Field Manual: A Training Guide For Those With Little Time & Equipment

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
October 11th, 2013
Updated: January 9th, 2018
160.6K Reads
No equipment, no time? No problem! Using only dumbbells, bands and your bodyweight, Brad Borland shows you how to train for gains using supersets.
Workout Summary

Workout Description

Why do so many excuses crop up when it comes to getting in shape or more specifically, stripping away body fat and building muscle with little resources? With the seemingly endless options of not only fitness centers on every corner but also hotel gyms, public parks and mobile training equipment, the potential for a quick workout at any time is that much more reachable.

So, what is the big bad wolf at the door? Why are so many reluctant to do even the minimum when it comes to getting fit? Motivation? Organization? Planning? Desire? It can potentially be one, all or even more of these factors.

Hopefully this field manual will shed some much-needed light on the pitfalls of training with little time and equipment and finally get you on the right track to progress “in the field.” You will be able to build some appreciable muscle and lose some body fat with a well thought-out plan of attack.

Don’t think it can be done without belonging to a big-box gym? Read on, follow the plan and then when you muster the energy to get back up from your pool of sweat we’ll revisit your doubts.

A Quick Word About Motivation

This is sometimes seen as the big ugly word many throw around but lack by admission. “I want to get into better shape but I just can’t seem to get motivated,” is the broken record heard around the world. But how do you overcome this wall you’ve built?

You need to set a goal. Do something that will force you to commit and that in turn will motivate you to stay the course. Some strategies include:

  • Take a “before picture.”
  • Do you have a date that you are looking forward to? Wedding? Vacation? Birthday? Write it down.
  • Sign up for a local run or other competitive event.
  • Create a friendly rivalry.
  • Write up a commitment contract with yourself and have a friend witness it.
  • Write down realistic goals and a timeline towards the new you.

Notice these are all tangible things, not just ideas or thoughts floating in your head. Create a vision, a real life commitment to yourself to hold you accountable. Additionally, it is best to tell a friend or family member your goals which make them all that much more real and urgent.

Get Organized!

This, by far, is one of the most troublesome areas of training. Don’t know where to start? What equipment to use? What to do? The following plan lays it all out for you with minimal equipment AND time.

Let’s first set up a time and place. Before starting any training program take a few things under consideration.

  • Plan a time. If the afternoon is not an option, wake up earlier and perform your workout in the morning.
  • Your workout area should be a large space free of clutter. 
  • Put away all distractions. Keep all electronic devices in another room and out of reach - cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc. Keep your focus and use your time efficiently.
  • If training first thing in the morning, hydrate. Drink at least eight ounces of water upon rising and eat breakfast after your workout.
  • Take a few minutes to review your workout and goals and familiarize yourself with what lies ahead.

Now that you have a schedule and space, let’s get a quick list of equipment needed for your new venture. All the equipment listed is inexpensive and very mobile. Easy to set up and use, it can all be easily stored away after use as well. No expensive membership required!

  • A chair or bench
  • A pair of dumbbells (medium weight relative to your strength)
  • Strength bands of various tensions
  • Pull-up bar

The Plan: Let’s Get To It!

As mentioned before, this plan requires little equipment and utilizes what is called workout density. Density refers to doing more work in either the same amount of time or less time by putting into practice some select intensity techniques. These will include reduced rest time (between sets), supersets (performing two or more sets back-to-back without rest) and interval training.

