The Bar Is The New Gym: 7 Ways To Work Out While Going Out

by Ellen O' Dwyer

There’s nothing like a crazy night out with all your friends, am I right, ladies? And we all love a good workout session… OK, maybe not so much the latter if you’re in any way like me. Let’s face it, if given the choice between a night out with your best gal pals or a trip to the gym for a long, sweaty core exercise workout, which would you opt for? I know my choice, and I’m pretty sure I know yours too.

If you think about it, though, bars and gyms aren’t all that different. Both have sweaty people, blaring music, and, of course, creepy patrons to prey on your every move (in the gym while doing your squat set, and on a night out, while doing your incredible twerking moves).

And really, if I had to get sweaty and endure some creepy eye contact, why wouldn’t I choose the option with alcohol?

But just because I prefer going out to working out doesn’t mean my fitness program has to come to a halt. All the best athletes (such as me, cough) know that anywhere can become a gym if you put your mind to it.

With that said, it dawned on me that we could find a routine that can do both. You can socialize AND exercise at the same time (without getting that sweaty!), sounds good, right? Building relationships while building muscle, it’s really, on all accounts, a win-win situation.

So here’s my workout of choice that you can do in a bar on a night out. Sure, we may have to do a bit of improvisation here, swap our yoga mats for bar stools or dance floors and our kettle bells for beer glasses, but hey, at least we’re making an effort, right?

And if you think exercises at the bar are silly or have negligible results, Doctor of Physical Therapy Laura Mannering (board-certified clinical specialist in orthopedic physical therapy and MDT) has some words of encouragement,

"There is no perfect exercise; the perfect exercise is the one you will do. Specific health/fitness goals of course can be addressed with nitpicking forms of exercise, but when you're starting out, getting moving is the one, simple goal."

And, don’t worry, I took the liberty of hitting the town for a good night out on your behalf to try out these fabulous moves, so we can actually make exercise fun for once, wahey!

1. The Languid Liquid Warmup


Every good workout needs a warmup, just like the best nights out need pre-gaming. Begin by stretching out your whole body while still seated on your bar stool. (It is the start of the night, after all.)

Stretching is essential to avoiding injury, as fitness expert, writer, and educator Jessica Matthews maintains, "a well-rounded warm-up routine can help decrease the risk of developing overuse injuries by addressing underlying muscle imbalances and enhancing the quality of the movements you perform during your sweat session."

To warm up your neck muscles, simply drop your chin toward your chest and begin to gently roll your head toward one shoulder, then back to the front and around to the other shoulder. Yes, you may look a bit odd while doing this, but you’re the one getting the most out of this night out, #winning.

Next, rotate your shoulders in big, circular motions to loosen them after a long day at the office.

We all can be guilty of slouching-over when seated; making a conscious effort to sit up straighter and taller improves posture and ultimately makes you feel more in control. So, straighten that back and tighten those abdominal muscles.

2. The Octopus-Armed Bartender Flag Down


After you've warmed up, you'll undoubtedly be thirsty. It’s a busy night, however, and everyone is in the same boat as you, trying to get their drinks served first. It’s like feeding time at the zoo. You need to catch the bartender’s attention, so why not flag them down with flare?

Innovation is key here if you're looking to order a drink and get your fitness routine done, but you're a multi-tasking lady and I'm not worried.

As chiropractor and clinical nutritionist Dr. Axe tells us, "Jumping jacks, sometimes called star jumps, require full-body movement. The movement is great for getting the heart rate up. The abduction and adduction of the legs and arms add the benefits [for the whole body]."

By doing some jumping jacks you will exercise your arms and your legs, while flagging down the bartender to get those all-important drinks.

3. The Oktoberfest-Inspired Double Fist

This next exercise is possibly my favorite, which you will see why. You’ve got your drinks (order two for yourself) and now you can use your glasses as weights. Ingenious, I know.

There's no one attitude to get this move down pat; you can do it while sitting at the bar, talking with your friends, or even on the dance floor (if you're careful not to spill).

Treat these drinks like extra weights for any exercise you're already doing. As personal trainer Lorne Opler adds, "When you use lighter weights, the muscles you are targeting are able to manage the load by themselves, without reliance on compensatory muscles to assist in the movement, hence more hypertrophic gains occur in the muscles you want to grow."

So, basically, double-fisting is your ticket to becoming a fitness goddess.

4. The Dance Like Everyone's Watching Move

As the drinks are flowing and you’re inevitably becoming sassier, it’s now time to show off those killer dance moves.

Dancing exercises the whole body and makes you feel great, alleviating all that built-up stress from the day. Make sure you really shake those hips!

As author and athlete Selene Yeager affirms, dancing is good for the mind, body, and soul:

"[A] study in Circulation: Heart Failure found that people with cardiac conditions who danced for just 20 minutes three times a week saw their heart health improve significantly more than those who stuck to traditional cardio workouts. Dancing can also help make your skeleton strong, per the National Osteoporosis Foundation, and it does wonders for your overall makeup: When researchers compared dancers with nondancers, they found evidence that dancing may preserve both motor skills and perceptual abilities."

5. The Deny, Deny, Deny Dance

All this dancing is undoubtedly going to attract attention, remember those preying eyes? Therefore, you need to have your best “I’m not interested” motion down to a T.

This will incorporate dramatically twisting and turning away from the suitor. Imagine you're doing your abdominal twists, but instead of sitting on a yoga mat, you’re standing on the dance floor, desperately trying to dismiss said suitor.

Alternatively, you could be doing your standing abdominal twists to catch a glimpse of the cutie who's just appeared, why can’t that one be the suitor?*sigh*

6. The Toilet Squat 'Til You Drop

All this drinking and shaking about is bound to send you on several trips to the bathroom, so why not make that beneficial for your leg and butt muscles?

Instead of sitting on the toilet, try hovering over it. It’s hygienic and it can be classed as a form of exercise if you do it right.

Of course you know the basics of what squats can do for your body, but there are other benefits too, as personal trainer Jeremey DuVall clarifies, "Squats are not only effective for building an insanely strong lower body, but also because they deliver a number of ancillary physical benefits, including increased hormone release and improved flexibility."

7. The Bar To Barre Hop


Want another exercise to try while waiting at the bar? Of course you do. Grab onto the barre (oops, bar) and do some squats. With legs shoulder width apart, knees soft and arms gripped to the rail, stick that butt out and go as low as you can go, imagining you’re sitting into a chair. (Side note: as the night progresses, it’s best to use the bar rail for support, no injuries during this workout, please).

Barre workouts improve your posture, target your core, and increase your flexibility, according to Bustle, "Barre is the best core workout. With each isometric movement, you target the tiny muscles that may get ignored if you're sticking to crunches. Plus, by repeating these small movements over and over again, you build up endurance."

Every working girl knows how important time management is, and by following this workout, there's no need to beat yourself up for skipping that gym session. Instead, applaud your ingenuity for combining work and play.

And let’s be real, wearing heels and looking fab all night is a workout in itself! Word of caution… keeping hydrated throughout this workout is essential, let’s avoid aching muscles and sore head!

*As with the addition of alcohol to any activity, risk of injury increases the more you drink. Make sure to drink a lot of water and not to exert yourself too much. Be careful and have fun.

Welcome to No Sweat: an exhausted girl's guide to squeezing in fitness. This content package is for the woman who wants to find an exercise routine that doesn't feel like a chore. No Sweat isn't changing the shape of your body; it's about feeling stronger, happier, and more energetic. Because working out doesn't mean you have to break a sweat.