The 6 Best at-Home Exercises, According to a Personal Trainer
We spoke with Julie Jones, C.P.T., wellness expert and personal trainer, about the best bodyweight exercises you can do at home.
Whether you typically avoid the gym or are steering clear due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's always great to keep a few bodyweight exercises in your back pocket. We spoke with Julie Jones, C.P.T., a personal trainer and corporate wellness manager based in Atlanta to find out her favorite moves for getting a full-body workout from the comfort of home.
"Taking some time to get away from our screens and the news is good for our mental health," Jones says. "There are a ton of ways to remain active at home and help you do what makes your body feel good."
Jones says a good full-body workout should incorporate upper body, lower body and core exercises, plus cardio. The following moves require no equipment, but you could easily add weight to any of them (we like these $17 dumbbells from Amazon). She advises doing these moves in timed increments instead of doing a certain number of reps, which will challenge and help you set realistic goals for yourself.
"Squats are a foundational movement in exercise because they are functional for life," Jones says. "We need to be able to bend down and lift things, and this strengthens our glutes and quads."
Jones says you could easily do bodyweight squats against the wall if you're not comfortable doing air squats. Be sure to keep all the weight in your heels as you sit back and low.
"Planks work the whole body if you do them right," Jones says. "They are great for developing core stability and strengthening your upper and lower body at the same time."
Jones says you can modify a plank by standing and placing your hands against a wall, bench or desk that won't move from under you, or you could take a kneeling plank.
"When it comes to cardiovascular exercises, I love to think old school," Jones says. "Think about moves from P.E. class."
Jumping jacks are one of Jones' favorite moves for getting her heart rate up quickly. You can also try jump roping if you have the space. (We like this $11 jump rope from Amazon.)
Jones says burpees are a trainer-favorite because they are a cardio and strength exercise in one, working the entire body. If you're not comfortable taking your burpees down to the floor, you can leave your hands on a bench or table that won't move from under you. Just hop your legs back, open them to a jack, close and hop back in towards your hands.
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Lunges target the lower body, but Jones says you can easily add a shoulder press or bicep curl to work the entire body when you're low on time. She likes lunges because you can take them forwards, backwards and to the side, all of which work your glutes and leg muscles differently.
Core and Mat Exercises
Jones says there are a million variations of crunches and sit-ups alone, which can easily be done anywhere in the house. These help strengthen your abdominals and back, which help us with everyday functionality.
How to Turn These Moves Into a Workout
You can easily turn these moves into a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout. Start timing 20-30 seconds per move—with a few seconds of rest in between—and see how you feel (pro tip: download a free interval timer app on your phone to make things easy). You can repeat through once or multiple times for a serious total body workout!
Tabata is another common format used for bodyweight workouts. This involves doing a move for 20 seconds, resting for 10 seconds and then repeating for eight rounds—about 4 minutes. You can repeat this process multiple times until you reach your time goal. This is Carrie Underwood's favorite way to work up a sweat when she's short on time. Check out Jones' IGTV account for workout inspiration:
Additionally, you'll want to make time to stretch regularly. Most of us don't have an ergonomic desk chair at home to help us keep proper posture and are likely working from a couch or uncomfortable hard-backed chair instead. Stretching is a great way to de-stress, relieve shoulder or back pain and help your body feel its best.
As many offices and schools are sending people home for several weeks, Jones says it's important to still take care of your body and instill a sense of normalcy in the midst of the unknown. Practicing mindfulness and movement through exercise is a great way to find balance and practice self-care—two things we need desperately in these stressful times.