Five Intense Workouts for Small Spaces

Working out while you are traveling or living in cramped quarters can be a challenge. However, there are lots of workouts you can do that require no equipment and very little space.

Whenever I go on vacation, I do several of the workouts featured below. I know I am getting a full-body workout, and I don’t have to worry about space constraints. Check out some of my favorite small-space workouts that will strengthen your body and burn calories – with no equipment needed!

Small Space, Full-Body Workout

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The Essential Body Part Women Ignore

One of the weakest areas in many women’s bodies are their hips. Many of us sit for a good portion of the day, which forces our hips into a crunched position. Maintaining a seated position for long periods of time can cause the muscles in our hips to shorten and tighten – particularly our hip flexors.

The role of our hips in day-to-day life is often overlooked. Our hips do SO MUCH. Hips are responsible for helping you maintain balance, walking correctly, lifting your leg and controlling the position of your knee.

Strengthening your hips can help you avoid injury and also assist in the prevention of osteoarthritis. The best way to keep injuries or arthritis at bay is to strengthen your hips. This is a quick hip workout you can do to start strengthening this forgotten – but necessary – body part.

Side-lying leg raises, with your toes pointed down, are an excellent movement to strengthen your hips.

Side-lying leg raises, with your toes pointed down, are an excellent movement to strengthen your hips.

***This workout uses a mini band for the lateral walk. These bands are inexpensive, very versatile and can be purchased from numerous locations. This is the band I use for training clients. (Disclaimer: if you click on this link and purchase a product linked from this site, it could result in a small amount of money for me.)

Strong Hips Workout:

10 Squats with Side Leg Raises

10 Reverse Lunges (per leg)

10 Single-Leg Glute Bridges (per leg)

10 Supermen

15 Side-Lying Leg Lifts (per leg)

15 Side-Lying Leg Lifts With Toe Pointed Down (per leg)

30 Sec. Plank

10 Wall Squats

30 Sec. Lateral Band Walk – per side

Repeat for a total of 3 times.

Finish up with some stretches – particularly the cobra stretch!

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Ultimate 20-Minute Dumbbell Workout

I wanted to squeeze in a weight lifting workout during a recent vacation. I didn’t know what was available in the fitness room, so I couldn’t plan my workout in advance. After scoping out the equipment, I pulled this workout together. I really liked it, and I felt like it did a good job of hitting the major muscle groups while still cranking up my heart rate.

This workout can be done in your home, at the gym or a hotel fitness center. You just need a few sets of dumbbells, and that’s it! I did 10 reps of each exercise, so it would be easier to remember. However, feel free to add on repetitions or go heavier with your weights!

If you like this workout, check out some of my other favorite dumbbell workouts below:

Arms Are Burning Dumbbell Workout

Feel the Burn Dumbbell Workout

Ultimate 20-Minute Dumbbell Workout:

Circuit #1:

10 Lateral Hops

10 Squat + Shoulder Press

10 DB Deadlifts

10 DB Rows

10 Push-ups

10 Squat Jumps

Repeat for a total of 3 times.

Circuit #2:

10 Side Plank Rotations (per side)

10 Lying DB Skull Crushers

10 Bird Dogs

30 Sec. Up and Down Planks/Plank ups

Repeat for a total of 3 times.

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Can Exercise Tone Flabby Arms?

Can exercise tone flabby arms? Absolutely! We all carry our weight in different parts of our bodies, and for some people, their upper arms are a common place. Exercise can’t spot reduce a specific area of your body; however, a balanced diet coupled with exercise can help reduce body fat – including the backs of the arms.

Triceps exercises will help strengthen your triceps muscles, which will help reduce the appearance of flabby upper arms. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) sponsored a study to identify the most effective triceps exercises. After testing several well-known movements, the triangle push-up was identified as the most effective triceps exercise.

If you are hoping to strengthen your triceps, check out my quick, five-minute “banish flabby arms” workout that you can tack on to an existing workout or if you are short on time, do it by itself. Additionally, I’m including some of my favorite cardio and strength training workouts, which will help with overall weight loss and strength training.

5 minute Triceps Workout:

12 Triangle Push-ups

12 Triceps Dips on the Ground

12 Triceps Kickbacks

Repeat 2-3 times total.

