I know as well as anyone that, even when training is the foremost thing on your mind (as was the case during my competitive bodybuilding days), you sometimes cannot get to a gym, no matter how hard you try. You may be traveling or caught up in a big project at work that doesn’t allow you to get out of the office until a time when your gym is closed. Whatever the reason, it can be a frustrating experience. Being unable to get to a weight room, though, doesn’t mean that you can’t exercise.

In fact, you can train pretty much every bodypart to some degree right in the comfort of your own home, office or hotel room, and although you may not effect tremendous gain-producing results, you can at least stave off atrophy (and any guilty feelings) until you can get to a proper gym. I’ve designed the following routine for just such emergencies. It should take you only about a half-hour to perform, but it will work every major muscle group effectively.


This is the granddaddy of all exercises. It is excellent for working your chest, shoulders and triceps. However, although almost everyone knows what a pushup is, most people do them wrong. It is not meant to be used as an ego booster. It doesn’t matter whether you can do 20, 50 or 100 repetitions or how fast you can do them.  What is important is that you feel the muscles working as you control your up and down movement. Slow and steady is the way to perform pushups.


Dips are great for chest, shoulders and triceps, and they even hit the lats. You will need two sturdy chairs to perform these. Place them back to back, about shoulder-width apart. Put your hands on the backs of the chairs and press up, being careful not to lean too far forward and lose your balance. If you need to, you can assist yourself by letting your feet touch the floor and pushing up with your legs slightly. Otherwise, keep your knees bent and feet hooked together. Again, use caution when performing these.


This exercise is very good for tuning up the back muscles, particularly the lats, but also the traps. It hits the biceps, too. Place a broomstick across the backs of two chairs positioned approximately 24″ apart. Lie on your back between the chairs and reach up for the broomstick, grabbing it where it meets the chair backs. Keeping your body straight and heels on the floor, pull yourself up until your chin comes over the broomstick. Think of this as a pullup on an angle.


These are basically deep squats without weight and will work your thighs and  improve your lung capacity. Put your hands on your hips and simply squat up and down following a smooth rhythm. Go as deep as you can, breathing in on the way down and exhaling on the way up. At the top of the movement, tense your quads. You’d be surprised how grueling these can be after the 50th rep!


Place a thick book (like a telephone book) on the floor near a chair. Stand barefoot on the edge of the book while using the chair for support and perform unilateral calf raises. Aim for 50 reps with each leg.


To work your abdominal region, simply lie on the floor, raise your knees up until your thighs are perpendicular to the floor, and contract your body inward. Try to roll your body in, as if getting into a fetal position, as opposed to keeping your back rigid. You have the option of lacing your fingers together behind your head or putting your arms on the floor beside your body.

The entire workout, as I’ve outlined in the accompanying table, should take you no more than 30 minutes. When you’re done, you’ll have the confidence of knowing that even though you couldn’t get yourself into a gym, your body will think you did!


  • Pushups | SETS: 3 | REPS: Failure*
  • Dips Between Chairs | SETS: 2 | REPS: 10-15
  • Rows Between Chairs | SETS: 5 | REPS: 10-15
  • Deep Knee Bends | SETS: 1 | REPS: Failure*
  • Calf Raises | SETS: 2 | REPS: 25
  • Crunches | SETS: 3 | REPS: 25

* Failure means going until you can’t do another rep. It will vary from person to person.