If you’re looking to get into shape, you may be tempted to run out and buy a full set of weights, one of those all-in-one gym machines, maybe even one of those belly burner bands or another gimmicky as seen on TV device.
Before you go out and break the bank, consider the possibility you can do a full workout routine without having to buy any extra equipment, just using what you have lying around the house.
With this guide, I’ll outline an equipment free 30-day weight loss and exercise program for beginners. It’ll give you a variety of workouts and an in-depth routine to keep you on track for losing weight and building muscle.
Before even getting into exercises and workout routines, it’s important to set goals for yourself, and make sure they’re realistic. Ask yourself what you want to get out of your workout routine.
Are you looking to lose weight, tone muscle, improve your stamina and endurance, or a combination of the three? Depending on your goals, you may spend more time on certain workouts or parts of your exercise routine than others.
Someone looking to lose weight and shed excess fat rather than build muscle, for example, will spend more time on cardio exercises and low resistance high duration exercises to keep the heart rate up and continually burn off excess energy.
Once you have an overarching goal of what you plan to accomplish, it’s time to set up a workout schedule.
We all have lives outside of our gym routines (unless you’re a professional athlete or body builder), so it is important to find a schedule that won’t interfere with other engagements like work or family life.
When planning a workout schedule, try to plan between 3 and 5 sessions per week, each session lasting around 1-2 hours. Also try to space them out a little if possible, giving your body one day of rest for every 1-2 days of working out.
Rest is important, and if you overwork your body you can cause strains and muscle damage, doing more harm than good.
Once you have a goal and basic schedule set up, the next step is to organize a basic structure for each session.
When planning your workout, it is also important to take space into consideration. Clear out a small area, be it in your living room, your basement, or if the weather is nice go out in the back yard to work out.
Having an open floor space is essential for working out, as having a cluttered space increases risk for injury, as you could trip or fall, injuring yourself.
The goal of your pre-workout is to get your heart rate going, as well as to warm up your muscles and loosen your joints so that you have a better range of motion, and less risk of injury while working out.
Getting your heart rate going will begin burning off the sugar stored in your system for energy. This provides two benefits.
First, breaking down stores sugars will provide a burst of energy, energizing your body. The second and more important benefit comes from depleting the stored sugars.
When it comes to providing energy to your body, your body first breaks down sugars for energy.
Once it runs out of sugars, your body turns to breaking down carbs and fatty deposits as the next source of energy.
Finally, after it has run out of fatty deposits, it will begin breaking down the proteins in muscles into amino acids in order to provide ATP to power cellular function. This second step is where our focus is when it comes to weight loss.
In order to get to that point though, we have to deplete the sugar reserves stored in the body from our daily food consumption.
That’s where the 20 minutes of cardio really comes into play. This ensures you burn off the sugar reserves before you get into the bulk of the workout, ensuring that you burn more fat. When it comes to the cardio exercises, there are a few great workouts that get the job done.
Running is a great way to get the heart rate going, and all it requires is a little bit of space. When running, it is important to focus on your breathing.
Taking deep, steady breaths is the key to keeping your pace and energy up throughout your run. When running, try to keep your pace as consistent as you can.
Don’t worry about running as fast as you can, just keep a brisk and steady pace and run for anywhere between 3-5 minutes.
Alternatively, you can also work sprints. When sprinting, pick a set distance (for example from one end of your yard to the other).
Sprints are high intensity, low duration workouts. When sprinting, set a timer for about 20 seconds, and sprint back and forth from your start and end position.
Once the timer stops, walk back and forth for 10 second, then sprint another 20 second. Repeat this process for about 2-3 minutes.
Jumping Jacks are another great exercise for cardio. They are best used mixed into a circuit rather than done for a straight 2-3 minutes.
See the circuit routine section further down in the guide for other exercises that work best in a circuit.
Jumping rope is another great cardio exercise. When jumping rope, start off slow and build up your speed over time.
