Home workouts have never been so easy.
There are really only two ways I’m coming out of this pandemic: super-ripped or in dire need of a diet. While coronavirus lockdown restrictions are starting to ease, plenty of states have yet to give the green light to nonessential businesses, which means many of us are still left without access to our usual gyms and workout studios.
Switching to a home workout routine isn’t easy if you’re used to going to a class for your yoga or HIIT workout — it takes some space and a lot of intrinsic motivation to stick to a home workout plan — but in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, many fitness experts, gyms, apps and studios are doing their part to help us stay in shape. And establishing a workout routine could, most importantly, ease anxiety related to coping with the pandemic.
Staying healthy and in shape during the pandemic is totally doable, and this guide will show you how. Even if you have a small space, no equipment (hello body weight workouts!) or very little time, there are many great options to help you exercise at home, with exercises focused on your upper body, lower body, core muscles, chest, back — all the muscle groups, really. Then, of course, there’s high-intensity interval training, cardio and more. Seriously, no matter your fitness level, these exercise options will get your heart rate up — in many cases without you having to purchase a single dumbbell or kettlebell.
Read more: Best smart home gym: Peloton, Mirror, Tonal and more
Free home workout apps and videos
The fastest way to start an at-home workout routine is through an instructor-led workout video. Live or prerecorded the videos are typically 25-45 minutes and often require little to no fitness equipment, making it easy to jump right in.
These videos often require a subscription or membership, but many providers are offering them for free — or as an extended trial — while the outbreak leaves us stuck at home.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite at-home workout apps with live and prerecorded videos. They include yoga, bootcamp-style classes, boxing, high intensity interval training, plyometrics, pilates and barre exercises.
There’s no excuse not to stay active during this time.
Normally $13 a month, Peloton is offering a free, 30-day trial of its polished workout app. The fitness app — which doesn’t require a purchase of Peloton’s bike or treadmill — includes easy-to-follow and high-quality videos, including yoga, strength, meditation, cardio and bootcamp classes. There are also audio-only classes for outdoor runs, if that’s still an option for you.
Like many yoga studios, CorePower shut down its studios due to the outbreak and pivoted to online-only options. (Now that lockdown restrictions are easing, it’s reopened studios in some areas.) New classes are added weekly, including sculpt (those ones hurt!), yoga and meditation. For a limited time, the company is offering free weekly selection of yoga classes to everyone — even nonmembers — to help people stay fit during the pandemic.
Nike Training Club
I spent an entire year exercising with Nike Training Club and got in great shape with very little equipment. The app — which is always free — has a wide variety of home workouts to choose from, including programs that help you set an ongoing workout schedule. The key here is that workouts can be filtered based on whether or not you have access to a gym or equipment, so you can easily find bodyweight-only exercises.
If you’ve ever had a gym membership at a place like 24 Hour Fitness, you’ve probably heard of Body Pump. The class, which is managed by Les Mills, is just one of more than a dozen different types of classes, including boxing, dance and yoga. All these classes are available on demand through a 30-day free trial and many classes are equipment-free. After the trial, the monthly membership is $14.99 a month or $11.99 a month with a three-month commitment.
Designed to get you moving even when you feel stuck.
Cassey Ho, the fitness guru behind the hugely popular Blogilates YouTube channel and website, continues to offer a massive library of pilates-style toning classes. In response to the outbreak, she also created a 14-day quarantine workout plan, a great option for those looking to add structure to their at-home workout schedules.
Amazon Prime Video
If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you already have free access to a varied library of fitness videos, including Zumba and cardio programs such as 21-Day Transformation from GymRa. Just head to Prime Video and search for “fitness,” then check the “Prime” box in the left sidebar to see what’s available for streaming.
Individual personal trainers
Many personal trainers, whose classes and training sessions have been put on hold, are offering their knowledge for free. You can find them on Instagram, where they are streaming daily workout classes and showing you how to master certain moves. YouTube is home to many fitness trainers who put out free exercise videos, covering every kind of work out from yoga and pilates, to dance and bootcamp. Finally, our colleagues over at MaxPreps have rounded up free workout classes from professional fitness trainer Katerina Kountouris.
CNET’s own Amanda Capritto, who’s also a Crossfit instructor, put together a fantastic roundup of 20-minute HIIT workouts you can do at home.
Basic workout equipment under $100
Plenty of apps and YouTube channels have equipment-free workouts, but if you want to build strength or increase your efficacy, even basic equipment can make a huge difference.
Here are some things you can use alone or with an at-home workout. At this point, you might not be ready to invest a lot in a home gym, so here are some affordable options. You don’t need everything on this list — just pick the items that work best for the types of workouts you’re doing, like strength training, yoga or HIIT.
