The 20-Minute Workout For Beginners

in Movement by Geoff Loomes B.Ph.Ed., B.Com., Dip.TLC / December 01, 2016


When beginning a resistance training program for the first time, it’s often difficult to know where to start. What equipment should you use, which training techniques are best and how do you make it safe, effective and fun?

In the first few months of training, we recommend choosing simple body weight exercises that can be performed anywhere and take around 20 minutes to complete. These short, simple and safe work-outs boost energy, help motivation and build confidence.

*Before starting a work-out, we recommend stretching any tight muscles you have, to help optimally align your body. Here are a few stretch examples from our health challenge. As always, if you have any injuries or ailments that may impact your ability to exercise, please seek professional advice before starting.


A set is a group of repetitions performed continuously without stopping. 

A repetition is one complete movement of an exercise. It normally consists of two phases - the concentric muscle action (lifting of the resistance) and the eccentric muscle action (lowering of the resistance). 

Tempo refers to the speed at which the repetitions are performed. Let's use the Supine Hip Extension below as an example. This exercise has a tempo of 3-3-3-1.

  • 3 seconds lifting the hips up to the top of the movement,
  • 3 seconds holding at the top,
  • 3 seconds lowering to the bottom,
  • 1 second pause.

The time you allow your muscles to recover in between each set.

Supine Hip Extension

Supine Hip Extension

Sets: 2-3  Reps: 10-12  Tempo: 3-3-3-1  Rest: 60 sec

1. Lying face-up on the ground with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground.

2. Lift your hips so your shoulders, hips and knees are all in a straight line.

3. Slowly drop your pelvis back to the floor and repeat.

Body Weight Squats

Body Weight Squats

Sets: 2-3   Reps: 10-15  Tempo: 3-1-3-1  Rest: 60 sec

1. Stand comfortably, with arms at your side or crossed in front of you.

2. Inhale, then slowly lower into the squat as you are exhaling.

3. Go to the point where your thighs are parallel to the ground, then inhale as you return to the start.

4. Breathe through the nose if you can. If you need to exhale through your mouth, purse your lips to keep some tension in them.

Kneeling Push-ups

Kneeling Push-ups

Sets: 2-3   Reps: 10-12   Tempo: 2-0-2-1  Rest: 60 sec

1. Lie face down, hands a comfortable width at shoulder height, knees on the ground.

2. Take a diaphragmatic breath, draw your belly button inwards. Exhale through pursed lips, pushing yourself up to a plank position, keeping the head and spine in alignment. The stick on the models back is used to demonstrate this alignment.

3. Inhale as you lower back to the ground.

* If you can't complete a full push-up, try going as low as you can and progress to the full range over time.

Prone Trunk Extension

Prone Trunk Extension

Sets: 1-2   Reps: 3-6    Tempo: 3-3-3-1   Rest: 30 sec

1. Lie face down on the floor with your arms beside your body.

2. As you inhale, pick your chest up off the floor with your neck in neutral alignment, simultaneously squeezing your shoulder blades together and lifting your arms as high as you can with thumbs up.

3. You should feel the muscles between your shoulder blades doing the work. If you feel stress in your low back, squeeze your butt cheeks together prior to lifting your torso.

4. Hold until you need to breathe out and exhale as you lower. Repeat.

* If you are unable to hold your arms out to the side, try placing your hands on top of each other and resting your forehead on them (with elbows out to the side). 



Geoff Loomes B.Ph.Ed., B.Com., Dip.TLC
Geoff has been passionately involved in the health industry since 1998, when he graduated from Otago University, New Zealand, with a double degree in Exercise Science and Commerce. Over the last two decades, Geoff has delivered health and fitness programs to hundreds of health professionals, fitness centres, and health conscious companies, and today, he is the director of his own Exercise Physiology practice and founder of the market-leading health software, My Health Challenge. 
Geoff’s vision is to create a healthier, more active world by providing customisable, user-friendly health solutions that motivate, educate and support sustainable change.
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