As many of us enter the boredom phase of lockdown, exercise might now be the highlight of your day.
To stay on the safe side, you might want to stay indoors. The good news is that you can get fit(ter) without leaving your front door, thanks to ‘bodyweight’ exercises that require no equipment, just judicious use of the sitting room rug.
We have talked to personal trainers and fitness experts to find home workout techniques that are suited to any level – from the mega healthy to those who consider running to the fridge a form of exercise. Here are 21 exercises to help you get into shape, from the comfort of your own home.
Best exercises for beginners
1. Mountain climbers
Starting in a high plank position, take your right knee in towards your chest, as far as you can, and then stretch it back out and repeat with your left knee.
Why it works: “Mountain climbers are an excellent way to build core strength, cardio endurance and improve agility. It works the whole body,” says personal trainer Kira Mahal from Motivate PT.
2. Step ups
As the name suggests, this exercise requires you to step up and down off a step. You can hold onto something for support, and you should try to keep your feet and knees pointing forwards. Repeat 30 times. For more of a challenge, hold weights in both hands and, when you step up, swing the opposite arm to the height of your shoulder.
Why it works: “This is great for strengthening the quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh, which are essential for everyday activities like walking or going up and down stairs,” says Lucy Macdonald, physiotherapist at Octopus Clinic.
3. Superman exercise
Kneeling on your hands and knees, with your head up and your chin tucked in, lift one arm out in front of you and down again. If this is easy, you can lift an arm and the opposite leg at the same time. Repeat on the other side. It is more about the quality than the quantity of reps with this exercise, so aim for 3-5 minutes.
Why it works: “This exercise works the core muscles of your lower back and tummy, which are essential for a flat tummy and preventing back, hip and pelvic pain,” says Macdonald.
4. Press up on knees
Similar to an ordinary press up, you want to keep your arms straight and your palms on the ground. However, instead of going into a plank-like position before you lower yourself, you can bend your knees and keep them on the ground.
Why it works: “The press up from the knees is an excellent introductory upper body strength exercise and will help you develop strength in your upper body and stabilise your shoulder girdle,” says personal trainer Scott Laidler.
5. Hip Bridge
Lying on your back, with your feet flat on the floor, lift your bottom up until you have fully extended your hips, and squeeze your glutes when you reach the top. Slowly come back down to the starting position and repeat.
Why it works: “The hip bridge is great for improving mobility in the hips and engaging and strengthening the lower back – a great move for office workers,” says Mahal.
Get in the usual position for a press up, but this time bend your elbows and rest your forearms on the floor. Your back should be in a straight line as you hold the position.
Why it works: “This exercise works the core muscles of your back and abdomen, which are important to prevent back, hip and pelvic pain as well as giving you a toned abdomen and waist,” says Macdonald.
7. Press ups against the wall
Stand about 50cm from the wall and place your hands on the wall in front of you. Keep your body completely straight as you lower yourself towards the wall and then push away from the wall. Repeat thirty times, trying not to let your shoulder blades move too much as you go.
Why it works: “This works your arm muscles, which are essential for day-to-day lifting activities, as well as giving you nice toned arms,” says Macdonald.
Best exercises for intermediates
8. Jump squat
Starting in a standing position, with your feet shoulder-width apart, lower into a standard squat, keeping your thighs above your knees. Then, instead of coming up normally, push onto the balls of your feet (using your arms for added momentum) and jump. Land with your knees slightly bent before you repeat.
Why it works: “The jump squat helps to develop power and strength in the lower body, improves cardio endurance, mobility and balance,” says Mahal.
9. Knee bends on one leg
Stand on one leg, with your eyes closed (keep your hands hovering over something sturdy in case you need the support). Then, bend and straighten the knee of the leg that’s on the ground. Do this for about two minutes a day – it can easily be incorporated into your daily routine, including when you brush your teeth.
Why it works: “This helps the sensory feedback from your leg to your brain, your body’s positional sense, called proprioception. Improving proprioception is thought to reduce the risk of injury,” says Macdonald.
10. One leg plank
Starting in a regular plank position, with your body straight, lower the hips slightly and lift your leg up. Hold for between 20-60 seconds, depending on your ability.
Why it works: “This trickier variation helps to strengthen the abs and core muscles, improve posture and build upper body strength,” says Mahal.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then lower into a squat. Place your hands on the floor in front of you, shift your weight onto your hands and jump your feet backwards so you fall into a plank-like position. Then, jump your feet forwards, so they land by your hands, and jump up. Repeat.
