Forget the gym — you can do these full-body workouts anywhere

Woman doing plank exercise on mat
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that home workouts can help you bulk up without the price tag. If you are looking for some gym equipment to stow under your desk, check out the best resistance bands and the best adjustable dumbbells here.

Alternatively, read on to find two full-body workouts you can do without going to the gym. What's more, they don't require lots of space, so you can do them from your bedroom, hotel room or even your dorm room, if you're headed back to school. 

Neither involves jumping, so your neighbors won’t kick off, and both don’t require extra equipment. 

The best body weight workouts 

We spoke to Jamie Thorpe, a Personal Trainer at PureGym Leeds, to get some workout inspiration for anyone looking for a killer workout in a dorm room, hotel room or bedroom. One workout uses just bodyweight, and the other uses a suitcase or backpack — simply fill the bag with books (remember those?), or anything heavy to up the intensity of the workout. Alternatively, if you do have a pair of dumbbells or a kettlebell at your disposal, use that instead. 

Workout 1: Bodyweight workout

This workout can easily be made easier or more difficult depending on the modifications given, Thorpe explains. If you are completely new to an exercise, it’s always a good idea to ask a personal trainer to take a look at your form before increasing your repetitions or adding weight, to ensure you’re not at risk of injury. “Both workouts will help with strength and conditioning, but also help to keep the heart rate high thanks to the short rests,” Thorpe says. 

Do the following six exercises in a circuit, doing each exercise for one minute, then resting for 15 seconds. Repeat the circuit two to four times, depending on how much time you have. The entire circuit should take you seven and a half minutes. You’ll need an interval timer, or a stopwatch on your phone for this. 


Why: Push-ups work your chest, shoulders, and triceps. 

How: To do a push-up, start by getting into a plank position, with your weight underneath your shoulders and your palms flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Straighten your arms and engage your abs, thinking about sucking your belly button into your spine. You should have a straight line from your heels to the crown of your head. Slowly, with control, bend your arms and lower your chest to the floor. Pause, then raise back to your starting position. 

You can make this easier by dropping down onto your knees. Here’s more information on how to do a push-up and the modifications to try

Plank rows

Why: This exercise works your back, core, shoulders, and arms. 

How: Start in a plank position, with your core engaged and your hands underneath your shoulders. Lift your right arm off the floor and row the arm up, as if you’re holding a dumbbell, keeping your elbow close to your rib cage. Drop your right arm back to the floor, and repeat on the opposite side. Keep alternating sides. Again, this one can be made easier by dropping down onto your knees.

Split squat holds (1 minute on each side, switching each circuit) 

Why: This exercise really works your quads and glutes. If you want to make this one harder, add weight (this could be a full backpack if you don’t have dumbbells)

How: To do this exercise, lunge backward from a standing position. The heel of your back foot should be raised, and the knee of your back leg should be a few inches off the ground. Your torso should be upright. Squeezing your glutes, hold here for a minute. 

Inchworms and opposite knee touches 

Why: This exercise is a great one when it comes to working your full body. In order to really feel the effects of this one, be sure to walk out until you feel the burn in your core.

How: Starting in a standing position, hinge forward at your hips and lower your hands to the floor. Walk your hands out in front of you until you’re in a plank position. Once you get there, touch your left hand to your right foot, then your right hand to your left foot, before walking back out from a plank to your starting position. 

Side plank holds (1 minute on each side, switching each circuit)

Why: Side planks are a brilliant exercise when it comes to working your core. Read what happened when this writer did side planks every day for a week here. 

How: To do a side plank, lie straight out on one side, legs stacked. Rest your forearm flat on the floor and ensure your elbow is in line with your shoulder. Engage your abs and raise your hips and knees from the floor, keeping a straight line from head to feet. Only your forearm and foot should be in contact with the ground. 

Don’t allow your hips to sag and keep looking straight ahead for the duration. You can rest your top arm on your hip or, to make the move more challenging, raise it towards the ceiling. You can make the move easier by lowering your bottom knee, or both knees to the mat. 

Lower ab holds 

Why: Again, this is another great exercise when it comes to targeting your lower abdominal muscles.

How: To do lower ab holds, lie on your back with your lower back pressed into the floor. Raise your legs to tabletop position, then, squeezing your core, straighten your legs so they are at a 45-degree angle. To make the exercise harder, raise your head and neck from the mat. 

Workout 2 – A full body workout you can do with a suitcase or backpack

Similar to the first workout, this workout can be made easier or harder depending on the weight of your backpack or suitcase. Run through the six exercises in a circuit, 1 minute on, 15 seconds off. Repeat two to four times through.  

Backpack shoulder press 

Why: This exercise works your shoulders, chest, and triceps.

How: Hold a backpack or suitcase in each hand with your palms facing away from your body, and your hands shoulder-width apart. Press the backpack up and over your head. Pause at the top before lowering the bag back to your starting position.

Backpack bent over row 

Why: This exercise works into your upper back and biceps.

How: Hold the backpack in both hands, with your palms facing into your body. Hinge at your hips and bend your knees slightly. From here, roll your shoulders back, and squeezing your shoulder blades, row the backpack into your torso. Pause, then extend your arms back to your starting position.

Backpack front squats 

Why: Squats are an excellent lower body exercise, especially for your thighs.

How: Hold your backpack in both hands, as you would a kettlebell. Stand with your feet a little further than shoulder-width apart. Imagine you’re standing on a clock-face, and point your toes to 11 o’clock and one o’clock. To start the squat, bend your knees and hips as if you’re sitting on a chair that’s directly beneath you. As you squat down, push your knees outwards so that they track directly over your middle toe. 

When you start to squat lower, push your chest out, and keep your eyes looking straight ahead to keep your back flat. Avoid hunching or rounding your spine. Squat down as low as you can while keeping your knees in line with your feet and your back flat, then push with your feet to stand back up to your starting position.

Backpack glute bridge 

Why: This is an excellent exercise when it comes to building strength in your glutes — super important if you spend a long time sitting down behind a desk. 

How: To do a glute bridge with the correct form, you’ll need to start by lying on your back on an exercise mat, with your feet pressed to the floor about hip-width apart. Place the backpack over your hips. You might need to hold it in place to stop it from falling off. Engage your core (think about sucking your belly button into your spine) and squeeze your glutes together as you raise your hips and pelvis to the sky. Squeeze your glutes at the top, before slowly lowering your hips back to their starting position. 

Backpack crunches 

Why: This exercise will really target your core. 

How: Start in a tabletop position, holding the backpack in your hands, with your lower back pressed to the floor. Keep your legs in a tabletop position. Engage your core, think about sucking your belly button into your spine, and lift your backpack to your knees, raising your head and torso off the ground. Make sure the movement is coming from your abdominal muscles, not your arms. 

Dorsal raises

Why: This final exercise is excellent at working on the muscles in the lower back.

How: Put the backpack down for this one, and start by lying on your stomach. Place your hands to your temples, and raise your feet and your head and neck a few inches off the floor. Pause, then lower back down to your starting position.

Next: I used these 5 exercises to get back to running after an injury and here's what happened when I tried an air bike and found it was the most brutal piece of cardio equipment.

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.