Updated: Oct 5, 2022
I must make a confession. I have a guilty pleasure. It's not something you eat. Although, I do have one or two of the sweet variety. I enjoy designing complex, multi-movement exercise workouts. It just happens. I can't explain it. Maybe it's a subconscious urge to keep things interesting. There's just something about them. When we see demonstrations on social media, the workouts look so beautiful, almost like a graceful ballet. However, I will stop myself when the workout starts looking like only a creature from a dark dimension can do them. When some of my advanced clients are having a tough time following, I know I've gone too far and must readjust. The movements in a workout program must serve a purpose that is not just for posting on social media. Multi-movement exercises are great because you can hit multiple muscle groups in a shorter amount of time, while getting the heart pumping and the muscles burning. This is ideal if you're the type of person who can only workout within small windows of time. With that said, even with a small window of time available to you, simple workouts made up of simple movements can still yield some amazing results, especially when planned out and performed strategically. And, things like equipment and space, or the lack thereof, don't have to be a factor. It doesn’t have to be complicated. And, simple doesn't always necessarily mean easy. Recently, I was in Montreal visiting my parents for the Jewish New Year and I didn't pack my gear. Side note, strength bands are my gear of choice when travelling. Between spending quality time with my family, the feasts, and going to prayer services, my time and energy were limited. However, I still wanted to get in a small straight forward workout, which ended up consisting of push-ups, a combination of standard and wide-stance squats, and mountain climbers. I was huffing and puffing, the muscles were roasting, and the workout was completed in under 10 minutes - better than no workout at all. (If you're curious, below, you'll find a brief rundown of the workout.) And, this leads me to my top 3 simple no-equipment exercises that can help you slay any workout from anywhere: the Push-up, the Squat, and the Mountain Climber. These exercises make an appearance in most of my workouts in some form, especially in my group workouts. They have many styles and options, from beginners to the seasons athletes. Importantly, they're linked to a range of functional real-life applications, as well.
Have fun with them. Play with different combinations as part of a no-equipment home or hotel room workout. Try a repetition-based or a time-based interval training session. The choice is yours. How far you let your imagination take you will determine how fun and intense your workout will be.
✓ Hits the chest, arms, and core. ✓ Real-life applications include getting up from the floor, pushing away an aggressor, and passing a basketball.
Hands positioned at armpit level with the shoulders pushed down, away from the ears (no shrugging).
Keep the body as straight as possible from head to toe, or head to knee, if you doing the push-ups from the knees.
Clench the glutes (butt cheeks) and brace the abs, as you're getting punched in the gut.
As you push up, try squeezing the floor together between your hands. This action will help activate the chest which is the targeted muscle group.
For more coaching on the push-up, check out my 21-Day Push-up Challenge Program where I help you master the exercise.
✓ Targets the glutes (butt), thighs all around, and core. ✓ Real-life applications include standing up from a seated position, sitting down, jumping, and, in conjunction with the push-up, pushing a car out of the snow.
Keep the chest up.
Sit back on your glutes (butt), as if you're trying to sit in a chair that's a little too far back. You should have most of your weight distributed from the heel to "ball-of-the-foot" level, also known as the centre of pressure of foot.
Keep knees pointing in the same direction as your toes throughout the whole movement. In a wide-stance squat, you can turn out the feet about 45 degrees.
Lower you body until your legs are 90 degrees (between lower half and upper half of the leg) or when the thighs are parallel to the ground. Forget about the "Ass to the Grass" concept. In the 90-degree or parallel positions, the muscles are under tension a lot longer, therefore working a lot harder.
Clench the glutes (butt cheeks) as you're returning to the standing position, pushing through the centre of pressure of foot.
The Mountain Climber
✓ Hits the core, legs, shoulders, and arms. ✓ Real-life applications include powering up a steep incline or through high snow.
Mountain Climber Tips
Brace the abs.
Like with the Push-up, place the hands at armpit level with the shoulders pushed down, away from the ears (no shrugging).
Pull one knee in towards the chest, rather pushing the foot from the floor, and keep the foot off the floor.
Wait to return the leg to the starting position before pulling in the other leg.
Avoid piking or kicking your feet up.
Although these are listed as my "Top 3", I must mention that the Reverse Lunge and the Low Plank (plank on the forearms) are up there on the list, making it a solid "Top 5". What I like about the Reverse Lunge is that the forward leg takes on more load and, due to the lateral instability, the core gets some loving too.
The Montreal Workout
I'm not kidding when I say the workout I did while at my parents' is super straight forward. The goal is to perform the movements with proper technique and as little rest as possible.
Start with 10 Push-ups, 20 Squats (10 regular stance and 10 wide stance), and 30 Mountain Climbers (1 rep per side or Left/Right is 1 rep). For each of the following rounds, decrease the push-ups by 2 repetitions, but the reps for the other exercises remain the same. The final round will be 2 push-ups, 20 squats, and 30 mountain climbers.
Let me know when you try it.