Many people I know have access to free or discounted gyms in their apartment complex or office building. In fact, I work in a gym located in an office building! This is also the gym that I do 90% of my workouts in because of it’s convenience.
While these gyms are super convenient, they might not be as big as commercial gyms, or have as much equipment. I have been working in corporate fitness for 2 years now, and I’ve worked in two different buildings. Both gyms were fairly small, with just the “necessities”. This can often be hard if you’re looking to do certain types of workouts.
Luckily, I have a lot of experience adapting to these types of environments and learning to substitute different exercises and equipment! The key to working out in small gyms is to be creative. I’ve put together a list of exercises that aren’t done in the “normal” way, but still get the same effect for when you don’t have the right piece of equipment!
Note: this also applies to hotel gyms!
1) Back Extension
Many smaller gyms don’t have the back extension machine that almost every commercial gym does. You can still hit the lower back using a swiss ball: Swiss Ball Back Ext
2) Captain’s Chair
I think these are pretty normal in most gyms, but my gym doesn’t have one! Instead, I use the pull-up/dip machine! Check it out: Knee Raise/Straight Leg Raise
3) Place to do pull-ups/chin-ups
So my gym does have a machine for these, and there is also a bar on the cable machine where I usually do my chin-ups. However, the cables are probably the most popular/most used piece of equipment at my gym. So, when I can’t do pull-ups on that, I set up the rack and do them there! We have a half rack, so I just put the barbell all the way at the top and it works just fine. Note: I’m only 5 feet tall/115 lbs, but my boss is over 6ft and 200 lbs and I’ve seen him do it this way too! Chin-Ups in Rack
4) Reverse Hypers
This is one of those pieces of equipment that isn’t as common in regular, commercial gyms. I do these on a bench. You won’t get as much range of motion, but you can still hit the back and booty! This might not work as well if you’re super tall, but give it a try! Reverse Hyper on Bench
5) Glute/Ham Raise
Again, the glute/ham raise machine isn’t quite as popular a piece of equipment. I’ve never actually used a real machine for these! The 24 Hour Fitness I used to work at didn’t even have one, and that gym was HUGE. Instead, you can set up a pair of dumbbells to keep your feet down) and a BOSU or pad to do these without the machine! I also use bands for these, but if your gym doesn’t have bands you can go without. Glute-Ham Raise
6) Sled Pulls
These are rare in small gyms. Luckily you can rig one up pretty easily. If you gym has TRX straps or any of those yoga stretching straps, ask if you can use it to strap around a weight plate. Then drag that plate! Boom, pseudo-sled!
7) Jump Rope
You can still “jump rope” even if you don’t have a rope. Just pretend you’re holding one and go through the motions. Seriously. You might feel stupid at first, and you’ll probably look a little strange too, but in reality…what is the rope even for? It just gives you something to jump over! If you go through the same motions, you’ll still get the same effect as regular jump roping.
8) Kettlebell Swings
My gym has KBs, but the last one I worked in didn’t. You might not find KBs in most hotel or apartment gyms either. We just used dumbbells in place of kettlebells! It will obviously feel a little different, and might be a little harder to hold, but you’ll get the same effect. Dumbbell Swing
Try some of these out next time you’re stuck working out in a small gym.
What other ways have you had to be creative in the gym?