Focus on making tiny hops, leaving just enough room for the rope to pass under your feet. The goal of jumping rope is to get your heart rate going while at the same time not putting too much strain on your muscles in the process.
Making exaggerated jumps will put more strain on your calves and knee joint from the repeated landing and launching off of the ground.
When jumping rope, either set a 3-minute timer, or do 300 jumps, whichever you think will take less time.
Once you’re done with your cardio, it is important to spend about 3-5 minutes stretching before moving on to the next stage in your workout. Once you feel you’re thoroughly stretched, grab a drink of water to re-hydrate.
Circuit Based Training
When doing circuit-based training, the goal is to rotate through various exercises either at timed intervals or when you finish a certain number of reps.
For example, you can set a circuit of pushups, sit ups and jumping jacks, doing 10-30 of each.
Alternatively, you can set timed intervals of 30 seconds and do as many of each exercise in the allotted time. Here are some great exercises for circuit training.
Pushups are great for building upper body strength and posture and rely entirely on using your own body weight as resistance.
Form is crucial for getting the most out of your pushups. To start you’ll want to get into a basic plank position, your hands level with your shoulders.
From there, bend your elbows and lower your chest to the floor. Briefly lift your hands from the floor, and when you plant them back down, push yourself back up to your starting position.
If you want to make your pushups more difficult, you can modify them in a variety of ways. You can spread your hands further apart to work the shoulders more or make a diamond in the center of your chest with your fingers to increase the resistance and focus more on the biceps and upper arm muscles.
Sit ups are great for working your abs, but much like pushups, proper form is key. It is important to do proper sit ups and to not transition into doing crunches for a variety of reasons.
First of all, crunches do not activate your entire abdominal area, and work a different set of muscles. Second, pulling on your head as you do crunches, and not doing them properly can result in putting unnecessary strain on your neck.
To properly perform a sit up, fold your arms across your chest and place your hands at your shoulders.
Lay flat on your back, bending your knees and planting your feet firmly against the floor. From there, sit all the way up before lowering your body back down in a controlled manner.
Keeping control as you lower your body ensures you’re working your abdominal muscles both when sitting up, but also as you lower yourself down, doubling the effectiveness of the workout.
As explained prior, jumping jacks are a great cardio workout to throw into a circuit routine. To perform a proper jumping jack, start standing with your hands at your sides.
Next, jump, and extend your arms and legs so you land with your feet just past your shoulder line, and clap your hands above your head. Then jump again, reverting your arms and legs back to their starting position.
Bicycle crunches are also great for your abs. but work different parts of your abs than normal sit ups.
Start in a normal sit up position but put your hands behind your head instead. Sit up slightly and hold it there.
From there, bring one knee up and turn your shoulders in an attempt to touch your elbow to the opposite knee. Then switch, raising the other knee and moving your other elbow over.
Leg lifts work your lower abs and core. To start, lay flat on your back, legs straight. From there, keeping your arms at your sides and your upper body flat against the ground, lift your legs up until they are at about a 45-degree angle, keeping your legs straight the entire time. Next, slowly lower them back down the ground.
V-ups are amazing for your core, but they are also a lot of work. They’re a bit of a hybrid between leg lifts and sit ups.
Start flat on your back, arms extended over your head and your legs flat. Lift your legs and sit up at the same time in one explosive motion in an attempt to touch your toes to your hands. Then let your legs and upper body lower back down to the ground to reset.
Squats are great for your leg muscles. To do a squat, start with your knees slightly bent, legs shoulder length apart.
From there, bend your knees and push your hips back, as if you were sitting down. Once your body is in a sitting position, stand back up again.
For balance purposes, you can also keep your arms straight as lift them in front of you as you do each squat.
While Circuit exercises are both good in a rotating circuit as well as being done as standalone exercises, these next exercises are a lot harder to work into a circuit due to the set up involved.
It is best to set a specific time in your workout routine for these exercises and plan your workout space accordingly.
