Two Great Gym-Free And Equipment-Free Exercises

A while back, I tried to give up my gym membership and the $30 per month it was costing me. I failed miserably at this task. I don’t talk about it a ton here, but I used to be a amateur competitive bodybuilder in my teens. I started working out at 11 years old and competed in my first contest at 14 years old. I thought about including a picture of myself backstage at that first contest for the context of the article, but none of you readers want to see me in a male bikini. Trust me!

A Gym Expense Might Be Worth It

I started working out a a gym when I was only 13 years old, and actually had to have my parents sign off on a liability form. I’ve been working out at a gym ever since. I find a gym to be a worthwhile expense, so don’t get me wrong here. It’s not only a very small price to pay for better health, and one could almost consider it a cheap health insurance policy, but the gym is also a great place to meet like-minded people. There’s been many days when I’ve gone to the gym and felt like crap. “Why am I here? I don’t feel like working out at all today!”. But, being at the gym and seeing so many people getting their workouts in motivates me to do the same.

Or Is It?

But, let’s consider the math on that seemingly small monthly expenditure. I only spend $30/mo on my gym membership, but this seems to be less than the national average. According to this site, the monthly average gym membership costs in the U.S. are currently $55 per month. So, that’s the number I’m going to use.

At $55.00 per month, that’s $660 per year. You’d need to have $16,500 invested in dividend growth stocks generating an average of 4% yield to cover that yearly expense.

So, is that gym time worth $16,500? Only you can answer that. If you’re able to save $1,000 per month, that’s almost an extra year and half of work to go to the gym for the rest of your life. 

What’s Most Important!

The most important thing is that you’re staying in shape. A gym isn’t necessary for one to keep in shape and exercise. The primary reason I believe I failed at giving up my monthly gym membership is the fact that I found it hard to perform muscle-building exercises without a fully equipped gym. But, I recently discovered a couple exercises that can give you a full-body workout with no equipment at all.

Check them out:

The Burpee

So, the above video shows how to do the Burpee. Essentially, it’s a push-up followed by immediately getting on your feet and jumping in the air. You then get back down into your stance to do a push-up and repeat it as many times as you can. Trust me, it looks easy but it isn’t! This is pretty hardcore.

The Bird Dog

And that is the Bird Dog exercise. It’s a great way to build the body’s core, and give your abs and ancillary support muscles a great burn. This is another exercise that looks easier than it is. If you do this after doing a 3 or 4 sets of Burpees you’ll be wondering why you ever needed a gym to keep you in shape. If you want an advanced version of the Bird Dog you can support yourself on your toes, and stay elevated like you’re doing a push-up, instead of supporting yourself on your lower legs.

Try Them Out!

If you include these into a routine of gym-free cardio exercises like jogging you’ll be fit and trim for free. You need nothing other than motivation and perhaps a decent set of shoes to do the exercises I’ve listed here. So, get to it!

Disclaimer note: Please consult your physician before engaging in any physical exercise. 

What about you? Do you work out? If you do, at the gym or at home? What do you think of these exercises?

Thanks for reading.

Photo Credit:


  1. says

    Being a fellow gym rat all my life I can relate to “needing” the gym. I have not had a gym membership in almost seven years. I still have some of the equipment that we had when I was powerlifting and it is out in the garage.

    I’m going to say that if you enjoy going to the gym keep at it. Sure, you could cut the expense of the gym membership and do movements like you listed above. Hitting the gym is part of who you are. It’s worth 30 a month.

    Mucho respect that you did the competitive BB. Always wanted to do it, but never did :-(

    • says

      The Stoic,

      I used to be a total gym rat. I still go three times a week, but it doesn’t have that same allure as it used to have. It’s a little weird to me that it’s lost its luster a bit.

      I hear you. It’s not a lot of money. But, when I look at as over $16k at 4% to sustain the monthly expense I get a little iffy on it. If I can replicate the same results and save myself a year of working, then it might not be a bad way to go. For now, I’m keeping the membership. It’s nice, however, to know that there is a strong alternative.

      Yeah, competitive bodybuilding was tough. I remember the days of ingesting 300 grams of protein a day and working out for 2 hours a day 4 days a week. Seems like another world now. The necessity to take anabolic steroids, HGH and IGF-1 to be competitive motivated me to seek alternative hobbies. I never lost the love for staying in shape though.

