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The Home Workout: What To Do When You Can’t Make It To The Gym

A super-effective (and super-minimalist) workout you can do at home to stay in shape.

Craig with FrankieCraig and his monkey Frankie in Africa.

You Can Work Out Anywhere

My favorite place to train is at my own gym, in Denver.

It’s great until I have to spend several weeks somewhere else.

Then I’m in a hotel room, or on an island, or living with a monkey in a tent in Africa trying to figure out how to get a good workout without a lot of equipment.

It’s not a new problem for me. I’ve been traveling most of my life.

I think I’ve spent more than six months in one place once in the past decade and what I’ve learned from this is that movement matters more than equipment variety.

In other words, you can get a good workout anywhere, as long as you’re willing.

Your body only does a few fundamental things

We push, pull, hip hinge, squat, lunge, and crawl.

Strength training (weight training) is just figuring out how to best develop those patterns, and then loading them in order to produce metabolic and neural changes. That’s how you grow bigger muscles, improve your health, and get in shape.

You don’t need a row of cardio machines.

All you need is gravity, a few pieces of equipment, and a little creativity.

The Super-Minimalist Home Gym

Right now, I’m on the east coast with my girlfriend.

My gym here consists of an old rug in a dirty unfinished basement with one 100 pound dumbbell, a 70 pound kettlebell, and two resistance bands.

Oh, and a folding chair that I use to rest my free hand on for things like single arm rows.

CraigCraig’s minimalist home gym.

With this, I can create a month’s worth of workouts. Probably more.

If you don’t mind buying a dumbbell and a kettlebell to keep in your bedroom or garage, you can do this sample week of workouts when you can’t make it to the gym.

The Super-Minimalist Home Workout

Monday

A1) Dumbbell Goblet Squat – 10×5
A2) Single-Arm Dumbbell Row – 10×5

B1) Alternating Kettlebell Goblet Reverse Lunge – 5×5
B2) Band-Resisted Pushup – 5×5  (Video below)

C1) Banded No Money – 3×12
C2) Dead Bug – 3×20

Tuesday

Kettlebell Swing Ladder: 1-20-1 (Video below)

This means one rep of a kettlebell swing, set the bell down and take a few deep breaths, then two reps and repeat, all the way up to 20 reps and then back down (don’t repeat 20). Breathing must be done exclusively through the nose. This one equals 400 total reps.

Thursday

A1) Single-Arm Dumbbell Row – Escalating Density Training – As many sets of 2 reps at a time as possible in ten minutes.

B1) Dumbbell Goblet Squat – Escalating Density Training – As many sets of 3 reps at a time as possible in ten minutes.

C1) Single-Arm Kettlebell Overhead Press – 5×3 (Video below)

C2) Band-Resisted Pushup – 4×3, 1xAMAP* (as many as possible)

The last set of pushups should be done for as many reps as possible.

D) Band Pull Apart – 3×12

Friday

A1) Kettlebell Swing Intervals – 30:30 x 5, 5 minutes active rest, 3 total rounds.

Do swings for 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds and repeat five times. Take 5 minutes of active rest spent focusing on stretching hip flexors and internal/external hip rotators and repeat for three total rounds.

A2) Weighted Carry Circuit

1 – Kettlebell Waiter’s Walk* – 30 seconds, left hand (Video below)
2 – Kettlebell Waiter’s Walk – 30 seconds, right hand
3 – Kettlebell Racked Carry– 30 seconds, left hand (Video below) 
4 – Kettlebell Racked Carry – 30 seconds, right hand
5 – Take three minutes of rest and repeat for three total rounds.

* If your ceiling is too low for these and you can’t get outside, switch them out for a goblet carry done for thirty seconds before and thirty seconds after the two racked carries.

Freedom to train anywhere

Once you understand that strength training is more about basic movement patterns than equipment, the available training options around you open up immensely: A beach with a heavy rock or a rusty ship off the coast of Somalia becomes a versatile gym.

You no longer have to worry about falling behind physically every time you travel; you’ve got the freedom to train anywhere or build an effective home gym with a bare minimum of tools.

A final note about kettlebells

A kettlebell is a really handy and versatile tool, which is why it’s one of the first things I look for when I need a minimalist gym.

What makes it effective, though, is the software – this means that you have to know how to use it.

This is the same with any piece of equipment, but if you try to do this program without first knowing how to properly do a kettlebell swing, you’re likely to hurt yourself.

Don’t do that.

  • http://www.granttinsley.com/ Grant

    Thanks for the article Craig – I’m going to try to incorporate some of these ideas next time I’m working out somewhere without abundant equipment.

    Another idea that has worked well for me, if I don’t have any equipment available, is running to the nearest park and doing a circuit workout on the playground equipment.

    It’s amazing how many pullup, pushup, and dip variations you can come up with using all the different bars available. As long as you’re not kicking the kids off of any equipment, you can usually get a good bodyweight workout in.

  • http://yahfitness.com/ Benny

    I refer to Kettlebell work when I’m super busy. Definitely agree that it’s the perfect tool for a minimalist workout.