When you can't get to the gym (or just don't want to deal with the crowds), workout videos can help you get moving at home. And it's not just a matter of motivation: Plenty of the best workout videos or DVDs can also deliver real results, with expert training programs designed to build muscle and improve your cardio fitness.
As for what to look for in a top workout video, what's most important is that you feel inspired and energized by the instruction.
Video of the Day
If you're an at-home exercise newbie and need help getting started, we polled fitness trainers to find out their favorite workout DVDs when they can't make it to the gym. Here are their top picks: a list of the best workout videos today that'll also stand the test of time.
How We Chose
We spoke with three top personal trainers, exercise-loving dietitians and fitness experts about 1) their favorite workout videos of all time and 2) what makes some programs rise to the top. We chose the following products based on criteria including:
- Exercise selection
- Workout variety
- Opportunities to progress
- Trainer expertise and attitude
1. STRONG by Zumba: High Intensity Cardio & Tone Workout DVD Featuring Michelle Lewin
Zumba is a high-energy, cardio workout that feels less like exercise and more like a fun hobby, making it one of the best workout videos to choose from, especially if you're not an avid exerciser and need that little push. Zumba exercise videos are effective in deceiving your mind (harmlessly!), as they tend to resemble more stress-busting activities as opposed to traditional workouts and cardio.
And dancing can actually get your heart rate up high and fast, making it a super effective way to burn calories and build lean muscle, says certified strength and conditioning specialist John Shackleton, CSCS.
2. Denise Austin: Boot Camp Total Body Blast
Perfect for anyone short on time, this workout video provides three workouts in 30 minutes or less, including cardio, strength and stretching.
"When I think of Denise Austin, her kind and un-intimidating way of teaching fitness is what stands out to me," says Michelle Miller, CPT, a certified personal trainer and founder of My First Workout. "She also seems to have such a genuine love for a lifestyle of fitness and helping people learn how to exercise properly. In my opinion, she presents the idea that exercise is for everyone."
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $6.99
3. Insanity Sweat Fest
Beloved trainer Shaun T is known for his Insanity workout, an advanced exercise program for people seeking a challenge. But when you don't have a lot of time to exercise, Beachbody Shaun T's Insanity Sweat Fest is perhaps the most intense body-fat-blasting workout you can do in the privacy of your home — and in under 30 minutes.
The DVD provides drills, intervals and strength training in an encouraging format.
Buy it: IntenseFitnessWorkouts.com; Price: $19.95
4. Jane Fonda's Original Workout
Admire 1980s aerobics fashion while you burn calories and boost your heart health. Called "the program that started it all," Jane Fonda's Original Workout combines low-impact and high-intensity movements for an upbeat, appealing exercise routine that anyone can follow.
"It was the first and by far the best," fans attest — and because it's still popular 40 years after it was first released, we think they're onto something.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $12.94
5. Jillian Michaels: 30-Day Shred
"I love Jillian Michaels' workouts," says Brocha Soloff, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian and the creator of iHeartHealth. "She promotes high-intensity, quick workouts three times a week, where you get the most results for the minimum time."
Michaels is known for her intense, tough-love attitude toward clients and her in-your-face instruction that'll keep you on your toes as you fire up your metabolism and burn fat fast. "You must be ready to work hard, to your all-out maximum in order to get the benefits," Soloff says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $10.49
6. Richard Simmons: Sweatin' to the Oldies
If you love listening to rock classics while you crank up your heart rate, Richard Simmons' video Sweatin' to the Oldies is as good as it gets. There are plenty of reasons this 1980s sensation is still beloved by fans of all ages, including Simmons' kindhearted personality, motivating spirit and fun dance moves. "I wanted to work out [where] no one is yelling at me," says one devotee.
The video features classic music you know and love and is perfect pick for beginners.
7. Tony Horton's P90X
P90X is one of the best workout videos of all time for building muscle mass at home. The revolutionary 90-day extreme challenge is from personal trainer, author and actor Tony Horton, who generated a cult-like following by touting "muscle confusion" to explain the effectiveness of his technique.
