Need a challenging workout for a client who only has 30 minutes? Maybe they showed up late for their session or have to leave early. Perhaps they’ll be traveling and could use some inspiration for the road. 30 minutes is plenty of time to leave your clients feeling energized and strong.

In addition to traditional training programs that often last an hour or more, try writing a handful of “quick burn” workouts to keep on file for those days when a client needs to get the job done in a short amount of time. These workouts allow a client to remain committed to exercising without investing an hour he or she may not have due to unexpected events or unusually busy weeks or days.

Here’s an example of an upper body/core “quick burn” circuit. It requires no equipment and very little space.

Upper Body and Core Quick Burn Circuit



The Warm-Up

Begin with a 5 to 10-minute warmup that includes a combination of low-intensity cardio, such as a brisk walk or jog, to raise the heart rate and increase muscle temperature. Include dynamic movements which incorporate a full range of motion. Include exercises such as windmills, high knees, lunge with twist, leg swings, and butt kicks. Once the warm-up is completed, move on to the next phase.

Conditioning Phase

While this circuit includes 30-second intervals for three to five rounds, this is easily altered for any client based on his or her skill and fitness level. Instruct clients to remain hydrated throughout the conditioning phase and to stop when necessary. The goal of this type of circuit is to perform as many reps as possible (AMRAP) in the given time frame and move immediately on to the next exercise in the set.

Set 1 – 30 seconds each exercise – repeat set three to five times.

□   Pushups (perform 1-legged pushups for an extra challenge)

□   Bicycles

□   Burpees

□   Mountain Climbers

Once the first set is completed, move on to the second set.

Set 2 – 30 seconds each exercise – repeat set three to five times.

□   Traveling pushups

□   Chair Dips

□   Sun Salutations

□   Supermans (or Superwomans)

The Cool-Down

A cool-down phase is equally as important as the warm-up or conditioning bout. The cool-down period allows the body to slowly return to resting state allowing the person to calmly instead of frantically go on with their day/night. Encourage clients to take a few laps around a track or walk for a few minutes on a treadmill (or use another type of cardio machine). Follow this up with flexibility exercises or a list of stretches the client can do while on the road or at home.

“Quick burn” workouts are fun to design and effective at burning calories and building stamina and strength. Use your creativity and build new exercises or invent challenging modifications for a range of skill levels.

[info type=”facebook”]What tips do you have for building quick upper body workouts? If you’re an NFPT trainer, join the Facebook Community Group and share with your peers. If you’re not, come chat with NFPT here![/info]


Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at