Having a versatility mindset toward your workout equipment matters even if you have a home gym with all the goods. Jumps, carries, and pulls are compound movements you can do anywhere with almost anything if a barbell is nowhere to be found. In this article we will go over 4 exercises you can add to any at home workouts.
Lily is TrainHeroic’s Marketing Content Creator and a CF-L1 with an English background. She was a successful freelance marketer for the functional fitness industry until being scooped up by TrainHeroic. An uncommon combo of bookish, artsy word-nerd and lifelong athlete, Lily is passionately devoted to weightlifting, CrossFit, yoga, dance, and aerial acrobatics. Find her showcasing her artist-athlete hobbies on IG @lilylectric.
compound movements you can do without a barbell
Because minimal-equipment training options are here to stay.
Even if your gym is now open to full capacity with only slightly questionable masking rules, knowing how to train without equipment is incredibly useful. Many of us were just figuring that out a year ago when quarantine trapped us in our homes without a single dumbbell, making due with random objects in our yards, basements, and guest rooms. What a time to be alive.
Maybe you went full home-gym mode and now only see your training buddies when they come over for taco night. You have all the equipment you need in your throne room, why bother exploring options for the peasants without it?
In the post-COVID era of widespread vaccinations and freedom to travel, you’ll be able to take the knowledge of minimal-equipment training to that hotel gym with nothing but a lonely treadmill. You can get a solid workout stimulus at the airport, or on that faraway beach with no gym in sight for miles. (Mentally, we’re already there.)
Anything that makes you a better athlete can and should be a part of your arsenal. In addition to reliable calisthenics, here are four compound movements to keep in your hopper for at-home and away fitness.
1. Stair Jumps & Sprints
If a plyo box is part of your garage gym’s dungeon hoard, use it!
For the rest of us, the alternative is pretty much everywhere: the humble staircase.
Use wider steps to build vertical leap by jumping up to the third or fourth one, stepping back down to the bottom, and repeating 10-15 times for three sets. Aim to make those landings smooth as butter.
If you’re working with a narrower flight, try doing depth jumps down onto the floor, then rebounding back up into the air as quickly as possible after landing. Use your legs to rebound as high as you can, or go for distance.
For a nice cardio component, run up and down the stairs four or five times in between sets to get your lungs going.
2. Bucket Carries
The farmer’s carry is a staple of worldwide strongman competitions for a few reasons. It builds grip strength, stabilizes your core, and forces you to control your scapula. You also need to initiate and maintain a heavy load-bearing movement with your posterior chain.
Plus, anything over one trip with the groceries is for weenies.
When you don’t have access to heavy dumbbells or kettlebells, all you need is a bucket. Hit a Home Depot or Lowe’s, borrow one from a janitor, check one out from the library – however you can get one with a handle and no holes.
The deep buckets that contractors fill with nails, screws and other stuff at their building sites make for great makeshift farmer’s carry vessels and cost around $8 a pair.
Fill them with dirt, sand, pebbles, water, small children/pets – anything to vary the loads. Use your spidey senses to make them about the same weight, or fill one heavier for uneven carries.
Then try walking for 20-40 yards five times with one minute of rest in between sets. You can also add a short/fast run before your carries and aim for 6 rounds.
3. Suitcase Overhead Carries
Another kind of carry recommended by physical therapists as a rehab tool and by S&C coaches as a sort of cure-all for shoulder strength is the overhead carry.
Normally overhead carries are done with kettlebells, dumbbells or plates, but if you have access to none of those things, take a tip from fitness pioneer and Athletes’ Performance founder, Mark Verstegen.
Mark uses his carry-on bag for overhead carries when walking through the airport between connecting flights. A potentially weird sight for passing airport-goers, but hey, anything for the gains.
You can load your travel bag up with clothes or anything else you have on hand (children/pets not recommended for this one) then walk, keeping your core super stable and ribs down, until you feel your shoulder start to fatigue.
Switch sides and repeat for 3-4 sets. Bonus points for some pressing action until failure.
4. Trash Can Sled Pulls (or pushes)
You can’t beat a heavy sled for building total body strength and power.
But push/pull speed sleds can be pricey, and they’re usually one of the last pieces of equipment added to His/Her Majesty’s Royal Gymnasium.
Time to make new use of an essential container everyone has somewhere: a trash can. You don’t have to go full MacGyver to make it functional – it already has a huge load capacity and usually built-in handles you can get both mitts around.
(Bonus points if you live in a mountain state and have one of those beastly bear-proof cans.)
The best time to use the trash can as a sled is right before trash pickup when it’s already full. Or you could quit slacking on yard work and cram that sucker with bags of leaves/sticks.
Drag – don’t roll – your fully-loaded can up and down your driveway as fast as possible, resting for up to 90 seconds before repeating. Do four or five sets.
To Close Things Out
If you’ve had trouble getting creative with load-bearing movements in the past, now is the time to evolve that story.
Testing functional strength in the real world with unconventional training objects can be just as effective as using a barbell. It all depends on your mindset and commitment.
So, beef up your mental vault with a stockpile of reference exercises like these that require no equipment and you’ll never feel the need to skip a workout just because your familiar tools are missing.
TAKE YOUR TRAINING
TO THE NEXT LEVEL
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