Getting to the gym can be a challenge (and the coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible for many), so more people than ever are looking for the best workouts to do at home. You don’t need a lot of space or fancy equipment to get the physical and mental benefits of regular exercise and stay healthy at home.
We asked trainers and gym owners to share good at-home workouts and practical advice about establishing the best home workout routine for you. These gym alternatives will have you in shape in no time.
Set your workout goals
The best workouts to do at home are the ones that you actually do. If you haven’t exercised in months, be realistic when starting up an at-home fitness routine.
“First, give yourself some grace,” advises Kayla Goebel, owner of Strong Roots. “The recent situation has thrown so much out of whack. Second, set yourself small, attainable goals. Is it realistic to ask yourself for 10 minutes of movement today? Be honest with yourself and give yourself something to reach for that is reasonable.”
The best workouts to do at home don’t require equipment
It’s easy to convince ourselves that we have to buy special equipment to have the best home workout routine. But we already have everything we need.
“While staying at home, our body weight is the best exercise tool that we have, as it is convenient and great for developing relative strength,” explains strength and conditioning coach Mickey Nol Allapach Na Pombhejara, who created virtual workouts for AvaniFit at Home on Instagram. “There are many types of exercise you can do with just bodyweight, such as resistance training, cardio and mobility/flexibility.”
Sample workout routines for each exercise goal are included below, so pick what you want to focus on and get started. If you can’t decide, just figure it out as you go. “Movement is movement,” Goebel says. “Maybe right now you need something a little different than you normally do. It’s OK to assess and adjust.”
1. Circuit training
“One of the best workout routines is a circuit: a series of exercises that you repeat three to five times through,” explains Kathryn Rand, who teaches free online fitness classes through the Virtual Achievers Facebook group.
Rand’s sample workout will increase muscle strength and endurance, using only your bodyweight. The stronger you get, the more reps you’ll do.
Bodyweight resistance circuit
- Exercise duration: 60 seconds
- Rest time: 15 to 30 seconds
- Reps: 3-5
- Jog in place
- High-knees jog
- Jump squats
- Plank (Hold the push-up position with arms and back straight)
If you want to kick it up a notch, try a cardio circuit. It’ll get your heart pumping.
“Movement is key,” says Mariah Prussia, professional trainer, women’s self-defense instructor and owner of MPX Fitness. “Individuals can also increase the increments of time and transition the workout into HIIT.”
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) features short bursts of intense exercise to burn calories. Because the movements are focused, you can fit a productive workout into just a few minutes.
As you get stronger, you can increase the duration of each exercise and add resistance. Household items can stand in for more expensive exercise equipment in the cardio circuit Prussia recommends.
Upper body cardio workout
- Exercise duration: 20 seconds (increase time for greater cardiovascular benefit)
- Recovery time: 10 seconds
- Reps: 4-8
- Burpees with or without a jump
- Band bicep curls (Loop an exercise band, belt, scarf or fabric under both feet or a bent knee. Tuck arms to sides, contract biceps and bring forearms up.)
- Step-ups (Use a step or stable surface.)
- Superman (Lie on your stomach with arms overhead, then raise and lower arms and legs.)
- Front raise (Hold a soup can or water bottle in each hand. Raise to shoulder level, keeping palms down.)
3. Flexibility and mobility
Focusing on flexibility can protect against injuries and increase your range of motion. Long holds require both physical and mental stamina. Ayurvedic yoga specialist Andrea Krejci Paradis explains that focusing on the breath will help you go deeper into a pose.
“The most important part of each pose is to be mindful of your breath and create a sense of steadiness and ease in the body,” she says. “If your mind begins to wander away from the present moment, notice where it wandered to (without judgment!) and bring it back to the present by reconnecting to your breath.”
Flexibility and mobility sequence
- Exercise duration: 10-20 breaths
- Recovery time: The breath between poses
- Reps: 1-2
- Right leg crescent lunge (Right leg lunges forward, left leg reaches behind, with the knee touching the ground.)
- Left leg crescent lunge
- Wide leg forward folds with arm variation (Step feet out wide, interlace fingers down your back and bend forward at the waist.)
- Cobbler’s pose (Sit on the floor with bottoms of feet together, knees open. Fold forward.)
Respect your neighbors
The best at-home workouts don’t need to bother the neighbors. Avoid working out during quiet hours. If you have downstairs neighbors, adjust the intensity of your workouts so you’re not jumping or running above them.
“Wireless earbuds are a necessity for working out at home,” says Rand. “That way, your music (or podcasts) can motivate you without disturbing your roomies or neighbors.”
Schedule your home workouts and make them a habit
When you find the best home workout routine for you, make it a priority. It can help to schedule workout sessions like you would an appointment. Or get friends involved.
“Reach out to a friend and commit to doing the same workout at the same time,” suggests Clare Lynch, who teaches virtual XABeat Dance classes. “At a time when people are feeling isolated, fitness to bond over gives you one more shared experience that helps you feel connected.”