How to Create a Fitness Routine With Limited Equipment and Space

Up until a few months ago, I was going to exercise classes two or three times a week and had been doing so for months. Then, the viral pandemic shut down gyms and just about everything else in the United States, forcing (wisely, of course) me and a lot of other people who had become accustomed to exercising at a fitness center to work out at home.

The good news is that before I started going to classes, I had been exercising at home for years, so I had a decent amount of exercise equipment at the ready. The better news is that I found a few genuine exercise experts with whom to speak about setting up your own ideal home fitness routine without the need for much stuff or much space.

Whether you go deep into yoga, get yourself a stationary bike, or start hitting the weights at home, the most important thing is that you don’t stop exercising even when you can’t go to the gym.

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Dan Strik, vice president and co-founder of Hyfit Gear, a new smart-enabled “gym in a box” resistance band maker, says, “The main thing I learned throughout life, especially during my military service and the time I spent traveling afterward, is that no matter what the circumstance, you cannot neglect your health and your body. It’s always easier to fall back to the excuses of ‘not having a proper place to workout’ or ‘being too tired after a long day.’ For most, the challenge is finding the motivation to keep you going.”

For now, ask yourself what you want from a home fitness regimen. Do you simply want to maintain your current fitness level or keep on improving? Do you want to try new types of exercises? Do you want to pack on muscle?

You can do all of that and more, says Jenna Fatica, head running coach and studio manager of Formula Running Center in Arlington, Virginia. “Determine what your fitness goals are and how often/how much time you can devote to exercise. This will help you to structure your home fitness routine and help you to stay accountable to reach your goals. For example: ‘I want to build muscle and I can dedicate 45 to 60 minutes, five days a week.'”

“The best workout is the one that you actually stick with. Do not try to complicate the movements or choose too many exercises for one specific muscle group.”

If you went to the gym, you probably went at the same times each week. Keep this discipline up at home. “Schedule times during the day when you plan to work out,” says Fatica. “Adding this to your daily routine will likely make it easier for you to stick to your routine.”

As you put together your new at-home fitness routine, Fatima advises that you “choose movements that are simple. The best workout is the one that you actually stick with. Do not try to complicate the movements or choose too many exercises for one specific muscle group. A great full-body routine can be as little as five exercises that include compound movements (exercises that work multiple muscle groups). An example of this is a lunge with a bicep curl or shoulder press.” This will help you do exercises that are safe and effective when you don’t have a trainer or coach to correct your form.

Here are exercises that can work out all major muscle groups — no gear required.

And remember that even though the gyms are closed, the world isn’t. “If you feel comfortable doing so, take advantage of getting outside to breathe in fresh air and open up your legs,” recommends Fatica. “Whether that is walking, running, biking, skipping — anything.” Just remember to practice social distancing and stay six feet away from other people, even outdoors.

5 Exercises You Can Do at Home

Standing Squat

Add resistance bands or free weights to increase difficulty.

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“The main muscles that work here are the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes,” says Strik.

  • Stand with straight legs, feet just wider than your shoulder.
  • On the way down, make sure that your knees stay steady and your glutes centered between your ankles.
  • Lower yourself until your glutes are at knee height.
  • On the way up, straighten your legs and squeeze your glutes to emphasize the work on that muscle.

Burpee

Add light dumbbells for added challenge and strength-building.

fitness at home burpee
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Burpees are great for actually working out most major muscle groups, but you must be sure to focus on form, and don’t go too fast.

  • With knees just wider than shoulders and bent 45 degrees, jump and then land into a squat.
  • Squat down as described above.
  • Place palms just ahead of your feet.
  • Kick feet back so you enter the plank position.
  • Hold the plank for a beat, then do a pushup, keeping your head up and eyes forward.
  • Jump your feet back into a crouch position, then rise and repeat many a time.

Standing Dumbbell Row

Grasp a piece of furniture with both hands if you don’t have weights.

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This exercise targets your lats, delts, biceps, and even chest. Just make sure to keep your head up and back straight.

  • Bend knees to a 45-degree angle and lean over, keeping your head up.
  • Grip your dumbbells (or kettlebells) with palms just outside knees and facing each other.
  • Pull dumbbells up and in until they almost reach your chest, then repeat.

Crunch and Glute Lift Combo

Extend and raise legs during crunch for added core work.

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You can do crunches in many positions, from straight leg to legs on a chair to on the floor as we’re discussing here.

  • With feet flat and placed about a foot from your glutes, back flat on the floor, curl your chest up and toward your knees.
  • Hold for one beat with your hands on chest or ears, not pulling on your neck, then lower shoulders.
  • Raise belly off the floor until your thighs and torso are in a line.
  • Hold a beat, then lower and do your next crunch.

Standing Dumbbell Fly

Add weight using anything from dumbbells to kettlebells to milk jugs.

fitness at home standing dumbbell fly
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Even without weights, this exercise can be challenging and beneficial; just keep up the reps.

  • With feet shoulder-width apart, head up, and chest out, raise your arms on either side of the body, palms down, until your hands are in line with your shoulders.
  • Slowly lower and repeat. If using weight, start with lighter weights and work up, as shoulders are easily injured.

If you want to go to the next level without buying lots of weights, consider a set of TRX straps.

Cardio

It’s harder to get cardio in while you’re inside, so head out and get on the move while keeping your social distance. If you really want to shelter in place, consider a great exercise bike. For example, the CAR.O.L stationary bike might not be cheap, but it is pretty amazing. By actively tracking your biometric data and cross-referencing it against past exercise sessions, the smart bike can give you the benefits of a 45-minute jog in fewer than nine minutes in the saddle.

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