10 Best At-Home Exercises
Guest post by Erin Vaughan
Whether you’re homebound due to a monster snow storm or just trying to save a little extra cash, sometimes the gym isn’t all that practical. For those days, it helps to bring the gym to you, but can you really get a good workout without the fancy machines and equipment?
The answer is absolutely! Bodyweight exercises—moves like planks and squats that use the weight of your body as resistance—have risen in popularity thanks to their low overhead and simplicity. In fact, these exercises make a great choice if you’re working out without the supervision of a professional trainer, because you’re less likely to hurt yourself than you might with weights.
Of course, if you’re working out at home, you’re no doubt pressed for time, too. So we tried to limit our suggestions to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises, a technique where you exercise in short bursts of intensity, followed by brief recovery periods. These high-energy circuits allow you to burn calories faster, and have been shown to improve metabolic functioning even hours after your workout. This is due to an effect known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), a state of elevated oxygen intake used to repair spent muscles. In layman’s terms, that means your body continues to burn more calories after your workout as it works to restore your body back to a resting state.
Anyway, onto the good stuff! Here are ten exercises you can do at home for fast, meaningful and convenient workouts.
It’s not fancy, but the good old faithful push-up is one of the pillars of any good at-home HIIT workout. The key is sticking the form: your head, back and hips should stay aligned at all times, moving as one unit. Engage your core as you dip low to help you keep your butt in line. This one adjustment will help you get much more out of each one. Try to do three to four reps of 15 push-ups (try knee push-ups if a regular one is too hard) each, resting for 30 seconds in between.
These aren’t any old squats! Two-phase squats allow you to take full advantage of the exercise, more fully activating your hip and knee extensors and glutes. To do them, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider, and squat down, keeping your head and shoulders back and relaxed. Come back up halfway and pause for a second, then squat back down again. Rise all the way up, squeezing your glutes together at the top. To add resistance, you can do this exercise with weights in each hand. Do as many squats as you can in 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
The main idea of this move is to transition from a plank to forward fold by hopping incrementally toward your hands. Position yourself into a plank with your arms straight. Imagine you are hopping up a three-rung ladder running from your feet to your hands. Hop to the first “rung” and then hop back to where you started from. Hop to the second imaginary rung. Hop back. Hop to the third rung, near your hands. Then jump all the way back and start again. Do as many of these as you can in 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds for a killer workout for your calves and abs!
Burpees have a formidable reputation around the fitness world, and for good reason: this three-in-one heart-pumper hits your core, legs, chest—basically every muscle in the body! To start, stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your hands and come into a deep squat. Kick your legs back one at a time into a plank form. Do a push up, then bring your legs back one at a time into the squat position. From your squat, jump up and back into standing. Repeat as many times as you can in a minute, and get ready to sweat!
Superman (or Superwoman!)
Legs, arms, glutes, core—these areas get plenty of love in your typical HIIT workout. Your back, however, sometimes goes neglected, which is unfortunate, since many Americans complain of back pain. Strengthening these muscles improves posture and ultimately reduces that pain. To attack the muscles in your back, we love supermans. Lie on your stomach with your arms extended in front of you. Slowly lift your arms, legs and chest all at once and contract your back for two seconds, then gently release. Repeat this for 30 seconds for a superhero-sized lower back workout.
This is a good one to try if crunches hurt your neck. Get into a plank position with your weight on your forearms. Engage your core muscles and draw your right knee to your right elbow. Move your legs back together. Now switch, drawing your left knee to your left elbow. Continue this way for 30 seconds. If you want to, you can pick up the pace with this move to get some extra cardio in. You’ll definitely feel this one the next day!
Alternating High Knees and Butt Kicks
Speaking of cardio, it’s not a bad idea to fit some of that into your workout too. This next alternating circuit uses your bodyweight to rapidly raise your heartrate. But since you’ll be doing it in short bursts, you’ll be able to sustain the high-intensity. Stand up tall with your hands extended in front of you, elbows at your waist. Kick your right knee up until it hits your hand, then move back down. Repeat with your right knee. Continue like this, as quickly as you can, for 30 seconds. Next, do 30 seconds of butt kicks: kick your right heel up and try to hit your behind. Place your foot back on the ground, and then do the same with your left heel. Repeat, alternating sides, as quickly as possibly until the 30 seconds is over. Rest for 30 seconds.
Many HIIT moves can be tough on your joints, but this is one low-impact exercise you can do without putting a lot of stress on these spots. Lie on your back with your feet straight up in the air, hands over your head. Hold a dumbbell in your hands to stabilize you, then slowly lift your legs, hips and trunk up, curling to meet your head until your toes are just above your head. Lower your hips down slowly to the starting position, then repeat for 45 seconds.
Another one inspired by the animal kingdom, this one works your arms, abs, and legs all at once. Crouch down with your hands flat on the floor, in a sort of bent-squat position. Plant your palms and hop or walk your feet back into a plank. Square your hips and move your left knee toward your right elbow. If you can, touch your knee to your elbow. Return to the plank and repeat this move on the other side, touching your right knee to your left elbow. Hop your feet towards your hands and jump up, clapping your hands overhead. Repeat for 30 seconds.
This is one of those moves fitness experts return to again and again. Crouch down with your arms straight in front of you, palms on the ground. Keeping your hands in this position, drive one knee forward and back and then reverse. Do this as fast as you possibly can for 45 seconds. It will feel like you legit scaled Mount Everest!
See? You don’t need a gym membership to get a high quality workout at home!
Erin Vaughan is a yoga fanatic, runner and sometime cyclist. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes for FitnessTrainer, the leading online marketplace to find a local personal trainer that can help you achieve your health and wellness goals!