Exercising at home is, hopefully, something you’ve been thinking about while sat on the sofa, pawing at your doughy middle.
As more and more of the UK population opt to ‘self-isolate’ and practise ‘social distancing’ from friends, family and the gym, home workouts are becoming an increasingly common option for those looking to stay fit (and sane).
Absolutely you could stock your new home gym with some muscle building essentials. But then what? With MH‘s help, taking your first steps towards fitness needn’t be daunting.
Below is our collection of the best beginner’s exercise at home, coupled with an explanation of what makes that move useful. Have a read and use the exercises to create a bespoke workout that fits your nascent training goals without leaving the house. Enjoy.
How to do it: Get down into a press-up position with your hands placed shoulder-width apart and back flat, so a straight line forms from your head to heels, via your glutes. Lower your body until your chest is an inch from the ground then explosively drive up by fully extending your arms. That’s on rep.
Why: This move uses multiple muscle groups for maximum growth and strengthens your shoulder joints. Easily done as an exercise at home, this prepares you for progression to the more demanding shoulder exercises you’ll face in a gym, like the incline bench press.
Dumbbell standing shoulder press
How to do it: Stand holding two dumbbells at shoulder height with an overhand grip – palms facing forwards. Ensure your elbows are in front of the bar and don’t flare out to the sides. Press the weights up above your head until your arms are fully extended. Return slowly to the start position.
Why: This is a safer shoulder-sculptor than lifting from behind your neck. As a beginner the aim should be to keep strain off your joints and protect against an injury called shoulder impingement syndrome. Missed sessions this early in your lifting career are especially costly.
How to do it: Grab the rope at both ends. Use your wrists to flick it round your body, jumping to clear the rope as it hits the ground. Make the move more intense with double unders – letting the rope pass round your twice for every jump
Why: The ultimate no-nonsense workout, jumping rope could be the most efficient form of cardio. A study that found just 10 minutes a day with the rope was similar to 30 minutes of jogging
How to do it: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, position your legs shoulder width apart. Keeping your head up and back straight, sit back into the squat until the dumbbells are an inch from the floor. Focus on keeping your knees over your toes and chest out – don’t arch your back or lean forward as you drop down. Exhale, straighten your legs and return to the starting position.
Why: Squats are an excellent all-round exercise and one of the best moves for building overall strength. Dumbbells let you concentrate on technique and work on your range of movement at low weight. Only advance to barbell squats in the gym once you’ve got this nailed.
How to do it: Grab a heavy dumbbell in each hand – think half your bodyweight – and hold them at your sides. Stand up tall with your shoulders back and walk forward as quickly as you can using short steps.
Why: Super simple with no need to worry about technique, this move hits your shoulder stabilisers, upper traps and front deltoids. It also supercharges your grip strength, which will transfer strength to your other lifts too.
How to do it: Stand holding a light dumbbell in each hand. Slowly lift the dumbbells out to the side until they reach shoulder height – no higher – and resist the urge to cheat by swinging the weight. Pause, then lower back to your sides, slowly – you’ll build more muscle fighting gravity than letting it do the work for you.
Why: If you’re doing exercise at home, this is the best move for visible shoulder development. The lateral raise isolates your medial deltoid, the middle of three shoulder muscles, helping to develop your shoulder width and mass. Perfect for creating the V-shape that you covet.
How to do it: From a standing position squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor and place your palms on the floor. From there kick your feet back as far as you can while keeping your arms extended. As soon as your feet land jump them back in towards your hands, then jump up into the air. Land and immediately squat down to go into the next rep.
Why: When it comes to burning fat at home, few moves can do better then the burpee. Perfect for frying fat with zero equipment, work these into your home workout routine to ramp up your heart rate or set yourself daily challenges.
Plyometric, Jumping Lunges
How to do it: Lunge forward until your rear knee is almost touching the ground. Jump into the air, bringing your rear foot forward and the front foot back. Land in a lunge and repeat. Land on both feet simultaneously to cushion the impact on your joints.
Why: Just like burpees, these are perfect for building up your cardiovascular system, but will also help you build faster, more powerful quadriceps. Ideal if your leg day has taken a hit.
Dumbbell calf raise
How to do it: Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand with the balls of your feet on a step with your heels touching the floor. Raise your heels off the floor and hold at the top of the contraction. Slowly lower yourself to the starting position and repeat.
Why: Too many beginners are prone to skipping calves when it comes to leg day. Some guys are even getting surgery to fix it. Work this move into your workout to guarantee you’re hitting as many leg muscles as you would in the gym when it comes to exercise at home.
