Whether you’re used to the gym or just beginning your fitness journey, it can be hard to start working out from home.
You’re probably asking:
How do I know what equipment I need? How do I keep myself motivated to get results?
I’ve been there.
But I’ve learned that you don’t need an expensive gym or sophisticated equipment to take care of your body. WOO HOO! With the right home workout, you can burn fat, build muscle, and improve your overall wellbeing.
And if you struggle to stay motivated or committed to a new routine—like so many of us do!—coaches and resources can help you build healthy habits and stay on track.
As a workout enthusiast and fitness coach, I’m thrilled to offer tips to help you find your best home workout plan.
I’ll also provide three fast exercise routines (just 10-30 minutes) that you can start using today, whether you’re looking for a full body, strength-building, or cardio workout.
- Full Body Home Workout for Beginners
- Strength-Building Home Workout for Beginners
- Cardio Home Workout for Beginners
Each routine includes 10 or more exercises you can complete with little to no equipment in just 20-30 minutes. And, because each exercise can be scaled with your experience and fitness level, you can keep using these routines (or just your favorite exercises) for years to come.
How to Find the Right Exercise Program or Routine for Your Level and Style
We all have different workout styles and fitness goals. Maybe you want to drop a few sizes. Or, you might be trying to build muscle or endurance. Regardless of your particular vision, you know what you want to get out of your exercise routine.
But, there’s a catch:
Knowing your goals doesn’t mean you know exactly how to reach them.
As you get started—whether or not you consider yourself a beginner—it’s common to opt for a familiar exercise, like going for a run or doing pushups and sit-ups, because you already know how to do the exercises. Besides, fitness is fitness, right?
But, these exercise standbys aren’t guaranteed to get you the results you want, especially if you haven’t taken your body type and workout style into consideration. And after a few weeks, it can seem like you’re putting in time and effort for nothing. Eek! The WORST!
Plus, working out the wrong way can make you feel not only discouraged, but also uncomfortable and embarrassed. You may have tried to push yourself through exercises that you found flat-out painful, and not in that I’m-pushing-my-muscles way.
It can be difficult to stay motivated when you’re not seeing the results you want, or when you’re dreading each workout.
It’s even harder when you know you have to work out in front of strangers. That’s part of the reason why so many people who pay for gym memberships hardly ever go—if they go at all.
As you set out on your fitness journey, it’s important to assess your goals and know your exercise style.
- Are you hoping to lose weight?
- Do you want to tone your muscles?
- Do you want to get your heart rate up?
- When do you have the most time to work out?
- Do you have any old injuries or physical challenges?
- Is there an exercise you hate?
There are dozens of factors that keep people from working out: time limits, excessive discomfort, disappointing results. By taking time to find the right workout routine, you can stay motivated and achieve the desired results faster.
How to Stay Motivated at Home
If you’re a home workout beginner, you might feel fired up and ready to start. Here are some of my tips for sustaining that energy and drive.
- Know your goals and what workouts will help you accomplish them. Set reasonable goals. If you’re reaching for unrealistic goals (losing 50 pounds in a month, for example), you’re doomed to fail, which can be deeply demotivating. Challenge yourself, but trust in the power of short-term and long-term success.
- Know your workout style. Do you hate running on a treadmill (Lord knows I do!)? Do you need a workout partner to stay motivated? Be honest with yourself, and find a routine that complements your style!
- Know what motivates you, and develop a routine that gets you excited to workout. For example, you can run while you watch your favorite program (and only watch that show while you’re working out, so you have extra incentive to exercise). Or, you can turn exercise into a game by assigning exercises to different suits in a deck of cards. Draw a card then do the exercise that matches that suit for 30 seconds.
- Know when you work out best. For example, if you’re exhausted after work or have to clean the house and feed the kids every evening, wake up 10 minutes earlier and get in a workout before work or other obligations can drain your time and energy.
- Start slow and scale up—you won’t keep going if you’re too sore to move.
- Get your equipment ready before the workout so you don’t give yourself an excuse not to exercise. Most equipment can be quickly and easily replaced with household items, such as milk jugs in place of dumbbells, so you’re always ready without having to spend a lot on equipment. You can also stick with bodyweight routines that require no equipment at all.
