Yes, it’s important to hit all your muscles if your goal is functional, well-rounded strength. But doing a 10-minute arms and abs workout can be a smart choice on days when you’re super strapped for time.
In fact, the combo of arms and abs can make for an especially efficient routine. That’s because the split focus on separate muscle groups means one can be working while the other is resting. Then, you can swap without having to take a ton of down time, as you might have to do with a routine that hones in on just one area (like a legs workout, for instance). This allows you to get through your session quickly and accomplish a lot in a short period.
The arms and abs workout below, which certified personal trainer Alicia Jamison, MA, a coach at Bodyspace Fitness and lecturer of exercise physiology at Brooklyn College, created for SELF, is a solid pick if you literally only have 10 minutes to exercise but still want to make the most of that time.
This five-move circuit starts with the bear crawl, a core stabilization move that will likely get your heart rate up, Jamison tells SELF. Then, you’ll do the bent-over row, which will activate your arms and back—and hopefully lower your heart rate just a little so you don’t fizzle out too fast, she explains. Up next is the Russian twist, a dynamic seated core exercise that will allow your back some time off after the row while challenging your obliques (the muscles on the sides of your torso). The following move, the alternating overhead press, will fire up your shoulders, chest, and triceps. And the final exercise, the side plank with reach, will ignite your core and give you a moment to take a few active breaths before jumping back into the bear crawl again, says Jamison.
Do this workout and you’ll get muscle endurance work as well as sneaky cardio. The latter aspect comes from the low rest (20 seconds) to high work (40 seconds) ratio, meaning you’ll be spending the majority of the time moving your body and very little time completely recovering, which will likely get you a little breathless. Additionally, the inclusion of intense, dynamic moves will further challenge your cardiovascular system, says Jamison.
What’s more, you can tweak the speed at which you perform the exercises to achieve different goals: If you want to emphasize cardio, then go at a fast pace (just make sure your form stays on point). If you want to focus on muscular endurance, then slow things down. It’s all up to you!
You can do this workout up to twice a week if you’re doing it as a standalone routine, or up to three times if you tack it onto another workout that hits other muscle groups, says Jamison. However you program it in, make sure to leave at least a day in between to give your muscles time to recover.
Last thing: Before you jump into this routine, take a few minutes to warm up so that your muscles and joints are properly primed for movement. Jamison recommends doing one or two reps of the world’s greatest stretch followed by 10 bodyweight squats, 10 high knees, and 20 jumping jacks.
What you need: A pair of medium-weight dumbbells for the bent-over row and the alternating overhead press. The right amount of weight will depend on your current strength level, but you can consider 10 to 20 pounds per dumbbell a general recommendation.
- Bear Crawl
- Bent-Over Row
- Russian Twist
- Alternating Overhead Press
- Side Plank Reach
- Perform reps of each move for 40 seconds, then rest 20 seconds before moving onto the next move.
- For the side plank with reach, do the first set on your right side, and the second set on your left.
- Repeat the circuit for 2 total rounds. Don’t take any extra rest in between rounds (though of course take a breather if you feel like you can’t catch your breath or your form is slipping).
Demoing the moves below are Francine Delgado-Lugo (GIFs 1–2), cofounder of FORM Fitness Brooklyn; Heather Boddy (GIF 3), a group fitness instructor and creator of the Geeknasium workout program; Tray Drew (GIF 4), MPH, owner/operator of Body By Tray and an ISSA-certified personal trainer; and Shauna Harrison (GIF 5), a Bay-area based trainer, yogi, public health academic, advocate, and columnist for SELF.