No-one needs a gym membership to get in great shape. While we’re big fans of a dedicated space that has all the latest fitness gear available and experts on hand, with the right approach you can achieve just as much at home.
There’s also not just one right approach to use. You can get fit at home using bodyweight exercises alone, or you might invest in some free weights to increase the intensity of your strength training. And if you’d prefer to go all-in on cardio, there are several machines you can buy to use at home, like treadmills, exercise bikes and rowing machines.
We’ve got all the advice you need to help you nail your at-home training whatever your favoured approach is, so let’s get to it, starting with the best home workouts you can try.
Home Workout Ideas
A fitness routine doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, keeping it simple makes doing it consistently much easier – and that consistency is what will make a difference to your fitness. Take this straightforward session from PT Adam Jones. “A favourite of mine is to work in a 30:30 format,” says Jones, “which means 30 seconds of work with 30 seconds of rest on each exercise for a set amount of rounds.
“A good circuit would be bodyweight squats, reverse lunges, press-ups, burpees and mountain climbers. Perform the squats for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, then move on to the lunges and continue like that. When you’ve done that for all five exercises, rest for one to two minutes, then go again. Complete the circuit four to six times in total.”
Don’t be deterred if at first you find some of the exercises too difficult to do for the full 30 seconds. “If you find press-ups difficult, you can place your hands on a chair,” says Jones. “If you struggle with a normal unweighted squat, you can try squatting onto a chair – it shortens the range of motion, which helps you maintain correct technique throughout.”
If you want to up the challenge when doing press-ups, “try placing your feet on a chair,” says Jones. “With the incline you’ll target different areas and place more emphasis on your upper chest and shoulders.” And there are plenty of ways to make squats more challenging, including jump squats or single-leg squats.
And there’s another way to make almost any exercise fiendishly difficult. “Tempo – the speed at which you perform a move – is probably one of the most overlooked elements of training,” says Jones. “Focusing on it can ramp up your results massively. Taking longer to perform a move increases tension in the muscle, forcing it to work harder, which in turn will increase stress and lead to muscle gain. When performing press-ups, try taking four seconds in the lowering phase, and add a slight pause at the bottom of the move.”
Home Workout Plans
Whether you work out at the gym or at home, having a plan to follow can make all the difference, in most part because it takes a lot of the decision-making – and therefore opportunities to procrastinate – out of your hands. Here are three options to get you started.
Goal: Lose weight The inimitable Joe Wicks shared this plan, which is four sessions a week for four weeks. You don’t need any equipment to do these 20-minute high-intensity circuits, although give yourself at least five minutes either side to warm up and down and catch your breath. See the plan
Goal: Get strong If you have (or don’t mind investing in) a set of dumbbells, use this four-week plan to build strength and power throughout your entire body. The three workouts are intended to be done on Monday, Wednesday and Friday so you have the weekend free to recover. See the plan
Goal: Build muscle This is a muscle-building workout plan with a difference – it uses just your bodyweight to stimulate muscle growth. That means there are some tricky moves in here so beginners should start elsewhere or substitute in easier variations. You’ll need to set aside three one-hour slots a week and find yourself a pull-up bar and a bench (or any sturdy platform). See the plan
Home Gym Equipment
If you like to work out with weights or use your gym’s cardio machines, but are tired of travelling to and from the gym every time you want a workout or having to wait your turn when you’re there, investing in some equipment of your own can solve both problems in one fell swoop.
A pull-up bar is another useful bit of home equipment, and it can be used for more than just pull-ups. Resistance bands are also a very cheap and versatile bit of kit that allow you to train anywhere, while a suspension trainer can really take your home strength sessions to the next level.
Finally, those who are ready to throw a little more cash at their home workouts might want to consider picking up a multi-gym, though you will need a fair chunk of free space for it.
If cardio is more your bag then you are spoilt for choice when it comes to home machines. Treadmills are usually the first thing that spring to mind, but they take up a lot of space and tend to be pricier than other cardio machines. Exercise bikes have the smallest footprint and are the cheapest pick, while cross-trainers and rowing machines have the advantage of working both your upper and lower body in addition to raising your heart rate.
Home Workout Apps
We fancy that you’ll find a home workout to suit you somewhere on Coach, but if you prefer to follow video instructions then a workout app might be the way to go. Most of these will allow you to select workouts that suit your fitness level and use whatever equipment you have to hand, if any, and will guide you through both one-off sessions or longer training plans to whip you into shape. One of our favourite premium apps is Fiit, which has video workouts in different categories like strength, cardio, and yoga and Pilates sessions. Centr is also effective with lots of varied workouts, but the meal plans are time consuming.
Apps can also help you power through sessions on cardio machines, especially apps like Zwift where your indoor cycling or running powers an onscreen avatar in a virtual world. Another option is Bkool’s smart trainer, which allows you to cycle famous routes around the world like the Alpe d’Huez, or Peloton’s exercise bike, which connects to a massive library of spinning classes that you can watch on the built-in screen.
30-Day Fitness Challenges
If you want to keep things as simple as possible with your home workouts, then a 30-day challenge is the way to go. Pick one exercise, or one part of the body you want to target, and just hammer away at it for a full month. You’ll be amazed how much you can progress, and also how doing even just one type of exercise over and over again can improve your overall fitness. Hopefully, by the end of the 30 days, you’ll have caught the fitness bug and be ready to embark on a more rounded workout programme.
We have five 30-day challenges for you to try. Our burpee challenge is the most accessible because it uses a test on day one to make sure it’s tailored to your current fitness level.
Three other plans help you to work up to some big milestones. The press-up challenge gets you in shape to complete 100 press-ups in one go, and by the end of our plank challenge you’ll be able to hold the position for three minutes without cracking. If you’re looking to build piston-like legs then our 30-day squat challenge will have you cranking out 250 reps by the month’s end.
The final option is designed to help you build a core of steel and develop a more defined stomach. The 30-day abs challenge mixes core exercises with HIIT to burn fat and build muscle in your midsection.