So it’s time to exercise, but you’re confined to a small space?
In our Online Coaching Program, where I’m a senior coach, we help folks work out in whatever nook and cranny they may have available. Today, we’ll share these tips with you too.
And no, we won’t make you shrink like Ant-Man to do your workout.
Here’s what we’ll cover today:
Let’s jump right in!
How Much Space Do You Need to Work Out?
“Baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
– Charles Bukowski
“Space, the final frontier”
– James Tiberius Kirk
When it comes to working out in a small space, the first obstacle you have to overcome is your mindset:
You may find yourself thinking, “I can’t work out in this space.”
We want to flip this to “I get to be more creative in this space.”
This may seem like a minor change of perspective, but oftentimes the most important part of overcoming a challenge is adjusting our mindset. I see this over and over again with our coaching clients.
Step 1 for our Small Space Workout is becoming okay with whatever room we may have to exercise.
Step 2 is determining WHERE our actual Small Space Workout will take place.
That might lead you to a question:
How much space do you need to exercise and work out?
Answer: not much.
I grew up working out in a room not much bigger than a closet:
Which now acts as a storeroom.
If you have enough room to do a plank, you’re good:
However, even if you can’t spread out for a plank, that’s okay. We can always use the small space itself for “equipment,” like with wall push-ups:
Speaking of, I can already anticipate your next question:
What’s the minimum equipment needed for a work out?
As we cover in the Ultimate Guide to Working Out from Home, we can think of three tiers of no-equipment workouts:
- The floor
- The floor and a wall
- The floor, a wall, and a towel
The trick here is using our own body’s weight as equipment, which is known as “bodyweight training.”
However, today we’ll also cover a few items you may want to buy, in case you want to build a small home gym.
But first, let’s talk about getting by with the bare minimum.
Small Space Workout Level 1: Get Moving
For the first level of our Small Space Workout, we want to keep it simple.
We’re going to focus on three different areas:
- The lower body
- The “push” muscles
- The “pull” muscles
To train our lower body in a small space, we’ll focus on squats and lunges.
If you’re just starting out, you can do assisted squats against a wall or chair:
We’ll follow the same idea for our lunges:
Once these become no thang, we’ll level up to regular squats:
Or regular lunges:
For our “push” muscles, you guessed it, it’s all about push-up variations.
We can start will simple push-ups against a wall:
To knee push-ups:
To regular push-ups:
If you want to make these even more challenging, you can use the wall to brace your feet to do elevated push-ups.
A sturdy stool or chair could also be handy here:
For our “pull” muscles, this becomes a little tricker in a small space with no equipment.
But we can get by with two things:
We’ll use both of these to perform bodyweight rows.
To use a towel for rows:
- Fold your towel twice over, hotdog style.
- Step on the towel with your front foot.
- Grab each end of the towel and pull yourself downwards.
- After your back gets parallel-ish to ground, lift yourself back up – that’s one rep.
It’ll look something like this:
The other option for our pull muscles, is to do rows from a doorway.
To perform a doorway row:
- Stand in front of your doorway and grab both sides.
- Place your feet a little closer to the doorway, so you’re leaning back.
- Sit back so you put weight on your arms.
- Pull yourself forward.
You’ll end up looking like so:
If you want to next level it, you can use your towel AND doorway for your rows too:
The towel might help you lean back even further, creating a more challenging exercise.
I walk you through how to use a towel for various pull exercises right here:
If either of these starts to feel easy, try doing them with only one hand, like so:
Here’s what to do for your Level 1 Small Space Workout:
- Pick a lower body, a push, and pull exercise.
- Run through a circuit, doing about 10 reps of each.
- Repeat until you get tired.
That’s it. Don’t overthink your workout. Just get moving.
When this starts to feel easy, move on to Level 2.
Small Space Workout Level 2: Bring the Intensity
Once you get comfortable doing our lower-body, push, and pull exercises, there are a few things we can do to up the intensity.
For example, did you know you can do deadlifts with nothing but a towel?