Here are some of my favorite workouts to help burn calories and strengthen muscles:

Small-Space Workout

Isometric Burn Workout

20-Min. AMRAP Workout

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Personal Trainer's Top 3 Tips for Exercising

I’ve been a personal trainer for many years, and there are three tips that I wish the general public knew: 1) don’t let an old injury or sore body part keep you from exercising 2) you know your body best and 3) all exercise is beneficial – even if it’s only for 5-10 minutes!

If you have a sore knee, you don’t need to forgo exercising altogether. There are so many knee-friendly modifications that can be made for your workouts. It would be worth hiring a personal trainer for one or two sessions to share modifications for popular workout moves. 

Sore lower back? Avoid exercises that require you to have both of your feet/legs hovering off the ground (if you are lying on your back); opt for a plank rather than lying double leg lifts. Again, research back-friendly workouts or hire an exercise professional to share some modifications.

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I have had dozens of clients come to me with a variety of physical ailments – plantar fasciitis, artificial hips, artificial knees, rheumatoid arthritis, broken arms and legs, etc. We always find a way to keep them active while being conscious of the injured area. (In some instances, we are able to strengthen and improve the functionality of a chronically injured body part!)

You Know Your Body Best

No matter how experienced an exercise professional is, he or she does not know your body as well as you do. If a movement hurts, stop. Tell the individual that you don’t want to do that movement or explain the discomfort you are feeling. There are so many exercise modifications that it’s easy to substitute another movement.

I want clients to tell me when something is painful, uncomfortable or if they don’t feel the movement. On many occasions, I’m able to identify a muscle weakness because of their feedback. We can then focus on strengthening that body part.

Exercise – Even If It’s For 5 Minutes

Moving your body is beneficial. If you only have 10 minutes, work out for 10 minutes!  Being active is the overall goal, so fit exercise in wherever you can. We are working out to improve our overall health, which means any and all activity is welcome.

Many times, a client will tell me she didn’t exercise because she only had 20 minutes. A 20-minute workout is all you need on most days. I have several 5, 7, 10 and 20-minute workouts on my workout page. Check them out if you are needing a fast workout!

You can be active even if you have an injured body part or have limited time. However, remember that you know your body the best! If you need modifications or have questions, please comment below or email me!

If you are interested in doing a low-impact workout or one that is modified for sore knees or wrists, check out some of my favorites:

Wrist-friendly Bodyweight Workout

Best Workout for Bad Knees

Back-friendly Ab Workout

Low-Impact, Full-Body Workout

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Quick, Heart-Pumping Cardio Workout

I enjoy strength training workouts, but sometimes there is something incredibly satisfying about a quick, challenging cardio workout.

Cardio exercise provides many benefits for your body. During cardio exercise, short for cardiovascular, your heart rate increases and you breathe faster/deeper. This maximizes the amount of oxygen in your blood, which helps you use oxygen in the most efficient way possible.

How well your body is able to use this oxygen is referred to as your aerobic capacity. The better your body is at using oxygen, the more improved your aerobic capacity is. For example, we’ve all felt breathless from trekking up a steep incline or stairs. The greater your aerobic capacity, the less breathless you will feel when you reach the top (and the easier it will be for you to get to the top).

Additional cardio benefits include:

  • Improved memory

  • Decreased chances of a stroke

  • Better mood

  • More calories burned

  • Better sleep

If you are short on time but need a quick cardio workout, try my Tabata workout below. To make the timing of your movements easier, check out this previous post for information about a timer app and how to set it up for Tabata workouts.

Want more cardio workouts? Visit my workouts page for additional cardio routines including these favorites:

Bodyweight Cardio Workout

Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM) Interval Workout

Belly Blasting Workout

Tabata Circuit #1: (Repeat for a total of three times.)

Quick Feet

Reverse Lunge + Front Kick (Left)

Reverse Lunge + Front Kick (Right)

Squat Jumps

DB Woodchop (Left)

DB Woodchop (Right)

Lateral Hops

Push-ups

Circuit #2: (Repeat for a total of two times.)

