How to Exercise at Home Without Equipment
With the world turning upside down in recent years and everyone spending a lot more time at home, you've probably considered getting an at-home exercise regime in place for when you can't get to the gym, or you're not allowed to go!
An at-home workout is a great regime to build to ensure you can get your heart rate pumping no matter whether you're working from home or just didn't have time to get to the gym. At-home workouts can work for all your muscle groups and help your entire body to feel great, and you can do it all without any kind of equipment!
In this article, we're going to be looking at how you can do a full-body workout just using your body weight. This means you will be able to do this workout any time and anywhere, helping you to build muscle and get your blood pumping even when the gym isn't accessible to you.
To find out why we need to exercise, how home workouts can help you, and a tonne of at-home exercises you can do, keep on reading!
Why do we need to exercise?
Regular exercise is a pillar of a healthy lifestyle. The World Health Organisation recommends that adults should get between 150 - 300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week and that they should aim to add in muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. But why do we need this? Why does the human body need exercise?
Well, to begin with, regular exercise can help you to maintain a healthy weight, good mobility, and protects the body against a range of health conditions, including stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Exercise also improves mood, boosts energy, and helps to maintain mental wellbeing by releasing endorphins, hormones that help you feel more positive, into your system. Exercise and mental health go hand in hand in the same way that exercise and physical health do.
How home workouts can be beneficial
Home workouts can be great for a number of reasons and they help exercise to become accessible to many. We think at-home workouts are well worth the effort, but if you're not convinced yet, check out the list of home workout benefits we've gathered below.
- Accessibility. At-home workouts are accessible to everyone. Some people don't live close to a gym or the gyms in their area are too expensive. At-home workouts mean exercise is accessible and viable to all.
- Time. An at-home workout can be done quickly on a morning before work or in the evenings. You cut out the time spent travelling to and from the gym and don't need to wait for others to be done with the machines either!
- Privacy. Working out at home means you can work out in private, not worrying about whether people around you are watching.
- Set your own pace. You can choose how slow or how fast you move. You don't need to worry about others needing the space and you can move as you need to through each exercise.
Exercising without equipment: callisthenics
Callisthenics refers to exercising using body weight, rather than adding in extra weights, to create a full-body workout. Bodyweight exercises allow lots of muscle groups to work together, rather than isolating particular muscles, using other parts of the body for balance and stability during the workout.
Callisthenics is a great way to avoid overexertion of the muscles and help you build muscles slowly and deeply. This kind of exercise that uses just your body weight can help to work more muscles than when using weights.
16 bodyweight exercises to try at home
Now we know how bodyweight workouts can be beneficial to your body and how working out at home can be good for you, it's time to learn some new exercises you can try at home without the need for any weights or equipment!
Take a look below to find exercises for your upper body, core, and lower body.
Upper body exercises
Upper body workouts generally target the arms, shoulders and upper back. Below you'll find a few different exercises you can do at home without any equipment to train the upper parts of your body.
For each exercise, try to do at least 2 x 10 reps. If you can't manage this, start with 2 x 5 reps. Don't push yourself too far and allow your body to tell you when it's time to stop!
Press-ups: strict, wide arm, diamond
Press-ups are probably the most famous of bodyweight exercises. They generally work the arms and shoulders, but different kinds of press-ups can work different groups of muscles. Let's take a look below at how to perform a press-up and the different kinds.
- Strict press-up, or military press-up. This is the most common kind of press-up and requires you to get into the press-up position, with your arms shoulder-width apart. As you lower your torso to the ground, ensure you keep your elbows tucked in to your sides. Stop about an inch from the floor and then push back up.
- Wide arm press-ups. These press-up variations work your chest and shoulders more than the military press-up does. To achieve, start in the press-up position but with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Lower your torso to the floor and stop about an inch above it, then push back up.
- Diamond press-up. This press-up gets its name from the shape your hands make on the floor and works your core as well as your triceps. To begin, start in the press-up position with your hands slightly narrower than shoulder-width. Your thumbs and index fingers should meet to form a diamond shape. Lower your torso to an inch above the floor and then push back up.
Sometimes referred to a tricep dips, this exercise requires a chair, sofa, or sturdy sideboard. Bench dips can strengthen your triceps, chest, and shoulders. To execute, face away from the bench and grip the edge with your hands shoulder-width apart. Extend your legs out in front of you until you're in a seated position, holding yourself in the arm with your arms. Now slowly lower yourself with your arms until your elbow is at a 90-degree angle, then push back up.
Mountain climbers, though we're categorising them as upper body, are actually a fantastic full-body exercise and are great for upping your cardio. To begin, get into the plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart then lift your left knee to your chest. Replace it and lift your right knee to your chest. Repeat this move as if you were climbing a mountain!
A plank walk-out is another upper body exercise that also works your core! Start in a forward bend position and slowly walk your hands out until you're in a full plank position. Hold your plank, making sure your form is correct, and then walk back to a forward bend again.
The side plank can help to strengthen your shoulders, back, and core, and can help to protect against back problems. To execute this exercise, lie on your side with your legs stacked atop each other. Place your elbow on the ground with your hand spread forward on the floor. Slowly raise your hips and hold the position.
Your core is incredibly important to your posture and a strong core can help to protect against back problems later in life. Below we've rounded up a few core exercises you can do at home without any equipment. Let's take a look.
Sit-ups: full sit-ups, crunches, bicycles crunches
Sit-ups are another rather famous bodyweight exercise. There are many variations of these core-strengthening exercises and below we've discussed a few to get you started! Take a look now.
- Full sit-up. These work to strengthen your core, focusing on your abs. To perform this exercise you should lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Bring your chin to your chest and engage your core as you slowly move to a seated position. Lower yourself back down to lie flat and then repeat.
- Crunches. These moves target lots of core muscles, including upper abdominal muscles, lower abdominal muscles, obliques and lower back muscles. To do this exercise, you should lie flat with your knees bent and feet on the floor, as you did before. With your chin to your chest, you should lift your shoulders off the floor, engaging your core. This exercise is sort of like a half sit-up.
- Bicycle crunches. These are more advanced and engage abs and obliques. To perform, lay flat on your back and lift your legs to 90-degrees with your knees bent. With hands held behind head and elbows out, rotate your body to touch your right elbow to your left knee. As you rotate, extend your right leg out. Repeat on the other side, touching your left elbow to your right knee and extending your left leg. Your shoulders should be raised off the floor, like when you perform crunches.
The lateral crawl is a powerful exercise that will work your core, arms, shoulders and glutes, along with many other muscles. To perform, start in a full plank position. Lift the left arm and cross with the right at the same time as your right leg steps to the right, then move your right arm to the right as your left leg follows the right. Repeat this as if you were crawling along the floor!
Plank: plank with reach, plank with hip dips
Plank is bound to get your core working, your blood pumping, and your body sweating! There are lots of different variations of the plank position, including movements that increase the muscle-building activity’s potency. Below, we've listed a few great plank exercises to try out.
- Plank. To begin with, we're going to look at the basic plank. This exercise engages your core and parts of your upper and lower body. It should be held for at least ten seconds and you can work your way up to longer. To perform, you begin in the same position you would begin a press up, holding your body off the floor with straight arms at shoulder-width and feet hip-width apart. Hold for as long as you can!
- Plank modifications. You can begin with a half plank (or forearm plank) if you find full plank tough. This modification requires you to place your elbows on the floor with arms out in front and hands spread on the floor. Arms should remain shoulder-width apart. Remember in both plank positions, your back and bum should be a straight line. Don't arch or bend your back either way and try not to drop your buttocks or stick it in the air!
- Plank with reach. This requires you to hold a plank position as you lift an arm in front of you, alternating arms and holding for a few seconds with one arm.
- Plank with hip dips. This exercise works your obliques and is usually performed in half plank position. While holding a plank, slowly twist your core and dip one hip to the floor then back up to the plank position. Alternate hips each time.
Russian twists work your core, particularly your obliques, and help with rotational movements. To perform this ab-strengthening exercise, sit with knees bent and feet planted on the floor and lower your torso to a 45-degree angle away from your knees. Once in position, slowly twist your core 45-degrees to the right and then the same to the left. One twist each way counts as a rep.
And finally, this core exercise requires a bit more room and movement! Lie on your back with your arms and legs in the air at 90-degrees. Slowly lower your right arm to an inch above the floor over your head while simultaneously lowering your left leg to an inch above the floor in the other direction. Return both limbs to starting position and then repeat with the left arm and right leg.
Lower body exercises
Lower body exercises generally engage the legs muscles, lower back and buttocks. The exercises below can all be performed with just your bodyweight for a great workout!
