Updated: Oct 3
In this article you'll discover twelve exercises that are not only highly engaging but require little to no equipment. Thus you can keep fit in the comfort of your own home!
The common misconception is that, to burn fat, keep fit and retain a respectable level of physicality, you need a fancy gym full of high-tech kit and state of the art training contraptions. This is pure poppycock.
As this article will show, you can obtain, maintain or advance fitness with minimal equipment and without even having to step foot in a gym.
It may come as a surprise to some but there are in fact loads – literally loads and loads – of exercises and activities that you can do in the home (or local environment). With minimal equipment, a postage stamp sized patch of space and perhaps your local park, you have ample resources to remain physically active.
The aim of this article, then, is to provide you with 12 exercises that you can do at home and/or at your local park. Yes the majority of the exercises are simple. But this shouldn’t be regarded as a limitation or weakness.
Quite often it’s the simplest exercises that tend to deliver the best fitness results (which accounts for why they are ubiquitous throughout military training). Also, simpler exercises are usually more accessible to a wider audience, meaning they are perfect for the beginner, which of course makes them more inclusive, and they stimulate the whole body – not just target a specific muscle.
This is an important attribute that we should look for in an exercise; especially so when we are pursuing general fitness, improved mobility and augmented health. An exercise such as the burpee, though pitifully simple (I think it boasts an IQ of 1), stimulates the whole body including the heart and lungs (cardio-respiratory system).
There are few exercises that you could do in a gym that offer the same range of physical stimulation; and those that do (such as, say, a barbell thruster) probably require considerable equipment.
Thus, by incorporating into your training regime the 12 exercises to follow, you will have all the tools you need to shape a lean, defined body that performs as well as it looks.
The 12 exercises that form this article have been selected because:
They can be performed at home or at your local park
Require little to no equipment
Stimulate multiple muscle groups
Are modifiable and can be adapted
And those 12 exercise are:
Hand-stand wall walks
Russian sit up
Let's get cracking then!
Awesome Exercise #1 – The Sumo Squat
Muscles worked: the primary muscles worked when practising the sumo squat are the quadriceps (anterior thigh muscles). As well as the quads the sumo squat also engages the hamstrings, gluteus maximus (bum) and your calves (specifically the soleus muscle of your calf).
The sumo squat is primarily a leg-based exercise. However, you can use weights – either a barbell or dumbbells (or tins of beans!) – which will make this a whole-body exercise. You can also modify the exercise and during the upwards phase of the squat bolt on a lateral raise – thus engaging the deltoids and trapezius muscles.
The sumo squat is a great exercise if you are looking to improve the muscular strength and endurance of your legs. Additional physical benefits include: improved balance, stability, and your range of squatting flexibility (augmented mobility at the knee).
Stand with your feet 1.5 shoulder widths apart. Your toes point outwards at roughly 45-degrees. This will create stable platform from which to execute the squat.
Slightly bend your knees, and push your hips back whilst keeping your chest up and your knees pointing outwards.
Keep lowering your hips until you can see that your hamstrings are parallel (or slightly below parallel) to the ground.
On reaching the half-way position your shins should be almost vertical, your back is straight and shoulder pulled back.
To complete the movement fire though the quads and glutes and stand up nice and erect – there should still be a slight bend in the knee.
Methods of Modification
You can advance this exercise by using weights – such as those mentioned above or, better still, by holding a kettlebell. Also, you can include a plyometric element and jump at the top position of each repetition. This will transform the sumo squat into a power-strength movement whilst also stimulating the cardiovascular system.
Maintain the wide stance throughout the exercise
Keep your chest pointing forwards and knees pointing out
Keep your back straight so as to avoid injury
Once you develop sumo squatting confidence you can begin to include weights – don’t use weights if you are not yet comfortable with the exercise!
Don’t dispense with technical discipline during the movement and make sure that you maintain strict posture throughout.
Don’t get carried away by doing too many repetitions until you get the hang of the exercise as this may not only increase your chances of sustaining an injury but it will almost certainly induce severe DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness)
Awesome Exercise #2 – Running
Muscles worked: the muscle groups targeted when running are the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, hip flexors, calves, thoracic diaphragm, tensor fascia latae, flexor hallucis brevis or longus, tibialis anterior, peroneals, core muscles, and upper body muscles (chest and back). And, of course, the cardiac muscle (aka the heart).
