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Can you get fit in just 20 minutes? Beachbody program focuses on short, effective workouts

I scoffed at 20-minute workouts until I tried this four-week program that combines HIIT and strength training.
Arrow pulls were one of many unique strength exercises using a resistance band in the Job 1 program.
Arrow pulls were one of many unique strength exercises using a resistance band in the Job 1 program.TODAY Illustration

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of Beachbody workouts. Even those who aren’t into fitness have likely seen the late-night infomercials where people show off their dramatic before-and-after photos.

Over the years I have tried my fair share of the Beachbody programs — I pushed myself through P90x and Insanity, channeled '80s aerobic vibes with Turbo Jam and got the first hint of abs with Core de Force. So when the company released their newest Beachbody On Demand program called Job 1 last month, I was intrigued.

What stuck out to me at first glance was that the program only required 20 minutes of exercise a day. I have to admit, I judged a 20-minute workout by its cover. As someone who works out five times a week for about 45 minutes a session, I thought that it surely wouldn’t be enough for me. But it ended up being exactly what I needed to wind down the year and enter 2022 on the right foot.

How much does a Beachbody On Demand membership cost?

The program is available through Beachbody On Demand, which is Beachbody's digital streaming fitness platform. To access the workout right now, you need to purchase the Total Solution Pack for $159.95. This not only unlocks the Job 1 VIP Early Access, but also includes a one-year Beachbody On Demand membership, plus program guides and accessories, digital nutrition programs and support. Later this year, Job 1 will be available through a Beachbody On Demand membership, which costs $99/year.

To complete the Job 1 program, you will need some equipment including resistance bands (light and medium/heavy), dumbbells (light, medium and heavy) and a mat. A stationary bike is optional.

The newest Beachbody Super Trainer Jennifer Jacobs coaches you through the Job-1 program.
The newest Beachbody Super Trainer Jennifer Jacobs coaches you through the Job-1 program.

What is the Job 1 workout program?

Job 1 is the latest Beachbody program led by the newest Beachbody Super Trainer, former Peloton instructor Jennifer Jacobs. The name of the program comes from the concept that people will make the same commitment to their health as they do to their job. The program is four weeks long with five workouts a week: three days of strength work broken up by two days of cardio (one day of high-intensity interval training and one day of endurance training). Every workout is 20 minutes long.

When you navigate to the workout tab, all of the videos are organized by week. There is also a downloadable calendar that allows you to check off each workout as you complete them.

The program has four optional indoor cycling workouts that can be swapped in for one of the cardio sessions each week. The program also includes five bonus “overtime” workouts that you can add on to any session: upper body, legs, glutes, core and a recovery stretch that the calendar suggests you do on weekends.

I tried Beachbody’s Job 1 workout

In the intro video, Jacobs says “this isn’t just another workout program, it’s a shift in mentality where you make yourself a priority.” I just happened to give this program a try at the perfect time: in mid-December when making fitness a priority tends to wane for many people, myself included.

I skipped over all the ads and product recommendations and first downloaded the calendar. I liked that it was an interactive PDF that allowed me to check off the workout each day right on my desktop. But it instantly reminded me of past Beachbody programs I have attempted — and not entirely in a good way. The calendar can put a lot of pressure on you. I always felt stressed about getting in every single workout, since there’s not much wiggle room in a prescribed program for life to get in the way. As a mom of a toddler, it can sometimes be hard for me to have such an inflexible schedule. But the fact that the workouts were only 20 minutes a day had me feeling optimistic I could stick with it and I actually was hoping it would keep my health a priority on days when I didn’t have any time for myself. You can always find 20 minutes, right?