How to do it: Get into a traditional press-up position. Lower yourself toward the floor and bring your right knee to your right elbow, keeping it off the ground. Press back up and return your leg to the starting position. Repeat with the alternate leg.
Why: Perfect if you’re looking to get some mobility in before a workout or just want to switch up your chest routine, Spiderman press-ups are the perfect alternative if you’re looking to scale things up.
How to do it: Stand with a dumbbell in each hand and, keeping your upper arms stationary, curl the weights until the dumbbells are at shoulder level. Focus on keeping your elbows still – only your lower arm should move. Squeeze your bicep at the top of the contraction then lower slowly and repeat.
Why: This is the perfect move for developing those mirror muscles you crave. By keeping your upper arm stationary you hit the whole bicep for maximum growth.
How to do it: Stand in front of bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Place your right foot onto the bench, push up through your heel to lift your whole body up. Step down with your left foot and repeat on the opposite side.
Why: By activating all of your upper leg muscles (glutes, quads and hamstrings) it’s an entire leg day in one move. Plus, it’s low-impact, which is means you avoid the knee injuries associated with more explosive exercises.
How to do it: Get in a press-up position, but rest on your forearms rather than your hands. Make sure your back is straight and tense your abs and glutes. Hold without allowing your hips to sag.
Why: Endless crunches put pressure on your spine and, when done incorrectly, can give you a set of weird, distended abs. Planks are perfect for working your core in a way that keeps you injury-free and builds the flat six-pack you’re after.
How to do it: Lie on your back with hands above you and feet up so your knees are at 90 degrees. Straighten your leg until your heel is an inch from the floor and then return to the start position. Repeat with the other leg.
Why: By extending your legs and hovering your heels you work on your core stabilisers, not just your abs. That means you’re building muscle you can use on the sports field, not just see in the mirror.
How to do it: Lie on your left side with your legs straight and prop yourself onto your elbow. Brace your core and raise your hips until your body forms a straight line. Hold this position while breathing deeply. Roll over and repeat on the other side.
Why: Excellent for targeting a small muscle in your lower back, the quadratus lumborum. Strengthening it is crucial for spine health and will help you avoid the notorious beginner’s back pain. Diamond-cut obliques are a bonus.
Dumbbell floor press
How to do it: Lie down on the floor with a dumbbell in each hand. Bend at the elbows and hold the weights above you. Press up and straighten your arms before pausing at the top of the rep and lowering slowly to the start position.
Why: By restricting your range of movement this moves helps you build a bigger chest, minus the risk of shoulder injury from over extension. Consider this your stepping stone to being a bench bro in the gym.
How to do it: Stand facing away from a bench, grab it with both hands at shoulder-width. Extend your legs out in front of you. Slowly lower your body by flexing at the elbows until your arm at forearm create a 90 degree angle. Using your triceps lift yourself back to the starting position.RELATED STORYYour Biceps and Triceps Will Hate This Workout
Why: This is easy to do on a chair, stair or coffee table. It works the arms, chest and shoulders and is great if you want people to notice that you’ve started working out as it builds triceps effectively.
How to do it: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Place your hands on either side of your head. Push your lower back into the floor as you lift your shoulders a few inches off the floor – make sure your lower back stays in contact with the ground at all times. Tense your abs hard at the top point of the movement, then return under control to the start position.
Why: The first port of call for any abs workout this is a must-do. By lifting your legs you place extra weight on the stomach muscles and reduce the momentum that could make this easier.
Lower back curl
How to do it: Lie down flat with your arms by your sides. Slowly raise your chest upwards, with your arms down. Keep your head up during the move. Once you’ve reached the furthest point up, lower yourself back down.
Why: People often forget the importance of back workouts, but they’re vital to develop all other muscle groups. This curl is great as it works the whole back and also alleviates back pain from days at the desk.
How to do it: Stand upright holding the barbell, two dumbbells by your sides, or unweighted. With your toes pointing forwards, raise your heels off the floor and contract your calves. Slowly return to the starting position.
Why: Isolating the calves for a workout can benefit overall leg definition. It also helps hamstring and glute stength. Different foot positions target different muscles. Toes pointing in hits the outer head harder, toes out works the inner head.
How to do it: Adopt a fighting stance and bounce on your toes as you shadow box. Dip and weave to your heart’s content.
Why: This can help consolidate the rest of your workout as it benefits cardio strength, legs, core and arms. Jog on the spot between low- and high-intensity punching for a HIIT style cardio workout.