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How to Work Out at Home: Tips, Equipment and Where to Find Exercises

This guide will help you stay fit and healthy without a pricey gym membership.

Young woman using laptop for doing home workout
Home workouts have never been so easy.
Oliver Rossi/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Since the pandemic, I've had difficulties sticking to a fitness routine. If you are anything like me, working out at home can make a big difference. And there are numerous benefits of working out at home too. Not only does it spare you from pricey gym membership fees, but the convenience of having all your exercise equipment right at home makes it a lot harder to skip a workout session. It will still require plenty of intrinsic motivation, and you'll need to set aside some room in your house. But establishing a sticking to a home workout routine is absolutely worth it because it not only boosts your physical health, but also helps to ease anxiety and improve your overall mental health.

Staying in shape without a gym membership is totally doable, and this guide will show you how. Even if you have a small space, no equipment (hello body weight workouts!) or little time, there are many great options including exercises focused on your upper body, lower body, core muscles, glutes, chest, back -- muscle building workouts for all the muscle groups, really. Plus there's high-intensity interval training, cardio, yoga poses and more. Seriously, no matter your fitness level, these exercises will get your heart rate up -- in many cases without you having to buy a single dumbbell or kettlebell.

Read more: Best Smart Home Gym: Peloton, Mirror, Tonal and More

Free home workout apps and videos

The fastest way to start an at-home workout routine is through an instructor-led workout video. Live or prerecorded the videos are typically 25 to 45 minutes and often require little to no fitness equipment , making it easy to jump right in. 

These videos often require a subscription or membership, but there are free option out there, as well as many that offer a free trial period to see if it's for you. 

Here's a list of some of my favorite at-home workout apps with live and prerecorded videos. They include yoga, bootcamp-style classes, boxing, high intensity interval training, plyometrics, pilates and barre exercises. 

A woman following an exercise instructor on her TV.

There's no excuse not to stay active during this time.

Peloton

Peloton

Normally $13 a month, Peloton is offering a free, 90-day trial of its polished workout app. The fitness app -- which doesn't require a purchase of Peloton's bike or treadmill -- includes easy-to-follow and high-quality videos, including yoga, strength, meditation, cardio and bootcamp classes. There are also audio-only classes for outdoor runs, if that's an option for you. 

CorePower Yoga

CorePower has many locations around the United States, but also offers on-demand classes online for home workouts. New classes are added weekly, including sculpt (those ones hurt!), yoga and meditation.

Read more: Best Yoga Mat for 2022

Nike Training Club

I spent an entire year exercising with Nike Training Club and got in great shape with very little equipment. The app -- which is always free -- has a wide variety of home workouts to choose from, including programs that help you set an ongoing workout schedule. The key here is that workouts can be filtered based on whether or not you have access to a gym or equipment, so you can easily find bodyweight-only exercises. 

Les Mills 

If you've ever had a gym membership at a place like 24 Hour Fitness, you've probably heard of Body Pump. The class, which is managed by Les Mills, is just one of more than a dozen different types of classes, including boxing, dance and yoga. All these classes are available on demand through a 14-day free trial and many classes are equipment-free. After the trial, the monthly membership is $15 a month, $12 a month with a three-month commitment or just $10 a month if you sign up for a full year.

Blogilates

Cassey Ho, the fitness guru behind the hugely popular Blogilates YouTube channel and website, continues to offer a massive library of pilates-style toning classes. You can follow her 21 Day Tone Challenge videos if you're looking for a little more structure in your routine.

Read more: The Best YouTube Channels for Getting in Shape at Home

Amazon Prime Video 

If you're an Amazon Prime member, you already have free access to a varied library of fitness videos, including Zumba and cardio programs such as 21-Day Transformation from GymRa. Just head to Prime Video and search for "fitness," then check the "Prime" box in the left sidebar to see what's available for streaming. 

Individual personal trainers

There are plenty of personal trainers out there who are happy to offer their knowledge for free. You can find them on Instagram, where they're streaming daily workout classes and showing you how to master certain moves. YouTube is also home to many fitness trainers who put out free exercise videos, covering every kind of work out from yoga and pilates to dance and bootcamp.

HIIT workouts 

CNET's own Amanda Capritto, who's also a Crossfit instructor, put together a fantastic roundup of 20-minute HIIT workout options you can do at home.

Basic workout equipment under $100

Plenty of apps and YouTube channels have equipment-free workouts, but if you want to build strength or increase your efficacy, even basic gym equipment can make a huge difference. 

Here are some things you can use alone or with an at-home workout. At this point, you might not be ready to invest a lot in a home gym, so here are some affordable options. You don't need everything on this list -- just pick the items that work best for the types of workouts you're doing, like strength training, yoga or HIIT.

