Someone once told me, “Excuses are like armpits. They stink and everyone’s got them.” This is even more evident in the training and nutrition realm where excuses are used more than ellipticals at a commercial gym. You hear it all the time—I don’t have time, I don’t know what to do when I get there, I don’t like the gym atmosphere, I’m going on vacation and there isn’t anywhere to train. Really? Or do you just not want to do it because it requires a little effort?

Once you reach a point when you realize you want to exercise, you’ll see that there aren’t any reasons as to why you can’t. In 30 minutes or less, you can finish a very worthwhile workout and have time to do what you were going to do like sit on the couch and watch Dancing with the Stars. In this article, I’ll explain why your excuses are just that—excuses—not reasons why you can’t workout at home, on the road, or anywhere without equipment.

Of course, “no equipment” is a very relative term because many people forget that their best tool for training is their body weight. Alwyn Cosgrove has written about this in the past, and I think it’s worth repeating. Until you can use your body weight in a correct, efficient, and effective way as the resistance in your training, you have no place under a barbell. Knock out 20 push-ups and do 10 pull-ups before you get under a bar to bench press. The fact is for people who make excuses about training, 20 push-ups is almost an impossible feat, and doing split squats or just body weight lunges would put them out of commission for a week because working out the legs is a rare sight to see unless you know what you’re doing.

So what exercises can you do while on the road, in your home, or in you backyard?
1) Push-up variations: You’ve seen them all I’m sure—regular, wide grip, diamond, plyometrics, Hindu, feet elevated, T-push-ups, and more. The goal here is to start with the one you can do for 10–15 reps and work up to 20 reps. Then switch to a more difficult variation.

2) Squat variations: These include split squats (one foot on the bench, couch, bed, or chair and one forward as if lunging), one leg squats, body weight squats, and jump squats. Again, as with the push-ups, start with body weight squats and move to split squats. Then practice and learn the one leg squats. Once you can knock out one leg squats, don’t tell me your legs and glutes are powerful.

3) Pull-ups and back work: This is the trickiest one, but excuses are still obsolete, remember? If you can’t find a bar for pull-ups (playground, sturdy branch, random objects you can grab on to that can support your weight), begin with lower back work because this is often neglected by many. Try back extensions on the ground (raising your upper body and lower body off the ground), opposite arm, opposite leg movements (I have no idea what these are called, but you’re on all fours and you raise your right arm and left leg at the same time. Tighten your abs and glutes and hold yourself in a straight line for a five-second count. Then switch sides.), and lastly, even though I said no equipment, towel rows (tie a towel to a doorknob, and with one arm, pull yourself to the door).

4) More lower body work: These can include lunges, step-ups, one leg Romanian deadlifts, hip raises, and side squats.

5) Abs: I don’t even think I need to give examples for this, but I will anyway. Try crunches, leg raises, planks, side planks, sit-ups, Jackknifes, spread leg sit-ups, oblique crunches, Russian twists, and bicycles.

6) Conditioning: If you’re stuck indoors, I still believe in the old school jumping jack. Jumping jacks in intervals aren’t easy if you perform them quickly enough. Go outside and run sprints, run in place, do high knees or butt kicks, or perform front/back jumping jacks (instead of working the adductors and abductors by only going from side to side, work in the sagittal plane by going front and back one leg and arm at a time). Just do anything that gets your heart rate elevated.

So now you have the weapons to fight against being sedentary, but how about a little program to start with? Will do. I find circuit training and antagonist training very useful for the time constricted and for effectiveness, especially in beginners. Fatiguing a group of muscles and then performing another set in a minute or two is the last thing that beginners want to feel. Therefore, moving on to another exercise takes their mind off of that fatigue and helps the muscles involved in that exercise recover. This works for advanced lifters, too. If you’re doing one leg squats and you knock out five on each side, then move to plyometric push-ups, and then to an abdominal exercise, your legs are recovering the whole time. Instead of the minute rest, you’re getting 3–5 minutes and you’re still exercising.

Example program outline

  • Push-up variation
  • Squat variation
  • Push-up variation
  • Squat variation
  • Push-up variation or pull-ups if you can (consider performing Hindu push-ups, which emphasize the delts)
  • Lower body variation
  • Abs variation
  • Lower back
  • Abs variation
  • Lower back
  • Conditioning (use intervals here like Tabatas for 30 seconds hard and then one minute easy or 1:1 minutes; use your imagination on these intervals)

Example program

  1. Feet elevated push-ups
  2. One leg squat
  3. Diamond push-ups
  4. Split squats
  5. Pull-ups
  6. Lunges
  7. Sit-ups
  8. Back extensions
  9. Leg raises

10.  Opposite arm, opposite leg (I wish I had a better name for this one)

11.  Conditioning, sprint work alternating 15 seconds of sprinting with 45 seconds of walking for 12 minutes or alternating one minute of hard jumping jacks with 30 seconds of easy jumping jacks for 15 minutes

There you have it. Don’t get caught up in reps and sets. Do what you can do, but don’t wimp out. Another thing you can do is something Dave Tate has talked about—time under tension. He said Eric Serrano had learned that muscle hypertrophy was best stimulated when the time under tension was about 30–45 seconds. So experiment with doing each exercise for time instead of sets and reps. The possibilities are endless.

Although I can’t even imagine a world where I don’t hear excuses, hopefully this article will stimulate some people to try something even if they don’t want to or can’t get to the gym.