You know you should work out. After all, it helps you stay fit, energetic, and positive. But sometimes fitness feels like so much, well, work. Some days you’re amped to push yourself to your limit. But other times you wish you could maintain your cardiovascular health without working up a major sweat. Well, we have good news. There’s a slew of workout moves and tactics that trainers recommend for those days when you simply can’t give your all. Employ lazy workout moves on days when you’re too busy or too tired to go all out—after all, a low-intensity workout is still better than skipping your daily workout altogether. Just remember, lazy workout moves shouldn’t be your regular routine. But they are perfectly acceptable for those afternoons when you just can’t (but you gotta anyway).
Apply the ten-minute test.
Physical therapist Lauren Lobert, D.P.T., O.M.P.T., C.S.C.S., says that there’s a thin line between exhaustion and laziness. Sometimes your body truly needs a rest day. Other times, you may have had one too many margs the night before. To determine if you should actually work out, Lobert suggests the ten-minute test. “Tell yourself that if you exercise for ten minutes and you aren’t feeling better after those ten minutes, then you can go home. Your body is likely too fatigued to benefit anyway, which will put you at risk for overtraining. But most of the time, after ten minutes you will feel energized and ready to conquer your workout,” she explains.
If that short bit of a workout is enough to keep you going, remember to reframe your definition of fitness for a lazy workout. This removes the pressure or expectation and gives you leniency to give what you can for the session. “Try to find a way to add at least some exercise into your day, whether it be a brisk walk after dinner or a yoga session in your living room. Whatever you choose, don’t allow yourself to remain inactive all day,” says ACE-certified personal trainer and health coach Olga Hays. “Even a little exercise is better than none, plus it will help with your mood and energy levels.”
Skip cardio or HIIT and opt for strength training.
When you think of the workout sessions that leave you feeling victorious, accomplished, and thoroughly sweating, you probably think of high-intensity cardio workouts. It’s impactful for invigorating your resting and active heart rates. However, when you can’t perform at your maximum level, Lobert suggests foregoing cardio for pumping iron instead. Skip the super-heavy weights in favor of moderate loads and reps—eight to 15 repetitions is the sweet spot. Complex movements such as barbell squats and deadlifts are easy go-tos. But Lobert recommends zeroing in on less draining options such as high step-ups or single-leg Romanian deadlifts. Here’s how to perform those moves:
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts
- Stand on your right leg and hold a dumbbell with your left hand.
- Keep your back flat, bend your right knee slightly, and lift your left leg slightly off the ground.
- Bend at the waist until the dumbbell is at about mid-shin height—this ultimately depends on your hamstring flexibility. Keep your left leg straight and in line with your body. It should raise as your torso lowers. Maintain a straight back throughout the movement.
- Drive through your heel and push your hips forward to return to the starting standing position.
- Place your right foot onto a plyometric box. These boxes are usually 12-24 inches. We recommend starting with a lower step and adjust box height depending on your current fitness level, weight, and height.
- Drive through your right heel on the box, careful not to push up through your left foot on the ground.
- As you stand up on the box, march your left leg up toward your chest, and slowly lower it back down to the ground. That’s one rep.
Engage your lower abdominal muscles and glutes.
When running a mile or lifting weights feels overwhelming, Hays says to go ahead and do what you already want to do: lie down. Before you sink into a nap, finish an abdominal and bridge routine to engage your lower abs, hip flexors, and other hard-to-reach areas. Hays says to begin with scissor kicks, as they strengthen your center and improve your posture. Fitness expert Ambyr Chatzopoulos, C.S.C.S., also suggests glute bridges to combat tight hips and a weak lower back. “Not only do they strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, but they also improve hip mobility,” she says.
If you’re looking for more abdominal workouts to try, check out the strength training section of the Aaptiv app. There you’ll find core workouts for every fitness level that can work for any energy level.
Plank it out.
Whether you’re jab-cross-hook-uppercutting your way through a boxing class, flowing through vinyasa in yoga, or completing intervals in running or boot camp, nearly all workout types have a common denominator: your core. And what better move to target your core from every angle than planks? There’s a reason so many experts turn to this move for a warm-up, for a cooldown, or throughout a routine, according to Hays. She explains that planks—whether they’re forearm, high, or side—fire up your entire core. They engage your arms, back, shoulders, hips, and abs. Try a few 30-second or minute-long planks to remind your body it’s capable of more than it may feel some days.
Improve your push-up game.
In terms of the best bang for your buck, Chatzopoulos says there is no better investment than a push-up. Most folks consider this a tough upper-body exercise. However, she explains it requires more core and full-body activation than you realize. “With a push-up, you work not only your pecs and triceps but also your abs. When performing a push-up, you should be constantly focusing on pulling your belly button toward your spine and keeping your core engaged,” she says. Learn how to build up strength for the perfect push-up here.
Opt for isometric exercises.
According to exercise physiologist and author Jerry Snider, isometric exercises—including those good old-fashioned planks—are best for when your energy is spent. If you can’t plank thanks to a shoulder injury or another condition, you can try various yoga positions or wall sits. Your goal, Snider says, is not how complicated or taxing the movement is but how long you can hold it. Start at 30 seconds and aim for a full minute. “[Isometric exercises] provide a solid workout, stretch out your muscles, and increase blood flow, which helps increase energy levels. This is why many all-day conferences that people go to will have a speaker in the afternoon ask everyone to stand up and stretch for a few minutes,” he explains. “The blood flow increases energy levels and focus so that conference attendees will be able to keep their attention focused on the presentations.”
Let’s face it: you’re not going to knock it out of the fitness park every day. Try to employ these lazy workout methods and moves on those days when you’re just not feeling it. You may surprise yourself and keep going or even kick it up a notch.