AB Workouts

Home workout routines: equipment, circuits and more

Getty Images/iStockphoto © Woman putting on trainers for indoor workout

Home workout routines: equipment, circuits, HIIT training and weight loss

Do I need home workout equipment?

Some people struggle to work out at home when they overcomplicate what they’re doing. It’s not a gym environment, so it doesn’t have to be all about kettlebell squats and barbell deadlifts. Home bodyweight workouts don’t require any equipment, and you’ll only need minimal space, making them perfect for when you’re in your house and don’t have the facilities to do certain moves. 

Simple to implement, home gym workouts should include basic bodyweight exercises such as squats, planks, lunges, bridges and leg raises. All of these are really effective if you’re looking for home workouts to build muscle. 

If you want to ramp up your routine, then you can start to add in equipment. Don’t worry, we aren’t talking treadmills and bulky gym machines that will take up most of your living room and a lot of your paycheck – easy-to-store, budget-friendly, lightweight or small pieces can be used in a variety of ways. This might include resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, a skipping rope or a yoga mat, for example. 

Having this equipment at home will not only make you more motivated to work out when you’re there, but it will also make your exercise more fun. Before you trawl the internet for the best home workout DVD to buy, we’ve got plenty of easy-to-follow free workouts below. 

Upper body workouts

Kristoph Thompson’s moves are the perfect combination for an energising morning workout at home. These five moves are designed to target the major muscles of the upper body, lower body and core, and can make for a great chest workout at home without weights. 

Perform the exercises in a circuit, moving quickly from one move to the next and keeping rest periods to a minimum. Perform 20 seconds of each exercise, repeating the circuit three to five times in total. For an additional challenge, perform 20 seconds of mountain climbers or shadow boxing between each of the other exercises.

 

Squat, press and rotate
1. Begin standing with your feet hip-distance apart (or slightly wider if it’s more comfortable), with your arms bent, holding a dumbbell in each hand just in front of your chest.

2. Bend your hips and knees to come into a squat, imagining you’re sitting down onto a chair, keeping your back straight and your knees in line with your toes (rather than moving inwards

or outwards).

3. Straighten your legs to return to standing, then press your arms straight up overhead (without arching your back) and rotate on the ball of one foot, turning your upper body to the opposite side.

4. Reverse the movement to return to the start and repeat, rotating to the opposite side with the next rep.

Mountain climbers

1. A great push for your chest muscles: start at the top of a push-up position, with your body in a straight line from head-to-toe. Your hands should be shoulder-distance apart, with your wrists directly beneath, or slightly in front of your shoulders. Step one foot forwards towards your hands – this is your starting position.

2. Push through the balls of both feet, jumping your back foot forwards and your front foot backwards to alternate your foot position.

3. Quickly reverse the movement, aiming to keep your feet in contact with the floor for as short a time as possible.

4. Make sure the back foot doesn’t creep forwards throughout the set, with your hips rising into the air as a result.

Bicycle crunch

1. Begin lying on your back with your fingertips resting against the back of your head and your legs straight out in front of you, just off the floor.

2. Bend one knee in towards you, simultaneously raising the opposite shoulder and bringing it towards the knee. Reverse the movement to return to the start and repeat with the other knee, this time bringing the other shoulder up and across to meet it.

3. Try to keep your lower back pressed into the floor throughout. If you feel it arching, try raising your legs further off the floor. Alternatively, bend your hips and knees and place your feet on the floor, just performing the movement with your upper body.

Shadowboxing
1. Begin in a boxer’s stance with your left foot forward and your right heel raised to come onto the ball of your right foot. Bring your hands together in fists either side of your chin (holding hand weights for an increased challenge).

2. Extend your left arm straight out in front of you, turning your hand as you do so, so that your palm faces towards the floor. Rotate your hips to the right slightly at the same time. Bend the elbow and rotate your hips to return to the start.

3. Straighten your right arm in front of you, pivoting on the ball of your right foot as you do so and bringing your right hips forwards at the same time. Bend the elbow and rotate your hips to return to the start.

Row
This move can be a great chest workout at home with dumbbells. 

1. Standing with your feet hip-distance apart, hold a dumbbell in each hand and hinge from your hips so that your upper body is at around a 45-degree angle with the floor (or further still, if you’re flexible enough).

