7 Ways to Work Out With Limited Equipment

7 Ways to Work Out With Limited Equipment
Photo: antoniodiaz, Shutterstock

Home workouts are still a great, safe option in this ongoing pandemic, but not everybody has been able to put together a full featured home gym. Even if you only have a few dumbbells or a set of resistance bands — or nothing at all — there’s a workout out there for you. Here are some of our best ideas, based on what you have available to you.

If you have nothing

Illustration: Fruzsina Kuhari Illustration: Fruzsina Kuhari

Let’s start with the basics: You have absolutely zero equipment. What workouts can you do? A lot, as it turns out. There’s a whole chart of bodyweight exercises here. Some pulling exercises require a pull-up bar, but for others you can improvise with chairs or a door frame. Here’s a guide to building your own bodyweight workout and some more info on how you can make serious progress with only bodyweight exercise. And when you’ve gotten strong enough that basic pushups aren’t challenging anymore, check out these advanced moves.

These Bodyweight Exercises Push You Beyond Push-Ups

No-equipment workouts are convenient and can build strength, but when you’re bored with push-ups and squats, here are some advanced moves to try.

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If you have a pull-up bar

Photo: Microgen, Shutterstock Photo: Microgen, Shutterstock

If you have a bar you can hang in your doorway, or if you have access to a bar of some sort at a nearby park or fitness trail, you can add pull-ups to your workout. Can’t do a pull-up yet? Don’t let that stop you. There are ways to make pull-ups easier, and exercises that can help you work toward your first pull-up. Too easy? Check out these ways to make pull-ups more challenging.

How I Got My First Eight Pullups

I’ve spent most of my life looking up at pull-up bars, wishing I could ascend to their height. Sometimes I would train hard, and I would get one (1) pull-up. But then I’d slack off for a hot minute, and I’d be back down to zero. I’m a cis woman,...

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If you have dumbbells

Photo: Dmytrenko Vlad, Shutterstock Photo: Dmytrenko Vlad, Shutterstock

Hand weights are still weights. Small dumbbells can work for upper body lifts, and you’ll still get stronger if you’re able to lift them long enough to fatigue your muscles. Large dumbbells can add a challenge to bodyweight squats, step-ups, and lunges. Here’s a chart of dumbbell exercises, and here’s a simple workout you can do with a pair of dumbbells.

If you have resistance bands

Photo: Getty, Getty Images Photo: Getty, Getty Images

Resistance bands give you the biggest bang for your buck, providing hundreds of pounds of resistance if you buy a heavy-duty pair. Here’s a chart of moves, and a collection of videos of classic exercises like bicep curls, translated for resistance band use.

These Resistance Band Exercises Will Make You Stronger

Using a resistance band is one of the most home-friendly workout options there are. Here are some of our favourites.

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If you have a sandbag

Photo: Roman Zaiets, Shutterstock Photo: Roman Zaiets, Shutterstock

Sandbags are a little bit annoying to hold, but that’s just part of the fun. You can make your own sandbag or buy a heavy-duty empty one from a fitness supply company. Once you have the bag, fill it with cheap playground sand ($5 for 20 kg) and now you have a substantial weight. Use a medium-heavy one for toss-and-chase or sandbag cleans; use a heavy one for deadlifts, carries, and awkward front squats.

Let’s Do Some Sandbag Carries

I’ll be honest with you: I do not do core exercises. No crunches, no planks; I’m sure my abs could handle them, but my brain is just not interested. (And as you’ll know, I’m a big believer in not doing any exercise you truly hate.) But something that makes your...

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If you have a bicycle

Photo: Shutterstock, Shutterstock Photo: Shutterstock, Shutterstock

A Peloton isn’t the only way to do a cycling workout. If you have a bike, you can use it for more than just pedalling from place to place. Check out these programs to improve your fitness when cycling outdoors, and check out our tips on how to switch to outdoor cycling if you’re only familiar with stationary bikes.

And if you do have an outdoor bike, you’re only a $US100 ($128) trainer away from having an indoor bike. Check out our video on putting together a setup that will let you do Peloton videos for a fraction of the cost of a dedicated piece of equipment.

If you have running shoes

Illustration: Sam Woolley Illustration: Sam Woolley

You don’t even need fancy running shoes, as long as you have shoes that feel good when you run in them. (We have some tips on finding your perfect shoes here.) Check out our advice on getting started with running, and choose your path. If you’d like to try Couch to 5K, here’s what you’ll need to know. The biggest thing? You need to run slower than you think.

But you can also just run intuitively: go until you feel like you need to walk, and then walk until you’re ready to run again. There’s no wrong way to run, as long as you ramp up slowly and avoid injury. You can even combine running with lifting, which is great, since cardio and strength training are both good for you.

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