Author: M.Kok

Work out items for small Japanese apartments

So you want to work out at home, but you live in one of the many tiny Japanese living arrangements. Here are some ideas on how you can achieve close to gym-like results even if your house is not big enough to have a ‘fitness room’. 

First, you need to figure out where the limitations are. Often space is not the most tricky obstacle to overcome. 

If you live in a typical Japanese ‘Apartment’ that is older than fifteen years, then that likely means that it is a light frame structure with thin walls. 

Every high impact movement, like doing burpees or shadowboxing, will feel like a mini earthquake to Mr. Tanaka next door.  These items require little space to use and are mostly low/no impact.

Pull up bar

If you have a door frame that is part of the support structure of the room, you can put up a foldable pull-up bar. Pull-ups are probably the best upper body exercise. Luckily the older the house is, the better are the chances that the door frames are part of the support structure and that they stick out. Newer ‘apartments tend to have plaster walls around the door frames that are too soft for a screw-less pull-up bar. 

Resistance bands

There are no real disadvantages to using resistance bands. You can use them to amplify low impact bodyweight exercises (like squats) and also use them to do stretching and mobility workouts.

Resistance bands are cheap and easy to store. Just don’t buy too many. Maybe get a long one(longer than a meter) with weak to medium resistance (you can fold it later for added difficulty) and a shorter one with strong resistance for upper body moves. Just go to a store that sells workout equipment and try the bands out. Get the ones that fit you.

Kettlebells (and other free weights)

If you have enough room to lay down and enough head clearance to stretch your arms out above you, you can do a kettlebell workout. 

The only thing to be careful of is the flooring. Because of the weight and the rough design of most free weights, it is easy to damage the floor. Some kettlebell designs have rubber coatings, but it is still better to have a blanket or a towel underneath to make sure the floor is not damaged. 

Balance ball

Balance balls, stability balls, yoga balls or swiss balls are all essentially the same thing. You can use one to modify bodyweight exercises like pushups and lunge squats. Although massive when inflated, most come with pumps. So you can just let the air out when you are not using it.

Rowing machines

Out of all the cardio machines, I believe the rowing machines to be the most efficient. You can replace the treadmill and the exercise bike by going outside and doing the more accessible real version of the exercise, but it is rare to have a chance to row.

Rowing is also a full-body exercise that burns a lot of calories in a relatively short time. 

Many modern rowing machines are foldable and lightweight. You can even store one under your bed (provided you have one in your Japanese apartment). Again, go to a store that has rowing machines and try one out. It has to fit your height and weight. The magnetic rowing machines generally make less noise, but there are some quiet water rowers as well. Also, get a mat to put underneath to protect the floor. 

Gimmicky Items

I purposely left out items like ab wheels and all the electrical shaky things. 

Working out is not easy. It just is not. There are no shortcuts that can give you an athletes body in two weeks, with ‘just’ eight minutes of daily exercise. All items that promise a shortcut, or are supposedly meant to focus on ‘fat reduction’ or somehow give you a firm bum or six pack abs are utter rubbish, that you don’t want to clutter your (already small) apartment with.


Sometimes the only viable option is to work out at home. It is not always the most efficient or the most fun way to exercise, but luckily there are a lot of resources out there you can use, to make home workouts effective. Whether its stretching or bodyweight follow along with routines, there is plenty of it out there, all you need is motivation.

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