- Eat right and get enough sleep. You need energy to exercise.
- Don’t beat yourself up for eating something unhealthy or doing a simpler/shorter workout every now and again. You won’t keep up a lifestyle change if it’s too strict or if it leaves you feeling guilty as often as you feel healthy.
- Be flexible, but keep yourself accountable. Exercise should complement and enhance your overall life, not derail it. That said, there may be a few figurative hurdles you need to get over before reaching your exercise goals.
- Plan for vacations and find ways to stay fit on the go and during holidays!
Following a proven workout program and working with a dedicated coach can also be highly motivating. In fact, according to a study in The Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 73 percent of participants working with a personal trainer increased their fitness level.
If you do plan on working with a trainer, it’s important to find the right one.
Finding the Right Coach or Trainer
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when beginning a new home workout program. What goals are reasonable goals? What exercises and routines will help you achieve those goals? How can you increase the intensity of an exercise in a safe way?
For help answering these questions, you may have considered working with a fitness coach or personal trainer.
What’s the difference between an online coach and a personal trainer?
While working with a personal trainer can be effective, it can also have its drawbacks. You have to factor in cost ($50-$500 per session), time commitment (including commutes), and cancellations (theirs and yours). And if your trainer operates out of a local gym, you may be working out more publicly than you originally planned.
Working with a coach, on the other hand, can serve as a great replacement for a personal trainer in a number of ways:
- They have set routines and workouts proven to deliver results.
- You can work with many of them online, from the comfort of your home.
- They typically have additional resources, including nutrition plans and workout schedules, to simplify the whole fitness process.
You can find a fitness coach or personal trainer in a variety of places, from your local gym to a simple web search. To find the right one for you, look for someone who:
- Understands your workout style.
- Offers a package that fits your lifestyle and goals.
- Will push you while respecting your limits.
- Is available and responsive.
- Has had success with other clients.
- Fits your budget.
- Practices what they preach.
- Provides additional resources (training videos, articles, meal plans, etc.).
Working with a coach can take your fitness to the next level. But it isn’t right for everyone. And there are loads of workout tips, resources, and routines available online if you prefer to get started on your own.
Full Body Beginner Workout
A full body workout covers all your exercise bases, and it’s a great place to start if you only have a little time to work out each week. Drawing from a plan created by Circuit Works owner Raphael Verela (and focusing just a little more on the core), these 11 exercises are designed to help you make the most of your limited time.
The goal is to burn fat, boost overall muscle tone, and get your heart rate up (remember the heart is a muscle, too!). You can see visible results in a short amount of time without ever hitting the gym.
Sets: Do this full workout 2 times.
Time to Complete: 24 mins (about 11 mins/set)
How Often: 3 days/week (take rest days in between)
Tips: Take your time and focus on form first so you don’t hurt yourself. Remember it’s a workout, not a race. Ten good reps are better than 20 bad ones.
How to: Begin by standing up with your spine straight and your feet hip-distance apart. Put your hands on your hips. Step forward with one leg and slowly bend that leg 90 degrees, until your thigh is parallel with the floor. Push your forward foot off the floor and return to standing. Repeat on the other leg.
Why: Tone your thighs and glutes
Reps: Repeat as many times as you can in 60 seconds, taking care to work both legs the same amount.
How to: Begin by standing up, with your spine straight and your feet hip-distance apart. Raise and bend your arms so that your fingers are touching your ears and your elbows point outwards. Do not grab your ears. Keeping your stomach pulled in and your back straight, bend deeply without allowing your knees to move past your feet. Jump, land on the balls of your feet, and use the downward momentum to start lowering again for the next rep (don’t stand up between squats).
Why: Tone your legs; increase your heart rate
Reps: Repeat as many times as you can in 60 seconds.
How to: Place your palms flat on the floor and walk backward until your back is straight, your legs are fully extended, and your feet are perpendicular with the floor. You can spread your feet hip-width apart or keep them touching. Bring your hands just wider than your shoulders and keep your palms flat and arms straight. Keeping your stomach tight and your elbows pulled in, slowly lower your chest close to the floor (without touching). Push back up while keeping your back and body straight.