Jump rope: If you have a room with high enough ceilings or can safely step outside, a jump rope is a go-to for warming up or getting in a quick cardio workout when you're strapped for time. 

Dumbbells: Whether you're looking to pack on muscle or shed some pounds, weights are pretty much a must-have for a home workout routine. There are plenty of great options out there, including adjustable dumbbells that give you more weight options without taking up any extra space (though they do tend to be a bit pricier).

A woman doing yoga in her living room.

Don't forget to stretch before working out.

Angela Lang/CNET

Workout mat (or yoga mat): There are many types of mats out there and the one you choose will depend on your primary form of exercise, as well as the floor you're working with. For instance, you'll specifically want a yoga mat for yoga practice, while a higher-density workout mat works better for bodyweight exercises and carpeted floors. 

Yoga block: Yoga blocks provide extra support during practice, especially for those who are just starting to exercise their flexibility. They're essentially a must-have for practicing yoga and these ones come in a set of two and have a soft finish while maintaining high density for balance. 

A mirror: No, not (just) for checking yourself out, but for ensuring good form while you give new workouts a try. This wall mirror from Ikea provides enough width to get a good view of your workout. 

Headphones: If you're working out to your phone, tablet or laptop, headphones will give you the best experience -- while also doing a courtesy to anyone in the household who doesn't want to work out with you.

Lacrosse ball and foam roller: As you ease into a new workout routine, take care of your body by caring for its mobility with these tools. These lacrosse balls will relieve tension in your feet and back while this foam roller can be used throughout your body. 

Read more: 7 Tips for Building Your Own Home Gym

Bigger home gym investments 

Some of us have already been considering a home gym setup that goes further than the basics. Today's at-home gym equipment -- like bikes and treadmills -- can mimic the in-studio experience with livestreamed classes, social features and progress-tracking through apps and compatible devices such as the Apple Watch. Plus, if you're still on the fence about these investments, companies like Peloton and Mirror offer generous trial periods -- long enough to help you decide if that big investment is worthwhile. 

Peloton

Peloton's indoor bicycle is an ideal -- albeit expensive -- home workout companion. With its small footprint (it requires a four- by six-foot space), socially engaging workout classes and varied class durations, Peloton's bike is an excellent choice for cycling buffs. The company now offers a 30-day trial, letting you test ride the experience before committing to the $1,195 price tag, plus a $250 delivery fee and a $30-a-month membership. If you decide against it, the company will arrange a pick-up and process a full refund. 

If it's any comfort, the monthly membership fee also includes access to Peloton's digital app of diverse workout classes and the bicycle can be financed through Affirm.

Read our Peloton Bike review.

 

Mirror

Those who love working out to YouTube videos (or even old-school fitness DVDs) will love the Mirror. It takes that at-home video workout experience and brings it into 2022 by turning a functional mirror into a screen that plays live and recorded workouts. 

We tried the Mirror and appreciated the variety of workouts, social interactions and small footprint. It offers more workout options than the peloton above, though it does come with a hefty $1,495 price tag. The Mirror also syncs with your Apple Watch, so you can get an accurate calorie burn and close those rings.

Woodway

A Treadmill

Best for runners and cardio junkies

The at-home treadmill isn't what it was in the '90s. Today's machines often come with a large screen, where you can stream treadmill workouts and track your progress. Plus, many apps -- including Peloton -- can be paired with a treadmill to make running at home feel, well, fun. CNET tested a bunch of treadmills and here are our favorites

Echelon

Peloton Bike Alternatives

Best for a Peloton experience without the price tag

Peloton is like the Kleenex of connected exercise bikes -- its name gets used a lot, but it's certainly not the only stationary bike with live classes and high-tech features. Not only can you make a DIY Peloton, but there are also alternatives that start around $700.

Read more on Peloton alternatives.

 

Hydrow

Rowing is a great way to get an efficient cardio workout without the impact of exercises like running or HIIT. Unlike treadmills or stationary bikes, rowing machines provide a full-body workout, including upper-body parts like the back, shoulders, arms and chest. 

Hydrow, which we reviewed in 2019, is a rowing machine that makes the repetitive exercise of rowing a little more exciting with live and on-demand classes displayed on its attached touchscreen. The screen swivels, which is great for when you want to take one of Hydrow's mat workouts (which don't require any rowing).

At $2,245, it's certainly not a budget item and you'll have to pay $38 a month for the content subscription. Like Peloton, you can try it out at home with a 30-day trial. There are also two different bundles available: The Hydrow Basics Package ($2,560) adds a mat and 1:1 personal coaching. The Hydrow Works Package ($2,895) also adds a heartrate monitor, pair of Jaybird Vista earbuds, two yoga blocks, a resistance band set and a foam roller.

More fitness advice

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.