A cardio and strength workout that does it all in 15 minutes

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We all have an “ideal” exercise routine in our minds. But the reality is that few of us have the time to make it happen; It can be a logistical challenge to fit enough separate cardio and resistance training workouts into any given week. However, one training trick to save time is to do cardio and strength training on the same day, or even at the same time.

Can you do a cardio and strength workout in one?

While advanced athletes can perform cardio followed by strength training (or vice versa) within the same training session, beginners, or those with limited training time, may not have the luxury or fitness to do so. Fortunately, if you structure your workouts with enough intensity and the right types of exercises, you can combine cardio and resistance training into a single combo workout.

“If you’re really interested in building strength, it’s best to split up your strength and cardio exercises on different days, since you want your body to focus on building muscle after each workout,” Matthew Scarfo, CPT, Lift Vault’s resident training expert previously told Well+Good about deciding whether to split or combine cardio and strength exercises. “Splitting up strength and cardio will help your body use all available resources, such as rest and fuel.” On the other hand, he adds, “If you only have three days to work out…it’s okay to mix up your workouts to get the best bang for your buck.”

In general, the best way to do this is to use circuit training, which is a style of training where you go from one exercise to the next with little to no rest between each exercise. By using a circuit training format combined with full-body strength exercises and high-intensity cardio bursts, you can maintain your heart rate for the entire duration of the workout. This will give you the benefits of longer steady-state, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or moderate-intensity cardio along with the muscle-building benefits of resistance training all at once.

The key to success when doing hybrid cardio/strength training is making sure you’re pushing your body to the max during the cardio burst and transitioning quickly between strength exercises so your heart rate stays elevated. That being said, using proper form and moving through your full range of motion with all movements is paramount to ensuring safety and maximizing the benefits of each exercise.

Try This 15-Minute Cardio And Strength Workout

In the latest episode of Well+Good’s Trainer of the Month club, Lululemon Studio Trainer Lonnie Poupard takes us through a 15-minute routine focused on blending cardio and strength into one workout to capitalize on the benefits of both for an efficient total-body workout. He’ll perform a variety of high-intensity bodyweight cardio exercises (with low-impact variations if necessary) along with a strength-training circuit using a pair of dumbbells.

This is a great exercise to do on days when your schedule is full, but you want to push your body and get the most out of your training time.

Format: Three warm-up bodyweight moves, followed by two back-to-back cardios twice, then two sets of three strength exercises, followed by a two-minute burst of high-intensity cardio, complete with some core work and a quick cool-down.

Necessary equipment: A set of dumbbells and an exercise mat.

For whom is this?: Anyone who wants a fast-paced, efficient, high-intensity workout that combines cardio and strength. There are low-impact variations for beginners offered throughout.


arm swings

  • Stand tall with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  • Swing your arms across the body to open up the front of the body and chest, and step back.

Dynamic stretch alternating the knees with the chest

  • Bring one knee up to your chest, hugging it. Work on her balance as you stretch her buttocks and hips.
  • Lower the leg and repeat with the other leg.
  • Keep alternating legs.

high plank

  • Get on your mat in a high plank position with your hands stacked under your shoulders, squeezing your glutes, inner thighs, and feet together. Spread your fingers wide and think about bringing your navel in toward your spine, keeping your body in a straight line from head to heels.

First cardiovascular circuit

Return to your feet to begin the first cardio circuit, which will consist of two exercises performed twice in a row.

20 second drop squats (low impact option is regular bodyweight squats)

  • Jump with your feet out as you bend your knees and feel your hips back to drop into a squat. Reach down with one hand to touch the mat.
  • Get back on your feet.
  • Alternate hands with each squat. Keep your chest up, back straight, and shoulders down.

20 seconds of jumping jacks. Use full range of motion with arms and feet.

20 second drop squats again, trying to go faster with more intensity.

20 seconds of jumping jacks. Be deliberate in the way you move. Consciously raise your arms and really jump with your feet wide open. Move as fast as possible.

power circuit

Grab your weights. The strength circuit consists of two rounds of three strength training exercises, each performed for 45 seconds, transitioning from one to the next.

reverse lunges

  • Stand tall holding a weight in each hand.
  • Take a big step back with one leg, concentrating on bending your back knee to a 90-degree angle. Lean your torso forward slightly toward your front knee, but be sure to twist from the hips and not round your back.
  • Put your feet back together.
  • Alternate legs, bringing the other leg back into a reverse lunge. Your heart rate should be increasing, but don’t rush it: make sure you’re using your muscles and really working through a deep range of motion.

High plank with shoulder touches and push-ups

  • Release the dumbbells and move into a high plank position with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Engage your core and glutes.
  • Raise your right hand and touch your left shoulder, then touch your right shoulder with your left hand (two shoulder touches, one each hand on the opposite shoulder). Keep your hips and shoulders flat on the floor.
  • Then, come into a full pushup by bending your elbows and lowering your chest to just above the floor. Press through your palms to straighten your arms again.
  • Then do another two shoulder taps and then a pushup.
  • Continue for 45 seconds.

Single Arm Squats and Shoulder Presses (or weighted squats)

  • Return to a standing position with the dumbbells at shoulder height, palms facing in.
  • Do a single-arm squat, keeping the dumbbells positioned here, or squat down and then perform a single-arm dumbbell overhead press, pushing the weight up into the air as you stand, one arm per rep, switching arms with the next rep.
  • Lower the weight back down as you seamlessly transition into the next squat.

30 second break (this is not a full recovery; your heart rate should still be up)

Repeat this strength circuit one more time.

2 minute cardio push

Two rounds of three cardio bursts performed for 20 seconds each with no breaks

Change kicks: Jump your legs forward and back into a shallow lunge stance. Use strong arms, pumping back and forth each time you switch legs.

jumping jacks (or taps to remove impact)

High knees: Alternate bringing each knee up to hip height in a jump, landing lightly on your feet. Engage your core and move fast and strong. For a low impact modification, you can do a high knee march.

Repeat that cardio circuit one more time at all-out effort.

core and cooling

Bicycle Crunches: Press your lower back into the mat and bring your right elbow to your opposite knee, then switch. Beginners can keep their legs higher off the mat to reduce the intensity a bit.

hug knees to chest and rock from side to side for 5-10 seconds.

Repeat the bicycle crunches and knee hug one more time.

Figure 4 gluteal and piriformis stretch: Lie on your back with your right leg crossed over your left thigh like a figure 4, pulling your left leg in toward your chest by reaching behind your thigh and pulling your leg in. Change legs.

Cat-cow stretches on your hands and knees.

downward facing dogpedaling through the feet with a few alternate steps.

Arm swings: Stand all the way up and swing your arms across your chest a few times to relax.

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