2. In this position your lower back shouldn’t be arched any more than when standing upright (bend your knees a little if needed).

3. Bend your elbows to bring your hands towards your ribs, keeping your upper arms close to your sides. Squeeze between your shoulder blades as you do so. Reverse the movement to return to the start and repeat.

4. If you can feel your lower back arching, try not to hinge as far forward and select slightly lighter dumbbells.

Arm workouts at home

Looking to try out a new home workout routine? Strengthen and tone your arms with this upper body and biceps workout at home. Specifically for beginners, these arm exercises have been created by Krissy Cela, founder of the gym and home workout app, Tone & Sculpt

Each move targets different muscles in the arms, and the added resistance will help build strong foundations for moves such as boxing and planks. Rest 60 seconds between sets and two minutes between exercises. If you don’t have dumbbells, you can try these at-home arm workouts without weights and instead use a household item such as a bottle of water.
Warm-up
Jogging – five minutes

Workout – repeat three times

Dumbbell bicep curl – 10 reps

Dumbbell overhead tricep extension – 10 reps

Bench tricep dip – 12 reps (no equipment? Use a chair if doing this triceps workout at home)

Push-ups – 10 reps

Finisher: skipping – five minutes

Lower body workouts 

Looking for a leg workout at home with dumbbells? You’ve come to the right place! Try these three moves. 

Stiff legged deadlift: 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps
1. Grab a barbell and hold it in front of your thighs, with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Engage your core muscles.

  1. Bend at your hips to lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor.
  2. Return to standing, squeezing your glutes as you rise and thrust your hips forward.
    Performing this strength-training move regularly will help your glutes and hamstrings, potentially preventing injury.

Barbell lunge: 2-3 sets of 20 (alternating)
1. Stand with your legs hip-width apart and a barbell on the fleshy part of your lower back.

  1. Keeping your chest straight, take a big step forward. Bend down into a lunge position, with your front leg bent at a 90-degree angle and your back knee nearly on the ground.
  2. Don’t let your front leg bend beyond your toes. Return to the start position and repeat on your other leg.
    This strengthens your glutes and hamstrings, which can speed up metabolism and help you lose weight.

Front squat: 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps
1. Begin in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart, your knees slightly bent and a barbell or a pair of dumbbells resting on your upper chest muscles. Keep your elbows high.

  1. Take a deep breath, arch your back slightly and bend at your knees to squat down.
  2. Breathe out and return to the start position.
    PT TIP: Be careful when completing this move as it could lead to unwanted joint pain. Try not to let your elbows drop or your knees move too much. 

Pregnancy workouts at home

Health and fitness blogger, Carly Rowena has released pocket-sized home workout programs designed for people on the go. Each workout pack contains 46 individual exercises, including upper, legs, abs, and cardio workouts at home. 

New to motherhood, Carly found that during her pregnancy, there was a serious lack of information on how to safely exercise through the trimesters. This led her to create the pregnancy pack of fitness cards, which helps mums-to-be stay on top of their fitness levels, boost endorphins and balance their mental wellbeing.

“The idea behind the cards came from years of telling clients to write down the exercises we’d done during our PT sessions,” says Carly. “I get how hard it is juggling a busy life and still trying to find time to squeeze in exercise, so I really wanted to make something that works around works around everyone’s lifestyles.”

At-home circuit workout

Looking for a home workout with no equipment? Jennifer Metcalfe has you covered. There are eight exercises in this home workout plan which she completes and repeats four times, increasing the intensity each time.

Circuit One: 60 seconds exercise, 15 seconds rest, 90 seconds rest at the end of the set.
Circuit Two: 45 seconds exercise, 15 seconds rest, 90 seconds rest at the end of the set.
Circuit Three: 30 seconds exercise, 10 seconds rest, 90 seconds rest at the end of the set.
Circuit Four: 30 seconds exercise, 10 seconds rest, 90 seconds rest at the end of the set.

