circuit routine

Winter Workouts: When You're Stuck Inside

Between holiday travel and inclement weather, it’s easy to let Winter become a slack time in our fitness regime. Outdoor pools are shut down in a lot of regions. It’s darker and colder, which makes it hard to get up and get going. Even if you make it outside, it can be dangerous. Sometimes you just get stuck inside: you’re traveling somewhere without a gym or a pool; or the only time you have to yourself is a few minutes at the beginning or end of the day; or the weather just will not let you outside.
An ice storm hit our town yesterday, and today, schools are canceled, roads are slick and dangerous, and everybody who can be is hunkered down at home. The icy picture in the background of the top image? I snapped that at the bus stop on my way to work. With the New Year and New Goals, our intentions may be good, but our circumstances can get in the way.

Don’t let your health suffer and your New Year’s Goals fall by the wayside just because you’re separated from your pool or gym! The following exercises can all be done any time, any place, and with no exercise equipment required. Plus, it only takes 20 minutes and works every major muscle group.

The workout

Joe Wuebben with Muscle and Fitness magazine designed this circuit routine for maximum impact with minimal time and no equipment. Do 20 reps of each exercise, rest for 1 minute after a full circuit, and repeat 3-4 times or until you hit 20 minutes.

Legs Bodyweight Squat 20
Chest/Delts Incline Push-Up 20
Abs Hip Thrust 20
Legs Walking Lunge 20 total (10 per leg)
Chest/Delts Standard Push-Up 20
Abs Crunch 25

For the best possible  workout, keep a steady pace, working as quickly as you can while safely performing the full range of motion for each exercise. If you get to the point where your form fails or you can’t continue an exercise, take a 10-20 second break (a rest-pause, if you want the technical term) before continuing your reps.

The Exercises

If you’re not familiar with these exercises or how to perform them, we’ve put together a quick guide. As with any workout, use caution and adapt as needed.

Bodyweight Squat

Plant your feet hip-width apart, extend your arms in front of you, and lower yourself as far as you can by bending your knees, then stand up. Be careful not to extend your knees past your toes.



Watch how her shoulders stay in line with her feet so that her knees don’t go past her toes. (via GIPHY)

Incline Push-UP

This is as close as this routine comes to requiring equipment! If you’ve got a bed, a chair, or hey, even the edge of a tub, you’re set. Hold your weight on your hands with your body extended behind you and your legs or feet resting on a chair. Bend your elbows to lower your chest until it almost touches the ground, then fully extend your arms to return to the starting position.

Incline Push-UP

No boat required for incline push-ups. A bed or chair will do just fine.

 Hip Thrust

This one you can do a couple different ways. Lay flat on your back with your hands by your sides and your knees bent so your feet are planted. Raise your hips and lower. This can also be done with your arms and shoulder blades resting on the edge of a bed; in this variation, raise your hips until your thighs are parallel to the ground.

The no-bed-or-bench-required variation. (via GIPHY)

To better work your abs instead of your glutes, though, try this variation. Lay on your back and put your feet in the air. Knees can be bent, as in this illustration, or straight. Lift your hips into the air and lower.

Walking Lunge

For a good lunge, you want a long stride with your back straight, your front knee behind your toes, and your back knee 2-4 inches above the ground. If you have room, you can do these actually walking forward. If, for example, you’re stuck in a hotel room, just return to a standing position between lunges.

Airman performing lunge

You can keep your hands on your hips, or extend them in front of you like this.

 Standard Push-Up

Hold your weight on your hands with your legs extended fully behind you and your arms extending straight down from your shoulders. Try to keep your body straight as you lower your chest nearly to the ground, then extend your arms to push yourself back into the starting position

Try to maintain the full range of motion. (via GIPHY)


Rest on your back, use your abdominal muscles to raise your shoulders and legs, then pull your legs and shoulders toward each other. Support your head and neck with your hands; if you’re worried about a back or neck issue, do a modified crunch. Try standing with your hands behind or above your head and pulling your abdominals in as you move your upper body into a crunch form.

Push yourself, but don’t go so fast your form suffers. (via GIPHY)

Stay Active

Is this all looking like a bit much for you? Do fewer reps, modify the circuit, or shorten (or lengthen) the duration. Confession time: I tried this routine a couple times while traveling with my family over the new year, and it was…revealing. I’d popped in my headphones, which helped, and just did what I could right in my shared bedroom. I did 2.5 circuits in 20 minutes, and by the end, my push-ups were planks and my lunges were taking a lot of concentration.
Alternatively, yoga poses can be a great way to stretch and strengthen. This travel-inspired routine has several energizing poses with enough description for a beginner, plus a few more challenging ones for the advanced yogi. Or, just pop in your headphones and walk (or dance) in place through a few of your favorite songs. Get your body moving and take a few minutes to take care of yourself.

A Final Alternative

If you like the idea of a quick, intense workout but do better with a guide and have access to the internet, try this 9-minute workout. It’ll get your heart going in no time!

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