There are many physical and mental benefits to running. For example, running can improve your overall mental health due to the fact that the brain, during cardiovascular exercise, releases dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin; collectively called the feel good chemicals (or the ‘runner’s high’).
Don’t run off, there’s more!
Running also strengthens your heart and diaphragm whilst improving the efficiency of your cardio-respiratory system. In addition, a runner can expect to enjoy increased bone density, weight loss and a plethora of other positive outcomes.
Establish a distance you would like to run. A beginner should look to run for no further than 2 miles – and running should be interspersed with walking. When you develop your physicality you can, of course, increase the distance.
Always warm-up prior to running (prior to any and all exercise!). A warm-up may consist of walking, light jogging and mobility exercises.
When you begin running, remember to keep a relaxed posture so that you do not develop tension in the body. Remain relaxed and avoid hunching over.
Breathe steadily and deeply so that you replenish the working muscles with the oxygen they need.
Wear clothes you feel comfortable to run in – either Lycra or, if you’re a bit self-conscious, loose fitting cotton wear.
Ensure that your trainers are suitable running trains and not fashionable pumps or ‘boating’ shoes.
Always warm-up before setting off on your run. This will reduce injury and at the same time improve performance.
Don’t force yourself to go faster than what you are capable of as this will increase your chances of sustaining an injury.
Don’t attempt long distances if you have not built up sufficient stamina in the legs. Start off with shorter distances of 2 to 3 miles and, over time, build up to 5 to 6 miles.
Don’t run too often, and don’t run more than what your body is capable of. Over training could result in injury, decreased performance and loss of motivation.
Awesome Exercise #3: Lunges
Muscles worked: the muscles targeted whilst performing lunges are mainly those of the legs and the surrounding areas. Some of them include the gastrocnemius, quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximums and hip flexors. Other muscles worked are the transverse abdominus and, depending on how the exercise is modified, the deltoids and upper back.
Lunges enjoy popularity amongst fitness enthusiasts because they improve muscular endurance whilst developing agility and coordination. Furthermore, lunges are often used in sports conditioning because they work several components of fitness simultaneously making them a very effective exercise.
Start by standing up tall, feet shoulder width apart, hands resting by your sides.
Lead off with a leg of your choice – either the left or the right – by stepping out about 2 to 3 foot to your front.
When the foot is firmly planted bend the knee until your hamstring roughly makes 90-degree angle with the calf. In this position the rear leg should be extended with a slight bend of kink at the knee.
To conclude the movement fire through the quadriceps of the lead leg and return back to the start position.
Either repeat 10 to 12 reps on one leg, or alternate as you progress through the set.
Methods of Modification
Of course there is always the option of holding weights when lunging. This increases the resistance thus increasing the intensity. But you can also perform dumbbell or kettlebell presses whilst executing the lunge making this a true whole-body exercise. And finally, as with the sumo squat, you can incorporate a plyometric element by explosively powering out of the lunge.
The knee of the leading leg should be aligned with the ankle and when in the lung position you should be able to sight your toes
The heel of the rear leg lifts off the floor
Back must remain straight and chin is parallel to the floor – no looking down
Shoulders and hips are even
Maintain abdominal contraction throughout the exercise
Do not slouch forward or back – like a line dancer your torso should remain in an upright position whilst performing the movement
Do not step short as this will result in extreme bending of the knee – no more than 90-degrees
And do not tap the knee cap of the rear leg on the floor as you lunge forward; this is a common mistake and one to be avoided (this mistake is even made in the CrossFit tutorial video)
Awesome Exercise #4: Handstand Wall Walks
Muscles worked: when wall walking the muscles stimulated include the deltoids, triceps, rhomboids, abdominals and erector spinae.
By performing this exercise you will develop multiple components of fitness such as muscular strength, muscular endurance, balance and coordination.
Handstand wall walking is a great way to improve upper-body physicality. This exercise is a quintessential functional strength builder but it also helps to forge rock-solid musculature whilst carving a lean defined physique. Truly, wall walking is one way to get the body of a gymnast.
