6 equipment free exercises for sculpting muscle over the holidays, according to a triple Olympian

a photo of Sarah Lindsay performing the lunge part of a side lunge
(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)

The last thing you want to be worrying about over the holiday period is missing out on the odd gym session. That being said, we get it. You spend months being consistent with a fitness regime, make the best progress you've made in a while to then realize you won't have time to go to the gym over the Christmas period. Or you find out your gym will be shutting over the break, or you will be traveling over the holidays and don't have access to your usual equipment. 

But not to worry, we've got you covered. We spoke to Sarah Lindsay, a three-time Olympic medalist in speed skating turned celebrity personal trainer, to help you with a strength-busting, no-equipment workout. While many essential exercises for building full-body strength typically involve popular weights like a barbell or kettlebells, rest assured that you can still build and maintain strength using just your body weight.

Lindsay's routine is the kind you can do anywhere, whether that be your old bedroom in your parent's house while visiting them over the holidays or perhaps the backyard if you're spending the festive period somewhere sunny. This workout is also great for any beginners to strength training or perhaps you are coming back from an injury and need a lower-impact form of strength training.

Let’s see what these Olympian approved bodyweight exercises are all about.

a photo of fitness trainer and former Olympian Sarah Lindsay
Sarah Lindsay

Sarah is a celebrity trainer, triple Olympian former speed skater and founder of ROAR Fitness gyms, which have three venues in London plus a fourth in Dubai. Sarah is an expert in strength and weight training for women and men, nutrition, fitness motivation, habit stacking, fitness goals and many other areas of health.

6 bodyweight moves for strength building — what is the workout?

Lindsay has brought together six bodyweight exercises that target a multitude of muscles across the body including, but not limited to, your core, shoulders, triceps, chest, quads and hamstrings. You will complete three sets of 20-25 reps with 30 seconds of rest between sets. Lindsay recommends trying to do the workout three to four times per week.

1. Plank Ups

a photo of Sarah Lindsay performing a plank before going into a plank up

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)

a photo of Sarah Lindsay performing a plank up

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)
  • Start in a press-up position on your feet or knees if the feet feel too difficult, with your elbows and hands beneath your shoulders.
  • Lower the body to rest on your forearms one at a time, keeping your elbows beneath your shoulders.
  • Pushing back up onto your hands one at a time, move back into a press-up position, keeping hips and torso as still as possible as you move.

2. Knees To Isometric Squat

a photo of Sarah Lindsay performing an isometric squat

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)

a photo of Sarah Lindsay kneeling before raising into an isometric squat

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)
  • Lower your body into a squat position by bending at the hips and knees.
  • At the bottom of the squat, step back and drop to one knee, followed by the other knee.
  • From a kneeling position, step forward with one leg and reach the squat position without standing up straight up.
  • Hold for a second then step down with the opposite leg to kneel again.
  • Keep alternating from one side to the other.

3. Pike Shoulder Press Up

a photo of Sarah Lindsay performing a pike shoulder press up

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)

a photo of a Sarah Lindsay performing a pike shoulder press up

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)
  • Begin in an inverted V shape.
  • Keep your arms and legs straight.
  • Bend your elbows, then slowly lower your upper body towards the floor.
  • Slowly push back up until your arms are straight and you’ve returned to the inverted V position.
  • The closer your feet are to your hands, the more weight goes through the shoulders.
  • Make the move harder by elevating your feet on a sofa, box or step.

4. Split Squat

a photo of Sarah Lindsay performing a Split Squat

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)

a photo of Sarah Lindsay performing a split squat

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)
  • Stand with your hips square and your legs in a staggered stance with your right foot forward.
  • Put your weight through your front foot, bend your right knee to lower your hips towards the ground.
  • Keep your chest and torso upright.
  • When your left knee is an inch off the floor, push through your right foot to return to the starting position.

5. Press Up

a photo of Sarah Lindsay performing a press up

(Image credit: Getty Images)

a photo of Sarah Lindsay performing a press up

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Start in the plank position with your hands a little wider than your shoulders.
  • Drop your chest as close to the floor as you can, keeping your core engaged.
  • Push back up.

6. Side Lunge

a photo of Sarah Lindsay performing the raised part of a side lunge

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)

a photo of Sarah Lindsay performing the lunge part of a side lunge

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)
  • Stand at the right side of your mat.
  • Take a nice long lunge to your left, keeping all your weight on the left leg.
  • Drive back up with your landing leg (left) to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat until the set is completed then switch legs for another set.

What are the benefits of this workout?

There are various benefits to bodyweight training. First and foremost, because you are using your body as a means of resistance to perform work against gravity, you don't require the use of any equipment or space to do it. As Lindsay puts it, "It's convenient, free and portable."

Engaging in Lindsay's workout will engage multiple muscle groups, helping to develop lean muscle and refine your core strength. This preparation will make it easier to pick up your usual weight training routine when regular life resumes on January 2nd.

For the regular gym goers, Lindsay notes, "If you're used to weight training in a gym and doing a few bodyweight workouts over Christmas to maintain good healthy habits, keep moving and work your muscles. Although this type of training won't massively advance your strength by growing more muscle, if you stimulate the muscle enough, you can maintain the strength you've built and prevent muscle loss."

Plus, you can always intensify a workout and add some form of progressive overload into your bodyweight routines. You could consider increasing the number of reps, taking less rest between exercises or perhaps adding in one of the best resistance bands to some of the exercises. 

Lindsay recommends slowing down the movement so the muscle is under tension for longer.  "This is a nice way to embrace what's called 'the burn', when your body produces lactic acid as a fuel for your muscles. This is just another way of stimulating the muscle."

More from Tom's Guide

Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.

Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.

She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.