Conquer A Crappy Gym With These 7 Creative Workouts

Sometimes you can’t avoid it: You’re traveling or your usual gym is closed, and you must find another spot to work out. So you do some browsing, talk to some people, and find a place that seems decent enough. But then you walk through the door and the gym isn’t anything like what you had imagined. Worse yet, your window of time is closing and you may not get in a workout at all.

Relax, say these Optimum Nutrition sponsored athletes! If you stay positive and make the most of the situation, you can always find ways to take your fitness to a new level.

1. Jen Turnbull’s “Making the Most of Nothing” Workout

When Turnbull finds herself without a good gym—or any gym at all, for that matter—she turns to bodyweight exercises.

“If I can’t find the kinds of equipment I need, I start by doing mobilization work for 15 minutes. After that, I do a quick total-body workout, using primarily cardio training, since the weights I need might not be available.”

“Making the Most of Nothing” Workout

She finishes her quick workout by stretching for another 10-15 minutes.

“I repeat this sequence for as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes,” she says. “When there’s nothing much else I can do, this workout can always help me keep up my cardio and maintain my overall fitness.”

2. Faye Stenning’s “There Isn’t One Single Piece of Equipment I Can Use” Workout

Faced with a poorly equipped gym, Stenning also relies on bodyweight exercises, focusing on the major muscle groups.

“Working your major groups gives you the most bang for your buck, increasing your heart rate and keeping your metabolic rate elevated—even after you finish your workout.”

When there’s no equipment to be found, Stenning does plyometric exercises with an eye toward boosting her explosive power.

“There Isn’t One Single Piece of Equipment I Can Use” Workout

3. Faye Stenning’s “Ad Hoc Pull-up/Lunge” Routine

If Stenning is lucky enough to find any kind of pull-up bar, she commences this brutal combination of walking lunges and pull-ups.

“Most gyms have a bar to hang from, so you can always do pull-ups,” she says. “If you can’t do them without assistance, try jumping pull-ups or negative pull-ups instead.”

“Ad Hoc Pull-up/Lunge” Workout

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Faye says to rest when needed while doing this routine—but as little as possible. You want to keep your heart rate elevated for the duration of the workout.

4. Tobias Young’s “You Call This a Gym?” Workout

Young insists he can always carve out a good workout, no matter how dire the gym situation.

“The workout I do depends on my current workout split,” he says. “Let’s assume I was doing a full-body workout. If there are a few sets of dumbbells lying around, I can easily get in a circuit that keeps my heart rate up and has a high metabolic effect.”

For the following workout, Tobias recommends doing 2-3 rounds of the circuit, with 30 seconds or fewer of rest between each exercise. Progress from one move to the next, making sure you’re using good form.

“A lot of these exercises are designed to work multiple muscle groups at once, so you’ll be able to get in that total-body workout without needing a lot of gear—or a lot of time,” says Young.

“You Call This a Gym?” Workout

“If no bench is available,” Young says, “you can do the alternating dumbbell chest presses on the floor. However you do it, this workout will target your core stabilizers.”

5. Tobias Young’s “All Dumbbells, All the Time—Except for Push-ups” Workout

Young reverts to this gauntlet if there’s not even a floor available, doing 2-3 rounds.

“All Dumbbells, All the Time—Except for Push-ups” Workout

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12-15 reps. One front raise plus one lateral raise counts as a single rep.


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To finish himself off after those circuits, Tobias adds a quick superset of squat jumps and mountain climbers. Complete 20-30 reps of each and then take a 30-second breather. Then see how long you can hold a plank with one foot or arm off the ground.

“Aim to do two sets of up to a minute for the plank exercise and you’ll be done for the day!” he says.

Gym equipment or no, either of these workouts will generate some excellent fat burning action while boosting your cardiovascular fitness.

6. Tyler Faoro’s “Hop to It, Minimal Equipment” Workout

“You definitely don’t need a top-notch gym every time to get in a good workout,” says Faoro. “In fact, there are lots of great workouts you don’t need a gym for at all.”

He opts for bodyweight exercises, doing everything from core workouts to pull-ups, push-ups, and plyometric training.

“You can do these in different forms, from using really slow and concentrated movement patterns to being more explosive.”

If he has 40 minutes to get in a session in a less-than-ideal environment, he’ll start with a plyometric circuit.

“All my training is very explosive, with low reps,” he says. “And I make sure to do a 10-15-minute dynamic warm-up to prepare myself for the plyometric exercises.”

Rest 2 minutes or so between each set.

“Hop to It, Minimal Equipment” Workout

“For hurdles, find anything at a decent height and narrow enough that you have room to take off and land,” he says.

7. Jennifer Tavernier’s “No Equipment Full Body, Booty, and Lat” Workout

Tavernier often finds herself trying to work out in less-than-optimal settings.

“I’ve done pull-ups on treadmills, hotel closets, Smith machines—whatever I can get my hands on,” she says. “It’s kind of fun to have that challenge and be forced to switch up my routine a bit.”

She’s got a point. Any new gym, even if it’s less than ideally equipped, offers a chance to try something new and shock your body into new movement patterns and new gains.

“My favorite way to train is with circuits,” she says. “If I have 40 minutes to train in a poorly equipped gym, I usually warm up on whatever cardio equipment is available. If there’s no equipment at all, I do squats, lunges, air jumps, and push-ups.”

Having warmed up, she’ll do a few circuits, depending on what her target is for the day.

She does 3 rounds of each exercise in these trisets, resting 1 minute between each exercise.

“No Equipment Full Body, Booty, and Lat” Workout

Triset 1: 3 rounds

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5-10 reps. Using whatever you can find; if there are no boxes, do broad jumps.


Triset 2: 3 rounds

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Triset 3: 3 rounds

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Jennifer says that keeping the pace up throughout this workout helps burn plenty of calories, gives her time to fit in a cardio-conditioning workout, and gets her in and out of any gym-like place fast enough that she can get on with her day.

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