Sweat Equity and Working Out on a Budget

Post college, I became highly interested in my financials – namely because of student loans.. So unfortunately, I couldn’t eat pizza every night (and morning), sleep until high noon, and expect to pay bills. So I did what any other person in the 21st century with a computer and an internet connection would do – I Google’d some strategies towards accomplishing this goal (besides the obvious path of working) and began the road to paying bills and being an “adult”. And with that, I learned a thing or two about finances and its accompanying lingo.

Now, the world of business, finance, and the like are admittedly out of my comfort zone. However, one term that I could identify with was sweat equity. In other words, sweat equity can be defined as: “Contribution to a project or enterprise in the form of effort and toil. Sweat equity is the ownership interest, or increase in value, that is created as a direct result of hard work by the owner(s).” While this term mainly deals with the initial efforts with regards to the beginnings of a start-up business, I realized this can tangentially relate to beginning a lifestyle change such as working out.

If I were to sub out the words related to business and replace them with regards to investing in your body, I would get this:

“Contribution to your health and fitness in the form of effort and toil. Sweat equity is reinvestment in your health that is created as a direct result of hard work.”

Essentially, sweat equity is a measure of one’s resourcefulness, or seeing results with limited resources.

You don’t need all the fancy equipment

… in order to see big changes.

As a newly appointed college graduate the idea of expensive gyms, fancy gym clothes, and the owning the newest version of the Shake Weight was not within my current mindset.

Emma Stone - Shake Weight
I’m just as confused as you are Emma Stone.

How Can I Work Out if I’m On a Budget?

My first advice to you is to not buy into the gimmick that involves shaking any weight; my second piece of advice involves prioritizing your budget needs to accommodate for a healthier lifestyle. Admittedly, sometimes work, life, and/or family gets in the way of our gains and it is difficult to pick up momentum to get into the gym.

Do You Even Lift, Bro?
Family or Gains? Priorities…

With this in mind, there are other alternatives towards getting a good sweat or pump. Anecdotally, from the ages of 14-18 I never really set foot into a gym with the intentions of getting a good “workout” – I knew that I can get a great workout with simply my own bodyweight. Modifying what I know now, I would tell myself to pick up a few more basic yet great tools, and to follow these simple guidelines as well.

Exercise Tools:

  • Body: This tool is your most useful out of them all, yet highly underrated and under appreciated when it comes to using it.



Your body can do some pretty amazing things.

  • Kettlebells: These usually run for about $1.10 per pound. So if a KB weighs about 35lbs, it will cost roughly about $40, not including shipping and handling. However, the versatility that comes along with this piece of equipment is mind-blowing, and definitely worth it when you consider the amount of exercises that this simple tool can provide, versus a commercial gym price of $20/month on the low end, and obviously reaching higher and higher as you go up the chain.


  • Suspension Straps: There are a few definite suspension straps out there, the most notable of them involving the TRX Suspension Strap system, and Jungle Gym straps. These can go from $99 to $150 or more, depending on what you get with it.

35lb Kettlebell = $40 (without shipping)
Suspension Straps = $99 (cheapest version)
Your Body = You are priceless (seriously though…).
Total Cost of Equipment = $140

If your goal is maintain your movement patterns or strength levels, I provide several different variations, starting with basic level exercises and progressing to advanced variations. The main idea with these bodyweight exercises are to continually improve from one version to the next, using the following principles.

Alter Base of Support

Progressing past basic level exercises is a good goal if you are aiming to increase your movement repertoire and still get a good workout. No one wants to be stuck doing regular push-ups forever, so try it out with a slideboard and do a one-arm push-up variation.

Increase Repetitions By “Clustering” Your Efforts

Sometimes “greasing the groove” will provide a better stimulus that will allow you to make further gains for a difficult exercise. If you’re stuck at 5 chin-ups for example, perform one or two less than your max reps for chin-ups. So do 3 repetitions, and perform “clusters”, or chunks of 3 reps every so often throughout your day. This will provide a greater neurological effect than simply failing over and over at 5 or higher amounts of chin-ups.

Perform A Regression or Lateralization of Similar Movement Patterns

If you are stuck on performing max reps of a pistol squat, perform a lateralization, or different variation, in order to prevent stalling. Aim to master slideboard one arm push-up before moving onto the one-arm pushup.

*Note: Any exercise below that has a dumbbell or weight plate can easily be swapped with a kettlebell for simple weight substitutions.

Upper Body Pushing and Pulling Exercises

Pushing Exercises



Pulling Exercises

Lower Body Quad and Hip Dominant Exercises

Quad-Dominant Exercises

Hip Dominant Exercises

“Core” Exercises

Sample Workout Sessions

There are tons of variations here for you to perform with just your bodyweight alone! Now, the key is to figure out how to organize these exercises for you to use within a single workout. Whenever I need to lift in a hurry I keep these ideas in mind:

  • Perform a wide variety of movement (push, pull, quad dominant, hip dominant, and anti-flexion/extension/rotation with the core is a good start).
  • Use supersets, tri-sets, or circuits for time to condense the amount of work in a session.

With these in mind, I can develop a great workout, performing a circuit of movements back to back with little rest until the end of the set. So let’s choose one or two exercise choices from each category of movement patterns to get a wide spectrum of movement patterns!

So, for example:

Sample Workout Session I (Circuit)

A1. Suspension Rows – 8 reps
A2. Goblet Split Squat – 5 reps/side
A3. Push-Up – 8 reps
A4. Single Leg Stiff Legged Deadlift – 5 reps/side
A5. Chin-Ups – 5 reps
A6. Front Plank – 20sec
A7. Side Plank – 20sec

Perform exercise A1, then A2, etc. through A7. Repeat A1-A7 four times, and record your time. Perform 2x a week and attempt to beat your previous record.

Another type of exercise that can be utilized is density training.

…Why density training?

This type of training allows you to get a buttload of work done in a little amount of time

Sample Workout Session II (Density Training)

A1. Suspension Rows – 8 reps
A2. Goblet Split Squats – 5 reps/side
A3. Push-Up – 8 reps

Perform A circuit for 10 minutes straight. Record sets completed.

B1. Kettlebell Swings – 10 reps
B2. Chin-Ups – 5 reps
B3. Turkish Get-Up – 2 reps/side

Perform B Circuit for 10 minutes straight. Record sets completed.

Similar exercises when you compare apples to apples, but the amount of work is amplified due to the fire that is lit under your butt due to the time restraints.


If you find yourself strapped for cash (or time) in the near future for any reason, but still want to maintain some semblance of a movement related lifestyle, give these circuits a go to keep your physique.

As always…

Keep it funky.


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