Training With Minimal (Or No) Equipment

Posted: May 29, 2013 in Lift Technique, Training
Tags: , , , , , , ,

One problem that we ran into a lot last offseason at Next Level Sports Performance was that we had a lot of athletes in the gym, and not enough equipment for everybody to use. This year, thankfully, we’ll be expanding and buying more equipment/plates/dumbbells, so this hopefully won’t be an issue anymore. However, last year we had to do a lot of improvising due to limited equipment. For starters, our dumbbells only went up to 50 pounds, and we only had 2 of each. We had four 45-lb plates, and 2 each of 35s, 25s, 10s, 5s, and 2.5s. With up to 6 athletes in the gym at a time, this quickly became a problem.

The majority of the time I spent writing programs was dedicated to figuring out how to best utilize our resources, while making sure everyone got the work that they needed. I’d say out of every hour I spent programming, 40 minutes of it was dedicated to figuring out creative ways to make use of what we had, without shortchanging anybody.

If you’re ever in a situation where you don’t have access to the gym equipment you normally use, you can use these methods to still get a good workout in. Or, if you’re looking to add some variety to your workouts, you can substitute these exercises into your current program.

Here’s 5 of the lifts we substituted into programs last year to make up for lack of resources.

Exercise #1: Dumbbell Bench Press

Problem: Dumbbells aren’t heavy enough

Solution: One-arm pushups

All you need for one-arm pushups are something to push against (or just a floor, if you’re strong enough). A Smith machine, squat rack with a barbell on it, or even a couch can be used for one-arm pushups. You can even do them against a wall. As an added bonus, one-arm pushups are super challenging for your core, as you’ll need to fight to keep your hips and shoulders square, and your low back neutral throughout the movement.

Exercise #2: Squats

Problem: Squat rack is not available

Solution: Peterson Step Downs

If you don’t have access to a squat rack, you can perform this challenging single leg squat variation instead. All you need is a box, bench, or anything else that you can stand on. Try to keep your weight back as much as you can and focus on using your glutes. If you need to add weight to this exercise (not likely), you can hold a dumbbell in front of you like a goblet squat.

Exercise #3: Dumbbell Rows

Problem: Dumbbells not heavy enough

Solution: Landmine Rows

I call them “Landmine Rows”, but you don’t even need a landmine. All you need is corner that you can jam one end of a barbell into. Then, just load some weight onto the bar, assume a bent-over row stance, and have at it. Uncomfortable thumbs-up: optional.

Exercise #4: Deadlifts

Problem: Not enough plates

Solution: Good Mornings

If you don’t have enough plates to load up the bar for deadlifts, you can get a similar training effect from good mornings. Both lifts train the hip hinge movement, and strengthen the posterior chain. And with good mornings, you don’t need nearly as much weight for the lift to be effective. For example, I can deadlift over 400 lbs, but I still am challenged by good mornings at 135.

Exercise #5: Farmer’s Walks

Problem: Dumbbells not heavy enough

Solution: Wrap a towel around the dumbbell handle

50 pounds? Easy

50 pounds? Easy.

50 pounds plus a towel? Not so easy.

50 pounds plus a towel? Not so easy.

If you want to increase the intensity of your farmer’s walks, you can make the exercise more difficult by wrapping a towel or t-shit around the handle. The thicker the handle is, the harder it is to grip it.


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