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Exercises that Require Little to No Space or Equipment

The surefire way to boost your mood.

I found it’s surprisingly easy for days to pass without exercising, now that gyms are closed in NYC, and many people are self-isolating, working from home, consuming news, or prepping. (I can only imagine what friends and family in the Bay Area are doing under the shelter-in-place order.)

I just got back from a workout at a park. This is the best I’ve felt physically and mentally in days!  I really needed that, and I’m sure I’ll need a reminder to do it more (as long as it’s safe for me and for the greater good).

I am really grateful to all the instructors, trainers, and physical therapists who have shared this knowledge with me, so that I can form my own exercise plan even when  gyms are closed and classes are canceled. If you need some inspiration, here are some suggestions…

If you have a few square feet of space…

…And zero equipment:

  • stretches: hamstring, quad, leg-cradle, arm circles front/back, hip hinge
  • full body: push ups (and push up variations like Spiderman push ups), burpees, mountain climbers, sit-outs, jumping jacks, inchworms
  • core: planks (and plank variations: shoulder taps, three-point planks, side planks, side plank hip dips, side plank reach-through’s)
  • legs: squats (and variations like piston squat), lunges (and variations like lunge holds, lunge dips)
  • hips/glutes: bridges, single leg bridges, birddogs
    • an exercise that PTs call a T-walk but it’s basically like a walking, no-weight, single-leg Romanian deadlift)

…And a yoga mat, towel, or rug:

(Or you DGAF because your tailbone is made of carbon fiber.)

  • core: abs: sit ups, crunches, bicycles, leg lifts, Russian twists, in-outs, reverse crunch, V-ups, deadbugs
  • up-downs (switch from high plank to low plank one arm at a time)
  • Supermans, darts

..And a stable couch or chair:

  • dips

…And wall space:

  • wall sits

…And a way to slide:

E.g., you have hardwood or tile floors plus a small towel. If you have carpet, try using a furniture slider.

  • One-armed slider pushups
  • Lunge slides 
  • Body saw
  • Pikes
  • Knee tucks

If you have a garage, driveway, yard, or rooftop, plus a pair of work gloves:

Set up a cone/water bottle/anything to demarcate a distance. Or choose two opposite walls. Then try the following exercises in a lap or a line.

Walking Stretches

  • Try the stretches in the few-square-feet section above, taking steps in between reps.

Warm-ups/agility exercises

  • jogging
  • skipping, swinging opposite arms high and low to stretch your shoulders
  • Cariocas
  • lateral-shuffle (two steps in, turn 180º, two steps out)
  • three steps/ touch the floor
  • walking lunge
  • cartwheels

Full-body Strength

  • inchworms
  • lateral plank walk
  • lateral squat walk
  • bear crawl (forwards and backwards. If this seems easy, try keeping your knees 2-3 inches above the ground, take small steps, and go slow.)
  • Spiderman push-up

If you have a bench, stoop, or concrete/brick planter:


What’s this from?

These exercises I’ve learned from various bootcamp and TRX classes, martial arts, and physical therapy (PT). You may know these exercises with different names. If you’re unfamiliar, Google them.

I’m not a trainer, so take this with a grain of salt. Obviously, talk to a doc if you haven’t started an exercise program. If you’re unfamiliar with the exercise, start small and prioritize technique and control (many exercises are dangerous when performed incorrectly). Use common sense and take any precautions to avoid injury.

Tips

Some helpful habits I’ve learned from PTs.

  • Keep your core engaged (draw your navel back towards your spine).
  • Keep your shoulders down and back.
  • Protect your back by keeping a flat back when doing wall sits, deadbugs, leg lifts, etc.
  • Protect your knees by never letting your knee go past your toes, when doing squats, split squats, lunges, etc.

Structure

For most of these exercises, you can try 30-second intervals, or 3 sets of 10 reps.

If the exercise is too hard, start with a simpler variation, or less time, sets, or reps. If it’s too easy, add time, or progress to advanced variations. If it feels repetitive, try a super set (instead of 3 sets of exercise A, then 3 sets of B, then 3 sets of C; intersperse the sets A, B, C; then A, B, C; then A, B, C. Get it?).

Mix It Up

Working out with a partner is fun and can help you stay motivated. Buddy systems are great ways to form new habits. Try using a video chat to work out together yet remotely. Or, meet up at a public park (and maintain social distance. Nothing wrong with air-high-fives!).

Add spontaneity by setting a timer for 10, 30-second intervals and take turns leading an exercise, such as abs exercises. To make it more creative, add a rule that if anyone suggests an exercise you’re already done, they have to do 10 pushups.

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