Squats: regular, wide leg
Squats are wide-ranging and can work different muscles in your legs and buttocks. Below we've gathered a couple of our favourite squat exercises for you to try at home. Take a look now.
- Regular squat. This is a famous bodyweight exercise and you've probably done a few of these in your time. To perform, stand straight with feet shoulder-width apart (or a little wider than hip-width). Slowly lower yourself, bending at the knees and pushing into the squat position. Keep your chest, shoulders and head up as you hold the seated position. The aim is to get to a 90-degree position with your knees bent in the squat position. Then push back upwards, returning to the standing position.
- Wide leg squats. These exercises will work your inner thigh muscles as well as the muscles in your buttocks. To execute the wide leg squat, you should begin with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and have your toes pointing outwards a little. Slowly bend your knees until at a 90-degree angle, then push back upwards.
Lunges come in lots of varieties but the general idea is the same. Whether you're going forwards or sideways, you're bending one leg at the knee and working those muscles then swapping to the other.
To perform a basic lunge, begin with your feet hip-width apart. Step forward with your left leg and bend at the knee until 90-degrees, hold and then push back upwards and return to the standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Repeat with your right leg.
To do a sideways lunge, begin in the same stance but step sideways with your right leg and bend the knee. Hold this position with the left leg straight, and then push back and move into the stance again. Repeat on the left leg and keep the right leg straight this time. Remember to keep feet flat on the floor of the bending leg.
Donkey kicks are a great exercise for your buttocks. To perform a donkey kick, kneel in a tabletop position with hands flat on the floor. Slowly lift the right leg, kicking backwards and straightening the leg before returning it to the start position. Repeat on the opposite leg.
Great for the glutes, this quick little exercise can help to improve hip rotation as well as work the leg muscles. Start on all-fours in a tabletop position. Keeping the knee bent, raise the right leg away from the body until at a 90-degree angle at your side. Hold, then return to the start position. Repeat on the opposite leg.
Glute bridges, sometimes known as pelvic lifts are another bodyweight exercise that commonly features in workouts intended for the home. Glute bridges work your glutes and other leg and butt muscles. To do a glute bridge, you need to lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the floor. Slowly lift the pelvis towards the sky, pushing the feet into the ground, until you're in a bridge-like position. Your shoulders and upper back remain on the floor with arms extended at your sides on the floor. Lower your buttocks back to the floor and into the start position.
These quick calf raises can help to strengthen the muscles in your lower leg. They're really easy to perform. All you need to do is stand with your feet hip-width apart and rise slowly onto your tiptoes, then slowly push your heels back to the floor, controlling every step of the way.
To make this more difficult, you can use the first step of your staircase. Balance on the edge of the step with your heels hanging over the edge. Hold onto a wall as you raise up and then lower your heels back down.
A note on makeshift equipment
Many of the exercises listed here can be performed with weights or resistance bands, but if you don't have this kind of equipment, you can create makeshift equipment with objects you already own. Create makeshift weights with canned foods, hold bags of flour as your squat, and fill your two largest water bottles to weigh yourself down as you lunge.
Exercise is absolutely vital to living a healthy life, but it must be balanced with a healthy diet consisting of lots of fruit, veg, grains, nuts and seeds. After a workout, it may also be helpful to try a protein shake or other protein-boosting foods to speed up recovery and help you to get back to exercising sooner.
When performing these exercises, make sure to listen to your own body. Do not push yourself too far and if anything ever hurts more than it should, cease exercising immediately. If you have any health problems that restrict your movement, speak with your doctor or physio about modifications to at-home workouts.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best workout to do at home?
The best workout to do at home uses your own body weight to help build muscles. You can try muscles for upper, lower, and core muscles. Bodyweight workouts work lots of different groups of muscles and can give a good and thorough full-body workout.
Is it effective to work out at home?
Yes. Working out at home can be just as effective as working out at the gym, and you can listen to your own music! You can work out using callisthenics which is the use of your body weight to build muscles, or you can invest in some free weights and resistance bands to enhance your workouts.
Is exercising ten minutes a day enough?
Doing intense exercise for ten minutes each day can be enough exercise over a week when combined with low to moderate-intensity exercise like walking throughout the rest of week. The WHO recommends getting about 150 - 300 minutes of moderate exercise a week but you only need 75 mins of high-intensity exercise a week.
What exercise is for abs?
There are lots of very effective exercises for abs. These include:
- Bicycle crunches
- Russian twists
- Plank with hip dips
- Plank with arm raises
- Lateral crawls