      Best wishes!

  2. says

    I like staying active and in shape, but I can’t stand gyms. Everything in there seems so artificial to me, and doesn’t engage my mind. I seem to be in the minority in this regard.

    I ride my bicycle to work on average 3-4 times per week. I also am part of a group of friends who play Ultimate (frisbee) at least 3 days per week. Between these two activities, I don’t feel the need to add a gym workout to the mix. I enjoy doing them so much that I’m distracted from the fact that I’m getting exercise and staying in shape.

    When my wife and I go on vacation we often try to make it active, usually in the form of backpacking. We have a yearly snowshoe-backpacking trip which is a ton of fun and a great workout.

    • says

      The Executioner,

      Ultimate frisbee seems like a lot of fun! Never tried it. Going to a gym isn’t the only way to stay in shape, and neither is doing compound exercises. Many ways to skin a cat, I find.

      Backpacking and hiking are also great ways to stay in shape. As long as one is staying in decent shape, that’s all that matters. After all, no sense in retiring early if you’re not healthy enough to enjoy it.

      Thanks for adding that!

      Best regards.

  3. Anonymous says

    When I quit my local gym a year ago I was paying $14.95 a month. I think it’s even lower now. I consider that acceptable. My issue was time more than money. I think you could make a good argument either way for a REASONABLE gym membership. Quality of life is part of the journey toward financial freedom. When retirement time comes will you be healthy enough to enjoy it?

    I am currently working to lose weight for that reason. I’ve lost 16 lbs. so far and plan to lose 14 more. My decision to lose weight and work out more is more of a lifestyle change than a desire just to shed pounds. I have done this without a gym membership but with the help of a few pieces of exercise equipment. I have spent about $500 on the equipment which I have owned for about fifteen years and should last indefinitely (weights don’t break).

    I think everyone has to find their own balance as they journey down the road to financial freedom. I love reading your blog because it forces me to evaluate whether or not I really am keeping things balanced or am I just making excuses for something I want to do or have.

    Great post.


    • says


      Thanks for stopping by.

      You make some good points in that first paragraph. A time issue is something to consider, but the above exercises could be effectively implemented in a 15-minute routine 3 times a week. Also, as being healthy enough to enjoy financial independence/early retirement is of utmost importance to me, but again a gym membership is certainly not the only way to stay healthy and in shape.

      Great moves on losing the weight and having a cheap, long-lasting home gym setup. That’s awesome! Weights should most certainly last indefinitely.

      I agree with you about balance. Finding it in all aspects of life is important, and certainly the time/money value vs. staying in shape is one of those. Competitive bodybuilding, for instance, would definitely be on one end of the scale as it can actually be quite unhealthy at certain extremes and also very time consuming and expensive. The other end would be obesity.

      Cheers to finding balance in our lives!

      Take care.

  4. says

    I enjoyed the fitness models, the article wasn’t bad either :)

    We do both those excercises in the Army. Burpees are tough they’ll floor you fast. We call the “bird dog” the “quadraplex” although we hold it for 60 seconds. You don’t need weights to get a good workout, but it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you wanna build a lot of muscle or powerlift the gym is the way to go. Body weight excercises are good for building functional fitness which is one reason the military goes that route.

    It must take a lot of dedication to be a competitive bodybuilder. That same dedication is serving you well in achieving financial independence.

    Thanks for not showing us the banana hammock haha

    • says

      Compounding Income,

      Haha, hey no problem on not showing off the goods!! Those models definitely look a lot better. There were plenty of videos to choose from on YouTube…but these videos just had “something”.

      Burpees are definitely tough. I’d consider myself in pretty good shape and they wiped me out after a couple sets. I still have my gym membership and still go three times a week, but I’ve started incorporating these exercises into my routine. That way if I do decide to cut the gym membership out it won’t affect anything.

      Bodybuilding definitely required dedication. I suppose I like to hone in on something and steadfastly commit myself to it. FI has filled that role.

      Best wishes!

  5. says

    I also used to go to the gym a lot. In fact, if I did not go, I would not work out.