Why it works: “It is a great exercise that works your chest, legs, hips, and core, but the biggest benefit is that it’s like a sprint on the spot in terms of spiking your heart rate and allowing you to work on your high output fitness levels. Although an intermediate exercise in itself, the burpee is often a major part of very extreme workouts,” says Laidler.
12. Split squats
Stand with one leg in front of the other, the length of a lunge and hip width apart. Lower yourself down on your back leg keeping your back straight so that your front and back knees are about ninety degrees and your back knee is hovering just above the floor. Straighten your back leg and repeat thirty times on both sides.
Why it works: “This exercise works your knee and hip muscles,” says Macdonald.
13. Around the clock lunges
This modification of the lunge is ideal for those looking for a challenge. First, you start by doing a standard lunge – stepping forward and bending low until both knees are at a 90 degree angle. As you are facing forwards, this is your ‘12 o’clock’ position. Next, you step out your leg to the side as you lunge – putting you in a ‘3 o’clock position’. Continue round the clock face; Laidler recommends a 10-point lunge challenge.
Why it works: “This variation of the lunge exercise is excellent for helping you develop not just mobility and strength through your lower body, but it also helps you work on and improve your overall level of coordination, helping you to reduce your risk of injury,” says Laidler.
14. Kettlebell swing
This one requires a kettlebell – one of the most recognisable pieces of gym equipment. Start with the kettlebell on the floor in front of you, with your feet apart, then bend slightly with your knees, pull the kettlebell between your legs, and lift it through until it’s shoulder height.
Why it works: “The kettlebell swing is one of the most well-rounded strength exercises you could possibly do – it works your hips, glutes, hamstrings, core muscles and even your upper body muscles, including your shoulders and lats,” says Laidler.
Best advanced exercises
15. Jumping on and off a step
Stand facing a step, with your hand hovering over a rail for support, and jump on and off the step. Repeat ten times facing the step and then turn 90 degrees, and jump side on. Repeat in both directions.
Why this works: “This exercise works the calf muscles, quads and glutes muscles,” explains Macdonald.
16. Pistol squat
Stand on one leg, and extend the other leg in front of you. Distribute your weight onto the foot on the ground and slowly start to sit down into a squat. Once you reach as low as you can go, push your weight onto the same foot and come back to a standing position.
Why this works: “The pistol squat is a great exercise to improve balance, increase flexibility and mobility in the ankle joint and build leg strength,” says Mahal.
17. Single leg burpee
This exercise is similar to the traditional burpee – the only difference is that one leg is bent and lifted off the floor.
Why this works: “The single-leg burpee is an extremely challenging exercise that is a direct progression from a traditional burpee, but it will work your core even more and massively demand control and strength from the leg you are putting the weight through. Working on single leg work can help you avoid developing a reliance on your naturally stronger side,” says Laidler.
18. One arm push up
A standard press up is effective because it “works the muscles of your arms, chest and core,” according to Macdonald. But if you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can get into your push up position, then put one of your hands on your back, lowering your whole body with one arm.
Why this works: “The one arm push up is extremely challenging and helps to balance the body, strengthen the hip muscles, core muscles and of course is a great exercise to build upper body strength,” says Mahal.
19. Hindu push-up
Incorporating classic yoga poses, the Hindu push up starts in a downward-facing dog position. From there, you lower your hips until you’re in a plank-like position, then lower them further to the ground and lift your chest and thighs into an upward-facing dog position. Then, push back into the plank position and start again.
Why this works: “The Hindu push up is an advanced press up variation that is more challenging on your upper body strength, but not only that, it’s also great for your overall level of flexibility in your spine and will help to increase your joint strength,” Laidler explains.
20. Forward to reverse overhead lunge
Start with a standard lunge, with one leg in front of the other. Then, lift your lunging leg, without it touching the floor in the transition, place it behind you, into a reverse lunge. Hold your arms or a weight overhead if you want a more taxing workout.
Why this works: “The forward to reverse overhead lunge is an advanced lunge that really tests and enhances your knee stability and overall level of coordination,” says Laidler.
21. Squats with weights
The standard squat is made trickier when you add weights, holding them in your hands either against your chest or on your shoulders. Repeat 30 times.
Why this works: “This exercise strengthens your quadriceps and gluteal muscles,” explains Macdonald.
Source: Telegraph UK