The first day of the program kicked off with a strength-training day focused on back, glutes and core. As someone who exercises consistently, I found the first workout easy. Although you can adjust the difficulty by picking heavier weights, the moves were pretty basic. Think: suitcase squats, sumo squats and rows. But for someone just getting back into fitness this would definitely be a challenging workout. It was short and sweet, but I still felt the burn, especially during the core round, and the three blocks of work got my heart rate up since we moved pretty quickly in between exercises without a ton of down time. At the end I felt revved up, like I had done a solid warmup and was ready for more of a workout, so I decided to add on the overtime workout focused on arms. I sure got what I asked for. My arms felt like jelly after 20 minutes. The resistance bands really burned out my biceps and triceps and we did some cool moves like arrow pulls that I had never tried before.

The cardio workouts incorporated full-body exercises like burpee jacks that left me dripping sweat.
The cardio workouts incorporated full-body exercises like burpee jacks that left me dripping sweat.

The next day I was definitely feeling it in my upper body; my biceps and triceps were pretty sore. Day two was a 20-minute HIIT cardio workout. I wasn’t able to sneak away until 8 p.m. and the last thing I wanted to do was exercise, but knowing it was only 20 minutes motivated me to get it done. I was surprised at how intense it was given how easy I thought the first workout was. It only consisted of three moves — combat burpees, squat jumps and sprinting in place — so there was no time wasted trying to scramble between a ton of different exercises. It was back-to-back intervals with little rest in between and I finished breathless and dripping sweat.

The third day was another strength workout that targeted the chest, legs and core. It utilized both dumbbells and resistance bands. I really liked using the resistance band for the core work – holy burn. The core circuit was only about three minutes long, but really exhausted my abdominals. It took moves like bicycle crunches and heel taps to another level by adding the resistance band. I also liked doing strength moves that utilized dumbbells and bands at the same time, like banded squats holding dumbbells.

The next day was another cardio day, this time focused on endurance instead of HIIT. This was the day where you had the option of swapping in a cycling workout. I was excited about being able to incorporate my bike into the program, but it was far from seamless. Even though I happen to have the exact bike Jacobs used and obviously there is a partnership with Beachbody, I could not find any way to access the workouts through the bike. That meant I had to play the workout on my laptop and prop it up near the bike. But Jacobs referenced cadence and heart rate zones a lot, which you can only see on the bike if you are doing a workout. I found a workaround by playing a workout, turning the sound off and just using it to track my cadence and heart rate zone. I also had music playing from Spotify on my computer, so the whole thing felt really chaotic. Half way through at the 10-minute mark the video shut off on me and I didn’t have it in me to get off the bike and restart it. I decided that in the future if I chose to do a spin class, I would just pick a 20-minute endurance ride by another trainer on my bike instead of using the videos from the program.

It helped me get in a solid 20-minute strength workout on a day during the holiday break when I otherwise probably would have stayed on the couch.

The last strength session of the week targeted the arms, shoulders and legs. We worked on endurance and tried to max out reps. The workout was two circuits of work with two rounds of exercises in each, broken up with a one-minute HIIT. I chose heavier weights so the arm and shoulder moves were challenging, but I still finished feeling like I could have done more. Regardless, it helped me get in a solid 20-minute strength workout on a day during the holiday break when I otherwise probably would have stayed on the couch.

When I started week two, I was happy to see that while each day of the week had the same focus, no two workouts were the same. I definitely felt an increase in intensity in the second week and then again in the third and fourth weeks, in both the cardio and strength exercises.

On the few days when I craved longer workouts it was nice to have the option to add on one of the “overtime” workouts for 40 minutes total. But honestly, during the holidays and the first few weeks of the new year I found 20 minutes to be enough of a workout where it felt manageable to stay committed to my health routine.

At the end of week three, my mother-in-law commented on how perky my butt looked. Her exact words: “Your butt looks like an apple. I need to do whatever workout you’re doing.” So apparently 20-minutes a day was getting the job done.

The exercises continued to progress in weeks three and four, and Jacobs introduced unique twists on standard exercises, like doing bicep curls in a bent over row position, and some exercises that I had never even seen before. It kept the workouts interesting and challenging.