Start in the ‘up push-up’ position with your feet against a wall. Probably the best way to get into the correct position is by walking the feet up the wall from a semi push-up. If all else fails ask a mate to help manoeuvre you into a handstand.
Once in position simply start to walk your hands from one side of the wall and back again. Make sure that you cover the same distance from left to right.
Keep your core tight and back straight.
To finish, either walk your hands away from the wall whilst stepping your feet down the wall until you are back in the push-up position. Alternatively, slide your legs to one side bending at the knees as you do so.
Methods of Modification
The simplest method of modifying or advancing the wall walk is by periodically completing a handstand push-up.
Keep you back ironing board-straight when walking
Keep your core engaged throughout the movement
Remain close to the wall whilst walking – the further your hands are away from the wall the more likely your back will sag: this must be avoided at all costs
Place a soft training mat down where you plan to walk – just in case you decide to do a Jenga
Don’t walk straight away: just begin by supporting yourself in the position.
Don’t perform this exercise in a cluttered room or near jutting surfaces/objects.
Don’t hold your breath
Don’t lockout at the elbow
Awesome Exercise #5: Bear Crawl
Muscles used: when bear crawling you use lots of different muscles – pretty much all of them. But the primary muscles worked include: the deltoids, triceps, glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings. Secondary, or incidental, muscles include the pectorialis major (chest), upper back (trapezius, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi) and core.
The bear crawl is a classic functional exercise that can develop oragutan-like upper-body strength – and if you didn’t know, it is orangutans, not gorillas, that are the strongest primates. In addition, the bear crawl will improve core strength and cardiovascular fitness.
To perform this highly underrated exercise firstly kneel down – preferably on soft surface, such as grass – and place your hands on the floor as if you were about to prostrate yourself before the good lord. When you’re ready to crawl tip your weight forward and pop up onto the balls of the feet.
At this point you should resemble that of a big baby.
Now begin walking by leading off with the right hand whilst stepping forward with the left leg.
Continue on in this fashion until you have covered the set distance.
Methods of Modification
Keep breathing throughout the exercise – obvious though this ‘do’ is it is very tempting to hold the breath; believe me, I’ve done more bear crawling than Grizzly Adams
Keep your eyes fixed on the patch of turf about a foot or two from your lead hand – so as to avoid the bird bath and/or garden furniture
Don’t lock out at the elbow – the arm should remain slightly kinked
Don’t allow you back to sag and don’t let your head loll about like a pigs; maintain control of your body
Awesome Exercise #6: Skipping
Muscles worked: all of them but primarily the heart.
Skipping, or ‘jumping rope’, is a staple of the boxer’s daily training diet. Primarily used as a warm-up and cool-down exercise, skipping confers many physical benefits. Bruce Lee purportedly said that ‘10 minutes of skipping rope is like 30 minutes of jogging.’ Though I’ve yet to encounter any research that supports his statement, anyone who’s vigorously skipped for ten minutes will probably agree with him. So why is such a seemingly simple and, excuse the term, old fashioned exercise so stimulating?
This probably has something to do with the way skipping works the body. When performing this exercise multiple major muscle groups are simultaneously recruited; such as the quadriceps, back and shoulders and of course the heart and lungs (diaphragm). In addition, a plethora of ‘synergist’, or stabilising, muscles are engaged to, well, stabilise the body during the movement. I suppose, in short, I could have just said that skipping in some way activates every muscle in your body. It’s no wonder then that ten minutes of jumping rope gets the blood pumping and the sweat pouring. (Need a rope?)
How to skip in 7 steps
Step 1: WARM-UP!
Step 2: Whilst holding the rope in your hands, practice double footed jumping – you are not jumping rope yet. Spend 1 to 2 minutes doing this.
Step 3: Holding the handles loosely, the rope at rest behind you, turn it over and jump the rope –JUST ONCE!
Step 4: Congratulate yourself
Step 5: Repeat Step 3
Step 6: Again, a bit of self-praise
Step 7: Now that you’ve had a little go at getting over that wily rope it’s time to start racking up personal bests: try to count as many unbroken double footed skips as possible. Every time you clip the rope or whip your arse, stop, take a 3 second count, then back into it trying each time to better your previous PB
Steps 1 to 7 should span the duration of about ten minutes. I would advise against exceeding this. Put the rope away and merrily go about with the rest of your session. Over the course of the week try to get two or three more practice sessions in.
