12 of the Best Exercises Beginners Can Do at Home

12 of the Best Exercises Beginners Can Do at Home

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For some people, the gym is a safe, familiar sanctuary. For others, it’s a crowded, unhygienic nightmare, full of noisy people and lousy music. To each their own.

The good news is that if the gym isn’t your cup of tea — or if you’re grounded at home due to weather, a child that needs attention, or a car that won’t start — you can still get a good workout, especially if you’re a beginner. “The first step in exercise is to learn how to move your body properly before adding resistance,” says Openfit’s fitness specialist Cody Braun. “That means only minimal equipment is necessary.”

Looking for some great cardiostrength, or bodyweight-only moves you can simply do at home? Check out the options below.

 

Cardio: At Home Exercises for Beginners

Think cardio is all about treadmills and trail runs? Think again. Being stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t get in some cardio — you just have to get creative.

Although long, slow cardio workouts are possible at home, they’re also somewhat inconvenient. You’d wind up doing thousands of mind-numbing reps of a single move.

A better choice: Select a mix of different moves and cycle through them. Or, for those who already have a solid fitness base: Work at a faster, harder pace, rest for a minute or two, and repeat several times for a solid HIIT workout. (Not for n00bs.)

Jumping jacks

man and woman performing jumping jacks outside

  • Stand tall with your feet together and your hands at your sides.
  • Jump your feet out wide as you sweep your arms out to the side, clapping your hands overhead.
  • Land softly and reverse the move, jumping back to the starting position, and immediately into your next jump.

 

Stairs

woman running up a flight of stairs outdoors

  • Stand at the foot of a stairway or multi-floor stairwell.
  • Quickly ascend the stairs, taking the steps one at a time.
  • Walk down the stairs and repeat.

Curb step-ups: No stairways where you live? Stand at the foot of a single step and perform step-ups: left up, right up, left down, right down. After a few reps, continue, leading with your right foot first.

 

Squat thrust

squat thrust - animated - woman

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees, and lower your body into a quarter squat, or athletic stance.
  • Place your hands on the floor in front of you at shoulder width.
  • Keeping your back flat and core engaged, jump your feet back to a push-up position: arms and body straight, hands in line with and underneath your shoulders.
  • Reverse the sequence to return to the starting position.

Burpee option: Squat thrust too easy? Perform a push-up in the down position, and jump up in the air between reps.

 

Jump rope

Calves Workout - Jump Rope

  • Stand upright, holding the handles of a jump rope at your sides, with your palms facing up and your wrists at around hip height. Let the rope hang down behind your heels.
  • Maintaining a slight bend in your knees, spin the rope up and over your head.
  • Jump no more than a couple inches over the rope as it comes towards your feet in front of you.
  • Land on the balls of your feet and repeat.

Advanced options: Experiment with different rhythms (faster or slower) and foot patterns (skipping, hopping) as you improve.

 

Mountain climbers

Semi Circle Mountain Climber

  • Assume a pushup position: feet together, core engaged, body straight from head to heels, hands in line with and underneath your shoulders.
  • Draw your right knee quickly toward your chest, making sure to keep your back flat, your butt down, and the rest of your body stationary. Tap the floor with your toes.
  • Keeping your hips as low as possible, quickly switch the position of your feet. That’s one rep.
  • Continue alternating sides, performing equal reps on each.

 

Jump squat

HIIT Exercises - Jump Squats

  • Stand tall with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. Optionally, you can hold a dumbbell at your chest with both hands or a pair of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing in.
  • Keeping your chest up, core engaged, and back flat, push your hips back and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Push yourself back up explosively, jumping straight up off of the floor.
  • Land softly, lowering yourself immediately into your next rep.

Speed squat option: Jump squat too tough? Perform the move above without the jump — quickly squat up and down continuously for time or reps.

 

Strength Training: At Home Exercises for Beginners

Looking to get stronger, muscle upstrengthen your bones, and boost your metabolismfrom the comfort of your home? There’s no better way to do it than with a few simple strength-training moves. All you need is a couple of dumbbells.

One key to continued progress is overloading your muscles: every time you work out, you should strive to do a few more reps or lift a little more weight than you did the previous workout. That means you’ll eventually need heavier dumbbells. We recommend the adjustable variety; they’ll serve you in good stead throughout your lifting career.

Dumbbell bench presses

dumbbell bench press man

  • Lie on a flat bench or set of aerobic steps, holding a pair of dumbbells directly above your chest, palms facing forward.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest (your elbows should form a 45-degree angle from your torso — not straight out to the sides).
  • Pause, and then press the dumbbells back up to the starting position.

 

Single-arm dumbbell row

One Arm Dumbbell Row

  • Stand facing a bench, holding a dumbbell in your right hand. Keeping your back flat, place your left hand on the bench, letting the dumbbell in your right hand hang at arm’s length, palm neutral. This is the starting position.
  • Pull the dumbbell up to your ribs without moving your torso.
  • Pause, and then slowly lower the dumbbell to the starting position. Perform equal reps on both sides.

 

Dumbbell static lunge

  • Stand tall with your feet together, holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing each other.
  • Keeping your chest up, shoulders down, and core engaged, take a large step forward with your right foot. This is the starting position.
  • Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your left knee comes within a few inches of the floor.
  • Pause, and then reverse the movement, returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat, completing all reps with your right foot forward before switching to your left. Perform equal reps on both sides.

 

Overhead dumbbell press

man performing overhead dumbbell press

  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding two dumbbells at shoulder height, palms facing each other. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping back flat, elbows in, and core engaged, slowly press the dumbbells up toward the ceiling until your arms are straight.
  • Reverse the move, returning to the starting position, and repeat.

 

Dumbbell curls

Dumbbell Biceps Curl

  • Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing forward.
  • Keeping your your elbows tucked and your upper arms stationary, slowly curl the dumbbells towards your shoulders.
  • Pause, return to the starting position, and repeat.

 

Goblet squat

Dumbbell goblet squat - Lower Body Exercises

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a lone heavy dumbbell vertically in front of your chest, your palms cupping its upper end.
  • Keeping your back flat and elbows in, push your hips back and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Pause, and slowly push yourself back up to the starting position.

 

Bodyweight Exercises for Beginners

People who have no equipment can still get an amazing workout at home— or in a hotel room, a park, or anywhere else you happen to be. Basic bodyweight exercises like push-upslunges, and squats are always convenient and challenging, and there are enough variations on such moves to suit any exerciser.

A beginner seeking an easy bodyweight move can perform push-ups leaning against a wall; an advanced trainee can do them with their feet elevated, using an exercise band for additional resistance. Indeed, with enough know-how and creativity, your body weight can be as effective an exercise tool as any barbell, kettlebell, or machine.

Andrew Heffernan CSCS, GCFP

About

Andrew Heffernan, CSCS, GCFP is a fitness coach, Feldenkrais practitioner, and an award-winning health and fitness writer. His work appears regularly in Men's Health and Experience Life. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. Learn more at andrewheffernan.com