Home workouts are a great option if you want to stay active but can't make it to the gym, want to save some money by cancelling a pricey gym membership, or are a busy parent looking to fit in a quick workout where you can.
And with more of us being encouraged to socially distance ourselves, exercising at home is becoming an increasingly popular option for those who want to stay fit while minimising the risk of contracting Coronavirus, or passing it on to loved ones.
The exercises below should take around 30 minutes to complete altogether and, if completed every two or three days, should make a notable difference to your fitness levels.*
While there are a few basic buys we'd recommend investing in – think trainers, yoga mat, a set of dumbbells – they aren't essential for those who would prefer to start with body weight only workouts. After all, if you're dedicated to getting fit fast at home, all you really need is a little bit of determination.
To get started
Warm up exercises
These are the home exercise basic must haves
Trainers – shop for ones suitable for HIIT training;
A yoga mat – use our guide to find the best;
Gym clothing you can wear at home – check out our interior trend-inspired buys;
Dumbbells – for when you want to step up from your body weight exercises. Use our guide to find the best but the PowerBlock Sport Adjustable Dumbbells are affordable;
Skipping rope – we like the BeMaxx Fitness Skipping Rope.
Find all the best gym equipment in our buyer's guide.
It's really important to make the warm up the first step of your home exercise routine – doing so will increase your heart rate and circulation, loosen your joints and increase the blood flow to your muscles. It'll stop you hurting yourself, too.
These are the best warm up exercises; pick at least three of them, alternating those you find difficult with those you find easier. :
- Run in place – hold your hands out at waist level and try to lift your knees up to them for a count of 20;
- Run up and down the stairs;
- Run for three minutes on a running machine with gentle hill intervals. Choose a speed setting that's just very slightly out of your comfort zone, but reduce rather than cutting the warm up run short; finish the warm up run by slowly reducing the speed for around 30 seconds;
- Use a skipping rope and do 40 jumps;
- Use an exercise bike to do a three minute cycle, following the advice for the run, above;
- Do 10 push ups; if you find them hard on the floor, do them against a raised surface, such as a steady coffee table.
- Box for three minutes: you don't necessarily need gloves, even shadow boxing, moving your feet as you do, alternating punching with kicking, will work up a sweat;
- Do 40 star jumps.
Exercises for burning fat and building muscle at home
5 best ways to get fit fast
1. Ensure you're eating enough – while it can be easy to assume that drastically cutting calories is the easiest way to get fit – or lose weight – quickly, doing so will likely lead to short lived results. We'd recommend using the NHS calorie checker for expert advice on reducing your calorie intake, if this is something you'd like to learn more about, though it should by no means be considered essential.
2. Eat healthily, regularly and after exercise to keep your body fuelled – just make good choices. We're not saying never eat processed foods, but simply swapping white bread for brown, processed meat for fresh chicken (etc) will make a big difference.
3. Try a PT session/an online tutorial/fitness video If you've never exercised, are new to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), or aren't sure if you're doing it right, it's really worth using a personal trainer once or twice, watching a YouTube tutorial or a fitness video to get yourself started and motivated. We've looked at some of the best below
4. Build muscle with strength training a couple of times a week. You can do this with your body weight, resistance bands or weights. Look at doing two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise.
5. Embrace the trend for HIIT Tried and tested for getting fit fast by the Realhomes.com team, HIIT increases calorie burning, even after you're finished your home exercise. It's good for burning abdominal fat; aerobic and anaerobic fitness; and a healthy heart. Simply put, it's intense aerobic exercise punctuated by periods of recovery (although don't take that to mean 'lying on the sofa').
Warm up done, it's time to do some fat-burning, muscle-building exercises next. Here's what to do for a complete strengthening workout, using either body weight only or upping the intensity with dumbbells. Do each exercise in this order, and repeat the set two or three times:
- 20 body weight squats for legs and bums: you can do these into a chair (just let your bottom touch the seat, don't put your weight on it, stand straight back up) or without. Increase the effect of the exercise by holding a dumbbell in each hand (these should be light enough that the squats become difficult towards the end of the set).
- 20 walking lunges for legs and bums: think walking like Basil Fawlty – essentially you're taking long, slow, low lunging steps across the living room or up and down the hallway; keep your body upright and your gaze focussed ahead. Hold your dumbbells to increase the intensity.
