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How to workout without a gym

August 18, 2021 victoriarozler

How to workout without a gym

August 18, 2021 Victoria Rozler
sporty girl doing v-ups abs workout at home.

A workout plan for beginners, experts and everyone in between.

When gyms closed and the world went into lockdown last year, regular gym-goers and people figuring out how to stay active during the pandemic had to improvise – and these modifications to regular workout routines seem to have stuck around.

With a spike of online gym memberships, easier accessibility to workout videos on YouTube, and trainers, yoga instructors and dancers regularly going live with virtual sessions, it seems easier than ever to find a workout program that works for you.

But what if you go to the store and realize they are completely sold out of workout equipment, or you don’t feel ready in your personal fitness journey to dive right into free weights or expensive machinery?

Here’s a list of targeted workouts for each muscle group that you can accomplish with your own body weight or simple household items.

NOTE: These workouts are not meant to all be performed in one day – choose one or two muscle groups you want to work and cycle through those repetitions for three rounds, or whatever your body is telling you it can handle. You can finish off these workouts with a brisk walk or a glass of wine. There are no rules.

Household items you will need for your home workout :

  • Two filled water bottles
  • A towel
  • Two paper plates

Shoulder workouts:

  • Shoulder press
    • 12 reps
    • Equipment: N/A or two filled water bottles
    • With your feet hip-width apart and palms facing forward, press your arms above your head until they are fully extended, then lower down and stop when they are at a 90-degree angle, in line with your shoulders.
    • This is an exercise you can do one arm at a time or press both at once. Just make sure you’re hitting 12 reps per side!
  • Lateral raise
    • 10 reps
    • Equipment: N/A or two filled water bottles
    • Start with your feet hip-width apart and arms at your side. Slowly raise your arms up until they are in line with your shoulders, with your palms facing the ground, and lower back down.

Chest workouts:

  • Chest fly
    • 12 reps
    • Equipment: N/A or two filled water bottles
    • Lay on the ground with your arms in the air, hands facing each other. Slowly lower your arms to the ground, opening up your chest. When you are an inch from the ground, bring your arms back up to the top.
    • You can do this with just your arms or hold a filled water bottle in each hand for extra resistance.
  • Wall push-up
    • 10 reps
    • Equipment: N/A
    • Stand in front of a wall and reach out so your hands are flat against it. Take about one step back so you are at a slight incline. With your arms in line with your shoulders, slowly lower yourself against the wall, with your elbows pointing backward. Lightly touch your forehead to the wall and push back up.
    • Once you are comfortable against the wall, you can move onto an inclined pushup on a chair, a modified pushup with your knees the ground, and eventually a full push up!

Tricep workouts:

  • Tricep kickbacks
    • 10 reps
    • Equipment: N/A or two filled water bottles
    • With your feet hip-width apart, slightly bend your knees and hinge at your hips to a 45-degree angle, with your elbows bent and hands near your shoulders. Slowly extend your arms backwards until they are straight and bring back to your starting position.
    • You can alternate one arm at a time or use both at the same time. This is another exercise uses your own weight in your arms or two water bottles. If you are alternating, make sure you are doing 10 reps per arm!
  • Skull crushers
    • 12 reps
    • Equipment: N/A or two filled water bottles
    • Lay on the ground with your arms in the air and palms facing each other. Bend your elbows and lower toward your head until your hands (or water bottles) are on either side of your head. Extend and straighten your arms back up to your starting position.
    • If you are using water bottles for this workout, make sure you have a tight grip, so you don’t actually crush your skull…

Bicep Workouts:

  • Towel curl
    • 10 reps
    • Equipment: A towel or two filled water bottles
    • Start with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your side with your palms facing forward. Hold the towel in front of you, pulling slightly to give some resistance (similar to a resistance band). Slowly curl upward to your shoulder, maintaining the resistance in the towel. Extend back down to your side and repeat.
    • You can do this exercise without a towel or with two filled water bottles.
  • Hammer curl
    • 12 reps
    • Equipment: Two filled water bottles or N/A
    • Once again, start in an athletic position with your feet hip-width apart and arms at your side. With your palms facing each other, curl upward until your hands (or water bottles) are just about to touch your shoulders. Extend down and repeat.

Back Workouts:

  • Traditional row
    • 12 reps
    • Equipment: Two filled water bottles or N/A
    • Start with your feet hip-width apart, slightly bend your knees and hinge at your hips to a 45-degree angle. With your palms facing each other and elbows remaining close to your body, row your arms up until your hands reach your side and release back down. Be sure to squeeze your back muscles when your row upward – imagine you’re pinching a pencil between your shoulder blades.
  • Back extensions
    • 10 reps
    • Equipment: N/A
    • Lay on your stomach with your arms extended out in front of you. As far as your range will allow you to go, lift your arms and chest off the ground, while keeping your legs and feet firmly against the ground. Slowly lower your chest back to the ground and repeat.

Core Workouts:

  • Plank
    • 30 second-1 minute hold
    • Equipment: N/A or two paper plates
    • There are so many different ways you can modify a plank or make it more difficult in order to work different areas of your body; no matter what, the main focus will always be your core. To hold a standard plank, plant your forearms parallel to each other on the ground, in line with your shoulders. Your arms should form a 90-degree angle. Extend your legs outward, a little wider than hip-width apart, balancing on the balls of your feet. Make sure your back is flat and core tucked underneath you. To modify this, you can hold a higher plank up on your hands (rather than forearms), or if you’re just starting out, you can hold on your hands and knees.
    • For a bit more engaging plank, go up on your hands and alternate shoulder taps (left hand to right shoulder, right hand to left shoulder). It’s important to keep your hips squared off to the floor and not rock side to side when alternating taps – this keeps your core engaged and makes the workout more challenging. If you need to, increase the distance between your feet to balance yourself out. You can also modify to your knees.
  • For a more intense core workout, hold a plank (either on your hands or forearms), and place your feet in the middle of the paper plates. Keeping your legs straight, pull your legs toward your forearms, sliding with the plates, and raise your hips in the air so your body is making a triangle-like shape. Lower yourself back down into the plank and repeat. This will work both your core and hamstrings.

Leg Workouts:

  • Alternating side lunge
    • 10 reps per side
    • Equipment: N/A or two filled water bottles
    • Make sure you have a clear space around you and start with your feet together. Extend your left leg out, just past hip-width for you, and bend that leg to lower yourself down. Push yourself back up and return to your center with your feet together. Repeat on your right side, and alternate 10 reps on each side (20 total).
    • This can be done with your body weight, but if you choose to use the water bottles, frame your lower leg with the water bottles when you lower yourself.
  • Sumo squat
    • 12 reps
    • Equipment: Two filled water bottles or N/A
    • With your feet wider than hip-width apart and your toes facing outward, lower yourself into a squat and push yourself back up. You’ll feel this workout in your glutes and inner thighs.
    • This is another exercise that you can get just as much engagement out of with your body weight – if you choose to use water bottles for extra weight, press them together and hold them in front of you; make sure when you squat, they aren’t pulling your chest forward.

Cardio Workouts:

  • Jump squats
    • 30 seconds
    • Modification: No jump
  • High knee run
    • 1 minute
    • Modifications: Step and raise your knees
  • Alternating jump lunges
    • 30 seconds
    • Modification: Step back into a lunge
  • Burpees
    • 30 minutes
    • Modification: Take out the jump, step back into a plank

Whether you’re at the beginning of your fitness journey, recovering from an injury or just looking for something to switch up your workout routine, any of these workouts can easily be modified to fit your goals – once you’re comfortable with these exercises, try adding weights or resistance bands. If that’s too much, go back to using your body weight.

Also, have fun! Working out shouldn’t be a burden or something you don’t look forward to – if that’s the case, switch it up and find something that makes you excited to get your body moving.

Victoria Rozler

Tori is a photographer and filmmaker, as well as a sweater and beanie-lover. She can be found either very deep in the woods, or in midtown Manhattan - where she spent four years receiving an education in film, women and gender studies, and jaywalking.

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