How to Lift Weights at Work with No Equipment

Even with the best of intentions, adding extra activities to your day -- like strength training -- can be tough. Whether it’s the prospect of happy hour with your co-workers or the kids who need to be picked up, fed, bathed and entertained after work, people find lots of reasons to skip strength training. You really shouldn’t, however. As part of a healthy lifestyle, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends all adults do strength training exercises at least two times a week. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, maintaining and building muscle helps you avoid chronic diseases, as well as strengthening bones, improving sleep and regulating your moods. 

If you don’t have the time or inclination to strength train when the work day is done, spend a few minutes each day on some easy office exercises that don’t require fancy weights or dumbbells. 

Lift Your Briefcase or Backpack

That bag you bring to work every day can get pretty heavy -- and that’s a good thing in this case. If it’s not, place a book or two inside of it. Hold the bag in both hands as you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Press your glutes backward a bit, and then squat down until the backs of your thighs are parallel to the floor. As you do this, keep the bag between your legs and your arms straight. Repeat the squat 10 to 12 times, take a break and do a second set. 

Next, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart once again, tuck in your abs and hold the bag in both hands. Raise it above your head until your arms are straight. Also try bicep curls with both hands holding the bag, as well as tricep curls in which you hold the bag behind your back, elbows pointed toward the ceiling, and then raise your arms until they’re straight. For all of these exercises, perform one set of 10 to 12 repetitions, wait 30 seconds, and then do a second set. 

Borrow a Ream of Paper 

One of those heavy reams of paper stashed in the copy room can also be used as a weight. Hold one or two reams in your hands and then stand with your feet about 1 foot apart. Rise up onto your toes, and then lower back down, repeating the motion 10 to 15 times. 

Also try lunges while holding a ream in each hand. Grip the ream firmly between your thumb and fingers, allowing your arms to rest by your sides. Step forward with one foot, allowing the knee of the other leg to bend and come toward the floor. When it’s nearly touching the floor, push yourself back up to a standing position. Repeat the exercise 10 to 12 times with one leg and then repeat with the opposite leg. Do two sets of each exercise. 

Don’t Overlook Bodyweight Exercises 

Many beneficial strength training exercises don’t need any “equipment” whatsoever. When you have a few minutes, do push ups, pull ups, crunches, or squats in which your back is leaning against the wall. While seated in your chair, raise both legs off the floor, tighten your abs, and hold for as long as you can. 

Any time you need a brain break or a break in your work routine, try doing one or two of the above-named exercises. Those are all viable options, but you can also check around your own workplace for other items you could lift or carry. Anything that adds resistance or weight to your routine can help you with this important form of exercise. 


Image courtesy Dave Herholz, Flickr