Awesome Exercise #7: Press-up
Muscles worked: pectoralis major (chest), anterior deltoideus (shoulder – the front bit), triceps brachii (the curtain rail from which bingo wings flap) and transverse abdmoinus (the six pack – for those that’ve got one (six)).
The humble press-up is a classic calisthenic exercise that is a staple of the military training diet. And it still features as one of the mandatory fitness tests that all aspirant soldiers must pass if they wish to gain admittance into the British military.
Perhaps the reason why the press-up is so popular throughout military training is because it provides an almost instant indicator of the recruit’s upper-body strength. Also, the technical application can be explained and demonstrated in seconds and no equipment is required. Making this one of the most accessible exercises on the market.
Like so many (I hate to use the phrase) old fashioned exercises, press-ups offer more bang per invested buck. Really, the press-up is a quasi-plank which accounts for why it works the transverse abdominus and, to a lesser extent, the hip flexors and quadriceps.
And finally, we mustn’t forget that the press-up is bewilderingly versatile; there is literally hundreds of modification options. See a snippet of those modifications below:
Strict (Military) Press-up
Wide Hands Press-up
Triangle (Diamond) Press-up
Super (Hindu) Press-up
Staggered Hands Press-up
Sphinx Press-up (Triceps Extension)
Spiderman (Side Kick) Press-up
Single arm Press-up
Firstly adopt the pre-press-up position: hands placed on the floor spaced slightly over shoulder width and in-line with the shoulders, knees down.
When you are ready to start your set raise your knees so that you are in the ‘high plank’ position.
Under control lower your body until there is a 90°angel at the elbow joint (you can, of course, go lower if you wish).
Pressing evenly through both arms return to the high plank.
Methods of Modification
As I endeavoured to identify above, there are many press-up variations. In addition to the 9 listed above you can also perform plyometric – or clap-hand press-ups – which advances the dynamism of this exercise. Also, you can place a power bag under your chest and, prior to performing a press-up, drag it to your side then complete the rep.
I’ll stop there because the enormity of potential variations could comfortably consume a book.
Keep control throughout the movement
Fix your eyes on a point about 1 to 2 feet from your fingertips
Do not lock-out at the elbow at the top position
Do not hold your breath – this is a very common mistake and one to be avoided
Do not allow your back to sag in the middle: it should remain perfectly flat like a piece of wood
Awesome Exercise #8: Burpee
Muscles worked: primarily the quads, core and cardiac (muscle). Yes, the burpee is a superb cardiovascular antagonist and perhaps the best body-weight exercise ever conceived (in my opinion).
Not quite convinced with my over-enthusiastic assessment of this sadomasochistic soul destroyer? Master the technical mechanics outlined below and have a bash at performing 100 reps as quickly as your physicality will permit, then email which muscle it worked the most.
Start by standing nice and erect like the good soldier on parade.
Squat all the way down until the palms of your hands are firmly planted on the floor.
Shifting your body weight forward shoot both feet back simultaneously. If you’ve followed the aforementioned teaching points correctly, you should be in the start of the press-up position. This is half the burpee completed.
To complete the movement push off the floor with your feet springing them back level with your hands.
Stand up ensuring to jump at the top position.
When completing multiple repetitions, as you only ever should do with burpees, as you land after the jump sink straight into the next rep. This saves energy and helps to keep the momentum going.
Keep the body composed – limbs shouldn’t be popping and pinging out all over the place: when burpeeing the movement must be smooth and sleek like a Bolshoi Ballet performer
Relax during the movement
Make sure that your legs go out and come in together – a common mistake is to shoot out one leg first followed, of course, by the other. Don’t do this!
Do not be lazy and bend at the waist – ensure to squat all the way down.
Do not perform partial burpees: failing to fully extend the legs from crouched into the press-up position constitutes as a partial rep
Awesome Exercise #9: Plank
Muscles worked: Whilst in the act of imitating a length of wood, and at the same time defying the inexorable law of gravitation (this we call planking), a multitude of muscles are engaged. The primary muscles activated include the rectus abdominis (abs), erector spinae (back), the transverse abdominis (which is a sheet of muscle under the rectus abdominis that enfolds around the torso like a large belt), the latissimus dorsi and, to a lesser extent, the pectorialis major (chest).
