Effective Dorm Room Workouts (Equipment & Exercises)

College years are the most formidable and memorable years for millions of coming of age students throughout the world. A key aspect of life for kids who are lucky enough to attend a university is the fun and challenge of living in a dorm.

From nosy resident advisers, to wildcard roommates, life in a dorm may inevitably require some adjustment.

That adds all the more reason for new students living in dorms to stay active, and to continue striving to get in the best shape of their lives.

After a reminder of why your college years are the best time ever to get in top shape, a creative variety of ideas are discussed pertaining to how to get an excellent workout, even while enduring the fun and randomness of living in a college dorm.

Best Fitness Equipment for Dorm Dwellers

Just because space is in short supply in most dorm rooms does not mean you can’t have some personal workout gear on hand. For fitness gear that is ideal for the dorm room, the most important factors are portability, moderation, and versatility.

This means you’ll want fitness equipment that’s easy to set up and use, doesn’t make tons of noise, and offers a wide array of potent workouts to make it worth your trouble. Luckily, plenty of excellent options are available to give you an excellent workout without requiring a lot of space or money.

Kettlebells (10lbs+)


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Although they only recently achieved nationwide popularity due to programs like CrossFit, kettlebells have been extremely popular in Russia for decades.

Now the kettlebell isn’t confined to the original basic lifts like deadlifts and presses, as innovative trainers are constantly adding new and innovative workouts to the list.

While kettlebell workouts like Turkish Get-Ups and Kettlebell Swings may require a clear open space, other workouts like tricep lifts and around the worlds can be done in a confined area.

For their portability and ability to provide dozens of functional workouts, kettlebells are a must have for any college student who likes to stay fit in their dorm.

Adjustable Dumbbells or Dumbbell Set


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Although more traditional and less trendy than kettlebells, dumbbells were the equipment of choice from fitness legends ranging from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Bruce Lee.

Like their more Russian counterparts the kettlebell, dumbbells offer a lot of versatile workout options while taking up little space.

From a variety of curls, triceps, and presses, to innovative workouts that combine dumbbells with pushups and crunches, the potential for a good dumbbell workout is only limited by your creativity.

If you don’t want to invest in multiple dumbbells, adjustable version contain all of the key weight settings in a single product.

Perfect Pushups ( + Ab Carver)


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If it’s a good enough workout for all of the worlds’ militaries, it’s good enough for staying in excellent shape in college. The tried and true pushup now has a highly rated accessory known as the Perfect Pushup. Combine it with the AB Carver accessory for an even more impactful workout.

With various brands available, the concept of the Perfect Pushup is to offer a soft and easy to grip handle that freely rotates with your wrist while safely supporting your bodyweight.

If purchasing gear just to do pushups seems limiting to you, then the experts at Builtlean have ten different variations that might change your opinion.

High-Quality Doorway Fitness Gym


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The term doorway gym is used over doorway pull-up bar because a lot of the doorway gyms available can accommodate multiple workouts. It’s worth keeping in mind that quality is a huge factor when shopping for different doorway gyms, and it’s definitely worth checking individual reviews.

Primary reasons for this are that a low-quality pull-up bar can actually leave black marks on your door trim, and can even scratch paint if not assembled properly.

That said, a lot of people do get excellent workouts with doorway gyms that facilitate pull-ups, dips, sit-ups, and other workouts, all while only needing a standard doorway.

An example of a high-quality doorway gym is the Shamrock Triple Door Gym, a highly reviewed piece that facilitates multiple pull-up grips, dips, and more.

Resistance Bands


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About as versatile and flexible as it gets, resistance bands can be used for everything from curls to butterflies, and can fit in your dresser drawer. If the word “resistance band” brings up images of fragile pink rubbery straps, than you may be surprised what’s out there.

For example, a company called Black Mountain offers a pack of highly-durable medium and heavy resistance bands.

The bands provide up to 75lbs of resistance when stacked and up to 30lbs of resistance individually; which is enough for even the most hardcore and motivated students to get a solid dorm room workout.

