Get the Most out of Home Workouts

If don’t want to go to a gym or brave the elements outdoors, doing your workouts at home gives you the flexibility to exercise whenever you want, whatever the weather. Here are our tips for gaining the best results from home workout routines.

Exercising at Home

You may be a time-poor parent who needs one eye on the kids, or you may be someone who doesn’t enjoy going to the gym or lives too far from one. While an outdoor workout is one option, what do you do when the weather isn’t right or if that just doesn’t suit you?

Whether you want to set up a home gym or simply exercise in your living room, there are all sorts of options for home workout routines that fit your lifestyle and needs. Whatever your goal, it’s easy to adapt your home workout to suit you.

Do I Need to Set Up a Home Gym?

Not at all. Many toning exercises rely on just your own bodyweight (eg: push-ups and squats) and a lot of cardio exercises also need no equipment. In addition, everyday items can be adapted to suit other exercises or add intensity to your workouts. Here are a few ideas:

  • Sturdy chairs, stools or benches can be used for exercises like tricep dips and step-ups.
  • For upper-body workouts, use cans of soup or water bottles filled with water or sand as weights.
  • For lower-body workouts, fill a backpack with books or other heavy objects and hold it or strap it onto your back.

In addition, it’s worth buying a couple of lightweight and easy-to-store items that won’t take up any room in the house:

  • Resistance bands fold away into a drawer and can be used for lots of different exercises to incorporate into a workout. For example, a Thera-Band is a simple strip of rubber, while others are tubular straps with handles on either end – these ones often come with pamphlets showing many of the exercises you can do with them.
  • Skipping ropes are cheap and easy to incorporate into a workout. If you have children, you might already have one lying around the home.

At the end of every workout, you’ll need to spend 5 to 10 minutes doing some stretching exercises as a cool down– none of which need any equipment.

Home Cardio Options

Skipping is one of the simplest yet most effective fitness exercises you can do, and it’s so easy to do from home. It works as both a dynamic warm-up or as its own total-body workout. It’s burns around 700 calories an hour.

If you’re using it as a warm-up, skip for three to five minutes. This will raise your heartbeat and prepare your muscles for the workout ahead.

Otherwise, to lose weight and increase your fitness levels, set a timer for six minutes and skip for one-minute blocks, resting for 20 seconds between each block. Gradually build up the total time to 10 or 15 minutes, increasing your skipping blocks to three minutes with rest periods of 60 seconds between each block.

Another simple cardio exercise you can do as part of your home workout is high-knee running on the spot, following similar intervals to those for skipping. Focus on lifting your knee as high as possible and increasing your speed and time as you get fitter.

Other exercises include mountain climbers and ice skaters – you’ll need to research online to find out how to do these, but once mastered, they’re excellent cardio exercises to add to your home workout. (12WBT members receive detailed descriptions of exercises like these, including video demonstrations, as part of their daily exercise plans.)

For more variety, combine all four of the above into a workout circuit. For example: do three minutes of skipping, one minute of mountain climbers, three minutes of high-knee running and finally one minute of ice skaters. Don’t rest between each exercise, but instead rest for 90 seconds to two minutes at the end. Then repeat the circuit, doing it for a total of three times (or more as you get fitter!)

Home Toning Options

Dynamic activities like squats, push-ups and lunges will allow you to build muscle tone and definition from the comfort of your own home. Create a workout circuit using the exercises below, performing each exercise 8 to 10 times, before moving on to the next one.

When you’ve done them all, rest for 60 to 90 seconds before repeating for a total of three or four circuits, depending on your level of fitness.


Squats are a great option to do at home for a total lower-body workout. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes slightly angled out. Lift your chest, roll your shoulders back and down, lengthen your spine and neck and pull your chin in slightly. Draw in through the belly button so your core is switched on and look straight ahead.

Imagine you were going to sit in a chair without using your arms. Bend at the hips as if to lower yourself into the chair and continue the movement down. Keep your weight in your heels, your butt squeezed and your abs engaged. Exhale as you return to the starting position.


Exercising at Home - Lunges

Lunges can be done anytime – either as part of your workout or even while you’re waiting for the pasta to boil! Standing tall, pull your abs in and lift your chest and shoulders back and down. Draw in through the belly button so your core is switched on, pull your chin in slightly and look straight ahead.

Starting with your feet hip-width apart, take a long step forward and plant your front foot firmly on the ground. Bend both legs to 90 degrees and then push off your front foot and back into the start position. Repeat 8-10 times on one leg before switching sides.

Adding weights to squats and lunges: For a more intense upper- and lower-body workout, add weights to your squats and lunges. Hold your filled water bottles or soup cans in each hand or wear your weighted backpack while performing these exercises.


Start on your hands and knees on the floor, placing your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and pointing your elbows out to the side. Make sure your abs are pulled in, your chin tucked in and you’re looking at the ground as you lower your chest as close to the ground as possible. Your knees should be together throughout.


Sit-ups are easy to do at home and are a great workout for strengthening your abs. Lie on your back with your knees facing the ceiling, your hands on your thighs and your belly button drawn in. Peel yourself up off the floor, raising your shoulders towards your knees until you are in a sitting position, then lower back down one vertebrae at a time.

Bicep Curls

Exercising at Home - Bicep Curls

Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and with a soup can or filled water bottle in each hand by the sides of your legs. Exhale as you raise the cans to your upper chest, keeping your elbows pointing directly to the floor and tight to your sides. Then inhale as you lower them again.

Home Workout DVDs

DVDs are ideal for home workouts as they take you through a structured cardio or toning workout to suit your needs on any given d

Most of them require little in the way of workout equipment – just a suitable space where you can get moving and sweat.

There are plenty around to choose from, but of course we love the Michelle Bridges ‘Project’ series workouts: Project Shape Up, Project Ripped and Project Extreme.

Setting up a Budget Home Workout Gym

If you’re ready to take things a stage further, you could think about setting up your own home gym – even if you don’t have a spare room or garage. Here are our tips:

  • Find somewhere to store your equipment out of sight, such as a lidded cabinet or a cupboard you’ll use only for that purpose. You don’t want to be rummaging through other clutter to find your workout gear!
  • Invest in a set of dumbbells and/or a barbell – buy ones with weights that will challenge you, or choose ones that you can add weight to as required as your workouts get more intense.
  • Buy a good-quality fitball – it’s great for doing chest presses with dumbbells, hamstring curls, abdominal crunches and other exercises. You can also use it as an ergonomic home-office chair when you’re not doing your workouts.
  • Chin-up bars can be installed in doorways, without drilling, and can easily be removed when you’ve finished your workout.
  • Look for secondhand workout items on websites like eBay and Gumtree.
  • Avoid buying bulky and expensive ‘big-ticket’ items such as treadmills or cross-trainers unless you’re really sure you’ll use them. Do a cardio workout or DVD instead.

Take Your Workouts Anywhere

The best thing about setting up your own home workout routine is that you can take it anywhere – you can do many of the cardio and toning workouts in hotel rooms when you’re on holiday or away for work. For more travel workout options, take a look at our workouts on the go article. And we have plenty of other workout routine ideas to suit your lifestyle.

Want More 'At Home' Workouts?

We have some more tips over at our blog: