Here Are Some Quick Exercises You Can Do in the Morning

A National Guardsman displays his form in the squat.
Second Lt. Nate Davis display his record-setting form in the squat during a workout in Jackson, Miss., July 8, 2016. (Staff Sgt. Michael Williams/Mississippi National Guard photo)

Stew - I have only about 15 minutes in the a.m. to work out and I want to start mixing in more things into my workout - weights, PT, cardio. Any tips?

Here are some ideas for those of you who only have a few minutes a day to exercise. Often I tell people if they do not have time to work out, they are doing too much. That applies to a good majority of people.

However, for those who are burning the candle at both ends, it may not be that beneficial to wake up 15-20 minutes earlier to get a longer workout. If you can go to bed 15-30 minutes earlier, however, that may help with an earlier reveille. See "The Importance of Sleep" article.

So regardless of the hours you keep, here are some options for you to get in quick workouts that are both effective and will wake you up, whether it is done in the morning or after dinner.

1. Wake Up with Crunches

Here is an exercise that is just a little harder than sleeping, and it will wake you up by doing simple movements. I do a complete crunch cycle involving the following:

  • Regular crunch 10-20 reps: Just lift your shoulder blades off the floor.

  • Reverse crunch 10-20 reps: Lift hips off the floor.

  • Double crunch 10-20 reps: Lift both hips and shoulders off the floor simultaneously. 

  • Left crunches 10-20 reps: Take your right elbow to the left knee.

  • Right crunches 10-20 reps: Take your left elbow to the right knee.

  • Bicycle crunches 10-20 reps: Take your right/left elbow to your left/right knee by bicycling the legs

  • Plank pose 30-60 seconds

  • Stomach stretch 30 seconds

This takes about 3-4 minutes.

2. Jumping Jacks/Push-ups

Do 10 jumping jacks and 10 push-ups. Repeat the nonstop cycle 5-10 times, depending on your fitness level. This takes 3-5 minutes if you push all 10 sets.

3. Replace Push-ups with Squats

If you want to add in a leg workout, try replacing push-ups with squats above.

4. MJDBs (Multi-Joint Dumbbell Exercises)

With a set of dumbbells, mix in a few exercises into one movement:

  • Biceps curl, military press, triceps extension: 10-15 reps

  • Squats, biceps curl, military press, triceps extension: 10-15 reps

  • Squat thrust, push-up x5, stand up, biceps curl/military press, triceps extension: 5-10 reps

Check this out for related pictures of exercises. If you select one of these to do, it only takes about 30 seconds per set. Mix in a few sets of each exercise, and you have completed a challenging and effective full-body workout cycle.

5. Cardio Option

You can skip all the above and just run, bike, walk, do the elliptical glider or row for 15-20 minutes, or you can add in a quick burst of cardio for the remaining time you have.

With spring on its way, the days will get longer and the mornings will become bright as early as 5 a.m. Try to start your day with some sunrise workouts, and eventually you will build up with a realistic progression of activity that will last several months. Then as the days get shorter, you slowly can start to shorten your workouts in order to recover from a more aggressive cycle of fitness. See the Solstice Running Plan for more details.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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