Limitations of “the Dorm Life”

Dorm life will inevitably provide some fun memories, but a few aspects of it may require an adjustment period. The most obvious differences between dorm life and the home life you’re probably accustomed to are space and privacy.

Dorms house a lot of students and will typically require you to have a roommate, so even the limited personal space you have is to be shared. For this reason, workout gear will have to be confined to stuff that is portable and easy to use in a confined space.

An alternate method is to get your roommate on board with the fitness gear you want in the room, possibly in a deal where they get to use it too. Either way, the small and crowded nature of a dorm does not have to stop you from working out, and there are numerous ways to stay in shape, even while living in a campus dormitory.

Three Reasons to Get Fit in College

Whether you were an athlete all your life, or are planning to finally get fit during your college years, it’s arguably the best time in your life to get fit and look your best.

With hundreds of young adults sharing the campus, the social and romantic possibilities are limitless, as are the opportunities for fun and new experiences. Being fit on a consistent basis can ensure that you’re ready for whatever challenges life offers while in your influential college years.

New Freedom and Opportunities

For most college students, going away to stay in a dorm represents the biggest leap towards true freedom they’ve experienced in their lives.

In this environment with so many young, energetic minds, new and fun opportunities are commonplace.

Maybe one day your roommates need another guy for their Ultimate Frisbee tournament, and the next you want to join some classmates for an impromptu volleyball game going on in the courtyard.

The fact is, opportunities for sports and physical activities are vast in a college setting, and the better shape you’re in, the more these fun options will be available to you.

High Possibility of Romance

Let’s face it, college is the number one time in peoples’ lives when they’re young, single, and have a large amount of their peers in close proximity. If your habits in your home town were admittedly unhealthy, college is the perfect time to turn it around.

You may be able to find people to help you on your fitness journey that will become lifelong friends, and maybe more. Ultimately, working out regularly and staying in shape will show people that you care about your body, and will increase the odds of attracting the people you like.

Healthier Body for Success

Those who are serious about school understand that it’s not as easy as people think.

While college is typically portrayed as a 4-year long party, students with serious majors are going to spend a lot of hours studying, writing papers, and doing research if they want to be successful.

Making time for a regular workout routine will keep your energy levels high, and ensure that you don’t get too fatigued after a couple all-nighters.

Long story short, even your brain functions better when you’re slim and strong, so building a healthy body to be successful in college is yet another reason to stay fit during these crucial years.

Five Workouts Every Student Should Learn

To ensure that you get a solid all around workout with minimal space and gear, it’s crucial to know these fundamental workouts that only require your bodyweight. Whether you can do 10 or 100, each of these workouts has variations that guarantee you’ll get a potent workout.

Plus, from your chest to your abs, each of these essential exercises focuses on major muscle groups that are critical to all around strength. The most gear you’ll need for any of these is a chair or sturdy ledge, but most of them only require enough room to sit or lay on the ground.


The quintessential strength workout, pushups are done by tough people everywhere, ranging from MMA fighters to cops. Aside from offering a legitimate strength workout when properly done, pushups are extremely versatile, and can focus on different parts of the chest, triceps, and other areas.

For those who need a handicap, then pushups can be done on the knees or against a countertop or hard ledge, and for those who are advanced, clapping pushups, hopping pushups, or handstand pushups can add a significant challenge.


Another workout that anyone who dabbles in fitness must know is a squat. Easily performed without any extra room, sets of squats may be the perfect workout for keeping your lower body in shape while surviving dorm life.

Squats target your quads, calves, and hamstrings, but in an article detailing eight reason they’re important, Dr. Mercola explains how squats also trigger an overall release of testosterone, which is vital for muscle growth in our bodies.

Additionally, doing squats will strengthen your legs which in turn will greatly improve your mobility and balance.

Throw in the fact that the impact of squats can be further amplified with kettlebells, dumbbells, or even resistance bands, and you have an extremely effective body weight workout for your dorm room.

