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Stephen Tongue looks at training in small spaces and considers training kit that is worth investing in.

Movement and exercise are a passion for so many and an aspiration for even more. If you want to get moving, one luxury that you are certainly going to need is s p a c e. Not everybody has a gym membership or a home gym that they can jump around in. If you have a suitable garden or a picturesque public park to use, then you’re at somewhat of an advantage too. A beautiful, safe, green space to train outdoors is a luxury, as is good weather – not everybody is happy about training in a variable climate either. Since the pandemic, we have seen an increase in the amount of people exercising at home and many have invested in equipment, apps and subscriptions to help keep them motivated and healthy. A great number of these digital workouts look great but require you to leap about, roll around and swing the cat high around your head, which is not always practical. For demographics such as students and city dwellers, for example, space in a small flat/apartment can be very restricted and they could be performing their hamstring stretches with one foot on the bed’s headboard and one hand on the kitchen sink! Maybe you have limited space yourself or have members/clients who need to train at home in small flats or even hotel rooms while working away. If you know somebody who is motivated to exercise but has limited space and a limited budget, this article is for them. I am going to help you consider training kit that is worthwhile investing in and help you understand how to train at home safely without bring the house down.

Buy the basics

What is the minimum kit you would need to buy to set up a home workout regime and what would be a few ‘nice to have’ bits of kit that aren’t going to break the bank? If the budget is super low, then the secondhand market is often full of almost new kit and clothing that people have purchased with the best intentions but have slowly but surely creeped their way to the back of the wardrobe. For new kit purchases, look out for seasonal sales and ask people in the know for discount codes. I have had lots of cheeky DMs over the years from bargain hunters and I’ve always tried to help them with discounts and bargain finds whenever I can.

Essential kit for training in small spaces

A comfortable pair of trainers

This is probably one of the most important purchases you will make. I have seen people try to exercise in their work shoes before and it always seemed more of a hindrance than a help. You will need appropriate footwear. It doesn’t have to be flash but it should be breathable, wide fitting and have appropriate grip. The main issue with footwear is that you need to be able to grip and stick to the surface you are working on: some carpets and hard floors won’t mix well with socks or even bare feet.

Running is probably one of the best free workouts you will ever get so, if there is even a small risk that you might be tempted to venture outdoors, get some shoes you can run in too.

Exercise mat

Temporarily you can get away with using a folded towel (such as in a hotel room) but, on a more permanent basis, an exercise mat will increase your motivation to exercise. They provide comfort, they won’t stick to you or absorb sweat and they make bony knees and elbows tolerable. Get one that rolls/ folds well so it’s easy to store and, if you’re particularly tall, you would benefit from extra length.

Exercise bands

These are hands down the best investment for home training and, compared to weights, bands certainly won’t stretch the budget. Bands are super easy to store, they weigh next to nothing so they are portable enough to take on the road with you and they come in a wide variety of strengths that can challenge even the strongest of athletes. I do recommend buying exercise bands new because they have a shelf life and will eventually snap. You can usually clearly see the signs bands are deteriorating long before the dreaded snap comes back and bites you in the bum! Bands are cheap, effective and offer so much more to your exercise library – absolutely an essential purchase for home workouts.

Timer app

Very basic exercise timer apps are available in abundance in app libraries and are free. Choose an app that allows you to simply programme work and rest periods and has a clear display that will be visible through the drips of sweat raining from your eyebrows.

YouTube app

You’re probably well aware of the abundance of free workout content available on YouTube, making it a must-have app for any home workout efforts. Of course, the exercises in this article have also been compiled into a convenient short video for you too. Look out for new upcoming ViPR workout content coming soon from FitPro.

‘Nice to have’ kit for training in small spaces


Weights can come in all shapes and sizes and vary in price but, as a rule, the heavier they are the more expensive they become. Although they can be more difficult to store and transport, the positive about investing in weights is that they do usually last the test of time. If you want to go really low budget, a bag of gravel in a gym holdall actually works pretty well as a temporary sandbag tool. Moving more upmarket, adjustable dumbbells are often a good long-term purchase, or a multi-purpose weight like ViPR or YBell can provide a lot of variation and innovative training and, if looked after, can last you a lifetime.

Skipping rope

If you have an outdoor space, a skipping rope can provide a challenging and fun cardio workout without having to travel anywhere. This is often a go-to tool for me if I’m limited on time or tied to the premises. As it’s lightweight and low volume, it’s a favourite to take on holiday too, as it has little impact on space or weight in your suitcase.

Heart rate app

If you’re getting more serious about training, monitoring your performance by tracking your heart rate can help push your training to the next level. This will usually require the purchase of some peripheral technology such as an HR strap or wrist monitor but doesn’t have to cost the earth. This means you can take out the guess work when it comes to how hard you’re pushing yourself and how well you’re recovering. It’s a great way to add more scientific structure to your training regime.

Great, so we have some kit for you to use and we have kept it low budget. Now, what can we do with that kit in the space we have available?

Home workout considerations

The first rule for exercising at home is minimising distractions. I can’t be the only one who gets on the living room floor to do my warm-up stretches and immediately thinks ‘what’s that under the sofa?’ The reality is that in the home there is so much that demands our attention and it all wants to drag you away from your workout. Put your devices on do not disturb, move your work and chores out of sight, pull the blinds and make a promise to yourself that you will focus for 30mins. Personally, I find ear buds and a great workout playlist can drown out a lot of those domestic distractions.

