My Top 5 At-Home Exercises
When you’re not the type of person who lives and breathes fitness, one of the hardest parts of working out is knowing what exercises to do.
It’s even more difficult when you don’t have a room full of machines to cycle through because you want to exercise at home.
Rather than giving you an exhaustive list of options, making it impossible for you to know where to start, I’m sharing just my top 5 choices that will give you the most bang for your buck without needing any specific gym equipment to make them work.
Do them all and you’ll have a pretty decent full-body workout.
Before You Try Any of These Exercises
Did you know that, while no two snowflakes are exactly the same, they do all fall into 1 of 8 main categories of shapes?
(Based on the snowball my son threw at my head last winter, I’m pretty sure one of those categories must be “brick.”)
In the same way, there are countless individual exercises — so many you could never know them all. But they all fall into just a handful of categories of exercises everyone should do. That’s good because it means there’s never a specific exercise you HAVE to do.
An exercise that works great for one person might be a terrible fit for you because of a past injury, your current physical condition, or even just your individual anatomy. For that reason, I’m not saying you need to do the 5 exercises I’m about to show you.
There are always other options.
Use this list to get ideas, but get help if you have any trouble with it (feel free to email me here).
Without any further ado, and in no particular order, here are my top 5 at-home exercises.
What makes an exercise good for using at home? One answer to that question is that it should be challenging without needing a ton of weight (or any).
Oh, hello Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat.
You’ll see what I mean if you give it a try, but the short story is that this one sucks, in a good way.
If you can do a lot of reps, grab a backpack, fill it up with heavy books, and hold it while you do this. But start without any weights at all. You may find that’s more than enough of a challenge getting started.
This one also hits your hamstrings and glutes more than a regular squat, so you may also find that sitting on the toilet the next day proves to be a (quite literal) pain in the butt.
Here it is…
Tip for beginners: Start with no weight, don’t worry about going super low, and do it against a wall or anything you can hold onto for support.
Another thing that makes for a good home workout, as you’ll discover in this short list, are exercises that work only one limb at a time.
Not only does it increase the challenge, it also works on muscle imbalances. It also makes it easier to find creative solutions for when you do need some weight, but don’t have actual weights.
For example, the One Arm Row.
There’s not really a super effective way to strengthen your back without gym equipment (at least a pull-up bar). That’s unfortunate because most people tend to have really weak back muscles.
This exercise is the best solution I’ve found for this because all you need to do is load up a backpack/bag, which you likely have lying around the house somewhere. Check it out…
Tip for beginners: Just start with light weight and focus on your form.
For exercises that give you the biggest bang for your buck, this next one is hard to beat:
The Single Leg Deadlift.
It strengthens your lower back, glutes/hips, and legs, while simultaneously improving your balance and mobility.
On top of that, it can be made more or less difficult to accommodate the most beginner of beginners as well as anyone with a bit more strength, all by adjusting whether you use weight, no weight, a wall for support, or any of countless other variations.
It’s harder than it looks, so start out with the easiest option and work your way up from there. Take a look…
Tip for beginners: Start with no weight, do it against a wall for support, and bend your back leg at the knee (at roughly a 90º angle) to make it easier.
Sometimes the best options are the ones that are so obvious you’d almost skip over it. But there’s no reason to get cute with your exercises if there’s a tried-and-true selection that can work for anyone.
I’m talking about Push-Ups.
When I say it works for everyone, I’m serious.
If you think you can’t do push-ups, you just haven’t found the right variation yet. There are countless ways to make them easier, as well as a multitude of ways to increase the intensity when your strength improves.
Since most of the people we work with are in the camp of struggling with this exercise, I’ve included two videos for this. One for showing you proper push-up form, and the other for showing you the alternative most our clients use (hand elevated push-ups).
Be sure to watch this video, since you may have some bad habits with this exercise that you don’t even realize…
Tip for beginners: If you’re debating between which angle to use (e.g. “should I do it against a wall or couch?”), go with the easier version and just do more reps.
We’ve now worked all the muscles in your upper and lower body. And because most of it was single arm/leg exercises, you’ve also worked your core a decent amount (which has to stabilize your body as you move one side at a time).
There’s still good reason to work your core directly though, which is what we’ll do with this final exercise:
I already mentioned one of the main jobs of your core, which is to stabilize your body (and your spine specifically). That’s why an exercise like this is a better choice than traditional “ab” exercises like sit-ups and crunches.
Something to keep in mind: if it feels easy, you’re doing it wrong. So pay careful attention to the video…
Tip for beginners: If this is difficult for you, start out by only moving your legs rather than your arms and legs. Once it gets easier, you can start adding in the arm movement.
If you tried one of the 5 exercises I listed above and something didn’t feel right about it, don’t worry, you’re not out of luck.
Sometimes the answer is to find a variation of the same exercise (like you can read about in “7 Things to Try When an Exercise Hurts”). But if you can’t make it work, there’s no reason to force it. You can just find something totally different.
If you have trouble knowing what exercises to do or which alternative to pick when something doesn’t work for you, your best answer is to get help.
We can create an easy to follow diet and exercise program, completely customized to you, so you always know you’re doing the right thing. And if you do have trouble with any of it, we’ll be there to help you figure out what you can change while still getting results.