Let’s get straight to the point: workout at home using your bodyweight or simple pieces of equipment such as dumbbells, a jumping rope or a suspension trainer. Even as you become stronger, workouts at home can still be effective. By increasing your reps, or using a lower tempo of your exercises, you can progress your workouts and the effectiveness of them.
We know what you are thinking: a bodyweight workout at home can’t build muscle. Well, they actually can. Just look at a sport called calisthenics, where the base is bodyweight exercises. Of course overall nutrition is an important part of building muscle, progressive overload is a big part as well. Your own bodyweight is great for cardio, too.
The bottom line is this: you don’t need a gym to get fit. Even in times of lockdown with the current pandemic.
Below is our collection of the best (beginner) exercises to try at home, coupled with an explanation of what makes that move useful. If you’re struggling to put these moves into a workout routine, don’t worry. We’ve also included a selection of the best workouts for you to try.
No matter which workout at home you pick, I want you to start with one important thing:
It doesn’t have to be much though, give it about five minutes to get your muscles active and your heart rate up. Keeping yourself literally warm by wearing a comfortable hoodie, helps as well.
This will help you do exercises properly and help prevent injury. You can run in place, do air punches and kicks, or some jumping jacks.
– If the weather allows it, get outside and, instead of getting in a workout at home, find yourself a park with a pull-up bar etc.
– Don’t have any dumbbells at home? Use a backpack filled with packs of rice or sugar to add some weight.
In short: be creative with your workouts at home, they don’t have to be boring!
How to: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, position your legs shoulder width apart. Keeping your head up and back straight, sit back into the squat until the dumbbells are an inch from the floor. Focus on keeping your knees over your toes and chest out – don’t arch your back or lean forward as you drop down. Exhale, straighten your legs and return to the starting position.
Why: Squats are an excellent all-round exercise and one of the best moves for building overall strength. Dumbbells let you concentrate on technique and work on your range of movement at low weight. Only advance to barbell squats in the gym once you’ve got this nailed.
How to: Lie down on the floor with a dumbbell in each hand. Bend at the elbows and hold the weights above you. Press up and straighten your arms before pausing at the top of the rep and lowering slowly to the start position.
Why: By restricting your range of movement, this move helps you build a bigger chest. Minus the risk of shoulder injury from over extension. A great compound workout for your chest overall.
How to: Stand facing away from a bench, grab it with both hands at shoulder-width. Extend your legs out in front of you. Slowly lower your body by flexing at the elbows until your arm at forearm create a 90 degree angle. Using your triceps lift yourself back to the starting position.
Why: This is easy to do on a chair, stair or coffee table. It works the arms, chest and shoulders and is great if you want people to notice that you’ve started working out as it builds triceps effectively.
How to: Leap up and grip a bar or the step of a staircase with your hands shoulder width apart and your palms facing away from you. Hang with your arms fully extended, you can bend your legs at the knee if they’re dragging on the ground. Keep your shoulders back (scapula retracted) and your core engaged throughout. Then pull up. Focus on enlisting every upper body muscle to aid your upward movement. Move slowly upward until your chin is above the bar/step, then equally slowly downward until your arms are extended again.
why: the real beneficial aspect of doing pull ups on a regular basis is that they work out several muscle groups at once. This is what we call a compound exercise – just like the squat and the bench/floorpress – and if you are short on time compound exercises are the way to go. Pull ups are very efficient because each and every single pull up works out your biceps, triceps, forearms, wrists, grip strength, lats, shoulders, and your core.
How to: Get in a press-up position and place your hands together so your index fingers and thumbs form a diamond. Keep your back straight as you lower until your chest almost touches the floor then push back up to the start position.
Why: If standard press-ups are feeling too easy, try this. It’ll smoke your triceps and chest and challenge your form. A tip: Keep your core locked to avoid sagging at the hips and putting stress on the lower back.
How to: Get down into a push-up position with your hands placed shoulder-width apart and back flat, so a straight line forms from your head to heels, via your glutes. Lower your body until your chest is an inch from the ground then explosively drive up by fully extending your arms. That’s on rep.
Why: This move uses multiple muscle groups for maximum growth and strengthens your shoulder joints. Easily done as an exercise at home, this prepares you for progression to the more demanding shoulder exercises you’ll face in a gym, like the incline bench press.
How to: From a standing position squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor and place your palms on the floor. From there kick your feet back as far as you can while keeping your arms extended. As soon as your feet land jump them back in towards your hands, then jump up into the air. Land and immediately squat down to go into the next rep.
