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The Best Holiday Workouts When You’re Short on Time

15 and 30 Minute Workouts to Beat the Holiday Dessert Table!

‘Tis the season for stress, missed workouts, and falling off the workout wagon. We tell ourselves and our clients every season, year in and year out, to make time for their workout. But the holiday season comes and clients end up missing sessions, overeating, and stressing out over holiday shopping and relatives coming to town. As fitness professionals, we know that the holiday season is a hard time to keep clients honest about their calorie intake and committed to their exercise sessions. We may even fall victim to the hustle and bustle of the season ourselves. So to battle the bulge, make your exercise programs easy to fit into any schedule and jam-packed with calorie burning exercises.

Here are two holiday workouts in two convenient time-frames that will fit into anyone’s schedule, can be performed just about anywhere and will help to stave off the extra pounds from the holiday festivities your clients (and maybe you) are bound to succumb to.

Got 15 minutes? Help burn off a few cookies or maybe a small slice of pie.

Equipment needed: Foam roll, medicine ball, dumbbells, stability ball.

Where it can be performed: At home, in the park, at the gym.

To keep the exercise session short, begin with foam rolling potentially tight areas such as the calves, IT-band and lats. The foam rolling warm-up should last no more than five minutes.

Immediately after foam rolling, perform this circuit of exercises working the major muscle groups. Be sure to move quickly from one exercise to another, keeping the heart rate elevated and thus, burning more calories.

  • Begin resistance training with a Squat to Overhead Press being sure to keep the abdominals drawn-in when moving the arms overhead. You can use a moderate weight medicine ball or moderate resistance dumbells to perform the exercise. This exercise works the calves, glutes, inner and outer thigh, abs, back, and shoulders.Squat Press D3X_6152 copy Squat PressD3X_6160 copy
  • Move from the Squat to Overhead Press exercise to a Feet-on-Ball Push-up with Abdominal Roll-up. This exercise works the abs, glutes, chest, and shoulders.ball_straight_leg_pike (1)
  • Next, perform a Ball Dumbbell Row. This exercise works the core, glutes, and major back muscles.Ball dumbbell row 2
  • The last exercise in the succession is a Walking Lunge with Medicine Ball Rotation. This exercise works the entire lower body, abdominals, obliques, shoulders, and back muscles.walking_lunge_and_twist_b (2)

Sets: 2-5 / Repetitions: 10-12

Remember to move quickly from one exercise to another. Perform the circuit of exercises two to three times based on time available. Depending on ability level, average exercisers can perform 3 sets of this circuit routine within 10 minutes. If it falls within the time allotment, you may perform more than three sets, however do not go over five sets of the routine.


Got 30 minutes? Burn off some holiday appetizers!

Equipment needed: Foam roll, tubing or cable-based machine, dumbells, stability ball.

Where it can be performed: At home, in the park, at the gym.

A tremendous amount of calorie burning can be done in 30 minutes. With stabilization training, clients can burn a lot of calories because it requires more muscles to be recruited to complete the activity. Given this, short workouts can be calorie crushers with the right exercises.

Begin with foam rolling of potentially tight areas such as those listed above. Again, these foam rolling exercises should take no more than five minutes to complete.

  • Start with a short cardio burst for 5 minutes to raise the heart rate a bit. If you can’t make it to the gym to use the cardio equipment, home or outdoor activities are simple alternatives. Trying a brisk walk or light jog, or use a step for step-ups.
  • Stretch major muscles that might be tight such as the calves, hip flexors and lats. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. This portion of the workout should take about 3-4 minutes.
  • Move on to resistance training. Begin with a Lunge to Curl and Overhead Press. You will need light dumbbells to perform the exercise. This move works the entire lower body, biceps, abs, back, and shoulders.NASMND14_WORKOUT_02_334x226
  • Next, do a Squat to Row. You will need a piece of tubing or a cable-based machine. (If performing this routine at home, place the tubing around a solid piece of heavy furniture or a fixture that can hold the tubing steady and is stable enough to withstand the resistance of you pulling on the tubing, or outdoors around a fence pole that will provide the necessary stability and resistance.) This exercise works the lower body, abdominals, and major muscles of the back.Squat Row D3X_6892 copy Squat row D3X_6894 copy
  • Move on to a Stability Ball Dumbbell Chest Press. You will need a stability ball and dumbbells. This exercise works the abs, glutes, back muscles, chest, and triceps.NASMSUM13_wkt09BNASMSUM13_wkt10B
  • The last exercise is a Single-leg Balance with Triceps Extension. You will need either tubing placed around a sturdy object set up higher than your shoulders, or a cable-based machine. Be sure to switch balance legs on the next round of the exercise circuit to make sure both legs are getting an equal workout.SL Tri Ex D3X_1985 copy SL Tri Ex D3X_1986 copy

Sets: 2-5 / Repetitions: 12

Perform 12 repetitions of each exercise, remembering to move quickly from one exercise to another. Perform the circuit of exercises two to three times based on time. Depending on ability level, average exercisers can perform 3 sets of this circuit routine within 15 minutes. If it falls within the time allotment, you may perform more than three sets, however do not go above five sets of the routine.

Exercise is no longer an option for most people, but a necessity to live a better life. Realistically, everyone has 15-30 minutes during this busy time of year to get in a great workout – even if making it into the gym is not an option. These workouts are quick, packed full of calorie burning exercises and built so that they can be performed anywhere. Use these workouts yourself or share them with a client, friend or peer – either way – keep moving this holiday season!

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National Academy of Sports Medicine

National Academy of Sports Medicine

Since 1987 the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) has been the global leader in delivering evidence-based certifications and advanced specializations to health and fitness professionals. Our products and services are scientifically and clinically proven. They are revered and utilized by leading brands and programs around the world and have launched thousands of successful careers.


  1. December 27, 2014 at 5:37 pm — Reply

    During holidays, it is very important to stay fit as everyone is involved in enjoying parties, eating high-calorie food and so on. You have given very useful exercises for one to do in short time. Pushups, squats, and tricep dips can help keep fit.

  2. December 14, 2015 at 2:55 am — Reply


  3. December 16, 2015 at 3:30 pm — Reply

    […] The Best Holiday Workouts When You Are Short On Time […]

  4. […] Get active. A busy holiday schedule can easily derail your normal exercise routine. Try to workout early in the morning to avoid schedule conflicts in your day and/or have a backup plan. If you cannot make your normal fitness class or training session always know you can get a great body weight workout at home in just 15 minutes. Try a circuit of push-ups, squats, plank, tricep dips, and lunges. Do each exercise for 30 seconds with 30 seconds rest for 3 rounds. Remember to include fitness in your holiday traditions: play flag football, go sledding, take a walk to view the holiday lights or go caroling. (More Holiday Workouts) […]

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