Let’s start with one immutable truth: it is always better to work out outside or in a gym rather than in an office. Always. But there are times when a gym isn’t an option: you might not have time today before or after work; you might only have forty minutes between meetings; you might not be close to a gym; it might be freezing cold outside; you might be Robert de Niro in Cape Fear. Excuses abound.

So let’s say it is essentially impossible for you to get today’s workout in unless you start one up in your workspace right now. In that case, here are some exercises that you can do with or without equipment that will help tide you over.


Push Ups

“Oh, thanks for the completely novel recommendation of doing push ups in my office. So glad I’m reading this.” I hear you; push ups are kind of obvious, and that is because push ups are awesome. Also, there are a lot of different kinds of push ups that engage important muscles in a variety of ways. Here are five you can do in the office.

1. The Standard Push Up

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2.  Incline Push Up Against Your Desk

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3. The Decline Push Up

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4. The Prestigious “Diamond Push Up”

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5. The Wide-grip Push Up.

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Once you’ve mastered some of the above, you can try the very challenging and french-sounding pseudo-planche push up; and if you are far more hardcore than I am, you can work on the regular planche push up.

You can do any number of the above in any combination you can think of, and they are all more or less effective depending on how much you challenge yourself. Point is: do not mock the push up.

Next: Bodyweight and Bodyline Exercises


Bodyweight and Bodyline Exercises

A reasonably-in-shape person could construct an entire workout out of nothing but bodyweight and bodyline exercises and be exhausted after twenty minutes. Most of these routines require nothing other than your body and gravity. The exercises — if done well — use muscles you’ve never heard of to move your body up and down, all while keeping your body in line. Form and body awareness are the keys here; not intensity. This, along with the fact that you don’t need equipment, are what makes them ideal for an office environment.

There are some bodyweight/bodyline exercises that might be problematic if you are wearing nice clothes that you want to keep looking nice; or if you don’t want to look weird in front of work acquaintances. But most are very doable in an office setting, and people at every skill level can adapt to some form of the workout. You can use some of the moves I like from the list below, but you should also glance through the many Youtube channels that offer tutorials on these things. There’s also an entire subreddit dedicated to this world of movement that you should check out.

1. L-Sit

2. Planks and Side Planks

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3. Hollow Hold Progressions

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4. Squats

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One of the other great aspects of bodyweight workouts are that you can increase the difficulty and complexity of the workout with a few additional accessories. See those two chairs over there that no one is using? Now you have yourself a dip routine. Kick one to the side, put your feet on the remaining one and you can do decline pushups.

Next: Pull Ups

Pull Ups

Most people hate pull ups, and with good reason: pull ups are difficult. But, like its cousin the push up, there are ways to make them less challenging (or more challenging if you are insane). A chair underneath your pull up bar allows you to do a leg-assisted pull up. Lower the bar and move the chair farther out to do a “jack knife” pull up. Eventually, you’ll be able to play around with standard, close-grip, and wide-grip pull ups. If you are strong enough to do archer pull ups and one-arm pull ups, then you can stop listening to me at any point.

1. Standard Pull Up

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2. Close-Grip Pull Up

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3. Wide-grip Pull Up

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I suppose it is possible to do pull ups at work without purchasing a pull up bar. I used to work with a guy that would do pull ups in the men’s room using the overhead frame on the stalls. But if you aren’t interested in competing in the Larry Craig olympics, it’s probably worth it to just shell out the $50 for a door-frame pull up bar.

At the end of the day, the key for any cobbled-together office workout routine is effective improvisation. And what I like about the movements mentioned in this post is that finding a way to do the workout is the easy part. The hard part is actually doing them — like it should be.

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