Some people tell me I lift like a girl. I treat that as a high compliment! I grew up playing hockey and have been playing with iron for the last 10 years, but building lean and sexy muscle doesn't always require a gym. Even if you're stuck in a tiny college dorm room, you can get in a great workout.
I've designed two workouts—one upper-body and one lower-body—for those who have small, tight spaces to work with. The only real piece of gym equipment you need is a resistance band. If you don't have that, there are still alternatives! Don't let not having a gym membership keep you from your goals.
I recommend alternating between these upper- and lower-body circuits every other day. If you're feeling really brave, you can choose to do them both on the same day a couple times a week, too!
Katie Chung Hua Dorm Workout: Upper Body
Let's kick-start your training with an upper-body workout. Ideally, you should have a resistance band and a solid post like a bed frame, sturdy lamp, or door knob to hold it in place while you perform specific exercises. I've lined up a total of 12 exercises, all aimed at hitting various points of your upper body with a vengeful burn if you bring the right intensity!
This circuit should take you approximately 20 minutes. That's about four or five of these workout songs!
Burpees are meant to warm you up for this upcoming upper-body session. Bring your chest to the ground, push yourself up, and jump up to perform one complete burpee! Keep the pace fast with minimal rest between each set to get the heart rate up and really prime your body for the next movements.
Superset: Back Row/Chest Press
A superset simply means you do both exercises back-to-back with little to no rest in between to complete one superset. Do three supersets of back rows and chest presses with the resistance band. You can wrap the resistance band around a bed post or something stable. Depending on its resistance, you can go for 15 reps or aim high for 20 reps.
If you don't have a resistance band, you can grab two water bottles and do seated rows. In lieu of the banded chest press, you can do assisted push-ups by holding yourself up on the side of the bed or table, do normal push-ups, or do push-ups with your feet elevated to make them more challenging.
Alternating Renegade Row
A renegade row is basically a push-up—usually with dumbbells held in your hands—followed by a one-armed row. If you don't have dumbbells, grab a can of soup or even a sturdy Gatorade bottle.
Giant Set: Biceps Curl/Triceps Dip/Upright Row
Use your resistance band for both the biceps curl and upright row. Keep the band under your feet and use your body weight to anchor it to the floor while you curl it. You can use a dresser, bed, chair, or anything that is above knee-height for your triceps dips. Make it more or less challenging by bringing your feet out or closer toward your body, respectively.
If no resistance band is available, curl something slightly heavy that you can hang onto, like a can of soup, or maybe even a 2-liter bottle of soda if you can grip it.
As for the upright row, use both hands to grab onto a heavy textbook, bring your shoulders straight up, keeping the weight as close to your body as possible, and shrug at the top.
Perform a complete jumping jack by contacting your hands at the top of the movement. Perform these with minimal rest between sets. Your heart should be pumping!
Burn your shoulders out by performing small, circular movements forward or backward with your thumbs pointed downward. This tiny modification really targets your shoulders for that burn. Continue until the burn on your shoulders becomes unbearable!
Giant Set: V-up/Leg Lift/Plank
Your final giant set is an ab-torcher. For V-ups, you want to lie on your back, lift your legs and chest up, and form a V. Keep your back straight and try to touch your toes with your hands.
The leg lift movement is not a bounce. Keeping your upper back steady and on the floor, raise your legs into the air by using your core. This is more challenging when you keep your legs straight.
Finally, you have a plank finisher. Tuck your elbows under your shoulders, keeping your neck aligned with the rest of your spine, and brace your core for at least one minute. You can do this!
Katie Chung Hua Dorm Workout: Lower Body
How does your upper body feel? Sore? Great! While your upper body rests, you can start blasting your lower-body muscles.
My lower-body circuit is comprised of three rounds of seven exercises. You'll want a timer prepared for this. In fact, your phone will do nicely since you probably already have it with you. For each exercise, you will do continuous work for 30 seconds, rest 20 seconds, and continue to the next exercise for another 30 seconds of work.
This will go on until you complete all seven exercises to complete one round, which you'll repeat two more times.
If your cardio health is lagging, mountain climbers will surely help it climb back up! This simple yet brutal movement targets abs and shoulders, and skyrockets your heart rate!
The sumo squat differs from the regular squat because the movement calls for a wider stance and hits the glutes better. I use a weight for this, but I know those history books of yours easily weigh 10 pounds each—use those in lieu of a dumbbell!
Remember to squeeze your glutes at the top to make sure you're activating your backside.
For this movement, use a lighter weight since this is a single-leg exercise. Clutching the weight (or book) by your chest, lunge out to the side and quickly push off to return to the starting position. Dedicate 15 seconds to one side and then switch.
Alternating Lunge Jump
If your heart rate has adapted to your training pace and has dipped a bit, this exercise will definitely pump it back up. Be sure to focus on really exploding off the ground and aim for full extension with each jump to really fire the glutes. Keep your head and chest up and go for it!
Plank With Twist
The plank by itself is already a great core exercise, but adding in a twist makes it 10 times more challenging by recruiting more stabilizer muscles. This movement mostly targets the sides of your abs, the obliques.
In my opinion, the split crunch takes the crown as one of the more difficult ab exercises. Really brace your core and focus on one side for 15 seconds, and then switch sides.
Ready yourself for this brutal finisher! A 1-minute wall sit is bound to get your hammies, quads, glutes, and pretty much your entire lower body quivering. Consider this a "breather" before you hit the next round of exercises (yes, it should hurt).
Bring On The Burn
No doubt these workouts will be quite difficult to get through at first, but as you continue to crush them, you'll notice yourself getting stronger and more efficient. When the workout starts to feel too easy, try increasing the number of reps, reducing your rest times, or extending the actual working time from 30 seconds to maybe even a minute per lower-body exercise.
Keep challenging yourself and soon you'll be able to wow your classmates and friends with how you manage to stay in shape without the gym, armed with only two 20-minute workouts!