Lateral Lunges

Mountain Climbers

Plank Jacks

Skaters

Jumping Jacks

Standing Side Crunch (Left)

High Knees

Standing Side Crunch (Right)

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Ultimate, Back-Friendly Ab Workout

On Sunday, I was doing a workout class at my local gym, and I was cringing during our ab circuit. The instructor was having us do double leg lifts while simultaneously moving our arms overhead (and gripping a dumbbell). I was modifying the movement, so I could keep my back pushed into the mat.

I glanced around and realized that most of the individuals in that class were letting their backs arch and were fighting to complete the movements. Their backs were taking a beating. (At times like this, I don’t know what to do. I can’t fix a person across the room during a class, but I want to!)

Avoid raising and lowering both of your legs simultaneously if you have lower back issues.

Avoid raising and lowering both of your legs simultaneously if you have lower back issues.

During this class, I realized that most of us aren’t sure what modifications we can make during an abdominal workout to protect our backs! If no one advises us how to modify a movement, we are going to keep doing the same movement that is harming us.

You want to strengthen your entire core, which includes your back. So, it’s imperative you protect your back while doing abdominal movements. Here are some reminders and modifications I offer my clients, so their backs are protected while doing abdominal movements. (Maybe this will help you modify an ab workout in the future!)

  • Keep your back on the mat. If you find it arching, adjust your positioning. If you are doing a leg raise or dead bug movement, don’t lower your legs as much. Just lower your legs to a point where you can maintain your form and your back stays grounded on the mat.

  • Maintain a level back when planking. As we fatigue during a plank, we let our lower backs dip toward the ground. You want your shoulders, back and hips to remain in a straight line.

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  • If you have back issues, don’t lift both feet/legs in the air for leg raises or any other movement. You can modify this type of movement by keeping one leg bent with your foot flat on the floor. Raise and lower your other leg. You are still working your abdominals but also protecting your back!

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  • Avoid doing a Russian twist or other rotational movements with your feet raised off the ground. I rarely do Russian twists or bicycle crunches because there are so many other, safer movements.

  • Listen to your body. If something hurts or you feel a tweak, stop!

If you are looking for a back-friendly abdominal workout, check this one out. Be sure to opt for the suggested modifications listed next to the exercises!

Ab Blast

Mountain Climbers – 30 seconds

Plank Jacks (or plank step/tap outs if you have a sensitive back) – 30 seconds

Side Plank Hold – 30 seconds per side (A great modification is to do a side plank with one knee on the ground.)

Dead Bugs – 10 per side

Forearm Plank with Alternating Leg Lifts - 10 per leg (Modify this movement by doing a plank with alternating shoulder taps - 10 per side.)

Bird Dog Crunch – 10 per side

Standing Side Crunch – 10 per side

High Knees – 30 seconds. (Take this to a march for a lower impact option.)

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Fast, At-Home Workout

If you hate going to the gym, you’re not alone. In a survey conducted by Fitrated, 65 percent of women said they avoided the gym for fear of being judged. Concerns about not looking fit enough (55 percent), being judged by what they were wearing (49 percent) or being stereotyped (25 percent) were cited by the survey participants.

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I agree with the survey participants – going to the gym can be incredibly intimidating. It’s hard enough to get motivated to work out, so the last thing you want to deal with is added discomfort from your environment.

The good news is that you can get a fantastic workout at home – no fancy gym needed! I created this workout for individuals who would prefer to work out at home or for those days when fitting in a trip to the gym is not an option. This quick and easy workout is a bodyweight workout, so no equipment is needed. You just need 20 minutes and a little bit of space.

For more bodyweight workouts, check out my workout page. Or, try some of my favorite at-home workouts:

Cardio Workout You Can Do Anywhere

Calorie-Torching Pyramid Workout

The Isometric Burn Workout

At-Home Workout

Circuit 1:

12 Push-ups

12 Supermen

Repeat 3 times.

Circuit 2:

15 Squats with Arms Overhead

15 Single-Leg Bridges (each leg)

Repeat 3 times.

Circuit 3:

12 Lateral Lunges (each leg)

12 Wide Leg Sumo Squats

15 Squat Jacks

Repeat 3 times.

Circuit 4:

12 Plank Arm Raises

12 Bird Dogs

Repeat 3 times.

Circuit 5:

12 Tricep Dips (on the ground)

15 Mountain Climbers

Repeat 3 times.

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