  1. Squat
    Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Drop your bum down as if you were about to sit on a chair, keeping your chin up and your back as straight as possible. Return to the start position and squeeze your bum.
  2. Squat jump
    Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Drop your bum down as if you were about to sit on a chair, keeping your chin up and back as straight as possible. From this position, launch the body upwards and jump into the air, landing back into a squat position and repeat.
  3. Curtsy lunge (each leg)
    From a standing position, feet hip-width apart, cross your left leg behind your right into a side curtsy position and drop your knee until it hovers just above the floor. Return to a standing position. Repeat on the same leg for the duration of the set, then repeat a set on the right leg.
  4. Glute bridge
    Lay on your back, knees at a 45-degree angle and feet flat against the floor. From this position, place your hands on either side and lift your hips so your upper body is in line with your lower. Squeeze your bum at the top and return to a flat back position.
  5. High knees
    Standing upright, lift your left knee, then the right knee. Do this as quickly as you can and as high as you can. To make things harder, use your hands as a benchmark to try and hit.
  6. Kickbacks
    On the floor, start in a tabletop position, hands in line with shoulders, knees at 90 degrees, tops of the feet on the floor. Lift your left leg so that your thigh is in line with your upper body, keep your foot flexed and return to the start position. 

Do this on a two-second up, two-second down timing. Repeat on the left leg, and then switch to complete another set on the right.

  1. Lunge
    Start in a neutral position, and then step forward, bending your front knee to 90 degrees and your back leg to the same. Keep your back knee hovering slightly above the floor and ensuring your front knee does not fall over your toes. Return back to the starting position and repeat on the opposite leg.
  2. Fire hydrants
    From a tabletop position, extend your left leg out to the side at a 90-degree angle, lift to hip height, and then drop back. Repeat on the left for a set, and then repeat on the right.

At-home workouts to lose weight 

A great weight-loss home-workout plan revolves around running! Nothing can give you that instantaneous cardiovascular hit quite like running. One minute you’re tying your laces, the next you’re pounding the pavements – and right away you’re boosting endorphins, getting your heart working, and losing weight.

So, what can we do to make sure our running is giving us the best chance of shedding pounds? Professor John Brewer, head of the School of Sport, Health and Applied Science at St Mary’s University says, “Most runners will burn between 100 and 120 calories for each mile that they run. To lose weight, you need to use more calories than you consume from eating and drinking, but you need to exercise off 8,000 calories to lose just 1kg of body fat!”

Unfortunately, this sets you the insane challenge of needing to run 70-80 miles just to lose one kilo of fat. “So the most effective way to stay trim is to combine exercise with a sensible diet, which reduces energy intake”, says John.

That said, we do have good news. Whilst calories in versus calories out is a useful and clear calculation, running does also propel your metabolic rate after the run has finished, so during your recovery period you will be burning some extra calories.

HIIT workouts at home

You may have heard the term at the gym, but do you know exactly what high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is, or why it’s so good? We asked PT Bradley Simmonds to explain why we should all be including HIIT into our exercise regimes, and how to begin. “HIIT is one of the most beneficial forms of workouts you can do. You can perform a HIIT workout anywhere at any time – 30 minutes is all you need. 

By completing each exercise for 30 seconds with 30-second rest periods, you can target every single muscle. If done correctly and at a good intensity, it’s a great fat burner and ideal for those looking to lose weight. To get started, I’d suggest exercising alongside someone who has experience with HIIT, as this will help motivate you as well as ensure you are performing each exercise correctly. This at-home workout plan without equipment is the perfect start.”

Here are Bradley’s top five moves:

Squats: These are great to strengthen and tone your legs and glutes. Like any exercise, it’s important to perform these with correct form to prevent any stress on the wrong muscle group. Perform with a straight back and a tight core, making sure your knees don’t overpass your toes. 

Lunges: This move strengthens and tones your legs and you can perform different variations to really target your glutes. Jumping lunges are a more advanced version of the exercise, and are great for burning fat.

Burpees: This is the best exercise to get your whole body working (similar to CrossFit workouts at home). It’s probably the most challenging, yet effective move that you can do. Begin with your chest to the floor, then use your upper body to get into a squat position, before jumping up high with the power of your legs.

Mountain climbers: This exercise is perfect for an ab workout at home. Perform it in a full plank position, ensuring your core is tight and your back doesn’t collapse. Drive your knees into your chest, starting off slowly before picking up the pace.

Push-ups: Push-ups are great for back workouts at home, and I think this is the best way to perform an upper body workout at home with no equipment. Keep your elbows tight to your body and your hands shoulder-width apart, making sure that your chest is at touching-distance from the floor. It’s important that you work your core as you don’t want your back to collapse. Start on your knees to master the technique before performing the advanced movement.