5 Fun Exercises That Will Make Your Workouts Feel Like Play

Close-up portrait of a woman at the gym laughing and doing fun exercises
These fun exercises build cardio and strength. But most importantly, they get you playing and enjoying movement.
Image Credit: Flashpop/DigitalVision/GettyImages

There was a day, not that long ago, when you just loved to move. It was your favorite way to play. You ran, skipped, maybe you climbed money bars or was a rebel and scurried up slides on your hands and knees.

Then, eventually — let us guess — movement became "exercise." And exercise became a chore.

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So if you're feeling bored of your usual workout routine, or just having a hard starting one in the first place, take a deep breath and know we've been there too.

And we've also felt the joy that comes with injecting our workout routines with creative, fun exercises. Exercises that, while muscle-building and heart-pounding, are really all about getting back to play.

Get moving, and start smiling, with some of our favorite fun, creative exercises.

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Move 1: Crab Reach

A stand-still version of the crab walk, this move helps build shoulder stability and strength in your core and glutes, according to Kristen Lettenberger, DPT, CSCS, a New York-based physical therapist and personal trainer.

How to Do It

Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Abs", "Shoulders", "Butt" ]
  1. Start with your hips, hands and heels on the floor, and arms behind you. Brace your core.
  2. Press through your hands and heels and squeeze your glutes to raise your hips until they are parallel to the ground.
  3. At the same time, reach your right arm over your head and to the left. Pause here for a moment.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the motion reaching with your left arm.
  6. Alternate back and forth

Tip

Want to fire up your glutes even more? Put a small resistance band around your legs right above your knees. As you do the exercise, focus on holding tension on the band by keeping your knees at hip distance.

Move 2: Dowel Hand Reaction

This fun exercise is a brain game and lower-body workout all at the same time, says Noam Tamir, CSCS, owner and founder of TS Fitness. And if you don't have a dowel handy, you can use a PVC pipe or broom stick.

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For this one, you may want to grab a partner. But if you're exercising solo, that's cool, too (more on that below).

How to Do It

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Abs", "Legs", "Butt" ]
  1. Partner 1 and 2, stand face to face with partner 1 holding the dowel.
  2. Partner 2, keep your left hand at your side at all times and get your right hand ready.
  3. Partner 1, point the upper part of the dowel toward the other person, tilting it to your right.
  4. Partner 2, reach up to tap the top of the dowel with your right hand as fast as possible.
  5. As soon as they tap the dowel, partner 2, point the bottom part of the dowel toward your partner, tilting to the left.
  6. Partner 2, squat down with good form to tap the dowel.
  7. Continue pointing different parts of the dowel to your partner, varying your pattern as much as possible.

No Partner?

No worries. You can do this move solo with a song playing in the background. Face a wall and grab four sticky notes. Place the stickies on the wall in a rectangle. Assign different lines or words of the chorus a different sticky note and tap the corresponding note as the song plays.

Move 3: Breakdance Kick

Moving to music is a surefire way to add a little fun to an otherwise standard workout. Lettenberger recommends you pair the breakdance kick with your favorite high-energy playlist.

The move helps build explosive power in your shoulders, core and legs, she says. Try and alternate from side to side as quickly as you can while keeping good form.

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How to Do It

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Abs", "Shoulders", "Legs" ]
  1. Sit in a low squat with your knees pointing out and feet flat on the ground.
  2. Place your right hand on the floor behind your body.
  3. Putting your weight in your right hand and right foot, extend your left leg straight in front of you, tapping the heel down.
  4. Simultaneously reach your left arm straight up toward the ceiling.
  5. Return to the starting low squat and repeat on the opposite side.
  6. Alternate back and forth.

Tip

To make this move more challenging, you can jump both feet out at the same time, balancing on your back hand.

Move 4: Balancing Foot Tap

Another partner move (find tips on how to do it solo below), this fun-yet-challenging exercise works your total-body stability and coordination. This exercise especially focuses on your glute, hamstring and quad strength as these muscles work to balance your body, according to Tamir.

If you mess up, don't worry, the point is to challenge your stability by standing on one leg while your other leg moves in different directions, he says.

How to Do It

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Butt", "Legs" ]
  1. Partner 1 and 2, stand face to face with partner 1 holding the dowel.
  2. Partner 2, raise your right foot a few inches off the ground and balance on your left. Hold this position throughout the exercise.
  3. Partner 1, point the bottom part of the dowel toward the other person.
  4. Partner 2, tap the bottom of the dowel with your right foot.
  5. Partner 1, switch the position of the dowel so that the bottom end points to the right of your partner.
  6. Partner 2, tap the dowel with the outside of your right foot.
  7. Continue alternating back and forth in different positions, varying the pattern as much as possible.

Try It Solo

If you want to do this move without a partner, all you need is a song and a chair. Stand facing the chair. Assign different parts of the chair (the back rest, seat and legs) different lines or words in the song's chorus. Then, as the song plays, tap the chair (or point at it) with your foot accordingly.

Move 5: Bear Walk

The bear walk is definitely one way to feel like you're goofing off. One of Lettenberger's favorite all-fun exercises, you can add the bear walk to a high-intensity interval circuit or do it as a standalone exercise to fire up your abdominals.

This move targets your core but will also help strengthen your shoulders, she says.

How to Do It

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Body Part [ "Abs", "Shoulders" ]
  1. Kneel down on all fours with your knees in line with your hips, palms in line with your shoulders.
  2. On an exhale, raise your knees an inch or two off the ground. Maintain this hold throughout the exercise.
  3. Take a step forward with your left foot, keeping your knee close to the ground.
  4. At the same time, move your right palm forward a few inches.
  5. Then, repeat on the opposite side.
  6. Take several steps forward, then several steps back.

Tip

For an added challenge, turn this into a lateral exercise. Instead of stepping forward and back, step to the right and left, maintaining the bear hold position.

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