Some days, you just can't get to the gym. Maybe you're eyeball-deep in schoolwork or, if you attend a university located smack dab in the middle of the South, like I do, maybe you can't bear the march across that sun-blasted campus to the student rec center. Heck, maybe you just need a lazy day.
Whatever your reason, there are going to be days you can't make it to the gym, which is inconvenient, considering that's where all the weights and equipment are. If you don't want to miss your workout, you'll need exercises that can be performed with minimal equipment – but still give you that burn. Here are five great options that, if done in sequence, make a great full-body workout:
Ah, the pushup. This tried and true exercise is a great measure of upper-body strength and, because it works multiple muscle groups at once, you'll burn a good amount of calories if you do enough of them. Still, it's important to note for this exercise – and all the exercises outlined below, for that matter – that form is absolutely key. Keep your head level, your elbows close to your body, your back straight and your feet firmly on the ground. For the best effect, lower yourself slowly until your elbows make an angle slightly smaller than 90 degrees. Hold yourself there briefly and then push yourself up. Try to do three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions if you're just starting out.
Nothing says "no equipment" quite like a full-body plank. Planks are a great way to work your core and abdominal muscles and, if you're just starting out, you'll probably get a burn like you've never felt before. To perform a plank, assume a good pushup stance, lower yourself onto your elbows and hold yourself there. Correct plank form consists of a 90-degree angle in your elbows, a slightly raised head and a straight back. Make sure your butt isn't too high in the air – or too low – as either error could lead to back issues. Try three one-minute sets to start out. If that's too easy, put an exercise ball under your feet to add some difficulty.
Note: You'll notice that the words "situp" and "crunch" don't appear on this list, and for good reason. Most trainers will discourage you from doing these "forward flexion" exercises because they put undue strain on your neck and upper back, and they're relatively ineffective. If you're stuck in your dorm room, stick with planks. No pun intended.
[Read: 4 Exercises Trainers Hate.]
Body weight squats:
Even without a barbell on your back, squats should be a big part of your workout. Because they work the biggest muscle in your body – your butt – they burn more calories per repetition than any other exercise. Plus, because you're not focusing on the large amount of weight on your back, you can make your form absolutely perfect and avoid back injury. To perform a perfect squat, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes facing forward. Hold your arms out in front of you to help you balance. As you squat, make sure your head stays up, your back stays straight and your heels stay firmly on the ground. You should go low enough that your knees form an angle around 90 degrees. Use a chair to help you with form.
Dips are the bane of my existence. I'm a tall guy, and with height usually comes long, dangly, lanky arms, at least in my case. Because of that, normal dips are really hard for me, so I compromise with chair dips. Chair dips give you a great tricep workout, and they're a little easier than regular dips. Plus, all you need is a chair, bench or low table to do them. A proper dip starts with your hands gripping a chair behind you, your arms straight and your legs out in front of you. Lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and then push yourself up. For added difficulty, put your feet on a raised surface in front of you.
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Pullups and chinups:
If the U.S. Marines use it to test upper-body strength, it's a good bet that it's an exercise worth doing. This is especially true for pullups. This is another compound-muscle exercise that's great for working your back and arms. You will, however, need to purchase a pull-bar of some kind, but they usually come pretty cheap ($20 to $30 at most sports and athletic stores), and most can be set up in any door frame. To perform a correct pullup, reach up and grab your pull-up bar in an overhand grip and hang. This is how you should start every repetition. From the hang, pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. Then slowly let yourself down. For a chinup, simply grab the bar in an underhand grip.
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Steven Holbrook is a senior majoring in journalism at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. In addition to finishing up his degree, he is currently working on attaining his personal trainer certification. He wants to use his fitness journey to help others attain their own fitness and nutrition goals. He loves a good omelet, aggravating his dog allergies and superhero t-shirts.