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Exercise on a budget: How to work out at home without fancy gym equipment

Socks? Check. Towel? Check. Some water bottles? Check. Here are eight easy-to-follow routines perfect for building strength at home.

Exercise on a budget: How to work out at home without fancy gym equipment

Dawn Sim, co-founder and head teacher at Trium Fitness, demonstrates easy-to-follow home workout routines, without fancy equipment. (Photo: Dawn Sim)

Think adapting your hardcore gym workouts to fit your WFH routine is a headache? It’s easier than you think.

There are plenty of objects around your home that can easily help you to stay fit, whether it’s a sock, a towel, your favourite bag or luggage, said Dawn Sim, co-founder and head teacher at Trium Fitness.

05:32 Min
Want to exercise on a budget? Just grab some socks, a towel, a couple of water bottles and your luggage at home. Trium Fitness’ Dawn Sim demos some easy-to-follow that’s perfect for building strength at home – without fancy gym equipment.

But there are a few things you still need to do, of course. Wearing the right exercise clothes makes a big difference to your session, even if it’s a home workout, she told CNA Lifestyle.

READ: Keep fit and earn S$380: We tried the LumiHealth app on our Apple Watch

“Also track your workouts to monitor your progress,” said Sim. “I love using Apple Watch for this because it’s always on my wrist and tracks my workouts accurately. And make exercise a priority instead of a convenience. Put your workout sessions in your calendar to get reminders and find a support network of friends or interest groups to encourage one another to keep you going.”

Upright rows with a weighted bag or luggage. (Photo: Dawn Sim)

She added: "Remember to hydrate yourself well before exercise too so as to avoid early fatigue and cramps. There is a WaterMinder app for this."

Sim also recommended including a belly and chest breathing exercise in your regime, which can be done either standing up or lying down on your back.

Using the Breathe function on the Apple Watch will help earn the user Wellness points and coins on the LumiHealth App, which will translate to HPB eVouchers. (Photo: Hani Amin)

“Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Close your eyes so it's easier to focus on your breathing and make sure you feel the belly and chest rise and fall with each breath,” she explained. “A good tip? You can use the Breathe app on the Apple Watch to guide you through. Start by practising your breathing for one minute and then turn, then gradually lengthen the duration over time. This will calm your mind and body.”

All set? Here are Sim’s favourite workout-from-home routines where you can build strength and challenge yourself using simple home hacks. No fancy exercise equipment required.

READ: Feeling tired while working from home? 5 easy exercises to boost your energy


Mountain climbers with socks. (Photo: Dawn Sim)

Why: It’s great for working the core and getting the heart rate up.

What to do:

1. Try to keep your torso stable while sliding the legs back and forth.

2. Remember to keep the hands beneath the shoulders and press strongly into the mat to keep the shoulders stabilised.

3. Do 30 repetitions on each leg or as many as you can within 45 to 60 seconds.

Expert tip: If you have wrist discomfort, do go on your forearms instead. But lift the hips up higher to do this movement.


Seated lat pull down with a towel and alternate leg raise. (Photo: Dawn Sim)

Why: This pull down exercise works to strengthen several back muscles, as well as to stretch the chest and the front shoulders. It is perfect for countering the long hours of sitting when working from home. The addition of the alternate leg raises help to work the core as well as the quads (front of thighs).

What to do:

1. Keep the towel taut as you pull it back and down behind you.

2. Avoid sticking your head forwards.

3. Aim to broaden across the chest.

4. Do 10 repetitions.

Expert tip: Keep the arms wider apart for those with tighter chest and shoulders. And bring them slightly closer as you get better with the exercise.


Reverse sliding lunges with socks. (Photo: Dawn Sim)

Why: It’s great for toning the thighs and buttocks. This is also a great stretch for the hip flexors after staying seated for hours at the desk.

What to do:

1. Keep the torso upright and abs engaged as you slide back and forth on one foot.

2. Keep both knees bent when you slide to the front to ensure that the glutes get a great work-out. 

3. Do 10 to 15 repetitions on each side.

Expert tip: Hold onto the wall or chair for help with balancing.


Towel Slides (Photo: Dawn Sim)

Why: This is a great core workout but proceed with caution for those with shoulder issues.

What to do:

1. Begin by trying a smaller movement out and keeping hands and knees shoulder-width apart.

2. Slide forwards and back which keeping shoulders stable. 

3. Work up to 10 repetitions.

Expert tip: Make sure you start with a small movement to test your limit first. And do ensure that your shoulders are stable as you slide out and in.


Russian twists with water bottles. (Photo: Dawn Sim)

Why: A great core exercise that works on all the abdominal muscles and arms at the same time.

What to do:

1. Fill up two one-litre water bottles.

2. Sit with your knees bent and holding onto the water bottles, engage your core and lean your torso back slightly to float both legs up.

3. Twist from side to side from your waist instead of just moving your arms from one side to the other.

4. Do 15 repetitions on each side.

5. Make it easier by keeping both feet down and only twisting from the waist up.

Expert tip: Make sure you're not tensing up your shoulders while holding the weights. Keep the arms straight and extended while holding the weights to make it more challenging.

READ: Simple tweaks to your routine at home and the office can help ease your back pain


Seated cat cows. (Photo: Dawn Sim)

Why: It stretches the chest, upper back, neck, fingers, wrists and forearms while encouraging deeper breathing.

What to do:

1. This movement can be done seated on the floor or a chair. This counters the effects of sitting at a desk for hours.

2. While crunching in a seated position, interlace your fingers in front of you with your palms facing you.

3. Turn your palms forwards as you extend both arms up towards the ceiling, then turn from your wrists to have palms facing you as you return back to crunching.

4. Repeat 10 times.

Expert tip: Do look up as the arms reach up, taking note to drop the head backwards as you look up. Then tuck your chin in towards the chest as you lower your arms – this raises the effectiveness of the stretch to the neck.


Kettlebell swings with your everyday bag. (Photo: Dawn Sim)

Why: This is a great way to ramp up the heart rate and get a great cardio and strength workout.

What to do:

1. Fill up your bag with enough weight. Having at least two entirely filled water bottles (or at least two kilos) inside the bag is a good start.

2. Stand with your feet wider than your hip-width and start by swinging the bag backwards between your legs as you squat.

3. As you come back up to a stand, swing the bag forwards till your arms are at least shoulder height. Feel free to go higher and bring your bag overhead so as not to get whacked in the face.

4. Make sure the handles of the bag you choose are not too long.

5. Do 30 repetitions.

Expert tip: Sit your buttocks backwards and down to ensure that you're working your glutes instead of your knees jutting forward. And of course, for your own safety, use a bag with sturdy handles.


Upright rows with a weighted bag or luggage. (Photo: Dawn Sim)

Why: This movement strengthens the back, biceps and shoulders. Do take extra caution for those with existing shoulder issues.

What to do:

1. Using luggage allows you to load up more weight for stronger individuals. Ladies who are looking for a lighter load may choose to use their everyday bags instead.

2. Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart for stability and keep your back straight while engaging your core (abs, backs, hips, buttocks, thighs).

3. On the exhale, pull the luggage/bag up towards your collarbone. Inhale as you lower.

4. Do 12 to 15 repetitions.

Expert tip: As you inhale, lower your back down with control instead of simply dropping. This ensures the muscles work on the eccentric phase and protect the joints.

Source: CNA/gl