How to work out in your dorm room

By Kimberly Burke

The average dorm room in the U.S. is about 12 feet by 19 feet, or about 228 square feet of living space.  This is often shared between two people, so really, it’s only 114 square feet of personal space.  But there is a lot that you can do with 114 square feet! Of course there’s decorating and making it your own, but you can also create your own gym for times when you need a quick workout, or you can’t be hassled with going out.

Here is a dorm room routine and some great exercises for those short on time and space.

These are some general guidelines, but feel free to adjust workout time, rest time, number of rounds or reps to best fit you and your needs.  Try to keep objects that can be tripped on or easily moved on the floor out of the way to avoid injury.

The Workout

Aim for 45 seconds of activity with 15 seconds of rest between.  After completing all moves once take a longer 2-4 minute break as needed, drink some water, keep light activity going by walking place (in your room, or up and down the dorm hallway), and wipe the sweat away.  This grouping is considered 1 circuit (or round), and you can do the entire circuit 1-4 times total.  With 8 moves, this could take you anywhere from 10-40 minutes for 1-4 circuits.

Infographic with each exercise shown and labeled.
Click to view full size.

1. March in place – feel free to progress this to a faster pace and all the way up to high knees.

2. Squats – keep it to a 90-degree knee bend or higher with feet about hip to shoulder width apart, put your weight in your heels as you slowly lower your hips while keeping your shoulders up and back straight (look straight ahead). To increase the intensity, take the top of the squat into a calf raise or full jump, or at the bottom of the squat, hold for a count of two before rising.

3. Push-ups – you can start on the wall and progress your way to the edge of the bed, back of a chair, or all the way down to the floor. Keep hands under shoulders and slowly lower yourself to the ground (make sure not to drop all the way to the ground).  Push through your palms and into your back as you rise and at the top.  You can always use your knees instead of on your toes, but don’t cross your feet at the ankles.

4. Plank – you can be on knees or toes, on forearms or up to extended arms. Think of the feeling of a vest or jacket that’s just too tight and how it holds your stomach in.  Match that feeling by engaging and pulling your core muscles in all the way around your trunk (that’s front, back and sides).  Keep your head looking to the ground for a neutral spine.

5. Jumping Jacks – you can do a low impact version by raising the same arm and same leg out to one side and alternate sides for the 45 seconds. Or you can make it high impact by doing the full jump as you extend both arms and legs out.  Feel free to get fancy or mix it up by landing in a squat or bring arms out front rather than overhead.

6. Split lunge – you can keep a static lunge by having right foot forward left foot back, and switch foot positions at the half way point of 45 seconds, or you can alternate foot position with each lunge. Bend from the front knee close to 90 degrees as the back knee lowers toward the ground.  Try not to have your feet as if they were on a line but straddling a line to keep a wider base of support.

7. Triceps dips – make sure you have a stable object that won’t fall out from underneath you, or do it with hands and feet on the ground to avoid falling or objects slipping out from under you. Use your bed post, the bed, desk, or the floor, turn your back to the object and place your hands on the edge fingers pointing toward you.  Slowly bend from the elbow to lower your body weight as far as you feel comfortable.  You can keep bent legs for an easier option or straight legs to make it harder.  Avoid dropping so low that your elbow is above the height of your shoulder at the bottom of the dip.

8. Bridge – with your back on the ground and feet flat on the ground, dig into your heels with your body weight forcing your toes to lift and drive your hips toward the ceiling. Try to make a straight line from your knees to your shoulder blades and reach the same hip height point every time.  Use the muscles on the back side of your body to lift and lower yourself all the way back to a flat back on the ground.  You can do single leg options or hold your arms straight up in the air for higher intensity.

All of these exercises should be able to be done easily in your dorm room with your roommate staring in envy on the other side, or better yet alongside you.  Remember you have options and stick to what feels good to you.  On days that you feel pushing yourself, try a harder option or do more times through the circuit.  On days you’re stressed and have exams to study for, feel free to do only one or two rounds.  There’s no space too small or time too little for a good workout.

For other great health tips, visit the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board.

Kimberly Burke is the director of the Adult Fitness Program at Colorado State University, an outreach program through the Department of Health and Exercise Science. Adult Fitness offers exercise opportunities for employees of CSU as well as community members, while providing hands-on learning experiences for health promotion students. To learn more see