Beginner workout at home without equipment

Thanks to the recent coronavirus pandemic, most gyms are probably closed.

Now, with social distancing and self-isolation in effect, health-minded folks are faced with the challenge of finding alternatives for their usual workout.

Some exercise is better than none. Getting started is the first step to being healthy.

Some bodyweight exercises can fill in nicely for lower body and chest training sessions, but creating a whole routine of moves to work the back can be particularly challenging.

That doesn’t have to be the case, if you’re ready to use your imagination.

Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. got creative and thought up a complete at-home back workout using stuff you probably already have in your own house.

What you’ll need:

  • a backpack
  • 2 5-gallon water jugs
  • a shovel
  • 2 chairs


Here’s the full workout. Make sure to turn up the volume for audio tips from Samuel throughout the videos.

1. Backpack/water drop-set

You’ll do 5 to 6 pairs of double-explode rows, then 10 bent-over two-arm rows, then a 10-second bent-over row hold. Try 4 sets per side.

Before you start, load your backpack with water bottles, or another type of load (Samuel fills his with 15 bottles).

For the double-explode rows, grab a (filled) 5-gallon jug.

“Work for that good squeeze on top, as we can’t load as much as we normally would,” says Samuel.

For the bent-over two-arm rows, make sure you still focus on your form. “Try to drive your elbows back and try to keep your shoulders down,” he advises. “Don’t let yourself get into your traps on these.”

When you’re fatigued, finish off this series with a hold.

2. Hollow Body Backpack Pullover – 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

“Get your arms straight and extend whatever resistance you have as far behind you as possible,” says Samuel.

“Focus on pulling only with your lats until your arms are perpendicular to the ground. Don’t go beyond there because you’re not going to get any good engagement beyond it.”


3. Chair-and-Stick Inverted Row Hold – 3 sets of 25 second holds

Set up 2 chairs with the shovel placed on top of them to use as a bar. Just make sure the chairs are sturdy enough to handle your weight.

“You want to make this a full body move. Core tight, glutes tight,” says Samuel.

“You should be a straight line, knees through shoulders. Focus on pulling your torso up and squeezing your elbows together.”

4. 3-Position Loaded Carry 2 to 4 sets

Start with a shouldered carry, shift to a mixed-hold carry, then a farmer’s carry, and finish with a crossover steps carry.

“Grab the biggest stuff you can have (both 5-gallon water jugs),” Samuel advises. “Walk as far forward as you can, then walk back.

Once you get back to your starting line, you’re gonna shift from that farmer’s position into a mixed hold.”

After walking down and back, shift your weights back to a farmer’s position for crossover steps down and back.

“Have fun with it and use what you got,” says Samuel.

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