Spending more time at home or not being able to go to a gym shouldn’t force you to compromise on your exercise routine. It’s one thing to not want to work out at home, but it’s another thing to say it can’t be done.
While advanced exercisers and workout enthusiasts require equipment, so many exercises can be done with your body alone for a serious home workout. The beauty of not needing equipment means you can perform the exercises anywhere with a few square feet of space, including at home.
So if you’re looking to break a sweat and build some strength but can’t make your way to a gym, we’ve designed a full body workout of beginner-friendly exercises you can do from home. Most of these exercises should be familiar to even casual exercisers, but we’ve included specific instructions for the less familiar exercises and recommendations for the amounts of reps and sets in case you’re not sure where to begin.
No equipment is required beyond a decent pair of sneakers, but some exercises include optional equipment for an improved experience. We also have tried all 10 of these exercises in our own workout routines, so we know they work. If you practice, focus and do them on a regular basis, you will definitely improve or help maintain your strength.
Before we dive into the exercises and muscle groups, you should keep the following tips in mind:
- Safety is the most important thing when exercising, so listening to your body is key. You want tension, not pain, and you should only begin to push your limits once you’ve mastered the basics and have a good understanding of your body’s abilities.
- Concentrate and focus your attention on the muscles being exercised and perform the movements slowly and in control. Paying close attention helps you avoid injury and makes you better at targeting and engaging particular muscles.
- In general, you want to exhale when feeling the push of the exercise, and you want to inhale when relaxing and releasing muscle tension.
- Including some stretching is up to you, depending on your goals. Some people like to stretch before exercise, some like to stretch for a post-workout cool down. Studies suggest stretching basically doesn’t help with soreness of injury prevention, but stretching does improve flexibility.
- Ultimately you should spend time on the exercises you want to do, especially at first. Your sets and reps will change over time as you continue to exercise, and you generally don’t need more than 20-30 minutes of an elevated heart rate to get most of the benefits of exercise anyways.
- It’s OK to take short breaks in between exercises to catch your breath! Just don’t break too long because your body will begin to cool down, making it difficult to return to exercise.
1. Jumping Jacks
BEST FOR CARDIO
Do not knock it until you have tried it. Do enough jumping jacks properly and your heart will take notice.
Recommended exercise: Start off with a set of 10-20 jumping jacks and repeat that set as desired. Three sets is always a solid target to work with.
2. Jump rope
ALTERNATIVE CARDIO TOOL
It’s called jumping rope for a reason, but you don’t need an actual jump rope to get a great home cardio workout.
You can either time yourself jumping an imaginary rope for a certain duration, or you can aim for a certain number of jumps. Depending on the speed of the rope, some people add a little micro hop in between jumps for a little extra exercise.
Recommended exercise: Five minutes of consistent jump rope is more than enough for most people. If you’re not sure how many to do, try 25 jumps for one set and repeat as needed to get your heart rate going.
If jumping in place without an actual rope or something in your hands makes you feel silly, you can always buy an actual rope or a weighted jump rope for an added challenge. SPY’s best picks are currently sold out, but we really love Benvo’s Weighted Ropeless Jump Rope. You get the weight of holding something, without an actual rope hitting your legs when you mess up.
Benvo Weighted Ropeless Jump Rope
BEST FOR ABS
Crunches have stood the test of time for a reason. As simple a proposition as it may seem, crunching your abs will strengthen them. All you need is a flat surface on the ground.
Recommended exercise: Three sets of 10-20 crunches is enough to feel the burn for the most people.
If you only have a hard floor, this is one exercise where you may wish to purchase a yoga mat because hard surfaces like tile and wood can be uncomfortable on your back. BalanceFrom’s All-Purpose Anti-Tear Yoga Mat is inexpensive and will give you the extra cushion you need to exercise comfortably.
BalanceFrom's All-Purpose Anti-Tear Yoga Mat
4. Single Leg Stand
BEST FOR CORE AND BALANCE
This one is so much harder than it looks if you’ve never done it or it’s been a while since you’ve done it. The goal is to use your core and ab strength to balance and stabilize your body. The wobbling from maintaining balance creates tension that over time will strengthen your core and improve your balance.