  • Perform all workouts once per week for a total of four days of training. A good example is Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with Wednesday and the weekends off.
  • There is no rest between supersets - simply move on to the next exercise listed without resting. Rest one minute between regular sets and after all supersets are completed.
  • For High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) start with a 3 minute warm-up followed by 30 seconds of high intensity work then 2 minutes of low intensity work. Each week increase the high intensity portion and decrease the low intensity portion respectively: [high (seconds)/low(seconds)] 60/90, 90/60 and 120/30. Good forms of HIIT are jog/sprint, biking, swimming or any form of circuit training such as burpees, shuttle runs and track and field work.
  • Each workout should last no longer than 40-45 minutes.
  • Stay on the program for 6 weeks before reducing intensity, switching programs or taking a short break.
  • AMRAP = As Many Reps As Possible
Workout 1
Field Manual
Moves Warm-up Sets Work Sets
Superset: Incline dumbbell press or banded chest press and wide grip pull-up 2 x 10-20 3 x 10-12 and AMRAP
Superset: Flat bench dumbbell fly or banded fly and bent-over two-arm dumbbell row   3 x 10-12
Superset: Alternating dumbbell press and wide banded upright row 1 x 10-20 3 x 10-20
Superset: Dumbbell hammer curl and dumbbell kickback 1 x 10-20 3 x 10-12
Superset: Floor crunch and plank   3 x 20-30 seconds on planks and 20-30 reps on crunches
Cardio: 15-20 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) Your choice of type   See notes above
Workout 2
Field Manual
Moves Warm-up Sets Work Sets
Superset: Split jump squat and goblet squat 2 x 10-20 3 x 10-16
Superset: Bulgarian split squat and Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift   3 x 10-16
Superset: Dumbbell lunge and single-leg calf raise   3 lengths of walks and 10-20 reps of raises
Superset: Russian twist and bicycle crunch   3 x 20-30
Cardio: 15-20 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) Your choice of type   See note above
Workout 3
Field Manual
Moves Warm-up Sets Work Sets
Superset: Banded flat bench fly or push-up and inverted row 2 x 10-20 3 x 10-12 and AMRAP
Superset: incline dumbbell fly and one arm dumbbell row   3 x 10-12
Triset: 3-way dumbbell raise (bent-over, side lateral and front raise) no rest   3 x 10 each angle
Superset: Close-grip push-up and banded or dumbbell curl 1 x 10-20 AMRAP and   3 x 10-12
Superset: Leg raise and side crunch   3 x 20-30
Cardio: 15-20 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) Your choice of type   See notes above
Workout 4
Field Manual
Moves Warm-up Sets Work Sets
Superset: Box jump and reverse lunge 2 x 10-20 3 x 10-16
Superset: Dumbbell sumo deadlift and walking lunge or banded squat   3 x 10-16
Superset: Dumbbell Stiff Leg deadlift and calf raise off floor   3 x 10-16
Superset: Three-way sit-up and hanging leg raise   3 x 20-30
Cardio: 15-20 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) Your choice of type   See notes above


Posted on: Tue, 02/03/2015 - 17:50

Nice site Brad. Really useful complete programs rather than just ideas.

Posted on: Sat, 10/11/2014 - 15:51


Can I substitute the resistance band exercises with dumbbells/barbells? And since I don't have a pull-up bar at home, what exercises would you suggest as substitutes for the pull-up and hanging leg raises?

Many Thanks!

Posted on: Thu, 06/12/2014 - 04:12

Hi Brad i Recently started Your workout,but hmm Im thinking why there is two days for legs only, and rest days full uper body. Means legs get the moust work in Your workout!

Posted on: Thu, 04/24/2014 - 12:41

Hi Brad
Do you know anything you could use instead of strength bands?
Thanks in advance

Kevin C
Posted on: Tue, 02/11/2014 - 14:09

I'm a little confused as to the breakdown of the HIIT… the top part says warm up and then do high low high low…. but it also says for 15-20 minutes…. so for 15 minutes alternate between high and low?

also if it says 2 x 10-20
Does that mean 2 sets of and 2 sets of 20 or 2 sets, 10, 20

Sorry, knew to the whole workout scene

Posted on: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 09:47

i don't have the weights needed for the wide bended upright row. is there any alternative exercise?
thanks, klaymen

Posted on: Fri, 01/10/2014 - 18:22

Hey brad I'm a sixteen year old male with a bit of weight behind me is there any dietary plans suited to this workout?

Posted on: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 07:05

What is three lengths of walk mean ??

