As the United States struggles to keep the coronavirus pandemic under control, guidelines for which businesses can reopen vary widely from state to state. As a result, many of our favorite places to work out are closed. So, whether due to local restrictions or lingering concerns, more of us are exercising at home to experience the health benefits. There’s no doubt it’s much harder to get motivated when your gym or yoga studio isn’t open. To help inspire some motivation, we’ve compiled a list of the simplest, most effective at-home exercises. If you want to avoid the #Quarantine15, try this beginner workout at home.
Depending on your fitness goals, you’ll likely want to include cardiovascular exercise (more commonly referred to as cardio). When you perform any movement that requires increased breathing, you are doing cardio. Cardio can range from low to high intensity and is one of the most universal forms of exercise around the world. Luckily, cardio rarely requires equipment. And don’t worry, we have alternatives to jogging. Generally, you can expect to burn about 160-240 calories per 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity completed. This makes cardio a great option for burning calories when on a time crunch.
Stand upright with your legs together and arms at your sides. Then, bend your knees slightly and jump while spreading your legs just past shoulder width. Simultaneously, sweep your arms above your head. Lastly, jump back to the starting position. Once you get the hang of it, try doing jumping jacks for 30-120 seconds. This is an ideal movement to include in your beginner workout at home because you can vary your pace to match the desired intensity.
Start in a standing position. Squat down and place your hands on the ground in front of you. Kick your feet back so you are in a pushup position and do one pushup. Then, return to your feet and jump straight into the air, reaching as high as you can with both arms extended overhead. Once you return to the standing position, you’ve completed one rep. These are notoriously tricky to get the hang of, so don’t feel bad if it takes some practice. This full body workout will get your heart rate soaring quickly so be sure to follow up with some less intense movements.
Start in the up position of a pushup (also known as an arm-extended plank). Bring one knee up to your chest as high as you can and return your foot to its starting position. Alternate by completing the same movement with your other side. Again, your pace determines your intensity. Start slow and focus on your form, making sure your back remains flat at the top of your upright plank position. This is great to include in your beginner workout at home because it does not require much floor space.
This once requires you to have a flight of stairs accessible. If you don’t have one at home, try out a local park, library, or other public place. To get your heart rate going, simply go up the stairs at a challenging pace. Try setting a goal for yourself to keep you motivated. This can either be for the number of flights climbed or total time. Or try it with a workout partner and alternate going up and down together.There’s a lot you can do with just a simple staircase!
Most people don’t like running, but there’s no doubt it’s great for burning calories. What many don’t realize is that you don’t have to be going fast in order to reap the benefits. There’s no shame in having a 10-12 minute mile pace or taking occasional breaks. Ideally, all you want to do is stay between 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 40 years old, your maximum heart rate is roughly 180.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and arms at your sides. Loosely grip the handles of a jump rope with the rope resting on the ground behind your heels. Rotate your arms backwards and outwards, so that you are able to make a loop around the top of your head. As the rope comes down in front of you, jump just before the rope makes contact with the ground. Once you’re going, your wrists will do most of the work for you. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t get it right away; it’s probably been a while. It’s still a great exercise to include in your beginner workout at home.
Strength training is a complementary exercise to cardio. While cardio focuses on increased breathing intensity, strength training focuses on select muscle groups and helps build strength. Bodyweight exercises are a good place to start because you don’t need any equipment. These movements utilize your body’s own weight as resistance to help train muscles. If you do have access to equipment, though, it’s good to know a couple things. First, if you want to work towards increasing muscle size, the general rule of thumb is to use a higher weight for less repetitions. For getting toned or defined muscles, do just the opposite (utilizing lower weight but with a high number of repetitions). At only about 90-130 calories per 30 minutes of activity, strength training burns less calories during the period of exercise. That being said, research shows that the benefit of strength training lays in an increased metabolism (and extra burnt calories) for the next few hours after completing your workout.