The trick is to get your setup right, by pushing your hips back and chest out. Then you perform the same upward motion as you would in a normal deadlift.
I walk you through how to do a towel deadlift right here:
I apologize if you rip your towel in half doing this because you’re so strong (but like, worth it).
The other cool thing you can do with towels? Chin-ups!
If you have a sturdy door and a couple of towels, you can use them as a chin-up alternative.
Naturally, I have a video on doing towel chin-ups right here:
But you don’t need towels to do a Level 2 Small Space Workout.
Here are two ways to level up your “no-space” training:
#1) Think One-Sided
We’re going to do some unilateral training by working one limb at a time.
Squats no problem? How about a one-legged squat?
We can do the same thing with our push muscles, by doing one-arm push-ups:
#2) Change the Tempo
We have a couple of options here.
A) Slow down
By slowing down your cadence, you’re going to increase the time under tension of your muscles. That equals a tougher workout, which equals a win.
Have you ever taken a full 60 seconds to do a push-up? It’s gnarly:
B) Hold the movement.
The other option would be to hold your position at the top or bottom of an exercise.
For example, holding a chin-up at the top position:
Or holding a squat at the bottom position:
If you add a 10-second pause during each rep, you’re going to wear yourself out MUCH quicker, small space or no small space.
Small Space Workout Level 3: May the Force Be With You
Do you have access to a hallway that you can commandeer for a bit?
Then you can do our Star Wars Workout!
It’s designed to be done in a small space, like a hallway, or an escape pod.
At this level, if you were going to buy some equipment for a small home gym, my number one recommendation would be to purchase some resistance or exercise bands:
They don’t take up much space and can offer you a lot of versatility for Small Space Workouts.
For example, you can do deadlifts using a resistance band:
There are your lower-body, push, and pull exercises we talked about earlier. Plus, we’re barely scratching the surface of all the exercises you can do with a sturdy exercise band.
If you want some more ideas on how to train with bands, or which ones you should buy, check out our Ultimate Guide to Training With Resistance Bands.
Lessons from Tony Stark for “No Space” Workouts
We’d all love a tremendous amount of space to work out.
However, we work with whatever we have, whenever we can, wherever we are.
So remember, if Tony Stark can build a robot in a cave with a pile of scraps, then we can scrape together a workout with next to nothing as well.
Or build our own suits out of cardboard.
Which I’ve done.
Just remember, you got this.
If you want any help in working out in a small space, we got your back.
Here’s how to continue your training with Nerd Fitness:
Next Step #1) Our Online Coaching Program: if you want someone to design you a workout (like me!) for any small space, we got you!
You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you. Just click on the image below for more details:
Next Step Number #2) If you want a daily prompt for doing workouts in any space, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).
Try your free trial right here:
Next Step Number #3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion. You’ll meet individuals who train at the gym, in their cramped basement, or in outer space (that last one may or may not be true, but we do HAVE Rebels working out on boats in the middle of the ocean and even Antarctica!).
Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our Rebel Starter Kit, which includes all of our “work out at home” guides, the Nerd Fitness Diet Cheat Sheet, and much more!
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- The 15 mistakes you don’t want to make.
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- Complete and track your first workout today, no gym required.
Alright, I want to hear from you:
Do you train in a small space?
What’s your “no space” workout look like?
Any tips or tricks for training in a phonebooth we should know of?
Let me know in the comments!
PS: If you want any more help training at home with little to no equipment, check out:
Photo source: iraevva © 123RF.com, Daniel Timothy Allison © 123RF.com, Petro Perutskyi © 123RF.com, lightfieldstudios © 123RF.com, af8images © 123RF.com, Alexander Tolstykh © 123RF.com.
I’m a health and wellness writer and blogger with an interest in food, fitness, and living life to the fullest.
Life is a journey. Every day is a new opportunity to find your balance and take care of yourself.
I’m an introverted, diet-conscious woman who is passionate about sharing health and wellness tips to help others.