Posted on: Sun, 11/17/2013 - 12:54

Hi brad,
Great workout you have her. Just wanna ask about the alternating exercises such as alternating press, lunge ... Etc. the number of reps mentioned it per leg or for both legs.

Posted on: Thu, 11/14/2013 - 22:07

Box jumps are somewhat impractical for me in my apartment. What would you recommend as an alternative exercise?

Posted on: Sun, 11/10/2013 - 14:36

Hey Brad, I consider myself a "Hard Gainer" - 6'1" 150lbs, real slim. My goal is to get used to working out using bodyweight exercises for a couple months before committing to a gym. After searching the web for a long time, this routine seems perfect for me. One question though, is doing the HIT cardio for 15 minutes after every workout right for my body type and muscle gain goals? or do you think I will be burning too many calories?


Posted on: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 07:01

Hey Brad,
great looking guide you have here. Especially the part about preparations so you won't give up on working out. It helps to keep yourself motivated through these rules even if you know what you're doing it for. I'm gonna start with this program as soon as I can!
Some questions though:
- Instead of a bench, can you use a gym ball? I've seen it before. I simply don't have the space for a bench and a chair doesn't seem practical.
- Would you really advise on taking the supplements listed? Do you benefit that much from it?
- Do you do the HIIT right after all the exercises or can there be time inbetween the workouts and the HIIT?

Thanks in advance

Posted on: Sat, 11/09/2013 - 13:13

Hi Mike,

I also have only an exercise ball at home, it works quite well, just be careful with the balance ;)

Posted on: Tue, 11/05/2013 - 08:09

Hey Brad,

For workout 3, can should the Banded flat bench fly and push-up and inverted row be called a tri-set? or does one of those exercises replace another? Thanks!


Posted on: Tue, 11/05/2013 - 14:45

Hi Ryan,
Yes, it is a triset. Still a type of superset - but you are correct.

Kyle McCollum
Posted on: Sat, 11/02/2013 - 15:04

Hi brad Ive a quick question for you when you say banded what are meaning exactly. Thank you sir

Posted on: Tue, 11/05/2013 - 14:44

Hi Kyle,
It simply refers to using bands for variable resistance.

Posted on: Wed, 10/30/2013 - 00:46

hi, im a 17 year old and i am a second row in rugby, all my other teammates seem to have alot more muscle than me,

ross thompson
Posted on: Sat, 10/26/2013 - 10:17

hi, im a 17 year old and i am a second row in rugby, all my other teammates seem to have alot more muscle than me, i need to improve my game by building muscle, as a second row i need to be quit big and bulky, i am 6 foot 3 does that height mean its harder for me to put on more muscle and would this workout be suitable for me to build up muscle?
thanks in advance

Posted on: Tue, 10/29/2013 - 12:10

Hi Ross,
Absolutely! Give it a try and let me know how you are doing.

Posted on: Tue, 10/22/2013 - 21:13

Hi brad, for HIIT I have a punching bag and jump rope, think it's a good choice of HIIT cardio or better choose other cardio options ? . thank you for this guide.

Posted on: Tue, 10/29/2013 - 12:09

Hi Max,
Those are GREAT choices for HIIT!

Posted on: Thu, 10/17/2013 - 13:28

hi, i dont understand the difference between warm up sets and work sets. Should i do the warm up set first before doing the work sets? I also do not understand the the sets like 2 x 10-20. Does it mean that 2 sets and 10 to 20 repititons? I am new, please guide me. thank you.

Posted on: Fri, 10/18/2013 - 22:21

Warm-up set's purpose is to "prime" the muscle with blood and to get it warmed for the work sets ahead. Warm-up sets are not to be taken to failure. Thing of them as practice swings.

Posted on: Sat, 10/12/2013 - 15:05

Hi, I have been doing Frankoman's Dumbbell Only Split for a few month, but I think I need a change, this sounds like a great workout routine. Thanks! T.

Posted on: Sun, 10/13/2013 - 23:23

Good deal. Let me know how you do.