The most important factor in weight loss is consistency — eating right and staying active every day. But for some people, paying for a gym membership, commuting to the gym and waiting in line for machines is a big barrier to following through with exercise. The good news is, you don't need a gym to work out. You can torch calories every day in the comfort of your own home — no membership required.
Exercise for Home Workouts
Any weight-loss fitness routine has two fundamental parts: aerobic exercise and resistance training. Aerobic exercise burns calories while you're doing it to help you create the calorie deficit necessary for losing fat. Resistance training helps you build lean muscle mass, which ramps up your metabolism and helps you burn more calories 24/7, even when you're not working out.
Your weight-loss exercise plan at home should include three to six days of aerobic exercise each week and at least two resistance training days. You can do your cardio and resistance training separately — say, running and biking three to six days a week and doing a bodyweight workout two days a week — or you can combine the two.
Getting Your Cardio On
What is it you enjoy doing? Do you like walking with your dog, hiking, cycling, dancing, skateboarding? Plan to do as much of what you like as you can.
Don't worry about what cardio you think you should be doing. If you hate running sprints, don't run them! The best type of cardio workout is the one you look forward to doing because then you'll show up and be consistent.
Get Creative With Exercise
When you don't have a gym or cardio machines, the outdoors becomes your gym. On Monday, go for a jog; on Tuesday, ride your bike. On Thursday, go to a nearby track and run sprints (only if you want to); on Saturday, grab a friend for a hike.
If you have an energetic canine companion, one or two 30-minute brisk walks daily will please your pup and help you reach your weight-loss goals.
When it's yucky outside, you'll have to get creative. Jump-rope intervals can torch some serious calories, and even a 20-minute interval workout with jumping jacks, high knees and mountain climbers can make your heart rate skyrocket.
Bodyweight Workouts for All
Think you can't get as good a workout without lots of fancy gym equipment? Think again. Calisthenics, or bodyweight exercise, has a cult following full of ripped men and women who haven't stepped foot in a gym in years (or ever).
According to a 2018 study in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, calisthenics exercises are just as effective for increasing strength and building muscle as traditional weightlifting.
Calisthenics is an especially beneficial muscle-building workout for beginners at home because it uses functional movements that train the body in how to move well. Once you have built a foundation of strength with bodyweight exercises, you will be better prepared to start lifting weights if you choose to do so.
Best Bodyweight Exercises
There are hundreds of exercises you can do without any equipment just by using your own body weight. All of these are compound exercises, meaning they use multiple muscle groups at one time. These are better for weight loss because they burn more calories while you are doing them. The higher the intensity and the more you challenge yourself, the more calories you'll burn doing them.
- Squat jump
- Single-leg squat
- Jump lunge
- Glute bridge
- Wall sit
- Inverted rows
- Handstand push-ups
- Dolphin push-ups
- Side plank
- Bicycle crunch
- Russian twist
- Abdominal leg lift
There are many variations of these body-weight exercises, but when you're first starting out, the basics are all you'll need. Once you've mastered these moves, you can begin to include more challenging versions.
Lose Weight Without the Gym
Circuit training is hands-down one of the best ways to build strength and endurance and burn calories. It's perfectly suited to home workouts that don't involve equipment. If you design your circuit workout right, you can knock out your cardio and resistance training workouts for the day in one fell swoop.
Choose several exercises to target all your major muscle groups and do one set of each exercise back to back without resting in between. You can either do a certain number of reps — 10 or 15, for example — or you can set an interval timer for 30 seconds to one minute. When the timer goes off, move to your next exercise.
At the end of the round, rest for one to two minutes; then repeat. You can start with two rounds and work your way up to four to six rounds as you get fitter.
30-Minute Total-Body Circuit
Start with a warm-up, doing 30 jumping jacks followed by 20 mountain climbers — no rest in between. Repeat that; then do:
- 10 pushups (modified on knees if necessary)
- 20 lunges (10 each side)
- 10 chair dips (move the feet farther out to make it harder)
- 15 squats
- 20 bicycle crunches (10 each side)
- 10 jump squats
- 1-minute plank hold
Rest for one or two minutes and then repeat the round two more times.
It's Tabata Time!
Another fun and challenging way to design a home bodyweight workout is with tabata — a type of high-intensity interval training in which you work out hard for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. You can do anything for 20 seconds right? Can you do it for 20 seconds eight times in a row? Of course you can!
Similar to a circuit workout, you'll choose several exercises and set a tabata timer (you can download an app on your phone). Let's say you're doing a tabata squat. When the timer starts, you'll start squatting; after 20 seconds, the timer will go off and you'll rest for 10 seconds. Then you'll squat again; repeat for eight rounds, then move on to your next exercise.
Each round takes four minutes. If you include a one-minute rest between exercises, you can fit six exercises into a 30-minute workout. Or, if you feel particularly inspired and fit, go for a 45-minute or 60-minute workout.
Setting Up for Success
There are many benefits to working out at home — it's accessible, private, time-saving and budget-friendly. However there are drawbacks too. If you aren't careful, they can sabotage your weight-loss efforts.
It's all too easy to come home from work, see your couch and decide to face plant into it instead of doing the workout you had planned. If you know you'll be tired after work, try to fit your workout in first thing in the morning before you shower.
It can also be demotivating to work out while looking at your comfy, inviting couch or bed. Try to carve out a separate workout space — in a spare room, basement or garage. Make it a place that you don't usually go to relax and that you're not going to mind getting sweaty in. If you can, post some inspiring pics of your fitness goals and hook up some speakers so you can blast your favorite music.
- University of New Mexico: Controversies in Metabolism
- Onnit Academy: Climbing the Hill: The Ultimate Calisthenics Workout Transformation
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Effect of Progressive Calisthenic Push-up Training on Muscle Strength and Thickness
- Muscle for Life: What Are the Best Exercises to Lose Weight?
- Bodybuilding.com: Ask The Ripped Dude: What The Heck Is Tabata Training?