No-gym exercise ideas

No equipment? No problem


No equipment? No problem. All you need is some creativity and – often – just your own body.

Whether because we're traveling, don't live near a gym (or a large gym), or simply prefer to work out at home, training with minimal or no equipment is one of the most common situations we'll face as regular exercisers.

Here are a host of ideas for working out with little to no equipment, whether it's at home or on the road.

On this page, we'll focus on bodyweight and bands. Check the Workout Modifications page for each exercise phase to see more band or dumbbell options, as well as how to adapt the exercises specifically for the assigned workouts.

Most of the time, you can do the PN Coaching workouts with simply bands and body weight, or with a few creative resistance substitutes (such as a heavy knapsack).

What to use

You have several options for low-tech workout equipment, which you can combine.

  1. Your own body.
  2. Resistance bands such as those from Elite FTS or Amazon. or Beginner Band Package from ResistanceBandTraining.com
  3. A suspension system such as a TRX (or for cheaper options, search for "suspension trainer" on Amazon).
  4. Anything that you can lift and can be used for resistance (e.g. rocks, weighted knapsack or luggage, water jugs, small children, etc. – look around and get creative).

Other handy stuff

Sturdy wooden chairs

Grab 'em on Craigslist or a yard sale if you don't have some extras around. From tricep dips, anything seated, balance support, even stepping up and down off of them, a good sturdy chair is a versatile tool.

A floor

From ab work to lying dumbbell presses, you can do a lot of work on the floor and — bonus — you can't fall off of it!

A pull up bar

You can use this for the traditional pullups, or attach your bands or suspension trainer to it. You can attach the bar to a doorframe or set it up on sturdy rafters in a garage or basement. Make sure it's well braced; this will need to support your full weight.

Exercise ball

Your existing workout has suggested exercise ball movements, but you can also use the ball to support your back as a bench in some case, or as a convenient seat for others. (If you consider "convenient" to be something that will roll away from you the first chance it gets.)

Bodyweight-only exercises

Full body

Get up / get down

For a challenging but uber-basic full-body exercise that will get your heart rate going, lie down on the floor. Face up. Now get up to a standing position, any way you like. Back down to the floor, any way you like. Return to the lying-face-up position. Do a crunch. Get back up to a standing position. Back down to the floor. Crunch. Back up. Repeat.

Start slow. Then once you get the movement smooth, push the pace. To make this even harder, do a jumping jack at the top.

Then try getting up and down from a face-down position. If you're a little lighter or more agile, and have a padded surface to do this, try a wrestling sprawl drill like this one or this one. Go slowly and easily at first. All you're doing here is getting down to the ground, then coming back up. It's like a burpee in slow motion.

Burpees

Easier burpees

Regular burpees

If you're already pretty strong, try a burpee into a jumping pullup.

Mountain climber

Lower body

Hamstring curl / glute bridge

Body weight glute bridge variations, from easiest to hardest:

Feet-on-floor glute bridge

Glute bridge plus hamstring curl with a dish towel on a hardwood or tile floor

Feet-elevated glute bridge

Alternating single leg hip thrusts using two platforms (you could use a couch and coffee table). You can also start this with using both legs together.

Bodyweight-only glute-ham raise Secure your feet under anything stationary that you can find (e.g. a couch) or have a partner hold your shins.

Donkey kickback

For hamstrings and glutes, try a "donkey kickback" on all fours. Kneel on a mat or soft carpet to keep your knees happy.

See below for a standing band-resisted donkey kickback.

Squat-type exercises

From easiest to hardest:

3-position wall squat

Bodyweight-only squat

Alternating lateral squat

Side to side low lateral squat

Squat to triple extension

 

Split squat

 

If you find yourself losing balance with a step back, try a slide back instead. You can use a Valslide under the rear foot, or simply a dish towel on a slippery floor.

Step-up (the higher the platform, the harder the movement)

Bodyweight squat into tuck jump

Split squat + jump

Pistol squat

Upper body: Pressing & pushing

Push-ups

Here is a push-up sequence in order of difficulty.

Modified push-up

 

Push-up

 

Dive bomber push-up

 

Side to side push-up

 

Diamond push-up

 

Walking pushups

Single arm push-up from 1/2 plank

 

One arm push-up

Chair dips

You can do these a few ways.

Easier: Face away from the chair. Put the soles of your feet on the floor.

Harder: Elevate your feet.

You can also do dips between two chairs, with the chairs at your sides. To make this easier, rest your feet on the floor.

Upper body: Pulling & rowing

Inverted row aka horizontal pullups aka reverse pushups

To make these easier, raise the bar height and/or bend your knees, as shown here.

To make them harder, lower the bar and (if needed) elevate your feet. To make them even harder, elevate your feet on something unstable, such as an exercise ball.

If you don't have a barbell in a power cage (as shown in the video), here's another setup.

If you have a suspension trainer (such as a TRX), you can use that, as shown here. Again, the higher the hands, the easier the movement. The lower the hands, the harder the movement.

You can also try the underside of a sturdy table. (Note that this video shows elevated feet, which is more difficult than feet on the floor.)

Pullups / chinups

The basic pull-up

Wide-grip pull-up

Core

Plank

To make it easier, you can do the plank from your knees.

Once you have the hang of the plank, try adding some difficulty with walkouts or moving with a dishtowel on a slippery floor.

Walkouts aka "inchworms"

"Body saw" (put your feet on the towel and rest securely on your forearms).

A more advanced pushup-plank combo (use two small towels on a smooth floor) walking pushup slides

Band exercises

Full body

Alternating rear lunge with overhead pull-apart

Lower body

Band assisted squat

This is for folks who can't yet do a squat with just their own body weight. The thicker the band, the more counterweight you'll get, and the easier this will be. Over time, progress to using a thinner band or less counterweight.

assisted-squat-with-band-1

Band stomp

The band stomp works the hips, hamstrings and glutes.

Monster walk

These are just plain good fun for your hamstrings and glutes.

Wide-stance band squat

Push knees out against the band throughout the movement.

Band donkey kickback

Low cable Romanian deadlift

If you don't have a cable machine, you can substitute a resistance band. There are three ways you can secure the resistance band, depending on what setup you have available, and what feels best for your body.

Notice that in all cases the movement is essentially the same:

  • The lifter shifts their hips/butt back, behind their feet.
  • They keep their head up or looking at a point on the floor in front of them, and spine in a natural position.
  • They stand up by squeezing their butt and pushing their hips forward.

Method 1: Band under feet

Method 2: Band in front

Method 3: Band behind

Upper body: Pressing & pushing

Band presses

Standing overhead press

Incline band press

band-incline-press

Pushup

Band resisted pushups

Upper body: Pulling & rowing

Pull-up progression

A pull-up progression that works backwards from a regular pull-up and uses assistance with bands

Band pull-down from tall kneel

Loop the band over anything handy -- a high railing, a door, etc.

Band row

Band swimmers

Band shoulder fly

Along with the resistance band, you could use any light object for these -- cans, etc.

Band curls

Core

Band-resisted jackknife

Band chop

Workout ideas

With these options and the other exercise modifications available for each phase of PN Coaching workouts, you should be easily able to get creative and have a great workout anywhere you find yourself!

However, if you're looking for a change of pace, Coach Jason Bonn's created a Hotel Room workout that you can do even in the cruddiest roadside motel.

Click to download in Word format.

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