Sports conditioning, fitness and health professionals hear many excuses why people skip exercise. They’re too tired to train; no time to exercise; bad weather for traveling to the gym; too hot or too cold outside or inside; no nearby gym; weight room is closed or overcrowded; inaccessible machines; inadequate training space; the equipment is old or unclean—I could go on and on.
This article, however, eliminates such rationale by providing convenient indoor or outdoor exercises that use minimal (if any) equipment to create intense workouts. Like a chef who creates a wonderful meal with just a few ingredients, you can likewise experience a productive full-body workout without much equipment!
- First, survey the area and surroundings where you choose to train and utilize the bare essentials available (a staircase, bench, wall, a tree, bed, desk or counter top, park bench, curb, step, bleachers, playground monkey bars, chair, or doorknobs, for example—are all excellent “ingredients” for doing both upper and lower-body exercises).
- Hydrate before, during, and after a workout.
- Perform an upper and lower-body dynamic warm-up (e.g., Arm Circles/Lunges) and finish with cool-down upper and lower-body static stretches for greater flexibility and range of motion.
- Do full-body workouts on non-consecutive days for optimizing recovery.
“No Excuses” Exercises
Doorknobs. Straddle legs between a door frame and hold on tightly to the doorknobs on each side of the door to perform Inverted Rows and Squats with your heels raised (on your toes). Test doorknobs for stability prior to exercise.
Wall, Tree, Pole or Post. Place your back against any of these objects to do Wall Sits, Squats or Single-Leg Squats. Face the objects and place your hands against any of them and do Single Leg Calf-Raises, or Upper-Body Presses with one foot airborne. Lie supine with your feet or toes against the fixed object and your knees slightly bent and do Leg Presses (or do an isometric Leg Press by holding the position for several seconds).
Bed, Bench, Desk or Countertop, Chair, Stair Step, Curb, Bleacher. Ideal for Feet-Elevated Prone or Side Planks, Feet-Elevated Push-Ups, Bulgarian Split Squats, Step-Ups and Reverse Dips. Desks and countertops serve well for doing Push-Ups with the hands atop them and with one foot airborne for building upper body and core strength, for example.
Overhead Bars (e.g., Monkey Bars, Jungle Gyms). Perfect for Pull-Ups, Chin-Ups and Standing Reverse Crunches (raising the knees to the waist).
“No Excuses” Isometric Exercises
Combine some of these isometric exercises with the previously mentioned movements, using surrounding objects for added intensity and holding the isometric contraction for 15-20 seconds.
Chest. Press your hands against each other at chest level as hard as possible and feel the tension in the pectoral muscles. Immediately follow with a compound set of Feet-Elevated Push-Ups.
Biceps. Place the left hand atop the right supinated wrist (right hand faces up toward you) and keep the right arm slightly bent while pressing down on the wrist and resisting with the right arm (keep the elbow flush against your side). Feel the tension in your biceps. Switch hand position and repeat (right hand atop the left supinated wrist). Immediately follow with Doorknob Inverted Rows or Overhead Bar Pull-Up to further pump up the biceps. Or reverse the process by first doing 10 Pull-Ups or Inverted Rows immediately followed by the isometric biceps exercise.
Triceps. Place the left hand under the right supinated wrist (right arm is slightly bent and the elbow is flush against the side). Press the wrist downward as the left hand resists and feel tension in the triceps. Repeat for the other arm. Immediately follow with 10 Reverse Dips to further build triceps size/strength (or reverse the exercise sequence).
Upper Back. Place both hands close together behind your head and bring your elbows backward (toward your upper back) and hold as you squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Shoulders. Curl your fingers against the fingers of the opposite hand at shoulder level and pull them against each other and feel the tension in your shoulders.
Legs. Do a set of 10 supine Leg Presses against a wall/tree/pole/post immediately followed by holding the pressed position (either with feet flat against the object or using your toes) for 15-20 seconds. Another combo exercise suggestion: Do 10 Single-Leg Squats on each leg immediately followed by the supine Leg Press isometric hold against the fixed object.
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