"Not for the faint of heart!" at least one fan attests — but don't let that stop you from taking on this sweaty, high-intensity challenge.
Buy it: Beachbody.com; Price: $99 per year
8. Turbo Jam
Fitness should be fun, and that's why Turbo Jam has remained a crowd favorite for decades. The DVD delivers five workouts — with names like "Learn and Burn" and "Cardio Party" — and all blend calisthenics, kickboxing, body sculpting and dance so that you're never bored and constantly switching gears.
It's "everything you need to get in shape," one fan promises.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $33.93
9. Extreme Kettlebell Cardio
"I love Extreme Kettlebell Cardio by Keith Weber," says Meghan Kennihan, CPT, a certified personal trainer and running coach. "It's a full-body workout with just one kettlebell in 45 minutes. You only need about the space of a mat and it's intense, but goes fast!"
The workout video is doable for beginners and seasoned athletes as well.
Buy it: KeithWeber.ca; Price: $25.99
10. Natalie Jill - Total Body Weight Advanced
"Natalie Jill is an amazing motivator and is incredibly talented so anything she puts out I recommend, and this DVD in particular is great because it consists of only body-weight exercises, so you don't need any other equipment," Shackleton says. Add weights for a greater challenge with any of these workout videos, if desired, but it's not necessary to still reap body-sculpting rewards.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $22.95
11. Natalie Jill - Total Body Weight Beginner
Don't worry, there's a selection of the best workout DVD for beginners too. "This workout DVD is specifically for beginners, as it features quick 10 minute workouts that make it easy for you to get started and not want to quit," Shackleton says. Doing shorter bursts can be more manageable than longer (and thus often more intimidating) workouts, as is shown in the popularity and effectiveness of these top workout videos.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $15.10
12. Total Stretch: Improve Range of Motion, Increase Functional Flexibility + Rejuvenate Your Entire Body
Stretching and low-impact, functional fitness workout videos enhance flexibility and range of motion, but they often are brushed to the side and less prioritized than more rigorous cardio and strength workouts.
"No matter what age you are, you should be stretching every day to keep your muscles and joints flexible and healthy, and this top workout video from Jessica Smith makes it easy for you to follow along and complete three different stretching sessions," Shackleton says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $19.97
13. RIPT90: 90-Day 14-DVD Workout Program by Jody Hendrix
Consistency is key when it comes to seeing results from a training program, and the best thing about this set of top exercise videos by personal trainer Jody Hendrix is that they're part of a training calendar to help you most effectively stay on track with your workouts. Plus, there is a ton of variety, so you'll continue to shock your muscles and target them with weighted exercise and a major HIIT blast in one.
The workout videos range in duration, with workouts lasting between 10 to 45 minutes long, but all are based on a "resistance interval plyometric training" method for a fusion of cardio exercise videos with strength training for a full-body workout that hits all the muscle groups in a collection of 14 exercise videos total.
"What's nice about this DVD is it is based around a 90-day program and gives you a calendar to keep you on track and help you hit your goals," Shackleton says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $39.95
14. Xtreme Hip Hop With Phil: Beginners Step
Blend dance and your cardio workout by using this hip hop workout video from group fitness and personal trainer Phillip Weeden that's fit for both beginners and more advanced dancers. It comes with a total of 10 top exercise videos, as part of Weeden's best workout videos collection: Xtreme Hip Hop, Xtreme Burn and the X30 Challenge.
"It's nice to switch it up every once in a while to avoid boredom and an exercise rut, as well as to shock and work your muscles most efficiently by maintaining a variety of workouts," Shackleton says.
Dance is a good form of cardio, where time flies by, and it offers rich variety to help you shock muscles routinely with use. "These hip hop workouts are a fun way to add new, different movements into your workouts and to learn some new dance moves along the way," he explains.
Buy it: XtremeHipHopWithPhil.com; Price: $15