With strength training, it is common to target different muscle groups on different days of activity so that they have time to recover properly before they are trained again. Below, I’ll go over the most commonly trained muscle groups and list some great bodyweight exercises for each group. If you want an in-depth explanation of the muscles included in the major muscle groups, refer to this awesome resource. No matter your goals, there’s no doubt strength training is a great addition to your beginner workout at home.
Set your feet shoulder width apart with your toes pointed out slightly. Slowly bend your knees and move your hips back to lower your body. Stop once your thighs are parallel to the ground. Strongly push back to the starting position, making sure your knees do not point inward towards each other (they will want to naturally, but force them to stay evenly apart). Allow your arms to balance your body wherever they feel most comfortable. Many people keep their arms extended in front of them or place their palms together near their chest while completing the movement. Different variations of the simple squat target slightly different muscles. If you get bored with the original squat, try a jump squat, sumo squat, or split squat.
After completing this exercise, you’ll understand its name! Start on all fours, like you would for a modified push up. Slowly bring one leg out and up towards your elbow on the same side. Your leg movement should be guided mainly by the knee, so focus on touching your knee to your elbow and you should get the hang of it. Repeat on the opposite side (right knee to right elbow, left knee to left elbow).
The lunge is another easy and versatile movement with many variations. For a classic lunge, start by standing shoulder width apart with your hands on your hips. Take a large step forward with one foot until your knee bends to 90 degrees. Push off your front leg to return to the starting position. Repeat with the other leg. Once you’ve mastered that, try a jump lunge or side lunge.
This is another easy leg movement to include in your beginner workout at home. Simply stand in front of a step, about 1-2 feet higher than the ground. This can be an actual step, a sturdy box or chair, your couch, or even an outdoor bench. Raise one leg and place it on the step. Drive your body up with the elevated foot, swinging the knee of your lower leg up to waist level on the step. Then, do just the opposite and lower the swinging leg back to the ground, followed by the leg you first placed on the step. Make sure to take your time and remain stable while you get the hang of this. Many people like to do this movement with equal weights in each hand to add some more resistance. The most common at-home dumbbell substitutes are milk-jugs, but check out these other alternatives.
Start by laying on the ground on your back. Scoot your feet in until your shins are perpendicular to the ground. Squeeze your glutes while lifting your hips off the ground until knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Hold for 2-3 seconds before gently returning your hips to the ground. Once you get more advanced, try holding a household weight at the base of your hips to add some resistance.
To perform a reverse leg lift, simply start on the ground on all fours. Lift one leg back, keeping it bent 90 degrees at the knee. Stop when the sole of your foot is parallel to the ground (or as close to that as you can get) and return to the starting position. Alternate with the other leg. During this movement, it is important to remember not to arch your back.
Stand upright with your arms facing out. Lower your body while picking one foot off the ground and crossing it behind your other leg. Your knee should almost touch the ground, but not quite. Return back to the original position and repeat by moving your other leg to the opposite direction. These are definitely a bit awkward at first and require some balancing. However, they’ll likely become a new favorite of yours once you get it down.
Start by laying on your side, with your legs on top of one another and knees bent slightly. Rest your head on your arm almost like you are in a side-sleeping position. Slowly raise your top leg up and squeeze your glutes until your knee points straight up. Return to the starting position. Once you’ve done a few repetitions, switch to your opposite side to even yourself out.
A plank is one of the simplest ways to tone your core. Simply start by laying on the ground on your stomach. Place your forearms on the ground directly beneath your shoulders. Your elbows should be bent at 90 degrees. You don’t want your butt too high or too low, so try and keep it in line with your shoulders and heels. Try to hold it for 30 seconds. As you get better, you can increase the time to 1-2 minutes or challenge yourself to see how long you can hold your plank. To target your obliques, the muscles on the sides of your stomach, try adding a side plank to your beginner workout at home.
To do a reverse crunch, lie down with your arms at your sides. Raise your legs so that your thighs are perpendicular to the ground and your knees are bent at 90 degrees (calves parallel to the ground). This is both the position you will start and end in. Engage your abs in order to pull your knees towards your chest, raising your hips off the ground. Return legs to starting position, making sure to keep the bend in your knees. This movement seems easy at first, but after some repetitions you’ll start to realize why they’re an at-home favorite.