Though the plank appears on the surface to be a simple exercises many find it difficult to hold the position for a mere minute (the world record is about 36hrs ±5 minutes). But by working on you planking performance, and it’s well worth the effort, you will eventually develop a seriously compact core.
Start off by kneeling down – preferably on a soft surface; such as the shag pile or Yoga mat.
Lowering down from the hips rest your elbows on the floor – the elbows should be roughly in-line with your shoulders.
As you engage the core extend your legs out one at a time.
If you’ve followed these teaching point to the letter you should by now be adopting a perfect plank position: weight evenly distributed between your elbows and feet, legs together, back flat, elbows spaced shoulder width, hands clasped together, breathing slow and methodically.
When your anatomy resembles the written description above your objective is to hold the position for a set time period – 20, 30, 40, 60 seconds – without allowing gravity to corrupt your posture. The moment you feel cracks appear in your posture rest your knees down.
Methods of Modification
The plank is one heck of a modifyable exercise. From the primary position you have the options of raising an arm or leg – or both! (opposites of course) – off the floor which amplifies the resistance. Also, you can, whenever the fancy takes, pop into the high plank (which is just the press-up start position) and intermittently do exactly that: press-ups. And then there’s the side plank, the dolphin and downward dog (both of which are Yoga movements).
Maintain a perfectly straight posture throughout the exercise
Remember to control your breathing
Keep your spine in a neutral position so that your body isn’t crooked
Keep your neck straight and in line with your body
Do not stick your ass in the air!
Do not let your head loll about – maintain composure at all times
Do not collapse into an ignoble heap once the time elapses – come out of the exercise under control
Awesome Exercise #10: Pull-up
Muscles Worked: Pull-ups require the use of a variety of different muscles of the upper-body. These include: latissimus dorsi, teres major (back), rear deltoid (shoulders), pectoralis major (chest), biceps brachii, triceps, brachialis and brachioradialis (forearms).
The pull-up is imbued with air of infamy for the fact that few people can perform even one full repetition. Many aspiring Royal Marines have failed the pre-training course because they lacked the upper-body strength to complete 5 full pull-ups – a mandatory PRMC fitness test. However, by persisting with this notoriously obstreperous exercise, you will develop some serious strength.
Firstly you need to locate a parallel bar that is suspended at least 6 foot above the ground. In my experience the best place to find such a bar is usually at a public park.
Stand directly under the bar and reach up and grasp it. (There is a variety of different hand positions you can employ: palms facing backwards places emphasis on the biceps; palms facing forwards the forearms and lattisimus dorsi; palms facing each other – neutral grip – works a mixture of the aforementioned muscles.)
Prior to initiating the exercise remain in a ‘dead hang’ – that is, arms perfectly straight – and without using momentum for assistance smoothly pull-up.
It’s not until your chin has cleared the bar that the upwards phase of the movement is completed.
Once your chin has cleared that bar, under control lower back to the dead hang.
Methods of Modification
After a few weeks of diligent practice you’ll be able to complete 10 good pull-ups no problem. It’s at this point that you might want to increase the resistance. You can do this by gripping a weight between your legs, donning a weighted vest or using a weights belt. Of course, when you get really good at pull-ups you can progress on to ‘muscle-ups’.
Always start at a dead hang
Ensure to keep your eyes riveted to the bar when pulling up
Keep breathing throughout the exercise
Always lower down slowly and with control
Do not swing into the upwards phase of the exercise
Do not let your fall from the upper-most position
Do not jump into the exercise and carry that momentum up into the movement – that does not constitute as a repetition
Awesome Exercise #11: Box Jump
Muscles Worked: box jumps primary stimulate the muscles of the lower body – the quadriceps, gluteus maximus and gastrocnemius. To a lesser extent they also work the hip flexors (the muscles that help raise your legs into your chest so that you can clear the box) and lower abdominals. However, if you decide to have a go at the modification ideas, box jumps quickly transform into a whole-body exercise.
