How to Create an Effective Workout in a Crowded Gym

Use these strategies to get in a solid workout, even when the gym is crowded and access to equipment is limited.

When game strategy backfires or adverse conditions arise, coaches must improvise. They may also need to quickly change workout plans to make room for practices, games, academics and family vacations—or in overcrowded weight rooms with minimal training space and/or available equipment.

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Though it's tempting to skip exercising in such situations, you can create challenging workouts even in the midst of unforeseen circumstance, using whatever equipment is available.

The following scenarios describe how bodyweight movements such as Wall Sits, Push-Ups, Planks and Pull-Ups amply suffice for a full-body workout. Using just a weight plate or medicine ball in the crowded gym may also work well.

Vacationing in the mountains or at the beach? Many outdoor exercises can be performed with a heavy stone or a backpack filled with rocks, substituting for conventional dumbbells or kettlebells. You can also use portable resistance bands or TRX straps attached to a tree, park bench or pole.

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Scenario: Overcrowded Gym/Limited Equipment


  • Locate any open space.
  • Get a moderately heavy weight plate (25 or 35 lbs.) or a heavy medicine ball if available.
  • Perform a few sets, choosing among these exercises: Squats & Overhead Presses; 60-second Wall Sits (holding the plate or ball overhead); Bent-Over Rows (pulling the plate or ball toward you); Squats & Press-Outs; Single-Leg Squats; elevated Push-Ups (with your feet atop the ball or plate or with your feet off the floor a few inches against the wall); regular Push-Ups; elevated Prone Planks (feet on the ball or plate) or regular Prone Planks and Side Planks; Chops (bringing the plate or ball diagonally across your body to the opposite ankle); Single-Leg Ball Rollups against the wall (rolling the ball up as high as possible and lowering it into a full squat position).

Scenario: Outdoor Locations (e.g., Parks, Mountains, Beach, Playground, Football Stadium).


  • Use park benches for bodyweight exercises such as Reverse Dips, Step-Ups, Foot-Elevated Push-Ups, Prone Planks, and Bulgarian Split-Squats while simultaneously performing Arm Circles. For added resistance, find two heavy rocks and press them overhead while simultaneously performing Step-Ups. Or hold the rocks at your sides while doing Bulgarian Split-Squats. Do Flies & Forward Lunges with the rocks or Side Lunges and Press-Outs.
  • Do Sprints and Jump Squats up mountainous hills or football bleachers, or up sand dunes at the beach. Intensify Sprints and Jump Squats by filling a backpack with rocks and holding the pack at chest level. Do Inchworms & Squat Thrusts on the beach or uphill Inchworms & Squat Thrusts. Do Mountain Climbers in the sand.
  • Bring a basketball or soccer ball to the park, beach, mountains (or other family vacation area) and do Push-Ups with your hands atop the ball or feet-elevated Push-Ups on the ball. Or try feet-elevated Prone & Side Planks atop the ball. Perform walking Forward Lunges and Ball Raises or Side Lunges and Press-Outs with the ball, or Side Lunges and Ball Chops, or Side Lunges and Ball Twists.
  • Do Feet-Elevated Push-Ups atop bleacher steps and Walking Lunges up bleacher steps.
  • Attach portable bands around a park or playground tree, bench, pole or sign post and do Squats & Rows. Face away from the tree, bench or pole and do Squats and Press-Outs or Side Lunges and Twists.
  • Do Pull-Ups or Inverted Rows on playground overhead bars and feet-elevated Push-Ups and Planks at the base of a playground slide. Or do Step-Ups at the base of the slide. Do 60-second Wall Sits & Arm Circles if a playground wall exists.

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