Why: Tone your arms, shoulders, back, and abdomen.
Reps: Repeat as many times as you can in 60 seconds.
How to: At the top of a push up, stop with your arms straight. You may keep your hands at shoulder distance or bring them together. Lower onto your forearms, so that your elbows make right angles. Keep your stomach pulled in and your hips high so that your body makes a straight line. Look at the floor and hold this position.
Why: Improve balance and strengthen the entire body, especially your core.
Reps: Hold the plank for 60 seconds. If you need a break, return to plank position as soon as possible.
How to: From a standing position, bring your feet about 2-3 feet apart so your stance is wide. Angle your feet slightly so your toes are facing out. Keep your spine straight and put your hands on your hips. Lower your hips and upper body until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Be careful to prevent your knees from extending beyond your toes. Keep your hips back and your stomach pulled in. Pause, then return to stand. Use slow, controlled movements to protect your knees.
Why: Tone your legs and glutes while strengthening your abs.
Reps: As many as you can repeat in 60 seconds. A long, deep squat is better than many shallow squats.
How to: Stand with your feet separated by just a few inches. Hold your arms by your sides. Jump and move your feet apart while swinging your arms out and over your head. You should do these motions simultaneously so you make the shape of a star. Repeat these motions quickly, without pausing or holding in between. Even as you move rapidly, maintain control over your limbs so you complete full, deliberate movements.
Why: Increase heart rate and get the entire body moving.
Reps: As many as you can in 60 seconds.
How to: Lower to the floor and lie on one side with your legs fully extended and knees straight. The side of your lower foot should rest against the floor, with your other foot stacked evenly on top of it. Prop yourself up on your lower forearm. Raise your other arm to place your hand on your hip, extending your elbow to the sky. Raise your hips until your body is in a straight line—your lower arm should be bent at 90 degrees and your torso and legs should be off the floor. Keep your stomach pulled in and your gaze straight ahead. Hold for 30 seconds on one side, then switch and repeat on the other side.
Why: Tone and strengthen your entire body, especially your core.
Reps: Hold each side plank for 30 seconds (for a total time of 60 seconds). If you need a break, return to plank position as soon as possible.
How to: Start as though you are starting a push up, with your feet propped up on your toes, body extended, palms flat, and arms held straight. Keeping your arms straight, raise one hand up to the sky, rotating your torso to follow until your entire body is held perpendicular to the floor, with one foot stacked on top of the other. Do not bend your elbows. Keep your stomach pulled in and your shoulders back so they don’t scrunch against your chin. Look past your raised arm toward the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds on one side, then switch.
Why: Improve your balance while toning and strengthening your entire body.
Reps: Hold each side for 30 seconds (for a total time of 60 seconds). If you need a break, return to the T stabilization position as soon as possible.
How to: Lie down on your back with the bottoms of your feet flat against the floor and your knees bent to the sky. Stretch your arms out and away from your body or bring them close to your torso. Either way, your arms should be straight. Tighten your abs and make sure your shoulder and upper back are against the floor. Squeezing your glutes, raise your hips so your body makes a 45-degree angle from the top of your head to the top of your knees. With a steady, controlled movement, lower your hips back to the floor.
Why: Work your hips and tone your glutes, thighs, and core.
Reps: Repeat this 10 times (each rep should take about 3-6 seconds). Alternately, you may prefer to hold the hip raise for 60 seconds.
How to: Sit on the floor. Extend your legs out in front of you with your toes pointed. Bend your knees and raise your heels so they hover above the floor. Keeping your spine straight, lean back about 45 degrees without moving your legs. Put your palms together and extend your arms forward, so your hands float over your knees. Without moving your lower body, rotate your torso to one side and then the other, pausing in between. Do not let your hands and feet move apart.
Why: Improve balance and work your abs and waistline.
Reps: As many as you can repeat in 60 seconds.
