With all of us spending more time at home and gyms closed until further notice, we’re sure a lot of you have figured out a good home workout routine. For those of you who still need some help figuring out which exercises suit your needs and resources, we’ve put together some of our favorite workouts that are equipment-free. Many of these can be built upon by adding certain elements to increase resistance or create more difficulty with balance, explosivity, and more. Of course, it’s always smart to discuss your fitness goals with a medical professional (virtually, these days) if you’re starting a new workout regimen to ensure you’re pursuing them safely and can avoid accidental injury.
If you need any exercise essentials, we carry items like yoga mats, foam rollers, light weights, and other accessories. And many of these items can be found and ordered through Amazon Prime or Instacart to be delivered!
Lower Body Exercises
Starting with a classic here. Squats are effective, dynamic, and simple. Just stand with your feet hip distance apart, lower your body into a squat position with your knees in line with your ankles, rise, and repeat. To prevent excess stress on your knees, initiate movement with your hips to sink down into the floor instead of extending too much weight over your ankles. To increase difficulty, hold a weight as you go; if you don’t have access to a free weight, heavy books can do the trick or you can jump up out of the squat. The latter has the added benefit of working your explosive functionality — this is quite helpful if you play sports that involve transferring power from your lower body
To change this one up, find a heightened object like a bench or chair, stand in front of it facing away, and put one foot behind you on top of it. Then do the squat reps on leg planted on the floor (and of course remember to repeat on your other leg). This is called a Bulgarian split squat and has the added benefit of more weight resistance per leg since you’re only working out one, plus it forces your core and smaller foot muscles to engage more to maintain balance
Lunges work much of the same muscles as squats but are more fun since you can turn them into walking lunges! We like them as a work from home mini-break: When you’ve been sitting at a desk for a while, take a few minutes to do some walking lunges around your house.
While you’re probably familiar, a refresher in case it’s helpful: Lunges are done by stepping forward with one leg, then lowering your hips until both legs are at 90 degree angles and repeating alternating legs. Remember to keep your core tight, your shoulders back, and your knee in line with your ankle.
This is a common exercise with free weights but is also practical for improving balance and toning core, hamstrings, glutes, and more without the need for weights. It’s also super simple. Its only dynamic movement is hinging at the hips — the bulk of the “workout” comes from keeping your body’s form during the movement.
Just stand with your feet hip distance apart, hinge forward from your hips, and bring your other leg behind you so that it’s a straight line with your torso. At the peak position, you should look like a human “T”: One leg is planted down while your torso and other leg are parallel with the ground. Then hinge back to return to starting position and repeat on the other leg.
Upper Body Exercises
Where would this list be without the pushup? It’s a coach’s punishment classic, hated and respected by all.
Pushups work so many different muscles so effectively, they’re a good reminder of how sometimes the simplest things can be the best. Besides working out the arms and shoulders (triceps especially), they’re great for the chest, back, and abs and even engage the glutes and thighs when done properly
Speaking of, the easiest thing to let slide during pushups is for your butt to be either too high or low — make sure to focus on keeping your body straight from neck all the way down to toes. Besides ensuring you’re actually getting the most out of your workout for your arms, it forces your core to engage. If you want to make it harder, place an encyclopedia or other heavy books on your back. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with knee pushups if you’re still building up upper body strength.
There are two primary varieties of planks: The forearm plank and the upright (or full) plank. The upright plank is where you hold the pushup starting position, whereas the forearm plank is just that except on your forearms instead of hands. Both of them consist of simply holding that position for as long as you can. The most important thing is to keep your body straight by engaging your core, glutes, and back. Also, to avoid looking straight ahead towards the wall. You want to look down at the ground to keep your neck in line with your back and legs; the alternative could result in neck pain.
If you live with roommates or family, planks are also a fun way to break up the monotony of staying home by doing daily plank contests to see who can hold them longer. The most dignified exercise? Certainly not. But darn it burns.
Full Body Bonus: Burpees
If pushups are a coach’s punishment, then burpees are just straight up torture. Burpees use all your body at different stages and can tire you out very quickly.
Maybe burpees are so ingrained in your memory you don’t need a refresher but for those who do, they’re a combination of multiple workouts in one. First, start out with knees slightly wider than hip distance, jump, and land in a starting squat position. Complete the squat, then hop your feet back so you go into plank position. From there, do a pushup and upon completion hop back into a squat, then repeat starting with the jump.
Oh, and it’s probably worth noting that, if you have downstairs neighbors, you might want to give them a heads up or find a ground floor area to do these. They can otherwise be somewhat of a commotion.
Accessories We Love (and carry!)
All of these exercises can be done without any equipment. However, here are a few pieces of equipment that are really handy for stretching, lactic acid relief, and keeping hands and bare feet off a living room floor that’s maybe seen cleaner days (looking at you, yoga mat).
One of our favorites — a tool that’s being used by many professional and collegiate athletes as they stay in shape — is the resistance band. These come in different strengths and can be used in conjunction with many workouts to increase difficulty. They’re also useful for certain stretches. Safety tip: Make sure they’re securely in place. A loose band can snap towards you at rapid speed and cause injury, particularly if they hit you in the eye or face.
For stretching and preventing excessive lactic acid buildup, foam rollers are your friend. These are great for cooling down post-exercise and for loosening up knots. They’re particularly well-suited for the back, neck, shoulders, thighs, and the bottom of the foot (especially if you have high arches). Similarly, tennis balls work wonders for knots.
And simple free weights like dumbbells are ideal for presses, curls, or adding to your natural body resistance.
With these being such uncertain times, we know that all of us are feeling it. While we’re all bound to feel this stress, getting ourselves moving and breaking up our day with an activity like exercise benefits us both mentally and physically. There are a bunch of different ways to combine workouts, reps, and variations to best suit your needs. So, if you have any fun suggestions or different exercises that you find helpful, shout it out in the comments!