Use these five-minute workouts to build full-body strength without weights
Pressed for time? These five-minute workouts will get your muscles working without any equipment
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Let's face it, no matter how good our intentions are, sometimes, it can feel almost impossible to squeeze in a workout. If your schedule has filled up with work, socializing, and chores, a five-minute workout might be just what you need.
While quick workouts can't give you the same results as a more extended session, they can help you build and maintain strength. They're also great for improving your mood and mobility, especially if you spend a lot of time seated at a desk.
We spoke with Ashley Rios, a personal trainer and CEO of Fitness By Ashley (opens in new tab). She used her decade's-worth of experience to design these three five-minute workouts you can do, even when you're tight on time.
All you'll need is a clear space, your workout clothes, and a supportive mat. Check out our guide to the best yoga mats (opens in new tab) on the market so that you can try these exercises safely and comfortably from your home.
The aim is to do each exercise for 40 seconds, take a 20-second rest, then start on the next move. That way, you fit five moves into just five minutes. If you have time for an extended session, repeat the round four or five times.
Ashley Rios is a NASM-certified personal trainer and the founder of Fitness by Ashley. She strongly believes in empowering her clients with the knowledge they can actually use and strategies they can put into place for the rest of their lives.
Beginner's five-minute workout
This is the perfect routine to try if you're brand new to fitness. These exercises are low-impact and easy on your joints but will increase your heart rate and, over time, help you build strength.
1. Air squats to bench
- Find a sturdy surface (like a chair or bench) and position your feet a few inches in front of the bench.
- Lower yourself with control to the bench and back up again.
- For an added challenge, you can practice going lower in your squat without the bench.
- Lie on your front, then engage your core and lift your body off the floor, supporting yourself on your forearms and balls of your feet.
- Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders with hands together.
- Keep your back and hips aligned, forming a straight line from your shoulders through to your ankles.
- If you want to perfect your technique or try some variations, check out our guide on how to do a plank (opens in new tab).
3. Negative push-ups
- Begin in a plank position.
- Slowly and with control, lower yourself all the way to the ground.
- Transition to your knees to press back up and reset into the plank position.
- That's one repetition.
4. Wall sit
- Position yourself up against a wall in a 90-degree squat position. The higher up you sit, the easier the movement will be.
- Make sure your feet are stacked directly underneath your knees, back flat against the wall, and hold.
5. Inverted rows
- Find an elevated fixed surface you can easily grip, like the edge of a table, barbell, or TRX straps.
- Position your body underneath the object, so it lines up with your chest.
- Extend your feet out in front (the straighter your legs, the harder the movement).
- Keep your body tight, and pull your elbows towards the floor.
- Once your chest hits the barbell or table, return to the start with control.
Intermediate five-minute workout
This short routine is ideal when you feel ready to take your workout to the next stage or you already have experience with yoga, Pilates, and high-intensity HIIT workouts (opens in new tab).
- Begin standing with your feet together about hip-width apart.
- With control, step one leg back behind you. Your back knee should be stacked underneath your hip.
- Drive up through the front leg, and return to your start position.
- Hold a dumbbell, kettlebell, or full bottle of water if you want to make this more demanding.
- As you develop strength, you can switch the standard exercise for some lunge variations (opens in new tab).
2. Diamond push-ups
- To complete this push-up (opens in new tab) variation, begin in a plank position.
- Your hands should be a few inches apart and your fingers pointing forwards at a 45-degree angle, thumbs extended.
- The tips of your thumbs and fingers should touch to form a triangle shape.
- Slowly lower yourself to the floor, keeping your elbows pinned to your side.
- Once your chest hits the floor, return to the start position.
3. Hollow body hold
- Begin by lying on your back.
- Keep your lower back on the ground and lift your legs straight out in front and your arms overhead.
- You should be in a curved position that slightly resembles a banana.
4. Marching wall sit
- Begin with your back against the wall and your legs in a 90-degree position.
- Keep your feet under your knees.
- Without moving your upper body, lift one leg at a time as if marching while maintaining a seated position.
5. Negative pull-ups
- Take hold of a bar, TRX strap, or ring with your chin over the fixed surface.
- Slowly lower yourself down until you are in a dead hang position.
- Pull back up until you re-position your chin over the bar and begin again.
Advanced five-minute workout
If you're looking for a more complex five-minute workout to challenge your body and develop strength, this short routine will get your muscles working. Be sure to do each move with good form to avoid injury.
1. Bulgarian split squats
- Begin seated on a bench and extend one leg in front of you.
- Stand, and then raise the back leg onto the bench.
- Lower yourself down with control and press through the standing leg to stand back tall again.
- Work your glutes by shifting your torso forwards slightly, or stand tall to target your quadriceps.
- Increase the resistance by performing the move with dumbbells, kettlebells, or other weights.
2. Handstand push-ups
- Kick up into a handstand against the wall.
- You want your head and hands to form a triangle — head slightly out in front and hands slightly back.
- Keeping your body tight, lower yourself down to a mat with control and press back up to return to the start.
3. Alternating V-ups
- Lie flat on your back, arms stretched out behind your head, with your palms facing up.
- Raise your arms, legs, and torso as if you are trying to touch your toes.
- Return to the starting position to begin the next repetition of this sit-up (opens in new tab) variation.
4. Pistol squats
- Begin by lifting one leg out in front — you can either hold it up with your opposite hand or hold it out in front without any assistance.
- Sink your hips back and down until you complete a full squat.
- Drive through the squatting leg to stand back up.
5. Strict pull-ups
- Grab a bar or elevated fixed surface and lift your feet off the floor.
- From a hanging position, retract your shoulder blades back and down.
- Pull your elbows toward the floor until your chin is over the bar.
- Once your chin clears the bar, begin to lower yourself down with control.
Is a five-minute workout effective?
While five minutes isn't usually enough for a muscle-building workout, it's better than nothing. Plus, if you approach it correctly, it can be enough time to start building strength.
"When it comes to exercise, it is always good to meet yourself where you are," says Rios. "Something is always better than nothing, no matter what."
Doing a five-minute workout is also a great way to build stamina for beginners. "You will find it much easier to continue to build onto that- longer duration of time, more days per week," she says.
"Always remember 5 minutes is better than zero minutes. If you are new to exercise, shorter, more frequent bouts of exercise may be more beneficial for you. You will be better able to manage fatigue and recovery."
If you're looking for other quick ways to look after yourself, you can build mental strength in just five minutes (opens in new tab). Plus, learning how to meditate (opens in new tab) means you can spend five minutes developing your mind-body connection and improve your wellbeing.
Meg is a freelance journalist and features writer based in the UK. She covers culture, entertainment, lifestyle and health. Her writing has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Shondaland, Healthline, HelloGiggles, Reader’s Digest, Apartment Therapy, and more. Meg has been interested in fitness for over a decade. She loves trying a wide range of exercise techniques including yoga, hiking, pilates and HIIT.
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