    But at some point I started doing squat thrusts, and that is the main part of my workout. It’s like doing burpees without the push-up or the jump. Burpees are tough on my knees and my shoulders, but squat thrusts can still wipe you out. Plus you can brag about a higher rep count 😛

    Plus I think most gyms are not good at promoting fitness. We have more gyms, yet this country is getting fatter.

    • says

      Everyday Freethought,

      I don’t think it’s so much the fact that gyms do not promote fitness. I think it’s the fact that people are either lazy, or so busy working that when they get home they don’t feel like going to the gym and working out. I know that I certainly feel like that sometimes.

      Squat thrusts are also a great workout and great burn. I like the burpees because they also give you a great upper body workout, targeting the arms, shoulders, chest and stabilizing muscles in the back and core. I can see how they’re tough on the knees and shoulders. My left shoulder has had an issue for a while now, and push-ups aggravate it a bit.

      I keep my gym membership for now because I do the same thing as you. Without the gym I don’t have the same motivation level to workout. The $30 I spend is not only access to club equipment, but also access to like-mined people pushing themselves which motivates me to do the same.

      Best regards.

  6. says

    I only workout + practising Tai Chi at home, I’m not a social beast so it’s out of question to go to the gym.

    Since I practice daily it’s more convenient, and you don’t smell the sweat of the others nor see the artificial self-centered people in this kind of place.

    Good post by the way, combining health and expenses.

    • says

      JF Baconnet,

      Glad to see you already practice physical fitness at home. Sounds like you already have a pretty nice routine set up with the Tai Chi.

      I’ve never really had a problem with smelling other people’s sweat or anything, but I suppose that depends on the overall cleanliness of the gym.

      Yes, the Bird Dog is really nice. They look a lot easier than they really are. If you want to really challenge yourself then don’t support yourself on your lower legs when doing the Bird Dog, and instead support yourself on your toes only (like a push-up). Good stuff!

      Take care!

    • says

      Thank you.
      Yes, I practice Tai Chi nearly daily (my goal for this year is to really do it each day). I don’t do the full forms because I don’t have much space for it but I do the qi gong Yang style (the 8 pieces of brocade) + some of the Chen style and the complete Shibashi (a modern form from 1959).
      Since I have low pressure problems, Tai Chi practice really fix them, among other things.
      I tested the Bird Dog yesterday, 4 sets of 18sec for each leg, and it’s killing. It’s so simple to practice it and really efficient, thanks for the info!

      Take care you too!

  7. says

    I used to heavily focus on Mixed Martial Arts for 12 years, and started working out at age 15 to boost strength for it.

    After I stopped with MMA, I continued to do some workouts.

    For the past three years, my employer has had a (crappy) free gym, so I’ve used that. Primarily I focused on running outside, pushups, and pullups, and occasionally went to the crappy gym for some heavier weights and leg exercises.

    Recently I decided to skip the crappy free gym and get another membership at a real gym so that I can do real barbell work again. I focus primarily on compound exercises to build strength rather than to focus on muscle size, so I spend relatively little time in the gym each week.

    • says

      Dividend Monk,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I used to specialize in compound movements to build up strength and large muscle groups, and then supplement them with isolated exercises. I still keep to that to some degree.

      I think the biggest changes I’ve made over the years is the fact that I do less sets overall and I also rest less between sets, which doesn’t allow me to lift as much weight. These changes were for time considerations, as I used to spend about 1.5-2 hours in the gym and now I spend closer to an hour or slightly less.

      MMA looks awesome. My best friend trains for that, but can’t fight due to concussion issues. He still enjoys the training aspect. It looks a little too tough for me!

      It’s tough to consider skipping the gym membership as I find a lot of solace there in getting my workout on. It also is a relatively cheap hobby for someone FI.

      Best wishes!

  8. Anonymous says

    Hey DM!

    how on earth do you guys find gyms for $30 a month or that guy with $14.95 a month, mine costs $90 a month in NZ. How does a gym even survive with such low mrmbership costs…. Im baffled.



    • says


      My membership costs are well below the national average, as I pointed out above. My gym is also not the nicest one around. In my town alone, there are a number of gyms with varying costs.

      $90/month is high for me. I wouldn’t be comfortable paying that much for a gym membership, personally.

      As far as profiting, I’m not quite sure. I can’t imagine a gym is the most profitable enterprise around, and I’ve seen many fail in my time.

      Best wishes!

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