6 Total-Body Workouts That Are as Fun as Games

September 25, 2018

We all know the key to exercising is to keep it fun and the best way to keep things fun is to keep yourself (and your body) guessing. To that end, these impromptu workouts that feel more like playing a game than exercising are key.

You don’t need to be a certified trainer to create an effective total-body workout. Try these fun, creative ways to develop a routine on the fly that also makes you sweat.

  1. “This simple circuit-oriented resistance session will spike your metabolism and increase your post-workout calorie burn,” says Brandon Hirose, a personal trainer at Crunch 59th Street in New York City.

    How to do it:

    • Choose three exercises: a lower-body, a core and an upper-body move.
    • Look at the phone number of your emergency contact or the last person you texted. Their phone number determines your rep scheme. Zeros count as 10 reps.
    • Go through their phone number, alternating between the three exercises. For example, if their number is 555-700-6498, and you chose split squats, plank and pushups as your exercises, you’d do:

      555-700-6498
      5 split squats
      5 plank
      5 pushups
      7 split squats
      10 plank
      10 pushups
      6 split squats
      4 plank
      9 pushups
      8 split squats

    • Go through their phone number three times total. So in this example, the second round would start with 5 planks.

    Rest between rounds based on your fitness level. Beginners rest 60–90 seconds, intermediate rest 30–60 seconds and advanced rest 30 seconds.

  2. Remember those origami fortune tellers (aka cootie catchers) you made as a kid? Make one for a hit of nostalgia and a great workout. “This gets your heart rate up while keeping it fun and interesting. Each time you play you could get a different type of workout,” says certified personal trainer Kelli Fierras, RDN. “This workout also allows you to have structure and guidance without having to make it up as you go along.” You can do it alone or with friends.

    How to do it:

    • Create the fortune teller. On the four outer flaps, write: cardio, strength, core and stretching.
    • The inner flaps are numbered 1 through 8 as is traditionally done.
    • Underneath each flap, write an exercise, such as burpees, pushups, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, squat jumps, plank jacks, situps and high knees. (Be sure to challenge yourself — you can do more than 1 burpee! Plus, you want to sweat, right?)
    • Pick one of the four words. The length of the word is how many times you move the fortune teller. So if you pick “cardio,” you move it six times.
    • Then select one of the numbers. That is how many sets you will do. (Once a number is chosen, you cannot select it again.) Move the fortune teller that many times again.
    • Select another number inside this time. This is your reps. (Once a number is chosen, you cannot select it again.) Look under the flap to see what exercise you’ll do, and do it for the selected sets and reps, resting 15–30 seconds between sets.

    Repeat this until you’ve done every exercise. You can also repeat the entire thing again, perhaps making a new fortune teller with new exercises.

  3. “The idea [of this workout scheme] is just to have fun and put your mind to work in addition to your body,” says elite personal trainer at Chelsea Piers Fitness in New York City.

    How to do it:

    • Determine the number of exercises you will perform by counting how many letters are in your first name. If there are less than five, add your last name, too. So if your name is Dwayne, come up with six exercises targeting different body parts. Maybe that’s V-ups, sumo squats, walking lunges, diamond pushups, proneand crossover mountain climbers.
    • Determine the number of rounds you’ll do by counting the letters in your last name.
    • Lastly, Rather than reps, use time — your age.

    So in this example if Dwayne is 33 and his last name has eight letters he’ll do each of the six exercises for 33 seconds, completing eight total rounds.

  4. “You can do this with friends,” says Jacque Crockford, certified strength and conditioning specialist, ACE-certified personal trainer and exercise physiology content manager at the American Council on Exercise. “Have each person pull out a piece of paper, and see where your adventure goes.”

    How to do it:

    • Decide how long your total workout will be. Then rather than reps, use time. For a HIIT-style workout, do each exercise for 15–45 seconds and rest for 2–3 times as long between exercises.
    • Take several slips of paper and write down a favorite exercise on each. Mix it up, including a variety of moves that include the five primary movement patterns: bend and lift (like a squats), single leg (lunges), push (bench dips), pull (chinups) and rotate (lateral plank walks).
    • Fold each slip in half and put them all in a bowl or jar.
    • One at a time, randomly draw a piece of paper and do that exercise, following your work-to-rest ratio. Continue for the set amount of time you have.

    If you’re doing this in a group, have each person take a turn drawing exercises.

  5. Music can help drive a workout, and you don’t have to count reps or watch a clock — you just feel it out. There is science behind specific beats per minute, but everyone is different so whatever song gets you going is right,” says Kathryn Connors, elite personal trainer at Chelsea Piers Fitness in New York City. Cue up your playlist, then follow this protocol.

    How to do it:

    • Pick a and explosive or power exercise.
    • For each verse, do one exercise the entire time. During choruses, hold a plank. So maybe it’s: jumping lunges.

    When that song is over, pick new exercises for the next song. Continue for the length of time you have, resting as necessary between songs.

  6. No need to buy a special deck of cards to do a workout. Here’s how you can use basic cards.

    How to do it:

    • Choose four exercises — for upper-body, lower-body, core and cardio. Aim to choose the exercises in all three planes of motion, Crockford says.
    • Assign an exercise to each suit. Maybe clubs are supermans, diamonds are glute bridges, hearts are side plank with rotation and spades are burpees.
    • Divide the cards by suit and put each in a pile. Shuffle each pile separately.
    • Pull a card from the first pile. The suit determines the exercise and the value determines the reps. Face cards are 10 reps. Aces are 15 reps.

    Continue pulling cards from each pile, going in order so you get a mix of all four exercises. Do this for as long as you have time, resting for about 30 seconds after the fourth exercise each time.


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