The Complete Guide to Working Out at Home

The winter presents plenty of excuses to squelch your workout plans: icy roads, a sick child, or the mere spine-chilling thought of leaving the gym with wet hair. Yet that angel on your shoulder, err, trapezius, is reminding you to power through and log a good sweat session.

The solution? A killer at-home workout.

We asked personal trainers to share some of their best at-home workout tips and their favorite calorie-torching workouts you can do from home. Sorry to break it to you, but now you have no excuse.

Safety first

home workouts: Danielle Girdano
Danielle Girdano

Having a home workout area can zap your excuses and keep you on track to achieve your fitness goals, says Danielle Girdano, who was one of the finalists for the Chicago Innovation Awards because of her mathematical-based fitness programs.

Girdano, a Master Certified Personal Trainer who in 2016 was named one of the top three personal trainers in the world by IDEA Health & Fitness Association, shares her top tips for making sure you’re getting a safe workout at home.

1. Use a mirror. A majority of injuries occur as a result of improper form, says Girdano. “A mirror can help you to keep good form,” she says. “Most times when people become tired toward the end of sets, their form suffers. Back and knee areas are normally of most concern.”

2. Embrace modifications. When you’re selecting routines, look for modifications for either increased or decreased difficulty. “Modifications are important not just in the beginning of your journey, but also as you progress.”

3. Stay hydrated and recover. Drinking enough water is especially important if you’re doing a great deal of “mouth breathing.” After you work out, consider a recovery protein (Girdano recommends Plant Head). Recovery protein needs to be consumed within 20 minutes of finishing your workout for optimal results. “If this window is missed, then you are missing the opportunity to give the tissue what it needs, and the protein intake will simply add to your daily intake,” she says.

4. Control your breathing. This is especially important when you’re working out from home — likely alone. The more rapid your breathing, the more oxygen is being taking into your body. “If your body is not used to large amounts of oxygen, then this can lead to lightheadedness,” she says.

home workouts: yoga

Now it’s time to choose a workout!

If you’re playing hooky from the gym, here are some awesome at-home workout solutions, tips, and routines from trainers.

Super-charged intervals

Erik Marthaler, co-founder of Lateral Fitness in Chicago

home workouts: Erik Marthaler
Erik Marthaler

Marthaler’s motto? Stick to the basics, like body weights, dumbbells, and resistance bands, interspersed with bursts of cardio. This interval training gives you more bang for your workout buck, spiking your heart rate and allowing you to torch more calories in less time. If you have one at home, hop on a treadmill, bike, or rower. If you don’t, you can still use a jump rope, do high knees, or run the stairs in your building. He suggests doing circuits like you would at the gym to work out the entire body. Bodyweight exercises, including push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and lunges, can also deliver serious results, Marthaler says. He also suggests floor chest presses with dumbbells, bridges, tricep extensions, squat and shoulder presses with dumbbells, standing rows, and curls with a resistance band, and don’t forget to keep adding in that cardio to keep your heart rate up. Doing extra ab work can also be a substitute for cardio, he says.

Just find 10 minutes…

Meghan Kennihan, certified personal trainer and running coach in Chicago

home workouts: Meghan Kennihan
Meghan Kennihan

You don’t need 30 consecutive minutes to log a stellar workout. If you’ve got a little free time here and there, try a few of Kennihan’s “10-minute workouts” throughout the day — no equipment needed. “I challenge my clients to record how many reps they do in the minute and try to get one more the next time they do it,” she says.

Workout 1

Do each of these exercises twice:

  • 60-second alternating lunges
  • 60-second burpees
  • 60-second plank
  • 30-second side right plank
  • 30-second side left plank
  • 60 seconds of jumping jacks

Workout 2

Do each of these exercises twice:

  • 60-second pushups
  • 60-second crunches
  • 60-second air squats
  • 30-second side right lunge
  • 30-second side left lunge
  • 60-second scissor lunges

Workout 3

Do each of these exercises twice:

  • 60-second vertical jumps
  • 60-second mountain climbers
  • 60-second side-to-side hops
  • 30-second reverse crunches
  • 30-second bicycles
  • 60-second arm circles

If it’s good enough for Hollywood…

Reggie Chambers, celebrity trainer in New York City, who also works with new and expecting moms and elite athletes

home workouts: Reggie Chambers
Reggie Chambers

Curious what kind of workouts a celebrity trainer has his clients do at home? Chambers, of the Limelight Fitness training facility in New York City, shares one of his go-to home workouts.

Do entire workout three times. Rest three minutes between each workout.

  • Start with 1 minute of jumping rope. Even if you’re a novice, jumping rope is a great way to torch calories and burn fat, he says.
  • Wall squats with 10-pound dumbbells in each hand, 15-20 reps. Weight can range from 3 to 10 pounds. Be sure you’re comfortable and not straining. These wall squats not only increase stamina, but also build muscles in your thighs and carve out some killer abs, he says.
  • Push-ups with knee tuck on physio ball, 12-15 reps.
  • Back extension on physio ball (lay across ball on stomach with feet against the wall, lift torso off the ball), 12-15 reps.
  • Planks; hold for 30 to 60 seconds. This simple workout is a great way to strengthen your core.
  • Curls with an overhead press with dumbbells, 10-12 reps.
  • Triceps extension with dumbbells, 12-15 reps.
  • End with 1 minute of jumping rope.

