Exercise without Equipment: How to Do a Workout at Home

Keep fitness simple with these six low-tech, easy exercises.

mountain climber

A mountain climber is similar to rapidly jumping from a lunge on the right to a lunge on the left.

Photo By Gina Harney

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We all know that regular exercise is a crucial part of staying healthy. But for those of us in need of a refresher course, let’s consider the many benefits exercise offers: It releases natural “feel-good” chemicals, boosting mood and relieving stress; strengthens and prevents brittle bones; enhances immunity by increasing the rate at which antibodies flow through the bloodstream; and helps deliver more nutrients to the skin, resulting in a younger-looking complexion.

Fortunately, staying in shape doesn’t require expensive equipment or specialized instructors. Using nothing more than a pair of dumbbells and your own body weight, you can do a challenging workout at home, while traveling or just about anywhere. In fact, strength and body-weight training will be among the most popular fitness trends of 2013, according to a recent survey by the American College of Sports Medicine. Instead of trying the latest fad or paying hefty gym membership fees, stick to this low-maintenance exercise routine you can do anywhere—all it requires is a pair of dumbbells (start with five to 15 pounds).

6 Simple Exercises

Complete this exercise routine in a circuit—quickly moving from one exercise to the next after completing the specified number of repetitions. Try to make it through the entire circuit two to three times.

Before starting your workout at home, warm up with cardio for five to seven minutes. For even better results, follow with 15 to 20 more minutes of cardio. Some great options include jumping jacks, small sprints and jump rope intervals. Note: Check with a doctor before making fitness changes.

1. Bicep curl and plié squat with upright row. Place your feet wide, keeping toes turned out and elbows glued to your sides, and curl a pair of weights into your chest while bending your knees into a plié squat. (Try to bring thighs parallel to the ground.) Squeeze everything (especially glutes) as you come up, straightening your legs and bringing weights back down. Flip your hands so that your palms face you and raise the weights into an upright row (bending your elbows at a 90-degree angle), keeping weights in near your chest. Release weights down and repeat. Sets: 12 to 15

2. Push-up and toe touch. Complete 10 push-ups, followed by four toe touches on each side. To do a toe touch, stay in plank position (top of a push-up) and bring one leg underneath your body, touching your toe with the opposite arm. Focus on your oblique muscles during toe touches. Sets: 10 push-ups and four toe touches on each side; do this twice

3. V-up and Superman. Complete a set of 10 v-ups: Lying on your back with your arms extended above your head, sit up at the same time you raise your legs to a 45-degree angle, sitting into a “v” position, engaging your abs and exhaling as you come up. Roll back down to the floor in a controlled motion and repeat. Use control as you lift off and move smoothly and evenly. Then do a Superman: Lie on your stomach, arms extended in front of you. Lift arms and legs to make a “u” shape with your body. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Sets: 10 v-ups and 10 Supermans

4. Step up and knee lift. Find a safe surface, like a stair step, and step onto it with your left leg. Lift your right leg so your right foot grazes your left knee, raising your knee toward your chest. Your right knee should be parallel to the ground; then bring your right foot back to the ground and repeat. Make sure not to rest for any portion of this exercise—tap lightly to come down and push through the front foot to come back up in a quick, explosive motion. Sets: 10 on each side

5. Plank and mountain climbers. The key to this combination is keeping your glutes in line with your body. Get into plank position and walk your hands and feet four steps to the right, then four steps to the left. Finish with four mountain climbers on each side. (To do a mountain climber, move legs into a lunge position with one foot forward and bent 90 degrees; the other foot extends behind. Rapidly switch leg positions.) Sets: Two rounds

6. Bent-over row and tricep extension. With your feet shoulder-width apart, slightly bend your knees and lean forward while holding a weight in each hand, arms extended down toward the floor. Raise your weights into row position (elbows bent at a 90-degree angle), then keeping your back flat and your abs engaged, extend the weights behind you into a tricep extension. Return your weights to row position, extend your arms back down to the floor and repeat the entire routine. Sets: 12 to 15

This workout was provided by Gina Harney, founder and writer of the blog The Fitnessista. Watch a video of the author demonstrating the workout.

Exercise Apps

A wide range of apps can help you maintain your fitness anywhere. 

Pocket Yoga
$3; set your own pace and schedule with 27 different yoga sessions

Workout Trainer
free; choose from thousands of workouts and filter by time, equipment and muscles you want to work

Nike Training Club
free; simulates working with a trainer; more than 100 workouts and drills

Lose It!
free; tracks consumption of calories, exercise achievements and weight-loss goals

free; track pace, distance and calories burned; map routes and share with friends