Jump rope: If you have a room with high enough ceilings or can safely step outside, a jump rope is a go-to for warming up or getting in a quick cardio workout when you’re strapped for time.
Dumbbells: Weights are pretty much a must-have for a home workout routine, which is pretty apparent due to the low inventory available as gyms close due to the outbreak. As of writing, these dumbbells are available on Amazon and will be delivered in under a week.
Don’t forget to stretch before working out.
Workout mat (or yoga mat): There are many types of mats out there and the one you choose will depend on your primary form of exercise, as well as the floor you’re working with. For instance, you’ll specifically want a yoga mat for yoga practice, while a higher-density workout mat works better for bodyweight exercises and carpeted floors.
Yoga block: Yoga blocks provide extra support during practice, especially for those who are just starting to exercise their flexibility. They’re essentially a must-have for practicing yoga and these ones come in a set of two and have a soft finish while maintaining high density for balance.
A mirror: No, not (just) for checking yourself out, but for ensuring good form while you give new workouts a try. This wall mirror from Ikea provides enough width to get a good view of your workout.
Headphones: If you’re working out to your phone, tablet or laptop, headphones will give you the best experience — while also doing a courtesy to anyone in the household who doesn’t want to work out with you.
Lacrosse ball and foam roller. As you ease into a new workout routine, take care of your body by caring for its mobility with these tools. This lacrosse ball will relieve tension in your feet and back while this foam roller can be used throughout your body.
Read more: 7 tips for building your own home gym
Bigger home gym investments
Some of us have already been considering a home gym setup that goes further than the basics. Today’s at-home gym equipment — like bikes and treadmills — can mimic the in-studio experience with live-streaming classes, social features and progress-tracking through apps and compatible devices such as the Apple Watch ($399 at Apple). Plus, if you’re still on the fence about these investments, companies like Peloton and Mirror offer generous trial periods — long enough to help you decide if that big investment is worthwhile.
Best for people who miss the studio experience
Peloton’s indoor bicycle is an ideal — albeit expensive — quarantine companion. With its small footprint (it requires a four- by six-foot space), socially engaging workout classes and varied class durations, Peloton’s bike is an excellent choice for cycling buffs. The company now offers a 30-day trial, letting you test ride the experience before committing to the $2,245 price tag, plus $30-a-month membership. If you decide against it, the company will arrange a pick-up and process a full refund.
If it’s any comfort, the monthly membership fee also includes access to Peloton’s digital app of diverse workout classes and the bicycle can be financed through Affirm. Read our Peloton Bike review.
$2,245 at Peloton
Best for getting a variety of recorded and live workouts
Those who love working out to YouTube videos (or even old-school fitness DVDs) will love the Mirror. It takes that at-home video workout experience and brings it into 2020 by turning a functional mirror into a screen that plays live and recorded workouts.
We tried the Mirror and appreciated the variety of workouts, social interactions and small footprint. Plus, while it’s still a pricey investment at $1,500 (and a $39-a-month subscription), it’s $750 less than the Peloton and offers more variety. The Mirror also syncs with your Apple Watch, so you can get an accurate calorie burn and close those rings. Read our Mirror review.
$1,495 at Mirror
Best for runners and cardio junkies
The at-home treadmill isn’t what it was in the ’90s. Today’s machines often come with a large screen, where you can stream treadmill workouts and track your progress. Plus, many apps — including Peloton — can be paired with a treadmill to make running at home feel, well, fun. CNET tested a bunch of treadmills and here are our favorites.
Peloton bike alternatives
Best for a Peloton experience without the price tag
Peloton is like the Kleenex of connected exercise bikes — its name gets used a lot, but it’s certainly not the only stationary bike with live classes and high-tech features. Not only can you make a DIY Peloton, but there are also alternatives around $1,000. (That’s $1,500 less than Peloton’s offering.) Read more on Peloton alternatives.
Hydrow connected rowing machine
Best for those who want a full-body, low-impact workout
Rowing is a great way to get an efficient cardio workout without the impact of exercises like running or HIIT. Unlike treadmills or stationary bikes, rowing machines provide a full-body workout, including upper-body parts like the back, shoulders, arms and chest.
Hydrow, which we reviewed in 2019, is a rowing machine that makes the repetitive exercise of rowing a little more exciting with live and on-demand classes displayed on its attached touchscreen. The screen swivels, which is great for when you want to take one of Hydrow’s mat workouts (which don’t require any rowing).
At $2,200, it’s certainly not a budget item and you’ll have to pay $38 a month for the content subscription. Like Peloton, you can try it out at home with a 30-day trial.