20 Minutes And Three Exercises Are All You Need To Build Full-Body Strength

Man's arm reaches forward to press a button on the screen of a rowing machine
(Image credit: nelic / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

It’s easy to overcomplicate your workouts, particularly if you’re trying to target a wide range of muscles in one session. But you don’t need to spend hours in the gym messing around with different weights machines, and loading and unloading a barbell, to build full-body strength.

If you’re short on time, try this straightforward three-move session created by personal trainer Ali Kabba. All you need are two kettlebells and a rowing machine. (No rowing machine? Try this full-body kettlebell workout instead.)

It’s an AMRAP workout, which means the aim is to complete as many rounds as possible during the specified time cap, which in this case is 20 minutes. It’s a routine you can combine with a warm-up for a short gym session, or try it after your usual strength session to work on your conditioning.

Take a look at Kabba’s Instagram Reel where he demonstrates each of the exercises. He’s also shared his form tips exclusively with Coach, so make sure to take note of them to get the most out of these exercises.

The workout begins with 15 calories on the rowing machine to get your heart rate up and activate a wide range of muscles throughout your body. “Rowing is a great way to elevate your heart rate and strengthen your legs, back, arms and core,” says Kabba.

You might think that rowing mainly engages the upper body but hone your rowing technique and it becomes a great movement for developing strength and power in your legs. “Start the movement by driving through your heels. As your legs extend, hinge at your hips and lean slightly back, maintaining a strong, neutral spine,” says Kabba.

"Once your legs are almost fully extended, engage your arms, pulling the handle into the lower part of your rib cage, then return to the start.”

Next up is the kettlebell push-up which targets the chest, shoulders and triceps. “Start in a press-up position with your hands holding the kettlebells, shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the ground and then press back up,” says Kabba.

“The kettlebells make the press-ups more challenging as they require more stabilization and core engagement,” says Kabba. If this is too hard, you can modify this exercise by doing it without the kettlebells, or doing push-ups on an elevated surface, placing your hands on weight plates or a box.

The final exercise in this routine is the Pendlay row. “To do this exercise, hinge forward at your hips and hold a kettlebell in each hand,” says Kabba. “Engage your core and keeping your back flat, lift the kettlebells to your chest. Retract your shoulder blades as you lift the kettlebells.”

Need help deciding? Our guide to the best kettlebells will help you choose the right kettlebell for you.

Alice Porter

Alice Porter is a journalist who covers health, fitness and wellbeing, among other topics, for titles including Stylist, Fit & Well, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, VICE and Refinery29. When she’s not writing about these topics, you can probably find her at her local CrossFit box.