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Effective Non-Gym Workouts

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park bench workout

Here is a collection of my favorite workouts that you can do at home, on an outdoor track, or at a park.

One of the most common myths in fitness is that you need a gym membership to get fit. This is completely untrue. In fact, after lifting for a year exclusively using weights at the gym, I couldn’t believe how difficult many bodyweight exercises were when I started to incorporate them into my strength training routine!

We shouldn’t have to rely on getting to the gym to stay fit. Here are some options that you can do anywhere that you have some space to move and some basic household equipment.

Really quick though: If you haven’t already, please read these two articles:
* Foundations of Fitness
* 5 Levels of Fitness

Those articles talk through the approach you should take in the Exercise portion of Health. They define and discuss key terms, and in them I also mention several different workouts that I do.

This article, then, expands on those workouts and tells you exactly how you can replicate them, in the gym or at home!

Cardio Workout 1 – At Home Outdoor

20 to 45 minutes or longer, per free time available

This one is really simple, and should honestly be the foundation of everyone’s exercise program. Choose to walk, run, interval sprint, hike trails, or bike, depending on what is available near your home and neighborhood, or on a track if you have a school nearby.

Why do I say this should be the foundation? Because you need to know how to do cardio wherever you are. You shouldn’t need access to a gym to get your heart rate up. Getting your heart working can be as simple as skipping up and down your street, or sprinting up some stairs. This is free and uses the outdoors, so be as creative as you like!

You can choose low, moderate or high intensity, interval or steady state. My go-to “at home” cardio workouts are 1) LISS on our neighborhood track (I walk as briskly as I can possibly manage for 40-45 minutes), or 2) HIIT on our neighborhood track (after a warm-up, I sprint about 80-90% for 100 meters and then walk casually for 100 meters, usually repeating this for about 20 minutes before walking home as a cool-down).

Cardio Workout 2 – At Home Indoor

About 30 minute time commitment

This workout uses high-movement bodyweight exercises that get the heart rate up. Although I prefer my non-gym cardio sessions to be outdoors (fresh air is wonderful for the lungs and mind), there are times where it is too rainy, windy, snowy or icy to go out.

To get a super effective cardio session done in your home, just do 30 minutes of any of the following moves: (You can cycle through each of them to fatigue, if you like)

1. Burpees – the ultimate master of increased heart rate
2. Squat jumps and lunge jumps – anything that requires explosive effort from your lower body
3. Sprinting up a staircase and then walking back down
4. Plank-based exercises like commandos, mountain climbers, plank jacks, or plank side-jumps
5. Side to side (lateral) moves like jumping from one leg to another (skaters)
6. Box Jumps – if you don’t have a stable “box”, you can use your stairs, or a stable step stool
7. Walking Lunges
8. Upbeat dancing – doesn’t matter the music, just as long as its really high tempo and you are able to let loose!

Strength Workout 1 – Bodyweight Full Body

About 30 minute time commitment

Do this workout first if you are just dipping your toes into strength training. Start with 1 session per week. When you’re ready to increase your strength training to twice a week, you can either do this one twice, or you can switch over to Upper and Lower Body separate workouts (listed below.)

This workout is also fantastic to do any time you need a quick, full body workout with no gym equipment. At home, on vacation, during business travel etc.

Do the following circuit 3 times, or as many times as you can fit into 30 minutes. There are no set repetitions for each move – do as many as you can quickly but with good form until fatigue hits. The workout cycles between muscle groups purposefully to make the most amount of your time. You should only be resting when your heart rate needs to come back down, because your muscles can rest during the other exercises.

  1. Squats (round 1), Squat-jumps (rounds 2-3) (Lower)
  2. Pushups** (round 1), Commandos (rounds 2-3)** (Upper)
  3. Flutters (Core)
  4. Reverse Lunges (Lower)
  5. Inchworms with Climber Pushup** (Core/Upper)
  6. Low Plank (round 1), Rolling Forearm Plank (rounds 2-3) (Core/Upper)

**Pushups can be modified to incline pushups, knee pushups or lay-down pushups for beginners. Commandos are a more advanced move. Stick to your chosen pushup if you cannot perform at least 3 Commandos in a row, until you gain more strength.

Strength Workout 2 – Bodyweight Upper Body (Arms, Back, Abs)

25-40 minute time commitment

When you’re ready to start splitting out strength training into upper body and lower body, you can begin these two workouts. Do each one, once a week.

Do this circuit 2 times to fatigue with each move, then move on.

  1. Lay-down Pushup
  2. Mountain Climber
  3. Flutters

Do this circuit 2 times to fatigue with each move, then move on

  1. Commandos (also called Plank-ups, this moves from low to high plank using one arm at a time)
  2. Bent-Knee Jackknife (can work up to straight-leg jackknife when you have sufficient low back strength)
  3. T-Pushup

Do this circuit 2 times to fatigue with each move, then move on.

  1. X-Up (alternating opposing arm/leg touches during sit up)
  2. Rolling Forearm Side Planks
  3. Tricep Dip from Chair

Do this circuit 2 times to fatigue with each move. This completes your workout.

  1. Plank Jacks
  2. Inchworms with Climber Pushup
  3. Mobility or Standard Burpees

For a shorter, quick workout, only do 1 circuit of each at a fast tempo. For a longer, more intensive workout, do 3 circuits of each maintaining a moderate tempo.

**Bodyweight exercises can have some crazy sounding names. If you aren’t familiar with any of these do a quick google or youtube search to watch it BEFORE your workout begins. Jot down a quick description that makes sense to you in a Note on your phone if you need a reminder during the workout.

Strength Workout 3 – Bodyweight Lower Body (Glutes, Legs, Low Back)

30-40 minute time commitment

Do circuit 3 times, then move on.

  1. Alternating Sumo and Regular Squat – 10 reps of each, 20 total reps
  2. Single-leg Deadlift – 15 reps each leg
  3. High Knees – 40 total reps

Do circuit 3 times, then move on.

  1. Single Leg Lunge (also called Bulgarian Split Squat) – 15 reps each leg
  2. 1-Leg Glute Bridge – 40 reps, 20 each leg
  3. Box Jumps (can use Steps or Stairs) – 20 reps or to fatigue

Finish with this circuit 2-3 times or until your muscles hit fatigue. You will know when you start losing serious performance within just a few reps.

  1. Walking Lunges to fatigue
  2. Squat Jumps to fatigue
  3. Alternating Lunge Jumps to fatigue

Cool down well and stretch your hamstrings, hips, quads and glutes after this workout.

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