Back Raise (Supermans)
How to: Lie down facing the floor with your legs straight. Extend your arms out, bend your elbows, and place your fingertips at the side of your head. If you want an extra challenge, hold your arms out in front of you like you’re trying to fly. Bring your legs together and lift your legs and torso off the floor so you feel like you are balancing on your hips. Your limbs should hover over the floor and your shoulders should pull back about 3 inches off the ground. Keep your neck long so your shoulders don’t scrunch against your chin. Hold as long as you can.
Why: Tone your glutes, back, and shoulders.
Reps: Hold the back raise for the entire 60 seconds. If you need a break, return to the back raise as soon as possible.
Because these exercises use your own body weight, they are highly adaptable to different fitness levels. As you feel the exercises getting easier, or notice that you are no longer working up a sweat, try lunging deeper or raising your limbs higher. Focus on keeping your belly pulled in.
Strength Training Beginner Workout
Strength training is essential for improving muscles tone. And for some people, strength training can actually be more effective than cardio at burning calories and losing weight. That’s because muscles burn calories, even when you’re at rest.
Strength training is also great for your overall physical fitness. Improving muscle strength and tone can give you a greater sense of control and power in your body, increasing overall health and confidence. Here’s a quick 10-exercise routine any home workout beginner can use to build strength.
Sets: Do this full workout 3 times.
Time to Complete: 24 mins (about 8 mins/set)
How Often: 3-4 days/week
Tips: Some of these exercises recommend using a small weight or dumbbell. If you don’t have that equipment available, try using soup cans, water bottles, or milk cartons. Anything heavy that you can keep a firm grip on can work!
How to: Lie down flat on your back. Place your hands behind your head to support your neck without crunching or folding it. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your belly and contract your abs so that you pull your torso up off the floor. This movement should be centered in your core, not your upper body. Avoid arching your spine. Keep your abs engaged and your neck straight. Hold at the top of the crunch, breathe, and lower back down without dropping your back all the way to the floor between reps.
Why: Strengthen your core.
Reps: Repeat 6-12 times per set.
How to: Lie on your back and extend your arms up to the sky so they form a 90 degree angle with the rest of your body. Raise your thighs so they also form a 90 angle with your body, but keep your knees bent so your calves are parallel to the ground. Keeping your belly tight, slowly straighten and lower one leg until it hovers just above the ground without touching. Return to the starting position and repeat with your other leg.
Why: Strengthen your core, create definition in your torso.
Reps: Do as many as you can in 60 seconds, alternating legs so you work out both sides evenly.
Dumbbell Floor Press
How to: This exercise requires a dumbbell or another heavy object in each hand. Lie down on your back with your legs straight. Hold the weights and bend your elbows 90 degrees so your triceps are against the floor and the weights are above your elbows. Straighten both arms, pressing up from the shoulders and chest muscles. Hold your arms straight up, pause, and lower back to the starting position. Keep your motions controlled.
Why: Strengthen your chest, shoulders, and arms.
Reps: Repeat 15-20 times per set. Switch to a lower weight if you’re having trouble completing the set.
Floor Y-T-I Raises
How to: The floor Y-T-I raise is a combination of three similar, complementary exercises. For the Y raise, lie face down on the floor and hold your arms so your whole body forms a “Y” shape. Point your thumbs toward the sky. Raise your arms as high as you can. Pause, then repeat 8-12 times.
Move immediately into the T raise. Move your arms out to the side so your body creates a “T.” Keep your thumbs pointed up and raise your arms as high as you can 8-12 times.
Move immediately into the I raise. Extend your arms so you stretch to your full length and your body creates an “I.” With your thumbs still facing up, complete 8-12 arm raises.
Why: Tone your upper body, using gravity to strengthen your back and shoulders.
Reps: Repeat each raise 8-12 times without pausing in between shapes (total of 24-36 raises).
How to: Lie face down, with your feet flexed and toes propped against the floor. Place your
forearms against the floor and lift your body into a plank position. Keep your stomach tight so your body is held in a straight line. With an inhale, lift your hips up and back. Your body and the floor should form a triangle. Keep pulling your shoulders back so they don’t drop around your ears. Hold the dolphin plank for about a second, then lower back into a regular plank.
