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Free Exercise Ideas to Shape-up for Summer

Want to get in shape before getting into your bathing suit this summer? You may be able to do it without hitting the gym.

Though there are always ways to save on gym memberships, there are also plenty of free exercise ideas that will help you get in shape and bathing suit ready without the gym fees. Here are my favorites:


Plyometrics have been around forever but are just now becoming popular on the exercise scene – and for good reason. “Plyos” are an efficient and fun way to sculpt muscles and burn fat. Plus, no equipment is necessary besides an able body.

So what are plyos? They are quick bursts of movement that work those often ignored fast-twitch muscles. Fast-twitch muscles are muscle fibers that are put to use for any quick, swift movement. Slow-twitch muscles are the fibers that what most people use for day-to-day activities and even for most exercise programs.

It’s important to perform all plyos without weights since you’ll be jumping and moving quickly. Try adding these to moves to a couple workouts per week with as many repetitions and sets as you can handle:

  • Squat Jumps: perform a basic squat and immediately leap up as high as you can.
  • Jumping Lunges: perform a basic lunge and quickly jump up and switch legs while moving into the opposite side lunge.
  • Side-to-side Jumps: with your feet together, jump quickly side to side either over an object or an imaginary line. To increase the difficulty, tuck your knees towards your body as you jump.
  • Push-up Claps: start from a modified push-up position (knees on the ground) and perform a push-up.

Between each push-up, instead of bringing your torso up, bring your hands off the ground and clap them. This is a very tough move and should be performed cautiously!

Living Room Intervals

When I’m pressed for time, I usually do a quick set of “living room intervals”. I’ll use basic moves and do 30 second or 1 minute intervals of each move. I’ll crank up the music and just move around as I like. The key here is to really work hard and fast for 30 seconds to one minute and then to recover with an easy move for at least one minute and repeat this cycle for 20 to 30 minutes. Here is a sample living room interval workout:

  • Jog/march in place (2 minute; warm up)
  • Jumping Jacks (1 minute)
  • Forward/Backward/Side Kicks (1 minute)
  • Push-ups (30 seconds)
  • Crunches (30 seconds)
  • Run in place (1 minute)
  • Plyometric Jumps (1 minute)
  • Boxing Moves (1 minute)
  • High Knee Run (1 minute)
  • Repeat 2-4x

It’s important with these workouts to always be moving, bouncing, jumping, running, etc. Make sure your heart is constantly pumping and you’ll get an effective workout right in your living room!


Sprinting or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is another recently popular workout phenomenon. Sprinting is a simple concept, but delivers big results. Sprinting is very efficient at burning fat and takes a fraction of the time of a normal workout.

It’s easy: next time you go for a jog, bike, or walk, go all-out as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Rest for two to three minutes (it’s very important to rest for awhile to bring your heart back down for optimal fat burn) and repeat the sprint as many times as you can during your workout. For example, if you incorporated sprints into your 30 minute run, it might look like this:

  • 5 minute warm-up jog
  • 5 minute normal pace run
  • 30 second hard sprint
  • 2 minute recover/regular pace
  • 30 second hard sprint
  • 2 minute recover/regular pace
  • Repeat steps 3 through 6 three or four times

Other Ideas

If you are lucky enough to have a high school track near your home, take advantage of it! A track is a great piece of “equipment” for any exercise program. Use the marked lines on the track to sprint for 100 meters, do lunges, backpedal, jog, skip, shuffle, grapevine, bear crawls, tricep dips, or even just walk. Perform a different exercise or move for each 100 to 200 meters on the track and you’ll be having so much fun, you’ll forget you’re even working out.

If you already have a pretty set walking, running, or biking routine, try to motivate yourself by adding mileage to your route or beating your previous time each day that you go out. The new challenge will keep you motivated and trick your body and in turn you’ll get better weight loss or fitness level results.

Want even more free exercise ideas to shape-up for summer? Check out the GenXFinance post on 10 ways to get fit without a gym membership.

What about you? What are some fun and free exercise activities that you enjoy during the summer months? Please share!

Published or updated on June 18, 2010

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About Amber Gilstrap

Amber is a twenty-something CPA from Kansas City, Missouri who loves writing, working out, and---of course---finding fresh ideas for saving money. Follow her on twitter @amberinks.


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  1. Excellent article about fast twitch exercises- I didn’t know much about specific exercises for them until now.

    These exercises are also time saving as well as money saving.

    An in expensive skipping rope would add skipping into the mix- an essential part of exercise for boxers- so it must be good!

  2. alyssa says:

    Good and easy ways to have fun and exercise!

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