Easy Pandemic Home Workout

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Gym equipment in most families' homes typically tend to morph into other, mundane usages — the elliptical that’s barely recognizable as anything other than a clothes rack. The dumbbells used more often as a doorstop than a weight. The big workout balls bought with yoga or Pilates in mind that were sadly never even inflated.

And even with the best of intentions, in the age of COVID-19, they’re likely still in those latent states. But the best thing is, some of us have learned that we may not even have needed them to begin with.

Tristan Phillips, professional trainer and owner of Primal Revival, a functional-fitness box gym in Bohemia, Long Island, New York, has long touted the benefits of minimalism. With a focus on form and movement restoration as well as strength-building, he’s eschewed the bells and whistles of traditional gyms and their rows of machines, preferring to rely on simple tools and solid fundamentals to reclaim one’s body.

However, the limitations of the pandemic have pushed him to think even more about less. Stripped of box-gym necessities like barbells, therapeutic tools like resistance bands, and weights of nearly any kind, Tristan’s free Zoom classes (available through the facility’s public Facebook link) have become proof positive that intent is more important than environment as he forces his students to leverage the power of their own body weight and everyday items to fit fitness into their lives. Some of the more unexpected — and surprisingly fun — accessible “equipment”? Read on.

Beach Towels

From isometric holds to bicep curls to straight-up cardio, oversized towels can kick your butt as well as they can wipe your sweat. One of Tristan’s favorite go-to tools, towels can be used to set foundations for movements, forcing you to hone in on technique over reps. For example, standing on the middle of the towel can sub in for Romanian deadlifts as you fight against your own weight while refining your back position. The length of the towel makes it so that you’re performing rows with your elbows pointed in the proper position, keeping them lined up and from hyperextending. And holding it taut and width-wise while shaking it out is as good a stand-in for battle ropes as anything.

Kitchen Towels

Want to challenge your core like never before? Try putting a kitchen towel under your feet while in plank position, then piking up and pushing back. The fabric eliminates your feet’s grip on the floor, letting you move with so much freedom that it necessitates greater control.

Sturdy Chairs

We’ve all seen chairs used for elevated push-ups and tricep dips as well as to steady your balance for other exercises, but Tristan likes to challenge his Zoom-class attendees with glute bridges and hamstring curls with your heels anchoring the seat, or pike or regular push-ups with your toes on them, face toward the ground.


Sometimes, all you need is the power of yourself to really challenge yourself. Tristan likes creating easy HIIT (high-intensity interval training) sequences with plyometrics that don’t take up any room at all in our already crowded apartments or living areas. Squat jumps, seal jacks, push-up variants, lunges of all types, hollow holds, leg lifts, and other exercises that make it into his Zoom-class rotations all challenge you to sweat and burn in the space of your arm span.

With a creative, well-educated trainer, you don’t even need a box (gym) to think outside of one. All you need is guidance and — unexpectedly — a towel.

Tags: Fitness

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Written By

Su-Jit Lin

Su-Jit Lin is a food, travel, wellness, shopping, and lifestyle writer who is passionate about writing stories that help. See Full Bio

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