You often hear people asking others “if they squat” once you throw this exercise into your dorm room workout routine, you’ll understand what all the hype is about.


Using one or two chairs, desks, or other ledges, you can do another of the most effective bodyweight workouts, dips. Dips consist of a pushing motion that works the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

For easier dips, simply leaning against a ledge at an angle can make them as difficult or assisted as necessary. This tutorial by Verywellteaches you how to do dips between two chairs for a solid upper body workout.


An often neglected muscle group that may be the overall most important is the abdominals. Having a six-pack of shredded abs has become the pinnacle of physical fitness in the eyes of many gym enthusiasts.

Shredded appearance aside, the abs are also known to be ‘the core’ for good reason, as they’re responsible for aiding practically every other movement you’re capable of.

From doing a backflip to jumping for a rebound, strong abs are a crucial muscle group for getting up there and getting it done. Doing sets of crunches is a reliable way to strengthen your abs, and other variations of crunches can target your obliques, as well as upper and lower abs.

If you’re doing crunches to achieve the elusive six-pack abs, the experts at Livestrong remind us that crunches will actually strengthen you ab muscles, but you have to do a lot of cardio to get a shredded six-pack.



While calisthenics is more of a category of workouts rather than a specific one, a wide variety of bodyweight stretches, and exercises can be done depending what you’ve been taught and what you’re willing to learn.

Remember the five minutes of stretching and warming up you used to do before football or Tae Kwon Do practice?

Those same stretches, and cardio or strength workouts can be perfect for keeping your body loose and limber while living in a dorm environment. For more info, Calisthenics Daily is a good resource that explains multiple workouts and programs, including jumping rope and burpees.

Three Ways to Use Your Social Skills to Stay Fit

While exercise gear and bodyweight workouts are effective, one of the greatest resources you have if you live in a dorm is people. Odds are, there will already be a lot of activity going on around campus, ranging from groups of people kicking a hacky sack, to college football games with thousands of people involved.

Whether you’re joining a team, finding a workout partner, or drawing people into a fitness event of your own, working out with others can be the key to pushing your fitness to the next level.

Find a Partner

Whether your preferred method of staying fit is bodybuilding or volleyball, tennis or jujitsu, your workout experience will always be more thorough if you have a partner.

Inviting someone to come workout with you has a slew of advantages, including conveying that you’re a friendly, fitness minded person, and also that you care about staying healthy. If the person is on the same page as you, it could form a relationship that lasts throughout your college years.

Join a Team

Aside from the major competitive college teams, every college offers intramural sports teams that cost nothing but your time and commitment.

Typically including everything from soccer to flag football, inter-mural leagues in college can be an excellent way to make connections, and to get to know people who are outside of your social circle.

Since joining a team will often come with weekly practices and games, you’ll have a lot of opportunity to stay fit if you go this route.

Organize an Event, Game, or Tournament

The Dali Lama said to be the change you wish to see in the world, and that applies on campus as well. If your college has a need for a Yoga club and you grew up doing Yoga all through high school, than what’s stopping you?

Other ideas include:

  • organizing a dorm Olympics
  • fitness tournament
  • or dorm versus dorm relay race around campus.

For those who are creative and willing to put together a group of people, the fitness possibilities are limitless. An article from Campus Explorer explains the different type of Student Organizations, which is best for what purpose, and how an average student can start one.

Final Say

The more you enjoy certain effective workouts, the less staying in shape seems like a chore, so finding those exercises you look forward to may be the key to a reliable routine.

Only by trying a wide array of workouts will you find the ones that are ideal for you, and provide a solid workout of your key muscle groups.

Fortunately, each of the important muscle groups has exercises that can easily be done in a dorm room, so whether you rely on portable gear, social activities, or bodyweight workouts, how strong you want to be during your college years is entirely up to you.

Shoot us a comment below and let other fellow fitness enthusiasts know about your favorite workout we may have missed.

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  • Updated on March 30, 2019 by Ada Lane

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