The Perfect Quick Workout for When You're Short on Space

 by Holly Roser

Ever been to the gym on a day that it’s just too crowded? (Thanks, New Year’s resolutions and bikini season.) Or maybe the only place you have to work out is your tiny living room, dorm or hotel room. Don’t abandon your workout just because you’re short on space.


Ever been to the gym on a day that it's just too crowded? (Thanks, New Year's resolutions and bikini season.) Or maybe the only place you have to work out is your tiny living room, dorm or hotel room. Don't abandon your workout just because you're short on space. Life happens, and sometimes it's easy to be tempted to skip your workout when you don't have plenty of room to train. But with this workout, you'll scorch calories even without wide open spaces. It's full-body conditioning with minimal equipment -- you only need a pair of dumbbells! Plus, you'll still get the same feeling of accomplishment as if you'd done your regular gym workout.

1. Squat to Press

Squats are by far the best lower-body exercise, and adding a shoulder press makes it a full-body move. Los Angeles-based personal trainer Ally Ackourey recommends this move to her clients, "because it requires both upper- and lower-body strength for the entire move. This burns more calories and recruits more muscle fibers than an isolated exercise, giving you more bang for your buck." HOW TO DO IT: Holding five- to 10-pound dumbbells at your shoulders, squat down, ensuring that your knees aren't over your toes and your feet are pointing straight ahead. Squat until your hamstrings are parallel to the floor. As you come up out of your squat, push through your heels and press the dumbbells over your head with your palms facing each other. Do this exercise for three sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Related: 12 Essential Squat Variations to Try

2. Lunge to Biceps Curl

Take two fairly basic exercises and amp them up by putting them together! This exercise combines the lower-body blast of lunges with the upper-body boost of biceps curls. HOW TO DO IT: Start with your feet together, and then take a big step in front of you. Bend both knees to 90 degrees, making sure your front knee isn't going beyond your toes. Straighten your legs to stand back up, then do a biceps curl with the same weights you used in the previous exercise. Curl slowly, and don't swing the weights. Engage your core to ensure that your back isn't arching. It doesn't take long to feel the burn on this move! Try three sets of 10 reps on each leg.

Related: 22 New Lunges to Supercharge Leg Day

3. Plank Walk

Get a killer core and shoulder workout with this plank variation. You'll need all the core stability you can muster. HOW TO DO IT: Starting in a push-up position, walk your hands in front of you as far as your limited space will allow, following step by step with your feet. Then slowly walk your hands back to the start, with your back as flat as possible. Don't forget to breathe! To increase your core engagement, try to bring your rib cage in while tightening your lower abs. Do three to five sets (depending on how far you can "walk"), with a one-minute rest in between sets. If you're really short on space, try a plank walk-out.

Related: The 20 Best Body-Weight Exercises

4. Squat Jumps

Bring up your heart rate and burn some serious calories by adding in this plyometric exercise. Squat jumps improve your power and athleticism, says Los Angeles based-trainer Rachel Elizabeth Murray. But they also improve hip extension, which is especially important if you do a lot of sitting. HOW TO DO THEM: Starting with your feet hip-width apart and pointed straight in front of you, lower down into a squat with your knees at a 90-degree angle. Jump as high as you can, landing softly with slightly bent knees. Repeat eight times. Focus on your glutes and driving through your heels to put the weight on your hamstrings and glutes instead of your quads. Do three sets of eight reps.

Related: A Killer Full-Body Workout for the Gym Floor

5. Cross Crunches

The plank walks from earlier are great for overall core strength. But you need to finish off your ab workout by really challenging your obliques and lower abs. HOW TO DO THEM: Start by lying on your back and placing your hands behind your head to support your neck. Lift your right leg off the floor while bending your knee, reaching your left elbow to your right knee. Make sure when doing any crunch or ab workout that you aren't using your lower back to assist you in coming up off the floor. Repeat this with your left leg and right elbow, and continue alternating for three sets of 30 reps.

Related: 21 Sit-Up Variations You Won't Totally Hate

6. Side Chops

Channel your inner lumberjack with this move that targets your glutes and obliques at the same time. HOW TO DO THEM: Start off with both hands on your five- to 10-pound weight, then slowly twist from your left to your right starting from your feet and "raising the ax" up over your head. Make sure your back is flat and your core is fully engaged. When the weight is over your head, straighten your arms and "chop" back down to your feet. When twisting, use the balls of your feet, bend both knees and turn your body just as the weight is going up or down, making a "chopping" motion. Do this move for three sets of 10 reps on each side.

Related: 12 Cable-Machine Moves That Build Muscle and Torch Calories

7. Squat Burpees

You were probably hoping burpees wouldn't be part of the workout. But there are so many benefits to adding high-intensity intervals to your workouts, including burning fat! Personal trainer Rachel Elizabeth Murray has them high on her list of top exercises because they increase your power and improve functional movement. HOW TO DO THEM: Since you're almost at the end of your workout, use this modified version: Start off with your feet hip-width apart. Bend into a half squat, place your hands on the ground in front of you, and then jump back into the push-up position. Jump your feet back to your hands, then stand up into a squat. Repeat for three sets of eight with a two-minute rest between sets.

Related: 15 New Burpees You Must Try

8. High Rows

Rows -- so simple, but so effective. This highly beneficial exercise strengthens and tones your upper back, biceps and triceps. HOW TO DO THEM: Holding five- to eight-pound dumbbells and with your knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart, lift your hands up to your shoulders. Press your arms up at a 45-degree angle away from your body before rowing them back down. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, keeping your shoulders down and your head in line with your spine. Engage your core to keep yourself stable. Look straight in front of you while slightly bending your knees. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps with 30 seconds of rest in between.

Related: 9 TRX Moves to Sculpt an Insanely Strong Upper Body

Other Workout Ideas for Small Spaces

Whenever you have limited space for your workout, always think of the most challenging moves you can do in the shortest amount of time. Or get resourceful! Pop in a workout DVD in your living room. Do one of the STRONGER workouts (no equipment needed). Pull up another one of your favorite YouTube workout channels. Invest in small-space-friendly equipment like a pair of dumbbells, a jump rope or a TRX system you can attach to a strong doorway.

Related: Get fit with LIVESTRONG.COM's free workout program, STRONGER!

What Do YOU Think?

What do you do when the gym is too crowded for your regular workout? Have you ever worked out in your living room, hotel room or dorm? What's your favorite workout when you're short on space? Do you favor workout DVDs and YouTube videos? Or maybe you ditch your small space and take your workout outdoors? Share your thoughts, suggestions and questions in the comments section below!

Related: 10 Compound Moves for Greater Pump in Less Time


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