You will already know which room you’re likely to train in but briefly consider surface. Are you on a carpet or a hard floor? Do you need to roll up the rug or buy an exercise mat (or use a folded towel)? Should you be barefoot or in training shoes? It’s not nice when you’re on your second round of sit-ups and you realise your coccyx is starting to burn on the wooden floor or chafe on the shag pile. I’ve tried training in the living room, bedroom, kitchen and garden. The garden wins, although depending upon the weather it’s not always full of appeal.

If you’re cosy and comfortable before you start working out, I guarantee that 10mins into your sesh you will feel like you’re in a sauna breathing through a straw. You will be throwing off layers, gasping for air and guzzling water; nobody wants to end up training naked – it’s just not practical. You do need to plan ahead regarding room temperature. 10-15mins before you train, be sure to check the heating is off and throw some windows open to lower the temperature, ventilate the space and have water to hand. If you feel a little chilly in your gym kit before you start, you have hit it just right and it will motivate you to crack on with the warm-up.

What are the obvious hazards? Be sure to tidy your space so that you’re not going to step on a plug or a piece of Lego but also look for obvious things you might hit such as light fittings, mantlepiece pictures or overhanging plants. Cleaning spillages mid-workout is a real endorphin suppressor.

Beware of people and pets. If you share your space with others, do inform them of the forthcoming danger. Throwing your arms and legs around and bouncing up and down on the floorboards can catch people off guard and curiosity can draw them into the room just at the wrong moment. A ‘Do Not Disturb’ door hanger is a sensible precaution. Make an effort to secure your pets – nobody wants to see Felix trap his tail or Fido flipped over the sofa by accident.

Plan for the worst-case scenario. I don’t like to be down beat and I love to be optimistic but sometimes you do have to be practical. Do you have a first aid kit? If your grapevine went around the twist and into the fireplace, do you have the necessaries to deal with the aftermath? If the workout did literally kill you, who would know? Just saying.

Finally, just do a practical check before you begin. When teaching live online, I always ask participants to stretch up above their head and around their bodies just to get some spatial awareness before they risk kicking the coffee table over.


After some sensible considerations, you have kit, you’ve prepped your space and you’re good to go. What are the best compact moves you can do to help you get an effective full-body workout? I’ve got you covered with the exercise list and videos below. I am going to assume that you can adopt a press-up position, so strictly speaking I suppose it’s not a metre squared; however, often – and certainly in a hotel room – a small rectangular floor space is all you’re going to get, but it does usually mean space to lie on the floor is available if needed.

In my video, you will note that I’ve cleared furniture to make space and even mapped out my one metre square to demonstrate how compact this functional workout is.


One metre square and room to extend your arms upward is all you need for this 3D stretch.

Perform the following main workout as a circuit, spending 1min on each exercise. Repeat 2-3 circuits, taking 1-2mins recovery between each complete circuit.

Banded bent over row

Great for your upper back. Keep a flat, long spine and drive the elbows high.

Banded split squat to overhead press

Combining shoulders and thigh work, this raises the temperature quickly. Drop until both knees are 90 degrees and simultaneously press the band overhead. No matter how tall you are, you won’t hit the ceiling with this one.

Prone toe taps

This loads the front of the hips and core. Begin in a press-up position and shift the hips back and up to facilitate a toe touch before returning to the flat starting position.

Banded half kneeling woodchops

This core-focused drill also creates great rotation in the thoracic spine. Starting on one knee, wrap your band around the grounded foot, grip the handle and drive it in rotation over the opposite shoulder.

Front squat rotate

Work fast and strengthen those legs. This can be performed with or without a weight, just with the arms held across the chest. Using a weight, hold it in position on the upper chest, squat first and rotate at the top of the movement while keeping eyes front.

Banded reverse lunge

This uses strength bands to great effect to upgrade the standard reverse lunge.

Prone squat hip drive

This simple bodyweight exercise loads the quadriceps and core with great effect.

Lateral weight shift squat

Build strength in the often neglected lateral hip to help keep healthy hips and knees.

Jump jack press-up

This two-part move brings a lot to the party, working multiple muscle groups and firing up the heart rate.

Side plank thread

Build strength into the often neglected lateral core, helping you maintain a strong, healthy back.

After completing the circuit, be sure to cool down with some ground-based stretching on your tightest muscle groups.


Even in a cost-of-living and housing crisis, there is always a workout that can be available to you. With a little motivation and some fitness innovation, you can do a low-cost workout in the smallest of spaces. Take advantage of good weather and green space whenever you can as a priority as it’s good for your soul and mental health. For the times you can’t get outside, the bedroom floor works perfectly well.

About the Author

Stephen Tongue

Loaded Movement Training

With a passion for movement and an appetite for rock climbing and bouldering, Stephen Tongue has ascended to great heights in his personal training career, segueing into master trainer roles for leading fitness brands such as ViPR and Power Plate. As Head of Education for ViPR at FitPro, he holds a special interest in movement-based physical therapy and, from his base in Loughborough – where he lives with his wife, two children and a dog called Dude – he has travelled all over the UK and Europe, educating himself and continually developing his skills. He regularly contributes to magazines, blogs and social media platforms and has presented at various fitness conventions. He is a Leicester Tigers fan and his happy place is Hope Valley in the Peak District.

Key expertise:

  • ViPR Head of Education
  • TRX Master Trainer
  • MyZone Master Trainer
  • PowerPlate Master Trainer
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