Top 12 Exercises to Use While On a Budget

Exercises that simply get the job done, whether your goals are fat loss and fitting into those skinny jeans, gaining muscle for that summer body, or performance increases on the field. Not to mention that these take very few if little pieces of equipment to perform in a pinch. In no particular order, here is a list of the top 12 exercises to use in a program while on a budget.

1. Push-Ups

This staple is underrated in effectiveness due to its lack of sound technique across the board. To truly get the most out of this exercise, squeeze your glutes, and brace your abs like you’re going to get hit in the stomach. Tougher variations include slider push-ups and plyometric push-ups. Now see if performing this exercise does anything different for you!

2. Inverted Rows or TRX Rows

An exercise not done too often in gyms, let alone at home due to needing some type of equipment to pull yourself up. Purchasing a TRX or Jungle Gym straps is a wise investment especially if you are interested in quick, on-the-go equipment. Be sure to pinch your shoulder blades at the top when performing this exercise.

3. Pull-Ups + Chin-Ups

Great way to use not only your upper back, but also your core. Remember to pull with your lats, and not just bicep curl your way up (in the case of chin-ups). BARStarrz, an international fitness team, inspires the use of creative calisthenics and gymnastics movements, and the pull-up is one of the core movements that they embody as well.

4. Planks & Side Planks

This is a simple exercise, but not so easy to hold for long durations if you don’t practice it. This exercise utilizes the full extent of the core musculature. Aim for a simple 60sec in this position without shooting your hips to the ceiling. If this version is too easy, place your feet up on a bench or seat and perform the exercise from this position, which should make this exercise more difficult.

5. Squat

Squats are king when it comes to calisthenic exercises. To make this exercise fool proof, try shooting your hands forward and keeping your chest up while pushing your butt back to make sure you are doing this exercise right. If this exercise is too easy at a bodyweight level, add a kettlebell to make it a goblet squat – a 35lb kettlebell can go for $40+.

6. Lunges

A single leg version of the squat, a lunge can add a little more difficulty to exercise overall. Before making this exercise more difficult, shoot for technical perfection “In a perfect world we have…a 90-90 alignment,” says strength coach Mike Robertson. Aim for a 90 degree angle between the hip and the knee in the back and in the front before progressing further.

7. Hip Thrust

Channel your inner Jane Fonda, but don’t break out your headbands quite yet. This oldie but goodie has gotten a facelift, and is now being popularized thanks to Bret Contreras who is regarded as “The Glute Guy.” This version has two benches or seats at parallel, and on one end you have a pair of feet stacked on top. On the other end, you should drape your shoulders across. From here, you bring your hips up to the ceiling, making sure you squeeze your butt upwards, and not activating your back.

8. Kettlebell Swings

Just like Miley Cyrus, we’re going to be moving our hips like yeah. Tim Ferriss, 4 Hour Workweek extraordinaire, gives us a few tips on how to perform such an exercise:

• Stand with your feet 6–12 inches outside of shoulder width on either side, each foot pointed outward about 30 degrees. If toes pointed straight ahead were 12:00 on a clock face, your left foot would point at 10:00 or 11:00, and your right would point at 1:00 or 2:00.
• Keep your shoulders pulled back (retracted) and down to avoid rounding your back.
• The lowering movement (backswing) is a sitting-back-on-a-chair movement, not a squatting- down movement.
• Do not let your shoulders go in front of your knees at any point.
• Imagine pinching a penny between your butt cheeks when you pop your hips forward. This should be a forceful pop, and it should be impossible to contract your ass more. If your dog’s head gets in the way, it should be lights out for Fido.

9. Handstand Push-Ups

An advanced exercise that utilizes not only the shoulder girdle, but also the core to a greater degree. Balance is key in this exercise, as stabilizers must fire significantly harder not only in your shoulders, but also in your midsection to keep you from toppling over. Focus first on holding a handstand against a wall for about 30 seconds while breathing freely, then progress to handstand push-ups against a wall.

10. Turkish Get-Up

Although technically involved, it is a movement that is needed in almost everyday if you ever plan on getting up from the floor without pain, especially as you grow older. If you have problems getting up and down from the floor, try to work this movement pattern daily and you’ll see an immediate improvement in your core strength. You don’t even need weights for this exercise. Dr. Perry of Stop Chasing Pain shows us how to perform this exercise while aiming for movement perfection before adding weight.

11. Jump Rope

Here is an oldie but goodie. Ali did it. Tyson did it. The kids outside did it (at least back in the day!). Now it’s time to revive this conditioning drill. This can be used as a warm-up, a finisher, or even a filler between exercises if you’re feeling a little crazy. I’d recommend starting off with roughly 100-150 contacts every other day if you wanted to increase your coordination and cardiovascular system simultaneously.

12. Sprinting

Run. Really fast. Catch your breath for a few. Then run really fast again. Repeat.

-In all reality, this exercise is amazing provided you are able to sprint without pain. However, as with most exercises, there are other ways to tax your energy systems without causing pain. The way to do so with sprints is to perform them uphill. Walter Payton, running back for the Chicago Bears, was duly noted for conditioning by sprinting up a hill by his home.

All of these exercises can be combined or programmed in such a way as to really tax the body, and further these exercises can be performed quickly and simply on a budget. Ranging from $0 for bodyweight exercises to approximately $175, home gym equipment such as the TRX and Kettlebell provide easy solutions to a slim budget.


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  • Spencer Morris

    What’s with that guy’s form in the TGU? Why does he bridge up his hips and hold that position for so long? Usually when I do them I’m moving fast to get the rep done, maybe I should slow down, it might work the core more.

    • Miguel Aragoncillo

      Just making sure he gets the rep in correctly with his hips I assume…

      • Spencer Morris

        I’ll try that next time I do TGUs. How often are you using them in your training?

        • Miguel Aragoncillo

          I cycle them in a 4 week period with various weights (kettlebells mostly) and half-rep or partial repetitions in order to work different parts of the movement. For clients, same thing, depending on how progressed or regressed they are physically.

          • Spencer Morris

            Do you ever do overhead swings a la crossfit standards? That’s a whole lotta fun with 2 pood

  • Tania Dakka

    The great thing about these, you can do them anytime. They’re not only budget friendly, they’re schedule friendly. 

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  • Suresh Reshie Joseph

    Brilliant stuff. Thanks for such a comprehensive blog