Remember: Stretch after your workout. It will help prevent injuries and build flexibility, Chambers says.

How to set up a home workout studio

home workouts: Samir Becic
Samir Becic (Photo by Bryan Anderson.)

Go big or go home? More like go big at home. Whether you’re setting up a workout studio or an exercise nook, there are a few things to keep in mind to make the best use of your space.

We reached out to Samir Becic, a fitness industry leader, for his tips. Becic is the former fitness director of Bally Total Fitness. He has since founded Health Fitness Revolution magazine and created the ReSYNC Method, a training method that uses the body’s own resistance and minimal weights to achieve fitness results. (You can find his book, “ReSYNC Your Life: 28 Days to a Stronger, Leaner, Smarter, Happier You,” on Amazon).

“Every muscle in the body can be trained by the body’s own movement and natural resistance, which makes the ReSYNC Method a perfect option for anyone who doesn’t want to spend hours in the gym or invest in costly and heavy machines,” he says.

Here’s what Becic says to keep in mind when you’re building your own home gym:

1. Do a cost-analysis. Gym memberships can get pricey. If you want to create your own home gym to eliminate the monthly bill, know that it could take years to make your investment worth it. Also, remember that you can’t buy your way to good habits. You might be best off starting with a few inexpensive pieces of equipment like dumbbells and an exercise ball. “If you consistently use what you have for months, then it will be safe to expand your collection,” Becic says.

2. Personalize your space. Your home gym should fit your personality and fitness needs. “Put up posters, add a TV, get some nice speakers, put in a house plant, anything that gives the room attitude and helps you get in the zone,” he says.

3. Check Craigslist for sales. New gym equipment is expensive. “Luckily, there’s a never-ending parade of used fitness equipment for cheap on Craigslist,” Becic says. “Some people don’t want to lug heavy barbells with them when they move. Others are trying to recoup money for equipment they aren’t using. Swoop in and take that perfectly good gear at a fraction of the price.”

4. Put down a synthetic floor. Your joints will thank you. “Even if you aren’t doing deadlifts, this will make the area warmer and more comfortable,” he says. You can use a large yoga mat or even the puzzle piece foam mats you find in children’s play areas.

5. DIY your workout room. If you’re crafty, you can build complex projects like a squat rack. If you’re a novice, add some shelves to put speakers on.

6. Invest in mirrors. Stack full-length closet mirrors next to one another to create a floor-to-ceiling look. Mirrors will help you check your form. “They also make the room look bigger, which will help those working with a small space,” Becic says.

7. Add some space heaters. Cold weather is the bane of garage home gyms. Warm up your space with some space heaters. If you’re a weightlifter, you know the bite of a cold steel olympic barbell when you step up to the squat rack. You can solve this by bringing it inside after your workouts.

home gym with a view
Click to learn more about the six trends that will turn your home gym into a “luxercise” room. (Photo courtesy of Coldwell Banker.)

3 fitness programs we love

My Fitness” from Jillian Michaels

Get a home workout with “Biggest Loser” trainer and “Just Jillian” star Jillian Michaels. The app is loaded with more than 550 exercises, with workouts that can be knocked out in 7 minutes or 27 minutes. It also comes with customizable meal plans. Plus, the fitness guru is cheering you on as you do hip circles and knee jacks.

Feature we love: Sometimes that scale doesn’t seem to move in the right direction. But, that doesn’t mean you aren’t totally killing it. The app’s built-in selfie tracker will monitor your progress in photos so you can watch your transformation.

Price: $9.99 per month

Daily Burn

Imagine not having to leave your house for a killer group workout. Daily Burn lets you stream 600 workouts that are taught by high-energy certified trainers. With all the variety, that means you can do a hip-hop dance class one day and spartan-inspired workout the next.

Feature we love: A new Daily Burn 365 workout uploads every morning. The 30-minute workouts are developed for fitness newbies and are on demand for 24 hours.

Price: $19.99 per month


YouTube catapulted Cassey Ho, the founder of Blogilates, to internet fame. Don’t let her smile and peppiness fool you, though: Her workouts are killer! Her PIIT 28 Program is a 28-day fitness plan that can help you keep your sanity through the holiday season. (PIIT, by the way, stands for Pilates Intense Interval Training and her workouts are full of moves like mountain climbers, crunches, and side-lunge jumps). Each workout can be completed in 28 minutes. The fitness plan comes with an e-book and access to a program website.

Feature we love: You can see GIF demos for each move helping you perfect your form.

Price: $39


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Brittany Anas

Brittany Anas is a freelance writer who specializes in health, fitness and travel writing. She also contributes to Men’s Journal, Women’s Health, Trip Savvy, Simplemost, Orbitz, and Eat This, Not That! She spent a decade working at daily newspapers, including The Denver Post and the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado, and she is a former federal background investigator. In her free time, Brittany enjoys hiking with her gremlin-pot belly pig mix that the rescue described as a “Boston Terrier” and coaching youth basketball. She also works with domestic abuse survivors, helping them regain financial stability through career coaching. Follower her on Twitter and Instagram