Why: Strengthen your shoulders, back, and abs.
Reps: Repeat 15 times.
Incline Push Up
How to: For this exercise, you will need a sturdy, raised surface about the height of a coffee table or bench. Placing your toes on the ground and your palms flat on the raised surface, straighten your arms and extend your body in a straight line. Holding your body firm, your abs tight, and your glutes pulled in, bend at the elbows and lower your chest just above the raised surface. Your upper arms should dip below your elbows. Pause in the lowered position, then push yourself back up slowly. The lower the incline, the more intense the workout will be.
Why: Strengthen your arms, shoulders, and back.
Reps: Repeat 12-15 times.
How to: Stand up straight with your hands on your hips and your feet under your hips. Step one foot back as far as it can go without bending your knees. Tuck your back foot behind the front and bend your knees so your thighs lower into a half squat. With whichever hand corresponds to the back foot, reach down to tap the floor outside your front foot. Return to standing, and repeat 15 times before moving on to the other side.
Why: Work your hips, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and core.
Reps: Repeat 15 times on each side of your body.
How to: For this exercise, you need a pull-up bar (many are made to hang in doorways) or another high, sturdy piece of wood or metal to grab onto, such as the bar on a swing set. Make sure your body hangs above the floor—it’s okay if you have to bend your knees. Gripping the pull-up bar, use your arms and shoulders to lift your torso as high as you can, until your chin clears the bar. If you can’t do a full pull-up yet, that’s okay.
Why: Strengthen your shoulders and back.
Reps: Do as many as you can for 60 seconds. If you can’t do any more, try placing your feet on a raised surface (or the hands of a workout partner) to give your arms a little help.
How to: For this exercise, you need a dumbbell or other heavy items—you can use the same ones from the dumbbell floor press earlier in the routine.
Stand up straight and hold one weight in each hand. Move your feet shoulder-width apart. With your spine straight and gaze forward, lower down so your thighs are parallel with the floor and the weights are an inch away from the floor. Don’t let your knees extend past your toes, and don’t let your torso arch or lean. Straighten to standing.
Why: Build overall strength by working with gravity and additional weight.
Reps: Repeat 12-15 times.
How to: For this exercise, you need a dumbbell or other heavy items.
Stand up straight with a weight in each hand, arms down at your sides and palms facing forward. Without moving your upper arms or elbows, curl your lower arms up so the weights reach your shoulders. Squeeze your bicep and slowly lower the weight back down.
Why: Strengthen your arms and create larger, more defined biceps.
Reps: Repeat 12-15 times.
Cardio/Aerobic Beginner Workout
Cardio workouts get your heart pumping, improving blood circulation and overall heart health. And when your heart rate is high, you know you’re burning calories shedding fat.
This simple cardio routine includes 10 exercises to increase your heart rate and burn calories without having to lace up your running shoes or even look at an elliptical.
Sets: Complete the full workout one time (sets vary by exercise).
Time to Complete: 20-24 mins
How Often: 3-4 days/week
Tips: You can complete all the sets for one exercise before moving to the next, or split the sets for each exercise into two cardio circuits.
How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands flat on your thighs and bend your knees slightly. Spring straight up, stretching your toes to the ground and your fingertips to the sky. Repeat quickly and without pausing between jumps (unless you need to reposition yourself after landing).
Why: Work your legs and get your heart rate going.
Reps: Repeat 15-24 times, for 2 sets.
How to: Stand with your legs straight, feet hip-width apart, and hands at your sides. Keeping your hands at your side and without separating your feet, hop right and left over a real or imaginary line on the ground. Hop as fast as you can, without pausing or resting in between.
Why: Work your whole leg, especially your calves, while improving your speed.
Reps: Hop as many times as you can for 60 seconds, for 2 sets.
How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Position your arms as though you are holding about to chop wood with an axe—hands folded together and extended back behind one shoulder. Swing your arms straight, briefly hold your hands out in front of you, and then complete the full movement to the opposite shoulder. Continue back and forth, rapidly swinging your hands behind both shoulders and across your body, as though you are slicing something in the air.