Why: When it comes to burning fat at home, few moves can do better then the burpee. Perfect for burning calories without equipment, work these into your workout at home routine to ramp up your heart rate or set yourself daily challenges.
How to: Lunge forward until your rear knee is almost touching the ground. Jump into the air, bringing your rear foot forward and the front foot back. Land in a lunge and repeat. Land on both feet simultaneously to cushion the impact on your joints.
Why: Just like burpees, these are perfect for building up your cardiovascular system, but will also help you build faster, more powerful quadriceps. Ideal if your leg day has taken a hit.
How to: Stand holding two dumbbells at shoulder height with an overhand grip – palms facing forwards. Ensure your elbows are in front of the bar and don’t flare out to the sides. Press the weights up above your head until your arms are fully extended. Return slowly to the start position.
Why: This is a safer shoulder-sculptor than lifting from behind your neck. As a beginner the aim should be to keep strain off your joints and protect against an injury called shoulder impingement syndrome. Missed sessions this early in your lifting career are especially costly.
How to: Get in a press-up position, but rest on your forearms rather than your hands. Make sure your back is straight and tense your abs and glutes. Hold without allowing your hips to sag.
Why: Endless crunches put pressure on your spine and, when done incorrectly, can give you a set of weird, distended abs. Planks are perfect for working your core in a way that keeps you injury-free and builds the flat six-pack you’re after.
How to: Lie on your left side with your legs straight and prop yourself onto your elbow. Brace your core and raise your hips until your body forms a straight line. Hold this position while breathing deeply. Roll over and repeat on the other side.
Why: Excellent for targeting a small muscle in your lower back. Strengthening it is crucial for spine health and will help you avoid the notorious beginner’s back pain. hitting hard on the obliques as well.
How to: Stand upright holding the barbell, two dumbbells by your sides, or unweighted. With your toes pointing forwards, raise your heels off the floor and contract your calves. Slowly return to the starting position.
Why: Isolating the calves for a workout can benefit overall leg definition. It also helps hamstring and glute stength. Different foot positions target different muscles. Toes pointing in hits the outer head harder, toes out works the inner head.
How to: Grab the rope at both ends. Use your wrists to flick it round your body, jumping to clear the rope as it hits the ground. Make the move more intense with double unders – letting the rope pass round your twice for every jump
Why: The ultimate no-nonsense workout, jumping rope could be the most efficient form of cardio. About 3 times as effective as jogging.
How to: Stand with a dumbbell in each hand and, keeping your upper arms stationary, curl the weights until the dumbbells are at shoulder level. Focus on keeping your elbows still – only your lower arm should move. Squeeze your bicep at the top of the contraction then lower slowly and repeat.
Why: This is the perfect move for developing those mirror muscles you crave. By keeping your upper arm stationary you hit the whole bicep for maximum growth.
How to: Lie flat on the floor with your legs bent. Drive through your heels to push your hips upwards as far as you can go, before pausing and returning to the start position.
Why: Whether you need to warm-up fora run or want to keep your glute strength ticking over, the bodyweight glute bridge is the easiest way to get a stronger, firmer behind that’ll boost strength across the board, from a heavier squat to a more stable bench press.
How to: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Place your hands on either side of your head. Push your lower back into the floor as you lift your shoulders a few inches off the floor – make sure your lower back stays in contact with the ground at all times. Tense your abs hard at the top point of the movement, then return under control to the start position.
Why: The first port of call for any abs workout this is a must-do. By lifting your legs you place extra weight on the stomach muscles and reduce the momentum that could make this easier.
How to: Grab a heavy dumbbell in each hand and hold them at your sides. Stand up tall with your shoulders back and walk forward as quickly as you can using short steps.
Why: Super simple with no need to worry about technique, this move hits your shoulder stabilisers, upper traps and front deltoids. It also supercharges your grip strength, which will transfer strength to your other lifts too.
How to: Stand holding a light dumbbell in each hand. Slowly lift the dumbbells out to the side until they reach shoulder height – no higher – and resist the urge to cheat by swinging the weight. Pause, then lower back to your sides, slowly – you’ll build more muscle fighting gravity than letting it do the work for you.
Why: If you’re doing exercise at home, this is the best move for visible shoulder development. The lateral raise isolates your medial deltoid, the middle of three shoulder muscles, helping to develop your shoulder width and mass. Perfect for getting that desired the V-shape.