Though arguably one of the least colourful exercises amongst the grand spectrum of alternatives, box jumps are brilliant for developing explosive ‘plyometric’ power in the legs. And the physicality they aid in developing has wide and far reaching applications.
For example, I used box jumps to help a county level swimmer eek out an edge in competitions. As I am not a swimming instructor I couldn’t help him improve his efficiency through the water. However, I thought that, if I could increase the explosive power in his quads, he’d be able to fire out torpedo-like from each tumble turn marginally quicker than his competitors.
So I started including box jumps in his training regime which over time conferred a neigh on negligible time advantage during each turn. But when multiplied over the 62 tumble turns that swimmers have to perform when competing over a mile (in a 25m pool), this negligible advantage made a noticeable difference in performance. This is what we call in the business ‘marginal gains’.
In addition to augmented explosive strength in the quadriceps box humps, if completed in multitudes, are a great cardiovascular antagonist. And when combined with press-ups they make for one of the best all-round fitness developers.
Firstly you need to procure or locate a stable object with a flat surface of between 2 to 3 feet tall to jump on. Such an object may include a plyometric box (if you happen to have one kicking about) or, alternatively, a wall or bench or sofa or ottoman or . . .
If possible place a soft mat (such as a Yoga mat) below the object on which you plan to jump.
After a good warm and a number of practices jumps at a lower height (you can perform ‘air’ jumps or squat jumps as primers), adopt a shoulder width stance about a foot away from the object.
Using your arms to generate a bit upward ‘umph!’ explosively power though the quads and perform a double footed jump onto the object. Both feet should be on the object – not just your toes – and planted firmly, your knees bent and arms out for balance.
Now stand up.
From here you can either step down off the box in a controlled manner – ensuring to alternate legs with each new repetition – or hop back down.
Methods of Modification
The box jump is one modifiable exercise. You have the option of holding weights to increase the resistance. (Note: never use a barbell – always dumbbells. Why? If you trip when jumping with dumbbells in your hands they can be easily ditched. But if you trip when jumping with a barbell racked across your back you could find yourself going the way of Sir Walter Raleigh.)
Another method of modifying the box jump is by bolting a bastod onto the end of each rep. There’s two ways of doing this. Way 1: perform a bastod (a burpee with a press-up) after hopping down off the box. Way 2: bound over the box, spin round on impact, then pop out a you-know-what. If you do decide to try these modifications make sure that cushioned mats are placed either side of the box and that you clear the box before dropping into the bastod.
Ensure that you maintain ‘soft’ knees throughout all phases of the exercise
Step down off the box under control – you can always hop back off the box of course
Apply the double foot jump
Place the entire foot on the box (object)
Don’t land with a thud – if you are then it is an indication that you are not adequately bending the knees on impact
Don’t attempt to jump on tall object first – build up to it
Don’t perform this exercise in inappropriate footwear: cushioned trainers only!
Awesome Exercise #12: Russian Twists
Muscles Worked: the Russian twist targets the transverse abdominus and all the surrounding muscles of the abdomen.
Granted, the Russian Twist does not boast the same range of muscle engagement as does some of its hard hitting comrades. However, it is a terrific core developer and abdominal sculptor.
Also, when you put that beasty circuit together comprised of burpees, box jumps and bastods, you’re going to need a recovery exercise. Russian Twist to the rescue!
Sit on a soft surface – preferably a training mat – with your knees and hips bent to about 90 degrees.
Your feet? They should be suspended about 6 inches off the floor.
Grasp an object that you plan to pendulum from side to side. Good objects include medicine balls, (light) kettlebells, dumbbells, tins of Heinz beans or the pet pooch – if you’ve got one. But, I hasten to add, you can of course perform the Russian Twist unencumbered – that is, without resistance.
Hold the object out at your front; note: the further the object is from your body the harder the exercise will be.
Begin to twist from side to side in a smooth sweeping cyclical motion.
Rotate at the hip
Keep your eyes fixed forward as you twist
Keep the core engaged throughout the movement
Do not sit too high as this places stress on the lower back
Do not rush or race the action – maintain methodical momentum
If you're still with me bravo! But now it's time to stop reading and start sweating!
(As we are very interested in user feedback at Hungry4Fitness, I would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)
Adam Priest is a former Royal Marines Commando, professional personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.