Try a unique and effective body-weight workout with no clean-up required.
Every time we turn around, there’s a new piece of equipment to master and throw into our already overflowing fitness toy boxes. Whether you are looking for new programming ideas sans equipment because the well (money or mind) has run dry or whether you want to provide alternative workouts for equipment-phobic participants, a “no equipment” class is the solution. Dig a little deeper into your repertoire of exercises and sequencing ideas, think outside the toy box and elevate your cuing techniques to get more from each exercise.
No Equipment Needed Details
Format/Goal: full-body conditioning with a “side” of cardio
Total Time: 45–60 minutes
Equipment Needed: just a towel (and your body weight)
Music: motivating tunes that are approximately 128–130 beats per minute
Warm-Up (8–10 minutes)
Each flowing segment has a specific focus and preparatory effect. Repeat 2–3 times on each side.
Connect the Dots. Goals: prepare body through variety of spinal actions; use dynamic stretching for lower-leg complex; establish connection between opposite ends of kinetic chain.
Begin with feet together. Inhaling, reach arms overhead; exhaling, bring hands to thighs. Tuck chin and roll down toward thighs for standing cat-cow stretch (anterior pelvic tilt and head lift, followed by rounding of spine). Roll back to standing and extend right hand overhead; flex laterally (to the left) and return to start. Repeat, extending left hand and flexing to the right at the end.
Sink down into chair pose (squat with arms reaching up) and do alternating heel lifts 8 times. Place heels down, sweep arms to floor and stand up.
Mental Muscle. Goals: preview sequence that will repeat in work section; stimulate neuromuscular system to welcome unique coordinated movement patterns.
Squat and sweep arms up and down as you lift and lower. Build on basic squat-arm combination in three ways:
1. Squat and sweep arms behind you; stand and bring arms to shoulder height. Squat again with arms behind you, and reach arms overhead as you stand (8 counts).
2. Squat and diagonally rotate arms toward opposite knees; stand and bring arms back to shoulder height. Sweep arms behind body on second squat and then overhead as you stand (8 counts).
3. Step out to the right as you rotate diagonally toward moving leg, and stand up in wide position as arms come to shoulder height. Squat again in wide position, arms sweeping behind you. Stand and bring feet together as arms reach overhead. Repeat on opposite side.
Aware and Prepare. Goals: establish core connection when vertical; introduce concept of focus.
Do alternating knee lifts from narrow stance. Hip bones remain level and square to front of room. Once participants can level pelvis and initiate knee lift from core, reach opposite arm overhead as knee lifts. After approximately 16 knee lifts, change to three alternating knee lifts and a hold before repeating sequence. Finish with knee lifted and practice external rotation by slowly moving knee out to side and back. Repeat entire sequence on other leg.
Work Section (approximately 40 minutes)
Use the following protocol for each segment:
Rehearsal: 4 repetitions at half tempo:
- Rep 1: introduce pattern.
- Rep 2: practice.
- Rep 3: introduce complementary arms (if applicable).
- Rep 4: introduce focus.
Performance: 8–16 reps at tempo, emphasizing focus. Link exercises between segments and minimize downtime.
Swivel Lunge. Step back into reverse lunge, stay down low and rotate into plié squat facing the side. Swivel back to lunge position and press up to hip extension. Focus: dynamic push into hip extension.
Floor Touch. From hip extension, move hands toward floor by bending standing leg. Focus: greater range of motion (ROM) with each repetition.
Agility Push-Up. From toes or knees, perform standard push-up. At top of push-up, move hands from wide to narrow one at a time (right/left) and then back out. Focus: hand quickness and lightness.
Add a towel to the “mental muscle” segment previewed during the warm-up.
Lateral Squat Pull. Hold small towel in both hands, parallel to floor and pulled tight in front of thighs. As you step out to lateral squat, rotate towel diagonally, bringing it to shoulder height as you stand, back down to knee level on second squat and overhead as you come into stork stance (knee lift, one-legged balance). Focus: towel pulled tight to engage postural muscles.
Leg Extension and Calf Raise. From stork position, with towel overhead and pulled taut, extend and flex knee. With knee still lifted, perform calf raise on opposite foot. Focus: shoulder and pelvic girdle stabilization.
Scapular Depression and Lat Pull-Down. Begin with towel overhead. Depress scapulae, then perform lat pull-down with right arm (bend at elbow and resist with left arm). Focus: pulling on both ends of towel equally.
Moving Lunge Challenge. This is a series of reverse lunges with varying levels of difficulty. Begin with regular reverse lunge to knee lift. Add calf raise to end of move, then include small jump at end of lunge. Focus: power on the up phase.
Lunge Hold and Toe Tap. At end of last lunge, hold the down position, lean forward and place body weight on front leg. Begin tapping toe of front foot without moving up and down. Focus: minimizing body movement as toe is tapping.
Repeat Agility Push-up. See above.
Side Lunge Balance. Hold small towel in both hands, parallel to floor and pulled tight in front of thighs. Step out into side lunge, reaching end of towel past lunging leg. Push up into one-legged balance with lunging leg abducted to side, and circle arms around, finishing overhead. Tap toe down without moving towel and bring leg back up to one-legged balance. Focus: power of push from side lunge.
Circular Row. From one-legged balance position with arms overhead, reach towel forward and down toward thighs. Bend elbows and draw towel up body and back overhead. Focus: pulling on towel while “drawing” a semicircle out, down and back up to where you began.
Skater Lunge. From one-legged balance, lower into lunge (opposite side) and tap toe of outstretched leg in and out without moving up and down. Keep arms extended at shoulder height and pull towel taut. Focus: maintaining lunge ROM throughout toe tapping.
Cool-Down (7–10 minutes)
Follow appropriate guidelines provided by nationally recognized group fitness certifications during cool-down. Allow time for heart rate to return to normal before finishing with floor conditioning and flexibility segment.
Shannon Fable, 2006 ACE Group Fitness Instructor of the Year, owns Sunshine Fitness Resources, a consulting service for fitness professionals, and is group fitness director at Lakeshore Athletic Club outside of Boulder, Colorado. See this workout in action at www.shannonfable.com.