Why: Work your shoulders and create long, lean upper arms.
Reps: Repeat 20 times, for 6 sets.
Raised Arm Circles
How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold your arms straight out to the sides so your body makes a “T” shape. Flatten your palms and extend your fingers outward, stretching your arms to their full length. Circle both arms—from shoulder to fingertip—forward. Don’t let your shoulders drop. Complete 20 forward circles, then reverse and circle your arms backward in the same motion.
Why: Strengthen your shoulders and create long, lean arms.
Reps: Repeat 20 times in both directions, for 6 sets.
Extended Toe Touch
How to: Stand on one leg with a gentle bend in your knee and the corresponding hand raised high above your head. Lift the other leg behind you and as high as you can while keeping your torso long and tall. Scoop your abs and swing your back leg forward as you simultaneously lower your arm to meet your toes. Raise your arm up again and kick your leg back to your original position without dropping your limbs.
Why: Tone and strengthen your core in a standing position, which helps keep your heart rate up.
Reps: Repeat 10 times on each side, for a total of 3 sets.
How to: Light dumbbells or weighted objects, such as soup cans, are optional for this exercise.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and raise your hands into fists, or clutch and raise a weight in each hand, so that your palms are facing inward. In one smooth motion, step forward with one foot forward and make a punching motion with the corresponding hand. Shift your weight on your feet to follow your movement, supporting your balance as you switch arms (and feet) and quickly punch back and forth.
Why: Tone your entire upper body, strengthen your arms, and increase your agility and endurance.
Reps: Repeat 10-15 times per arm, for 3 sets.
How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Move as though you are running in place, but raise your knees at least hip high with each step. Keep your body facing forward and alternate as fast as you can (while staying controlled) for 60 seconds.
Why: Increase your heart rate up and tone your legs.
Reps: Do as many knee highs as you can for 60 seconds, for a total of 2 sets.
How to: Stand in a lunge position with one leg stretched behind you and the other stepping forward with the knee bent. Hold your hands at your sides, but don’t grasp your hips. Hold in your stomach and tighten your core. Balancing on your front leg, push the back leg forward, bringing your knee to your chest and your arms above your head. You should move forward as energetically as possible while keeping your balance.
Why: This turns the muscle-toning lunge into a dynamic cardio workout.
Reps: Repeat 10-15 times for each leg, for a total of 3 sets.
How to: Start in a plank or push up position. Bounce one knee forward, nearly against your chest. Quickly return to the push up or plank and repeat with your other knee, increasing your pace as you get used to switching legs.
Why: This high intensity exercise burns calories while toning the whole body.
Reps: Keep “climbing” as quickly as you can for 60 seconds, for 2 sets.
How to: Lie flat on your back with your legs straight and arms stretched out above your head. In one smooth motion, engage your core to bring your arms and legs up toward the ceiling until they meet. Your whole body should be folded up, hands and feet pointing into the air. Pause for a breath then lower back to the floor.
Why: This exercise rapidly works your abs, giving your limbs a full range of motion.
Reps: Repeat 10-12 times, for 3 sets.
When these cardio workouts stop producing a sweat, then you know it’s time to push yourself further. Add more reps to a set, or try doing an extra set of the more difficult exercises. Many of these exercises involve fast, repetitive motions, so pay strict attention to your form when starting out. Moving quickly shouldn’t mean moving sloppily.
Whether you’re looking for cardio, strength training, or a full body workout you can do at home, the best thing you can do is find a routine that works for you. You can always swap out individual exercises (here are 31 exercises to choose from) as an easy way to add a little variety to your workout or to focus on a specific muscle group.
Begin Your Home Workout Today
You already have everything you need to complete a great workout at home. The key to sticking to any new routine is staying motivated. Set an action plan in place with achievable goals and a collection of exercises that fit your workout style.
If you don’t know how to pick the right exercises for your fitness goals, or if you’re unsure what your style is, that’s okay. Give one of these routines a try and see which exercises work out for you. Trial and error are part of everyone’s fitness journey. Take the time you need to experiment, grow, and excel.
The important thing is that you’re getting started.