The Strong Silent Type

A guide for working out alone without a gym

Full disclosure, I am not a super buff dude. No part of this is a guide to getting absolutely ripped

But! It is a something for others like me who spend a lot of time in their office and want to do more than zero amounts of physical exercise to offset the tyranny of sitting in a chair all day.

Okay, let’s get started.

Also, side note, my one personal requirement that you may or may not also care about is that I didn’t want to spend any money on either a gym membership or buying gym-type equipment at home.

The minimalist part of me hates the idea of owning weights: they’re literally just objects that sit and take up space. Maybe you’re a digital nomad already and obviously you’re not going to make a lot of room for barbells in your pack.

The frugal part of me knows that I’d feel bad spending monthly on a membership in a reality where I’m trying to freelance and be as lean as possible financially. So that’s creative area we get to work around.

The other anti-gym sentiment is barrier to entry. Having to get up and get dressed and go to a place to do an hour of work is just a lot of effort and most of us neglect doing that after a while. My actual use-case for working out is the 5–15 minutes I have while waiting for my computer to render something or move big files or whatever. So it’s about filling the gaps with small things.


Super important to get stretchy, especially to combat the office chair fatigue. My goal with working out isn’t necessarily bulking muscles as much as it’s trying to not become super decrepit when I’m older from decades of sitting.

Wrist stretches for typists:

This is super easy, I do the upwards one on my right wrist a lot — you can really feel it stretch on top of your arm just below the elbow.

There’s also a ton of wrist exercises for drummers that I used to do when I played drums, so you can look into those if you want more.

There’s also whole arm stretches like holding them out to your sides and doing little forward or backward circles, reaching up as high as you can, shrugs, pointing individual fingers, and standing and pretending to punch or karate chop invisible assailants (soundtrack for that).

Stretches for ankles:

I can’t do that, which is a terrifying premise. I’m young and active! My ankles just don’t bend that way: I can’t get them flat on the floor. So, I’ve been rotating this one a lot to work on that.

Also, it should be noted, my whole premise when I’m doing these things isn’t necessarily to count reps or use timers or anything. Mostly I’m waiting for a timed event to happen anyway (like cooking pizza) so there’s a natural end point, but I’m mostly just doing things to do them. Fill idle time with something more useful than refreshing Facebook. Any non-zero amount of stretching or moving is more valuable than nothing, right?

That’s probably most of the yoga I do. Cobra is sometimes nice, you can do the one-legged tree thing while you’re standing at the counter chopping vegetables or whatever.


A lot of these will be known as prison workouts because you could feasibly do them in an empty jail cell while you’re waiting to get out and exact revenge.

Burpees and pushups. Holding plank position. These are the bread and butter.

Also, there’s chair presses with and without your feet raised.

This exercise also changes your chair, for some reason?

And if you have a reasonably strong desk you can do this with your office chair in front (or no chair at all for easy mode):


Here’s my actual life hack for minimalists: the only thing you need is weight, right? And basically every object you own has some weight to it right? So lift that crap!

My main thing is filling a duffle bag with some of my bigger books. I have no idea what it weighs, but it’s pretty hefty. 50L with lots of dense textbooks. Basically it’s just a method for containing weight and having handles on different sides; a backpack or whatever would work too.

You can do bench presses with this, body bar curls with different muscle groups, throw it over your shoulders for squats, that sort of thing.

It’s not super heavy so it’s never dangerous but again, the idea isn’t super bulking mega muscle weight lifting. The idea is to move and do something that’s not just more sitting.

Fill some 2L jugs with water for 2 kg dumbbells. The usual suspect for these: bicep and tricep curls, shoulder press, one arm row, lateral raise, lunges, etc.


I also hike and snowshoe and bike a ton when I can. This winter I learned to cross-country ski which was cool. In general I prefer to get my sweat on outside and then come home and shower so in that sense cardio for me is more like a traditional work out: you have to devote chunks of time to it.

With that said, my micro-gym concept works here too. Doing a few dozen jumping jacks is better than zero, even if you’re not breaking a sweat yet. Just get the ol’ heart to do something as you’re waiting.

Dance party: this is a guilty pleasure, but since you’re working alone who’s going to know? Basically I just throw on some nightcore or equally DDR-esque dance music and flail around wildly for a bit. If you’re not breathing heavily after a few songs you need to rave harder.

It’s silly. I dunno. Smiling is good for you too, so be silly.

In the end I’ll say it again: it doesn’t matter what you do, just do something.

Get up and move.

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