8 Workouts for When You Can't Afford a Personal Trainer

Young woman pulling rope at gym.
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Overview

You'll be hard-pressed to find a better investment than your health. And working with a qualified personal trainer is a great way to maximize that investment. But let's face it, dishing out $100 or more per hour to work with a personal trainer in the gym isn't always realistic. Fortunately, if money is tight, there are plenty of ways to reach your fitness goals without forking over a ton of cash, says Mathew Kite, CSCS, manager at D1 Sports Training in Dallas. The key is to find the right option for your goals, workout personality and, of course, budget. Here's a breakdown of eight of the best.

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Two sporty women doing exercises with fitness balls with assistance of their personal trainer in gym.
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2. Try small-group training.

If you haven't heard of small-group personal training, here's how it works: You and one or more of your friends sign up with a trainer who takes you through a regular group workout. That way, you each get to work with a trainer, but the bill gets split — with each of you paying as little as $10 or $20 per session. Plus, you get the added accountability of having a standing gym date with your friends, says personal trainer Mathew Kite. Ask your gym if its trainers offer small-group training, and make sure to sign up with friends who have similar training goals.

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3. Take a group fitness class.

Group classes push you past your self-perceived limits and keep you coming back for more, says Kate Lemere, a certified personal trainer and a Barry's Bootcamp instructor. If you already belong to a gym that offers group fitness classes, check out the schedule and try a few. Or if you're interested in trying a boutique fitness studio, but you just don't know which one is best for you, try a ClassPass membership, which will let you try up to 10 different exercise studios — like Barry's, Peloton, The Barre Code and more — per month. Once you find your favorite class, try to stick with the same instructor from week to week to get the most consistency, says personal trainer Mathew Kite.

Read more: How to Find a Workout You'll Actually Stick With

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4. Purchase an e-book or online program.

Many personal trainers sell their programs online in the form of downloadable e-books or access to private YouTube videos containing workouts and nutrition information, says kinesiologist Michelle Roots. This option is best for self-motivated exercisers who are up for both following along on their own and doing some pre-purchase homework. Make sure that any program you buy is designed to fit your goals (for example, if you want to build muscle, a running program isn't your best investment) and that the trainer is qualified, experienced and certified through an accredited organization, such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) or the American Council on Exercise (ACE), says personal trainer Mathew Kite.

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5. Sign up for an online streaming service.

From Les Mills on Demand to Daily Burn and Crunch Live — there's no end to the number of sites out there that will allow you to stream unlimited workouts from your computer or phone for $10 a month or less. Most services offer enough different types of training programs that you can find a workout that's right for you, no matter your goals. Once you find your ideal program, stick with it through its duration before switching to another one, says personal trainer Mathew Kite. This option is best for those who prefer to work out at home and are either able to stay motivated on their own or have a spouse or family member who will join in the living-room sweat sessions.

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Fitness at home
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6. Pop in a workout DVD.

The old-school version of workout streaming (aka DVDs) still works and is a great option for those wanting to do their workouts even when they don't have access to Wi-Fi, says personal trainer Mathew Kite. Beachbody dominates the DVD training program market with workouts like P90X, INSANITY, 21 Day Fix and PiYo that take you through up to 90 days of programming. And Zumba is another great option for those who want the flexibility to work out at home on their own schedule. Consider going in on a few DVD programs with your friends. When you finish your program, swap sets to keep the results on play.

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7. Subscribe to a YouTube fitness channel.

"Many fitness trainers share a lot of free information, nutrition tips and full workouts online," says kinesiologist Michelle Roots. "Just be careful that the information is coming from a reputable trainer." After all, there are a ton of social-media influencers out there who offer training advice but don't have any qualifications. Again, make sure that anyone you are following online is certified through an accredited organization like NSCA or ACE. To get the best results from online workouts, choose up to five or six workouts that you want to perform each week, says personal trainer Mathew Kite. Stick with them for four to eight weeks before switching things up.

Read more: 11 of the Best Video Workouts You Can Do Anywhere

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8. Book just one session with a personal trainer.

So this technically qualifies as working with a personal trainer, but in the grand scheme of things, how much will one session really hurt your wallet? Meanwhile, it stands to benefit your body in a big way, says kinesiologist Michelle Roots. In just one session, you can learn, at minimum, one great workout — not to mention other personalized training tips. Or if you already have an online workout program that you plan to follow, you can ask a trainer to coach you through the exercises to make sure your form is on point. And make sure your trainer knows of any previous injuries or health concerns so he or she can flag any exercises you shouldn't perform, Roots says.

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