Instructions: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Slowly raise one leg to just below hip level and press the other leg into the ground for balance. You should not hold your leg with your hands, but you can press it against your other leg if that’s more comfortable. Flex and strengthen your core as you hold your leg in the air and try to balance without swaying around or using your arms. Try to hold your leg in the air for 10-15 seconds and don’t forget to do the other leg.
Recommended exercise: Try standing on one leg for as long as you can without losing balance. Once you lose balance, try again. Repeat 3-5 times per leg.
BEST FOR CHEST AND ARMS
When it comes to home workouts, the push-up is essential for your chest and arms. There’s a reason everybody from kids to pro athletes do it. You can do a push-up anywhere and a push-up gets results.
Recommended exercise: Three sets of 10 push-ups is a good starting point and you can build up by doing more push-ups per set.
If you don’t like the idea of putting your hands all over the ground, you can always invest in a cheap pair of exercise gloves. Atercel’s Workout Gloves are cheap and will totally get the job done.
Atercel Workout Gloves
6. Bodyweight Squats
BEST FOR BUTT AND HIPS
The bodyweight squat belongs in the hall of fame of exercises you can do at home. If done properly, squats will help tone and strengthen your hips and butt.
Instructions: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. You can place your hands behind your head or hold them out in front of your body, parallel to the ground. Begin to move by flexing your knees and hips, lowering your hips and butt toward the ground as though you were trying to sit into a small chair. Continue down until your thighs are about parallel with the ground and quickly reverse the motion to propel yourself upward back to your beginning pose to complete the squat.
This should be a more-or-less fluid movement from start to finish.
Recommended exercise: Try doing a few sets of 10 and adjust from there.
7. Wall Sits
BEST FOR LEGS AND THIGHS
We’d bet you couldn’t do a wall sit for over a minute. The sheer tension on your legs after 20 seconds is usually enough to turn even muscled legs into jelly, but that goes to show the power of a simple exercise.
Recommended exercise: For most people, doing a few sets of 10-30 seconds will seriously challenge your legs. Alternatively, for a serious challenge, try sitting against the wall once for as long as you can.
8. Standing Calf Raises
BEST FOR LEGS AND CALVES
Calf raises are easy to learn, but hard to do a lot of because you’re lifting your whole body weight using your toes and calf muscles.
Instructions: Stand facing the wall with about a foot of space between you and the wall. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart. Simultaneously press the balls of your feet into the ground as though you were going to stand on your tippy toes. You’ll lean forward slightly and should feel a flex in your calf muscles before dropping your heels back to the ground to complete the calf raise.
Recommended exercise: Start small with a few sets of 10. If you want to challenge yourself, hold a set of dumbbells or other weights (but remember to start with light weights and work your way up).
BEST FOR BACK AND SHOULDERS
Exercising your back without equipment can be tricky, but the superman exercise can create a lot of strength-building tension in your back.
Instructions: Lie on your stomach on the ground and extend your hands forward. Your head should be slightly raised. Lift your legs, arms and chest off the floor, and hold for about a second, which will strain your back. Drop your legs and chest back down to complete one. Don’t forget to pretend you can fly faster than a speeding bullet and leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Recommended exercise: The exercise can feel awkward or uncomfortable at first, so start easy and only do a few sets of 5-10 reps.
10. Downward-facing Dog
BEST FOR FULL BODY
Yoga exercises are just that, exercises, and you will definitely break a sweat if you do them properly. The downward-facing dog exercise merely moves between the ground and the downward-facing dog pose, stretching and challenging your legs, arms, back, butt, hips and core.
Instructions: Start on all fours on your hands and knees on the floor. Push your hips up and back, lifting your knees and straightening your legs. You body should basically look like a triangle with the floor. As you straighten you legs, begin to push with your arms, bringing your chest closer to your legs. Hold for 10-15 seconds once you feel some tension, and then relax your body, bending your knees, back to the ground to complete one.
Recommended exercise: Try a few sets of 10. Alternatively, you can hold the triangle pose for a bit longer instead of doing more reps.