While you don’t need specified equipment for these exercises, the architecture of your workout area may prevent you from performing these work outs.
in order to do rows without an actual pull up bar or suspended rowing cables, your workout area is going to need a door that opens on a hinge (so if you’re outside, the sliding glass door won’t cut it).
Open the door and wedge the door open using either a rolled-up foot mat, paper, books, whatever will work as long as the door will not move or close.
Wrap a towel around both door knobs and place your feet on either side of the door, just in front of the door knobs.
Grabbing the towel, lean back until your arms are straight, keeping your body straight, using the towel to support your weight.
From there, pull yourself towards the door by bending your arms. Alternatively, you can close the towel in the corner of the door if it is long enough (say you’re using a beach towel or something), and this exercise will have the same effect. The more you angle your body, the more resistance the exercise will provide.
Inverted Table Row
For this exercise, you’ll need a sturdy table. Make sure it’s not going to fall over or give way when pulling on it.
From there, lay under the table with your knees bent. Make sure you can comfortably reach up and grip the edge of the table.
From there, keeping your back straight, pull yourself up, and lower yourself down. You can do both a forward grip (laying so your head and shoulders aren’t under the table) or a reverse grip (laying so your legs and feet aren’t under the table).
Putting It All Together
Now that we have a nice selection of exercises, it’s time to set up an actual routine. Using a calendar or some kind of daily planner, make note of all the days this month you’ll be doing your workout routine.
Pick a few pre-exercise cardio exercises for each day. They don’t always have to be the same one, and you don’t have to include all of them each day.
From there, pick three or four exercises from the circuit exercises, and if your space allows for it, pick one method of doing rows.
Alternate these exercises each session, making sure you aren’t doing the same sets every day.
This ensures that you don’t overwork one particular area of the body. Once you pick your workouts for each day, take a highlighter and color in each box to make it stand out, so you don’t forget.
Once you start getting used to working out, or if you want more of a challenge, there’s one more routine you can add if you really want to push yourself to the limit.
Tabata is a form of high intensity interval training that focuses on extremely high intensity training in short bursts of time.
Not only is it great for burning calories during the workout itself, but also helps burn calories after the workout session has ended as well.
While this all sounds great, it still doesn’t quite answer the question of ‘what is Tabata’? The good news is you already know the exercises you’ll need for it, but it just changes the flow of the routine a little.
It’s still important to do your pre-workout routines like cardio and stretches. Once that’s done, pick two or three exercises from the circuit training session, preferably two that work different muscle groups.
Set two timers, one for 20 seconds and one for 10 seconds (or just use a wall clock to keep track).
For the first 20 seconds, do as many reps as you can in those 20 seconds. Go all out. Then rest for 10 seconds.
Once that 10 seconds rest period is over, try and beat the number of reps you just scored in the next 20 seconds. Repeat this process for 2 minutes per exercise.
The great thing about Tabata is you can squeeze it anywhere in your workout routine, be it in the beginning after your cardio, somewhere in the middle, or tag it on at the end for one last burst of endurance training.
You can also use it to kind of substitute for a missed workout day, since we all know things happen that might get in the way, like getting stuck late at the office. It only takes 4-6 minutes depending on how many exercises you pick.
With your 30-day workout plan all set, stick to a routine workout schedule, try to make up missed days elsewhere if you can, and don’t get discouraged.
It’s going to be hard work to start with, especially if you’re not used to working out.
If you can’t do the full recommended reps per set or get through a full exercise, just do what you can and work your way up to it.
The important thing is don’t overexert yourself out of frustration, since that can lead to injury, and don’t give up.
You won’t see a difference overnight, but by the end of the month, you’ll definitely notice a change, be it in your actual appearance, or just your performance compared to previous workout sessions, being able to do more rows than you used to, or pushups being easier.
Just because this is a 30-day plan doesn’t mean you stop after 30 days either. Use the same guidelines each month to continue your routine, and you’ll see continued improvement and great results.