Equipment-Free Exercises: You Don't Always Need Machines To Feel the Burn

In this article I will give some ideas as to how you can workout specific muscle groups with little or no equipment. To feel the same ‘burn' as when using heavy weights you will need to do more repetitions.

Keep in mind that muscles only shorten. So, any time a muscle is shortening you are exercising it. The best way to know if you are working a specific muscle is if it hurts/burns, or gets tired, you got it. The more it hurts/burns, the more you are working it. Aim for full range of motion.

Calf Exercises

  • Toe raises. Stand about one foot away from a wall. Lightly rest your fingers on the wall for balance. Then go up and down on your toes. Keep the knees slightly bent, but at the same angle all the time. The calves muscles are very strong so you will need to do a lot of reps to feel this.
    • Variation: One leg at a time. This will increase the weight.
    • Variation: Stand on something like a book so the front part of the foot is on the book. By doing this you can bring the heel lower and get a better stretch on the way down.
  • Stair climbing. But step only using the front of the foot and do toe raises with each step.
  • Walking up a hill and stepping all the way up on your toes with the back foot

Quadriceps, Hamstrings, and Gluteus Exercises
At first it might be tempting to work only one group at a time. But, the exercises below will work all three.

  • Squats (without weights). Stand about shoulder with apart. Bend the knees so the knees are about 45 degrees. Going lower may cause knee pain. In order to prevent knee damage try and lean back a little bit to avoid letting the knees pass the line of the toes.
    • Variation: Stand with knees further apart with knees and feet pointing outwards. This will involve inner leg muscles as well.
  • Lunges. Step forward with the left leg (big step), then squat so the right knee almost touches the ground. Step forward now with the right leg bring left knee almost to the ground. Repeat of course, while moving forward. Keep your back straight and shoulders up, don't slouch.
    • Variation: if you have a pair of light dumbbells you can increase the resistance.
  • Walking up hill. Take bigger steps to increase the difficulty.
  • Stair climbing. Vary the speed. Vary the number of steps taken (e.g. two at at time).
    • Variation: Carry a back pack or hold a pair of dumbbells to increase the resistance.


  • Simple push ups. The wider apart the hands are placed the more chest muscles will be worked (as opposed to triceps).
    • Variation: Bend more at the waste so the hips are higher than the upper body. This will involve more of the upper chest muscles.
  • Dips. Grab two very sturdy chairs. Put your feet on one of the chairs, and the palms of your hands on the other chair. Lower your hips to the ground. This will work the chest and the triceps.
    • Variation: if this is too easy for you place a plate or dumbbell on your thighs.
    • Variation: if this is too hard for you simply place your feet on the ground instead of on a chair.

Shoulder Exercises:

  • Push ups with the hips high, as described above. Your forehead should be almost touching the ground instead of your chest.
  • Hand stand against the wall. Lower head to the ground and back up. This is hard so be careful

Lower Back Exercises

  • Lie on your front flat on the ground. Lift your feet a few inches off the ground. You can put your hands behind your head or behind your back. Your chest might lift off the ground a bit but it doesn't matter.
    • Variation: have someone hold your lower legs down, and lift your upper body instead.

Upper Back Exercise

  • Lie flat on your back. Place your elbows on the ground shoulder width apart. Push your elbows down as you lift your shoulder blades off the ground. You will only be able to lift a couple of inches.

Bicep Exercise

  • This one is hard to do without any equipment. The easiest thing is to do chin ups. So, find something you can grab and lift yourself. If you have a tree, take a rope and pass it over a strong branch and do chin ups that way. You will also work the forearms this way.

Tricep Exercises

  • Push ups. Keep the elbows close to the body, and hands close together.
  • Dips using two chairs as described above for the chest, but place hands close together.

Abdominal Exercises

  • Leg raises. Lie on your back, lift your head a bit off the ground, place your hands under your hips, and lift your legs straight up. On the way down don't let your feet touch the ground.
  • Crunches. Lie on your back, place your feet on a chair, place your hands on your chest, slightly curl upwards so your should blades lift off the ground. Do this slowly. You can also twist your upper body a bit, left to right, as you curl up.
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