Maintain Strength During the Season With These 20-Minute Workouts

STACK Expert Jim Carpentier offers two short workouts to keep you strong and in shape during the season.

In-season workouts help maintain and/or build muscle so athletes can stay strong and minimize injuries. However, quality time in the weight room is often compromised by school work, practice and games.

Here are two short and challenging full-body workouts for busy student-athletes. Each workout can be completed within 20 minutes in a fast-paced style doing just two sets per exercise with brief rests between sets and exercises. The workouts require minimal equipment (just two dumbbells) for each exercise. An unconventional repetition system, alternating isolation (single-joint) with compound (multi-joint) movements for various sets, further intensifies the workouts while strengthening and fatiguing each muscle within a short time period.


  • Two light dumbbells (50-60% 1RM)
  • Water bottle


  • Perform the workouts on non-consecutive days for adequate recovery.
  • Start with an upper- and lower-body dynamic warm-up (e.g., Lunges and Arm Circles).
  • Finish with upper- and lower-body cooldown static stretches for greater flexibility and range of motion.
  • Hydrate before, during and after the workouts.
  • Sets/Reps: 2x10
  • Rest between sets: 30 seconds
  • Rest between exercises: 30 seconds
  • Rep tempo: 1 second for the positive (concentric) phase; 2 seconds on the negative (eccentric) phase.
  • Repetition technique: Perform the first set of each exercise with a single-joint rep, immediately followed by a multi-joint rep. Continue alternating movements and attempting 10 reps (5 reps of each movement). Example: Dumbbell Fly/Dumbbell Chest Press combination. Lying on a bench, start with elbows slightly bent and hold the dumbbells at your sides using a neutral (palms facing each other) grip. Raise them over your chest. Lower to start position and immediately press them over your chest (Dumbbell Chest Press), still using the neutral grip. Slowly lower. Now bring the dumbbells out to your sides and follow with the Dumbbell Fly, then Chest Press. Continue alternating movements for 10 reps. Set 2: Reverse the movements, doing the Chest Press before the Fly. Alternate each movement thereafter.

Workout 1


Stiff-Legged Deadlifts & Squats

Two thigh, back and hip-building movements.

  • Begin with a prone grip for the single-joint Stiff-Legged Deadlift (hip joint engaged during the movement) holding the dumbbells at the top of your thighs.
  • Slowly lower toward the floor, keeping your legs straight without bending your knees.
  • Return to the start position, hold the dumbbells at your sides and perform a Squat.
  • Continue alternating movements.
  • Reverse the movements for Set 2 with Squats before Stiff-Legged Deadlifts.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Improve Your Squat Strength

Lateral Raises & Overhead Presses

Two shoulder-strengthening and size-building movements.

  • Using a neutral grip with the dumbbells at your sides, raise them laterally to shoulder level (Lateral Raise), then bring them toward your shoulders and immediately press them overhead (Overhead Press).
  • Continue alternating, using the same rep tempo for the positive and negative phases as described in the example under "Guidelines."
  • Start Set 2 with both dumbbells close to your shoulders. Press them overhead (Overhead Press), then slowly lower them to your sides and immediately raise them laterally (Lateral Raise).
  • Continue alternating the movements.

Flys & Chest Presses

Refer to the example under "Guidelines" for these chest-building movements. The Chest Presses also involve the triceps and shoulder muscles.

Reverse Curls & Upright Rows

Two biceps and forearm-building movements that also build up the shoulders (via Upright Rows)

  • Begin by taking a prone (overhand) grip.
  • Curl the dumbbells toward your shoulders during Reverse Curls.
  • Lower to start position and immediately follow with an Upright Row.
  • Continue alternating with each movement.
  • Start the second set with the Upright Row before the Reverse Curls

RELATED: Bicep Curl Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

Prone Planks & Push-Ups

These exercises don't follow the single-joint/multi-joint rep script , although Push-Ups are a multi-joint movement; however, both movements tax your core muscles, with Push-Ups also involving chest, shoulder, upper back and triceps muscles.

  • Start in the prone plank position on your forearms and hold for 3 seconds.
  • Assume a push-up position and perform a Push-Up.
  • Without pause, go back on your forearms for the Prone Plank and continue alternating.
  • Begin Set 2 with a Push-Up followed by the Plank and alternate thereafter.

Workout 2


Standing Flys & Press-Outs

Even more challenging than the Flys/Chest Presses in Workout 1, perform these chest-building movements from a standing position instead of supine.

  • Keep your knees slightly bent to take the pressure off your back.
  • Using a neutral grip (palms facing each other), bring the dumbbells together at chest level and back out to the sides for the Fly.
  • Bring the dumbbells together again close to chest level and press them out with your arms extended.
  • Return to start position and continue alternating.
  • Start Set 2 with the dumbbells together at chest level and pressing out (Press-Outs), then bring them out laterally, back together for the Fly.
  • Press out again and continue alternating.

Triceps Extensions & Overhead Presses

Two triceps-building movements that also target the shoulder and upper-back muscles with the Overhead Presses.

  • Using a neutral grip with the dumbbells close to your sides (arms slightly bent), lean slightly forward with your  knees slightly bent.
  • Extend the dumbbells behind you (Triceps Extension).
  • Return them to the start position and immediately press them overhead (Overhead Press).
  • Slowly bring them down below the shoulders and follow with the Tricep Extension.
  • Continue alternating movements.
  • For Set 2, hold the dumbbells with a neutral grip close to your shoulders and press them overhead (Overhead Press), then slowly lower them below your shoulders and follow with the Triceps Extension.
  • Continue alternating.

Stiff-Legged Deadlifts & Forward Lunges

Two thigh and hip-building movements.

  • Begin with the Stiff-Legged Deadlift (as described in Workout 1).
  • Return to the start position, then lunge forward with your right foot (Forward Lunge).
  • Bring your right foot back, follow with the Stiff-Legged Deadlift, then lunge forward with the left foot.
  • Continue alternating.
  • Reverse for Set 2 by lunging forward with the right foot, bringing it back and following with the Stiff-Legged Deadlift, then lunging with the left foot, Deadlift, right foot Lunge, etc.

RELATED: Troubleshooting the Lunge: How to Fix Your Form

Biceps Curls & Bent-Over Rows

The two biceps-building movements.

  • Take a supine (underhand) grip from waist level and curl the dumbbells toward your shoulders (Biceps Curl).
  • Lower the dumbbells slowly to the beginning position.
  • Bend at the waist with your knees slightly bent.
  • Bring the dumbbells forward with your arms extended and pull them toward your waist (Bent-Over Row).
  • Continue alternating the movements.
  • For Set 2, start with the Bent-Over Row followed by the Biceps Curl and continue alternating.

Side Lunges & Twists

These core-strengthening movements differ from the single-joint/multi-joint repetition format of many of the previous exercises.

  • Start with the dumbbells extended at chest level and your feet together.
  • Lunge laterally to the right while simultaneously twisting with the dumbbells to the right.
  • Drag your left foot toward your right foot while bringing the dumbbells back to chest level.
  • Continue lunging and twisting for 10 reps.
  • Rest 30 seconds and repeat with Side Lunges and Twists to the left.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock