Beautiful athletic girl with brown hair dressed in black sports top and shorts stands in the gym
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Working Out At Home With Limited Equipment

This year has been challenging for us. It seems like ever since 2020 came around, we’ve been thrown curveball after curveball, and we’ve been forced to change, improve, and adapt.

Most recently, as I’m sure you already know, a significant percentage of the world population has been affected by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

In many countries, people are not allowed to leave their homes, let alone visit a gym or sports club for their regular workouts.

So, what can we do?

Should we idly wait for our fitness progress to go away while we’re waiting out the pandemic?

Absolutely not.

There are many things we can do to maintain (and even improve) our fitness during these hard times. To that end, we’ve put together this guide for you. In it, you’ll learn everything there is to know about working out with limited equipment.

To make things even simpler for you, we’ll also include two versions of a great home workout you can have. That way, no matter what your current fitness level is, you can challenge yourself and improve.

Adult Woman Training Legs Doing In and Out Squat
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Body weight squats in the living room

First Off, Do We Need Fully Loaded Gyms For Effective Training?

Prevailing wisdom suggests that we need access to fully loaded gyms with nothing but the fanciest and most innovative equipment if we want to train effectively.

And, thanks to that idea, many gym chains over the world capitalize on it and bring visitors to their training facilities:

“Our gyms offer state of the art treadmills!”

“Our gym’s squat racks have no rivals out there!”

“Visit us for a unique training experience in a sports environment like none you’ve ever seen before!”

Well, having access to lots of equipment can be convenient, but it’s not mandatory for effective training. So, if you’re worried that temporarily not having access to a gym or sports club will be detrimental to your fitness progress, stop. To train effectively, you need to remember two things:

First, you need to adhere to the principle of overload, which roughly states:

For us to improve (athletic performance, muscle growth, etc.), we need to push ourselves, work harder, and do more work continually. 

In other words, the level of effort and time you put in the gym (i.e., doing the same workout over and over again) won’t be able to keep producing results forever. 

This is because the human body is an incredible survival machine, capable of adapting to all sorts of stressors. Exercise, at its core, is a stressor the body must adapt to and improve so it can better handle that same stress the next time it occurs. But, if we keep doing the same thing over and over again, the body will eventually become fully adapted and won’t have a reason to improve further.

Because of that, no matter where you’re training and what your goals with fitness are, you should strive to do more work over time. So long as you continually push yourself to do better, your body will improve, both visually as well as functionally.

Second, we need to remember that any balanced fitness plan will go over the primary movement patterns of the body, which are:

  • The squat (any squat variation);
  • The hip hinge (e.g., glute bridge);
  • The horizontal push (e.g., push-ups);
  • The horizontal pull (e.g., inverted rows);
  • The vertical push (e.g., overhead press and upside-down shoulder press);
  • The vertical pull (e.g., pull-ups and chin-ups);

As you can probably imagine, it’s entirely possible to train all of the primary functions of the body without having external equipment. The most important thing is never to neglect any of the major movement patterns as each contributes to our overall development, athleticism, and growth.

Man Training Chest And Triceps Doing Skull Crunches Using Sofa
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Skull crunches using the sofa at home

The Basic Rules For Effective Training With Limited Equipment

Before worrying about anything else, make sure to follow the below five rules:

1. Stay Consistent!

It should go without saying, but just because you’re forced to train with limited equipment doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be consistent.

The fact is, so long as you’re consistent, you can achieve some great results in the long run.

Plus, if you’re training at home for the time being, you have virtually no excuses not to exercise because, if nothing else, it’s incredibly convenient, doesn’t take as much time, and it’s free.

2. Push Yourself

Similarly to the previous point, don’t look at your current training any differently from your typical workouts from before. 

As we went over above, one of the basic requirements for productive training is to adhere to the principle of overload – to push yourself continually.

So, whether you’re performing the bench press at the gym or push-ups at home, always do your best. Push yourself and ensure that you’re making some progress over the weeks.

3. Train Three Times Per Week

Three weekly workouts seem to be the sweet spot for most people – not too much and not too little. Just perfect.

What’s more, you’re giving yourself enough time to recover between workouts, so your performance doesn’t drop over time.

For example, you can train on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You’ll still have plenty of time to do enough volume for each major muscle in your body.

4. Aim To Improve Over Time

Training with limited equipment is no excuse to slack off and stagnate. So, always push for improvements – be it with the number of repetitions you’re doing, the amount of time you’re performing exercises, the amount of rest you’re having within each workout, or something else.

Whatever the type of improvement is, it matters. 

To improve over time, we also need to track our progress. That way, we can look at our performance from workout to workout and see how things are going and whether we are improving or not.

So, take a bit of time to write down your workouts in a simple notebook or phone app. You can then evaluate your performance once a month and see where you stand.

5. Don’t Leave Any Major Muscle Group Out Of Your Workouts

Having a balanced approach in your workouts is imperative for their overall effectiveness. So, you must design your workouts to train your entire body.

By doing so, you will ensure that your body develops equally, that you fix weak points and prevent new ones from showing up, and that your overall athleticism improves.

Plus, giving attention to your entire body will reduce your risk of developing injuries down the line due to overcompensation (such as when different muscles in the body have to make up for a weak one) or overuse.

Fit young woman doing push ups at home
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Body weight planking is a great way to train your core

The Routines You Can Do With Absolutely NO Equipment

Here are two routines you can follow. Routine #1 is more beginner-friendly, while routine #2 is more geared toward intermediate-level trainees.

Here are some basic rules for the two routines:

1) Two different workouts (A and B), performed in an alternating fashion. For example:

Week 1

Monday: Workout A
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: Workout B
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Workout A
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Rest

Week 2

Monday: Workout B
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: Workout A
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Workout B
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Rest

Repeat.

2) Three weekly workouts with a day’s rest in-between. For example, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

3) Perform two sets across all exercises the first time around to see how it feels. If it’s challenging enough, stick with it for a while. If it’s easy, perform three sets across all exercises.

Routine #1 (Beginner-friendly)

Workout A

Bodyweight squats* – 2-3 sets for 15 to 20 reps
Handstand push-ups – 2-3 sets for as many reps as you can
Lying glute bridge – 2-3 sets for 15 to 25 reps
Chin-ups or pull-ups** – 2-3 sets for as many reps as you can
Bicycle crunches – 2-3 sets for 60 seconds

*If bodyweight squats are too easy for you, perform jump squats instead.

**If you don’t have a pull-up bar, perform inverted rows on a desk or attach a band against something sturdy and perform rows.

Workout B

Slick floor bridge curls – 2-3 sets for 15 to 25 reps
Push-ups* – 2-3 sets for 12 to 20 reps
Alternating reverse lunges – 2-3 sets for 10 to 20 reps
Chin-ups or pull-ups** – 2-3 sets for as many reps as you can
Plank – 2-3 sets for 60 seconds

*If regular push-ups are too easy, you can elevate your feet on a couch or chair, or press them against a wall.

**If you don’t have a pull-up bar, perform inverted rows on a desk or attach a band against something sturdy and perform rows.

Routine #2 (Intermediate)

Workout A

Single-leg squats – 2-3 sets for 8 to 15 repetitions
Handstand push-ups – 2-3 sets for as many reps as you can
Hip thrusts* – 2-3 sets for as many reps as you can
Chin-ups or pull-ups** – 2-3 sets for as many reps as you can
Reverse crunches – 2-3 sets for as many reps as you can

*You should position your upper back on a sofa or similar. Also, if you have a big jug at home, you can fill it with water and place it on your lower abs for extra resistance.

**Alternatively, you can perform the human pullover, as demonstrated in this video.

Workout B

Slick floor bridge curls – 2-3 sets for as many reps as you can
Push-ups with feet elevated on a wall – 2-3 sets for as many reps as you can
Chair step-ups – 2-3 sets for as many reps as you can
Chin-ups or pull-ups* – 2-3 sets for as many reps as you can
V-up crunches – 2-3 sets for 15 to 25 reps

*You can perform inverted rows on your desk or something similar if you don’t have access to a pull-up bar.

young woman doing yoga in her light living room
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Yoga is also a great option when working out from home

Some Ideas For These Routines

As you probably noticed, you can perform almost all of the exercises from above with absolutely no equipment, with the major exception being the pull-up where you need a bar. What you probably didn’t notice is that each workout is arranged in a way that allows you to perform all of the exercises in a back-to-back circuit fashion.

So, if you wish, you can do your exercises back-to-back, rest for a couple of minutes, and go at it for two or three rounds.

Fair warning:

That will be much more challenging, but it will help you work your cardiovascular system better and build more endurance over time. 

For example, the A workout for beginners could look like this:

Bodyweight squats – 15 to 20 reps ⇒ Handstand push-ups – as many reps as you can ⇒ Lying glute bridge – 15 to 25 reps ⇒ Chin-ups or pull-ups – as many reps as you can ⇒ Bicycle crunches – for 60 seconds

That will be one round. You can then rest for two minutes and go at it again.

Final Thoughts And Other Suggestions

Before wrapping this guide up, I’d like to emphasize three final points:

  • Stay patient.

    Yes, yes. I know. It sounds a bit cliché, but it’s true – whether you train at home or in a gym.

    I know from experience that working out at home can feel like a waste of time because you don’t have all the fancy equipment. But, so long as you apply yourself, push for progress, and stay consistent, you will make lasting improvements.
  • Take care of your nutrition and sleep.

    Yes, our current circumstances aren’t ideal, but we should do our best to take care of our nutrition and get enough sleep.

    So, always make sure to get at least seven hours of sleep, and do your best to get the majority of your calories from whole, healthy food sources.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new.

    The pandemic that is roaming around the world has its disadvantages, but it’s also forcing us to adapt and try new things, which is a good thing.

    Most of us are so used to doing things in one particular way, that we entirely disregard other useful, fun, and practical ways to exercise.

     
Beautiful athletic girl with brown hair dressed in black sports top and shorts stands in the gym
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