If you're strapped for time but still looking to break a sweat, celebrity trainer Erin Oprea has just the workout for you.
The Nashville-based author of The 4×4 Diet and trainer to Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini recently shared a three-move strength-training circuit that will challenge your entire body. The best part? You can do it at home in just 25 minutes.
You can check it out, via @erinoprea, here:
“It’s quick, effective, and can be done anywhere,” Oprea tells SELF. The main benefit is that it works lots of lower-body muscles, Oprea explains, including the inner thighs, outer thighs, hamstrings, quads, gluteus maximus (biggest butt muscle), and the gluteus medius (the small muscle on the outer side of your butt that supports the hip and rotational movement of the thigh). It also works your shoulders and engages your core, she says.
Though it’s relatively quick (one round will take you about seven minutes), this workout is challenging, Oprea says. And you'll definitely feel the burn. That’s because all of the movements involve contracting your muscles and not fully releasing until you complete all of the reps—which ends up being one to two minutes of nonstop work for each move.
On top of that, because all three movements are compound (meaning they combine multiple exercises into one), you’ll work several muscle groups at once. This makes the moves even more challenging and as a result, you’ll probably notice your heart rate climb as you complete the reps, turning this circuit into a sneaky cardio workout.
Because the circuit is so tough, it makes a good stand-alone workout, says Oprea. You don’t even need the exact equipment Oprea uses in her video—the moves can be easily modified using items you have at home. “It’s all about improvising,” she says. (More on those substitutions below.)
Here’s how to do the three-move circuit:
For a full 25-minute workout, do the following circuit three times, resting two minutes after each time.
Elevated curtsy lunge to lateral raise
Oprea uses an elevated step to do these lunges, but you can use the bottom of a staircase or even on the floor (which will be a slightly easier, still effective variation).
- Stand on top of a step with your feet shoulder-width apart, back straight, glutes and core engaged, and shoulders relaxed. Hold a 3- to 12-pound dumbbell in each hand at your sides. If you don’t have dumbbells, you can use another pair of moderately heavy objects, like water bottles, says Oprea.
- Lift your left foot to meet your right calf while bending your left knee, squeezing your glutes and core and pressing through your right heel to balance on your right leg.
- Raise your arms out to your sides at shoulder level. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows and keep your shoulders relaxed, says Oprea. Don’t hunch them toward your ears.
- Pause, then lower your arms back to your sides.
- Step your left foot diagonally behind you in a curtsy, bending both knees to lower into a lunge.
- Pause at the bottom of the lunge and then press through your right heel and engage your glutes and core to return to start, keeping your right knee slightly bent. This is 1 rep.
- Do 12 to 15 reps, switch sides, and repeat.
Think of this move as two distinct components, says Oprea. You should fully finish your curtsy lunge before beginning the lateral raise, and vice versa. By separating the elements of this move, you’ll ensure the correct muscle groups are powering each portion without outside help. Otherwise, if you started the lateral raise as you were standing up from the lunge, the momentum from your lower half could help aid the lateral raise and thus reduce the demand on your shoulders, Oprea explains.
If you have trouble balancing as you lunge and/or perform the raises, drop one weight and lightly rest your unweighted hand against the back of a chair or on the wall. To make it easier, fully stand up in between each rep. To make it more challenging, use a heavier weight once you're comfortable doing the movement properly, says Oprea.
Reverse lunge to shoulder press
- Stand on the floor with your feet shoulder-width apart, a weight in your left hand—Oprea recommends something between 5 to 20 pounds—at shoulder level. Rest your right hand on your hip.
- Lift your left foot and step back about 2 feet, landing on the ball of your foot and keeping your heel off the floor. Bend both knees until your right quad and left shin are parallel to the floor. Your torso should lean slightly forward so your back is flat. Your right knee should be above your right foot and your butt and core should be engaged.
- Raise your left hand directly overhead, pressing the weight up until your arm is straight. Pause, then lower the weight back to shoulder level.
- Press through your right heel, squeeze your glutes, and engage your core to stand back up. Keep your left foot off the floor and your left knee in front of you, balancing completely on your right leg. This is 1 rep.
- Do 12 to 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
As before, if you have trouble balancing as you lunge, lightly rest your unweighted hand against the back of a chair or on the wall.
Sumo squat to upright row
- Stand up straight with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes angled out slightly, a 5- to 20-pound weight in your left hand in front of you, palm in. Place your right hand on your hip.
- Keeping your chest lifted, back straight, core tight, and weight in your heels, bend your knees and push your butt back into a squat.
- Squeeze your glutes, engage your quads, and press through your heels to stand halfway up. Bend your left elbow to lift the weight to shoulder height. Your left elbow should point out to the side. Pause, and then slowly lower the weight. This is 1 rep.
- Lower back into a full squat and do 12 to 15 more reps. Then, without a break, switch arms and repeat.
The goal with this move is to never fully stand between reps, says Oprea, as this will really challenge your leg muscles, especially your inner thighs. That said, holding a squat that long is no easy feat, so it’s more than OK to take a small break as you switch arms and/or between reps on the same arm. Also, as you perform the upright rows, keep your shoulders down and back as much as possible so that they're not hunched up by your ears.
Be sure to keep your core engaged as you do every move in this circuit. As Oprea notes, a strong midsection is your main source of stability throughout these moves.