leg in next to left foot. Extend right leg back and lower dumbbell. Skip the curl for the fast reps.
3. Chest Fly With Bridge Lie faceup, legs bent, feet flat. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms out to sides. Raise hips off floor so body forms a line from knees to shoulders. Squeeze chest to bring arms together. Slowly lower arms. Keep abs tight and hips lifted entire time.
4. Power Drill: Fast Feet With feet wide, quickly jog, barely raising feet off ground as if doing a football drill.
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Day 06: Favorite Cardio
Do any type of aerobic exercise that you enjoy—walking, cycling, swimming, elliptical machine, or Zumba—at a moderate intensity for at least 20 minutes.