- 10 dumbbell rows for arms and backs: lunge forwards leaning with your left hand on a solid surface (sturdy coffee table, footstool, couch) with your left foot forwards, leg bent at the knee; the right leg stretched backwards and straight – you needn't lock the knee. Pick up your dumbbell with your right hand and pull back at the elbow to lift the dumbbell until your right hand is at about waist level. Lower carefully and repeat. Then swap sides.
- 30 second plank for abdominals, legs, backs, bums and arms: lie on your front with your elbows pushed into your sides by your ribs and your forearms on the floor. Tuck your toes under and raise your body so that you're only touching the floor with your forearms and feet. Your body and head should be straight and parallel to the floor (no caved back or bottom poking up). Engage your core and pelvic floor, squeeze your bottom and thigh muscles and push your heels together. Hold for 30 seconds.
- 20 Russian twists for abs: Sit on the floor and bend your legs with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your feet off the floor and tilt your body backwards so that your abs are engaged. Balancing, twist at the waist taking your hands first to the right hand side of your body, then to the left. You can increase the intensity by holding one of your dumbbells between both hands. No dumbbells? A large dictionary would even do the trick.
- 10 standing shoulder presses for shoulders, arms and backs: stand with feet hip width apart, knees very slightly bent, dumbbells at shoulder level, palms facing forwards. Press the weights upwards and bring them back down for 10 repetitions.
- 10 dumbbell step ups for legs and bottoms: hold your dumbbells in each hand by your sides. Step up, right foot first, bring the left foot up, step back down with your right, then with your left. Repeat 10 times, then swap to lead with your left foot.
- 10 bench dips for arms, chest and shoulders: stand with your back to a sturdy coffee table, footstool or bench, then lower yourself to put the heels of your hands and palms on to it at shoulder-width; extend your legs out in front of you, then slowly lower your body by bending your arms at the elbows to create a 90 degree angle. Straighten your arms to lift yourself up, then bend again to dip your body.
- 20 crunches for abs: lie on your back with your knees bent up, either so that your feet are flat on the floor, hip width apart or at a 90 degree angle to increase intensity. Put your hands either side of your head, not around the back. Pushing your lower back into the floor, lift your shoulders off the floor – a few centimetres will do, as this is a crunch not a sit up. Return slowly to the floor and repeat.
Cool down exercises for home
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This is where your yoga mat will come in handy. It's worth spending a good five to 10 minutes on cooling down, but if you have time, take even longer, and add even more stretches to your routine.
- Go for a walk: this isn't a stretch (which you will need to do to avoid muscle tightness), but it is a really vital part of a cool down. Got a dog? Time the walk for just after your work out.
- Ab stretch: assume the plank position (see above) but don't tuck the toes. Slowly push upwards with your palms, aiming for straight arms. Look straight ahead, feeling the stretch in your abs. Hold for 20 seconds.
- Downward facing dog: possibly the best known yoga pose, downward dog is perfect for stretching out your entire body, but in particular your calves. Start by resting on your knees, placing your hands in front of you, about shoulder width apart. Then, tuck your toes, pushing upwards and stepping back so that you can completely extend your legs. Your bum should be the highest point. Begin pedalling with your feet to feel the stretch in your calves. Continue for as long as feels comfortable.
- Cat/cow pose: get on all fours so that your hands are beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Round the back upwards (like a cat) and hold, reverse, pulling the middle of the back downwards so that it's curved like a cow's. Hold for 10 seconds in each position and repeat at least three times.
- Hips circles: Remaining on all fours, this stretch calls for you to circle your hips, however feels comfortable, to prevent the build up of tension in this area.
- Child's pose: staying on all fours, sit your bottom back on to your heels. You can keep the knees together or push them apart; arms can be by your sides or stretched forwards. Hold the position for at least 30 seconds.
- Hip flexor stretch: up on to your knees, keeping your hips level, take your right foot forwards so that your left leg is in a lunge position behind you. You should feel the stretch in your hip flexor. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Quad stretch: stand up, feet and knees together, take your right foot up towards your bottom; hold on to your right foot with your right hand to increase the stretch, keeping your hips level. Hold on to the wall with your left hand if you need to.
These are the best buys for home gyms
- Shoulder stretch: stand up straight then take your right arm across your body, ensuring your shoulder doesn't hunch up. Use your left hand to push your right upper arm into your body to increase the stretch. Hold on each side for 10 seconds.
* With all these exercises, never continue if you are in pain, feeling faint, dizzy or unwell. If you haven't exercised for a long time (or ever) or if you suffer from a long-term condition, speak to your doctor before starting a home exercise routine. It's better to start slowly and increase your workout incrementally rather than overdo it at the beginning.