Sit with your heels on the ground in front of you and your knees bent. Your upper body should be leaning back slightly to balance you. Place your hands together, forming a triangle in front of you, and keeping a natural bend in your elbows. Twist your shoulders and rotate your core to one side. Touch a space on the ground near your hips with both hands. Return to the balanced center position before moving to the other side and doing the same. Many people like to make this more challenging by carrying a light weight in both hands and slowly touching that to the ground on either side of your hips.
For this exercise, you’ll need a simple ab wheel. Luckily, they can be bought for pretty cheap on Amazon. Start on all fours, with the ab wheel placed between your hands. Grip each handle with your hands. You should now have three points of contact with the ground: left knee, right knee, and ab wheel. Slowly shift your balance and roll the ab wheel forward. Keep a negative arch in your back as you lower your body and extend the wheel above your head. Stop when you’ve almost hit the ground and engage your back and core muscles to pull you back up to the original position. This movement is considered an advanced abdominal workout so don’t feel bad if it takes some getting used to. After only a few sets you’ll be doubled over and feeling accomplished!
Lay on your stomach with arms stretched out and palms on the ground. To perform a Superman, simply raise your arms and legs off the ground and hold for a few seconds. The main point of contact with the ground should be your hips and pelvic bone. Repeatedly lift your limbs and hold for a few seconds or try holding out for 30-60 seconds. Try the same movement but with your arms forming a Y, W, or T with your body to keep things interesting and target slightly different muscles.
Lay across your bed, a chair, or some other elevated surface with your upper body hanging off the edge. You should start with your lower body parallel to the surface and your upper body hanging down perpendicular to the ground. This is the starting position. Slowly use your lower back to pull your torso even with your lower body, forming a straight line extended from the surface you’re laying on. Lower yourself back to the starting position to complete the repetition. Once you get comfortable, try holding a weight with both arms to give yourself an extra challenge.
A T-plank is an easy way to get some extra movement in your back while keeping your entire core stable. Start in an upright plank position, with arms fully extended. Lift one palm off the ground and open your shoulders towards that direction. Point the arm up towards the ceiling/sky directly above you. You should form a straight line from the wrist in the air to the one on the ground. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other side.
Place your resistance band on the ground and step on the center of it, placing both feet on top of the middle of the band. Bend down and grab the loops on each side. Remain bending at the waist with your back parallel to the ground and the resistance band in your hands at about knee level. Pinch your shoulders blades together and lift the band up towards your chest. Lower the band back to knee level. For less resistance, keep your feet close together. For more resistance, spread your feet apart. If you have reservations about buying a resistance band, know that they can be used for dozens of great beginner workouts at home.
Push ups are a great way to get your upper body moving without any equipment. It’s hard to get bored of push ups; with dozens of variations, even the most intense fitness enthusiasts include the humble push up in their routine. You likely know the traditional push up form, so we’ll introduce you to a few of the variations. While standard push ups work your chest, bringing your hands below your shoulders will narrow your movement and target the triceps. Now, try the opposite. To complete a wide push up, just extend your hands further away from your shoulders at the top of the starting position. Completing a push up in a wider stance will target the muscles in your shoulders, back, and upper arms. The last variation we’ll cover is a pike push up. To perform a pike push up start in the original position and walk your feet towards your hands while bringing your hips into the air. Keeping your hips raised, bend your elbows until your chin nearly touches the ground. Push up off the ground and return back to the starting position.
To perform a tricep dip, place your palms on the edge of a sturdy chair. Hover your body in front of the seat with your hands behind you. Your elbows should be straight to start while your heels rest on the ground in front of you. Slowly bend at the elbows to lower your body. Stop just before your butt hits the ground. Push back up until your arms are straight again.
These are a bit more challenging than you’d think but the premise is simple. Start in a normal plank position with your elbows bent 90 degrees. One arm at a time, push off and get into an upright plank position (arms extended). Alternate between pushing off with your left and right arm. Your core will be activated on this movement for an added bonus to your beginner workout at home.