3 Superfast Lunchtime Workouts

This article was written by Susan Hall on February 27, 2012 and was originally published on Spry Living.

Make the most of your lunch break with one of our calorie-burning, muscle-toning workouts from Joan Pagano, personal trainer and author of Strength Training for Women. Each workout combines cardio and strength and lasts only 30 minutes, leaving you ample time to grab a healthy lunch, too.


Workout 1: In the Gym

*Use the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) during each cardio portion, where 1 is very easy, and 10 is very, very hard.

*Each strength exercise below is done on weight room machines. Do for 12-15 reps per side.

Cardio Warm Up: Begin your workout with 5 minutes on any cardio machine at an easy pace of 2 – 5 RPE.

Seated Leg Press: With thighs close to your chest, feet hip-width apart, and back pressed into the seatback of the machine, exhale to extend legs straight (don’t lock knees). Inhale, and slowly return to start.

Inner-thigh Press: Rest inner thighs on pads, close to your knees, and spread your legs apart until you feel a slight stretch in your inner thighs. Then exhale and use the strength of your inner thighs to bring your legs together. Pause, inhale, and return slowly to start position.

Outer-thigh Press: Rest outer thighs on pads, close to your knees. Exhale and press your legs open. Pause, then inhale as you return slowly to the start position.

Cardio Peak (5 minutes): Choose any cardio machine, and build to a peak, working for one minute each at RPE: 4, 5, 6, 7, 4.

Lat Pull-down A: Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulders. Exhale, pulling the bar down to the top of your chest, bringing elbows into your sides. Pause, inhale, and slowly return to start.

Lat Pull-down B: Grasp the bar with an underhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back straight and chest lifted, exhale as you pull the bar down to the middle of your chest, drawing elbows toward your sides. Pause, then inhale as you slowly release the bar back to starting position.

Triceps push-down: Stand facing the same machine. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Pull the bar down, elbows close to your sides, forearms parallel to the floor. To begin, exhale and straighten your arms downward. Pause, inhale and bring forearms back to parallel. Repeat all reps before releasing the bar.

Cardio Intervals (5 minutes): Choose any cardio machine and alternate between one minute at 4 RPE and 30 seconds of 8 to 9 RPE, ending with 30 seconds at 4 RPE.

Chest Press: With a wide grip on top of the handlebars, bend elbows to 90 degrees at the midline of your body (not behind you). Exhale and push forward until arms are almost straight. Inhale, slowly bending your elbows back to start.

Pec Dec: Sit tall, facing forward with handles positioned so arms are fully extended out to the sides. Exhale to pull the handles together. Pause, inhale, and release them slowly keeping elbows in front of your body.

Reverse pec dec: Sit facing the machine with your chest against the back support. Hold handles with arms are extending in front of your chest. Exhale and pull handles outward and to your midline. Pause, then inhale and slowly release the handles, keeping elbows soft.

Stretch:Take a moment or two to stretch all the major muscle groups—legs, back, chest, and arms—holding each stretch for 15 seconds or more.


Workout 2: At Your Desk

*You will need a resistance band without handles
*Do each strength exercise for 12-15 reps on each side.

Marching Warm Up: Do each marching variation for one minute.

  1. March in place, rolling through your feet, toe to heel.
  2. Lift your knees to hip height while you march.
  3. Add arms, pumping them vigorously.
  4. Punch arms out to front, continuing to march.
  5. Raise arms overhead, continuing to march. 

Explosive chair stand: Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor, a strength band under the arches of your feet, and your arms straight down by your sides. Exhale as you lean forward from the hip and rise quickly to standing, pulling the band taut.

Back leg lift: Tie the band into a loop and place it around your ankles. Stand, holding onto the back of your chair. Maintain tension in the band as you lift one leg behind you with your knee straight. Complete 12-15 reps, then change sides.

Side leg lift: Standing as above, with the band looped around your ankles, lift one leg out to the side, keeping your knee straight. After 12-15 reps, change sides.

Walk Briskly (5 minutes): Walk at a brisk pace around the office.

Seated lat row: Sit with your legs extended in front of you. Place the center of the band under the arches of your feet and hold the band with arms straight. Exhale as you pull your elbows back and in toward your sides.

Horizontal abduction: Sitting or standing, hold the band at chest height, palms down, arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold the band taut with elbows slightly bent and wrists flat. Exhale, pull your elbows back and draw your shoulder blades down and together.

External rotation: Sitting or standing, hold the band with your palms up, elbows bent at a right angle and close to your sides. Exhale as you squeeze your shoulder blades together and rotate your arms outward.

Stair Climb (5 minutes): Go up one flight of steps and come down. Next, go up two flights and come down. Continue in this manner and ascend and descend as many flights as you can in five minutes.

Seated pelvic tilt: Sit up tall in your chair, feet flat on the floor. Inhale and fill your belly with air. Exhale forcefully, drawing the belly button in toward the spine. With one fluid movement, tuck your hips underneath you, reversing the curve your low back.

Stretch:Take a moment or two to stretch all the major muscle groups—legs, back, chest, and arms—holding each stretch for 15 seconds or more.


Workout 3: In the Park

*Do each strength exercise for 12-15 reps on each side.

Cardio Warm Up: Begin your workout by walking around the park for 5 minutes at an easy pace of 2 – 5 RPE.

Bench Push-Up: Standing behind a bench, place your hands shoulder-width apart on the top of the seat back. Step back until you are on a diagonal in the push-up position, your body straight from head to heels. Bend your elbows, lowering your chest toward the bench. Exhale and extend your arms to push back up.

Bench Squat: Stand in front of the bench, close to the seat, feet shoulder-width apart. Bend knees 90 degrees as you sit back into a squat, extending arms straight in front of you at shoulder level. Tap the seat with your butt, exhale and squeeze glutes to stand up.

Triceps Bench Dip: Sit on the edge of the bench with your knees bent and hands on the seat next to hips. Shift your hips off the bench and bend elbows to 90 degrees, lowering hips toward the ground. Straighten arms and repeat.

Stair Climbers: Alternate one minute of stair climbing with the following resistance exercises.

  1. Climb stairs for one minute.
  2. Stair Lunges: Stand facing the stairs. Lunge onto the step with one foot. Bend both knees into a lunge, then spring back to start. Repeat on the other side.
  3. Climb stairs for one minute.
  4. Side Squat: Stand sideways on top of a step. Keeping one foot planted firmly on the top, step the other leg down on the ground, bending both knees into a squat. Push through the top leg to return to start. Turn around on the step to work the other leg.
  5. Climb stairs for one minute.
  6. Calf Raise: Lightly holding onto a wall or fence for balance, hang both heels off the step. Lift up onto the balls of your feet, then slowly lower heels. Let heels hang to stretch after reps are complete.

Walking Intervals (5 minutes):Walk for five minutes, alternating between one minute at a moderate pace (RPE 5-6) and 30 seconds at a fast pace (RPE 7-8).

Bench Crunch: Sit backwards on a bench, sliding your legs through the space under the seat back, so that you can put your feet on the ground. Cross your arms over your chest. Curve your spine forward into a C, drawing in your abs, bringing your ribs and pelvis together. Straighten your back and return to start.

Bench V-Up: Sit on the edge of a bench, legs extended forward, arms behind you. Lean back slightly, keeping your back straight and chin lifted. Crunch up as you bend your knees into your chest. Hold for a moment, slowly return to start and repeat.

Stretch: Take a moment or two to stretch all the major muscle groups—legs, back, chest, and arms—holding each stretch for 15 seconds or more.