While I am usually guilty of not stretching enough, I was surprised at how many times I did the recovery stretch. The session was a mix of static and mobility work and really got deep into the muscles. I have to admit, I didn’t follow the plan to a T — there were some weekdays when I just wasn’t able to squeeze in a workout, so I usually had to exercise on both Saturday and Sunday to complete the five workouts for the week. Because of this, I didn’t do the recovery stretch on weekends like the plan prescribes, but instead used it as a cool down to one of the other workouts.

I loved the creative exercises using resistance bands and dumbbells, like these alternating rows.
I loved the creative exercises using resistance bands and dumbbells, like these alternating rows.

By week four I felt like I had gained some strength in my arms and glutes (which apparently were looking nice and perky). I loved the strength exercises during the last week of the program; they were the most advanced we had done and really creative. I especially loved using resistance bands and dumbbells at the same time in moves like like banded, weighted squats and alternating rows using a resistance band with one arm and a dumbbell with the other. I made mental notes of the exercises I’d like to continue to include in my routine even once the program was over.

What I liked about Beachbody's Job 1 workout

When I started the program I wasn’t sold on the 20-minute workouts, but very quickly I became a fan. During the holidays when I have little time (or motivation) the promise of just 20 minutes kept me moving on days I otherwise wouldn’t have. And as I crawled back into a normal routine after a week spent indulging, having the plan held me accountable and made it easy to commit to starting the year strong. The workout length is what makes this program so doable and enabled me to actually stick with it for an entire month. It delivers on its goal to help make exercise a habit and it does it without feeling like torture, which in my past experience is how a program with longer classes can feel.

Jacobs does a good job of providing modifications for most exercises and you can also adjust your weights to make workouts easier or more difficult. In this way, the program really is a good workout for anyone, regardless of your fitness level. It also provides a great cardio workout without needing a lot of space. I got my heart rate up and worked up a serious sweat in essentially the space of a yoga mat. Proof that you don’t need fancy cardio equipment to get a good workout.

I loved that no two workouts were the same. I was pleasantly surprised by this because a lot of programs simply repeat the same workouts every week. I liked that every single one was different and that the difficulty of the movements progressed over time. I also really liked utilizing resistance bands — a tool I don’t use nearly enough in my workouts, but always enjoy when I do. The program gave me a ton of ideas of ways to strength train with bands, including how to use them to make dumbbell exercises even more challenging, which I had never done before.

When I finished the program, I was disappointed it was over. I plan to keep incorporating some of the strength workouts as one-offs in my routine moving forward.

What I didn’t like about Beachbody's Job 1 workout

The advertisements after every workout were annoying. During the bonus videos Jacobs also pushes other Beachbody products, encouraging you to join the community, pick one of the Beachbody nutrition plans and try their supplements. This is kind of par for the course when it comes to Beachbody and it’s easy enough to ignore, but I’m not crazy about being peppered with ads during my workout time.

There’s no sugar coating it: The music situation is terrible. The background track to each workout is just instrumental and not even instrumental with good beats. Jacobs has a Spotify playlist for each type of workout and the music is much better, but the user experience is clunky. The links for the playlists take you outside of the platform to Spotify and you then have to find the right balance where you can still hear Jacobs’ instructions, but the music is loud enough to enjoy it. And unless you have a Spotify premium membership, you have to endure commercials, which is really a buzzkill during a workout.

I was also disappointed with the spin workouts. I loved the idea of being able to incorporate my spin bike, but it didn’t work out logistically for me doing the classes from the program.

You also need a lot of equipment compared to some other at-home workouts I’ve done. To get the most out of the workout you need three sets of dumbbells and multiple resistance loops. The good news is these things are pretty affordable and you likely will use them in other workouts in the future, so they will be a good investment for your home gym.

I would recommend this workout to:

  • People who are super busy and have no time to exercise.
  • Anyone struggling to make fitness a habit.
  • Those who exercise at home and don’t have a lot of space.
  • People who are new to strength training and want to make it part of their routine.
  • Anyone looking for a workout routine that includes both HIIT and strength training.