Guide To Home Workouts: How To Set Up & Get Going (2020/2021)

Introduction: Why Work Out From Home?

Over the last year, we’ve all become a lot more familiar with our homes.

As we spend more and more of our time inside, and many people can’t go outside like they used to, many people have more time to learn hobbies, reflect on who they want to be, and take action to change who they are.

It’s high time you started thinking about how you’re going to keep fit, the most literal way you can improve yourself with all the free time you have now. When all of this is over, you’re going to want to venture outside as your best self, after all.

There’s no telling when the circumstances of 2020 will change, so as 2020 ends and 2021 begins, consider adopting a simple workout that you can do at home.

Getting yourself a home workout routine and even your own personalized workout space isn’t as complicated as it sounds, especially when we’re here to guide you.

Here we’ve gathered so much information about getting started with a home workout, from the equipment you’ll need to home gym options.

You don’t even need professional or expensive gym gear because we’ve also included advice on easy exercises that require no gym equipment to perform.

Where we can, we’ve included references to back up any claims we make, so you can be sure you’re getting the right info and you can read deeper into certain facets of home exercise that interest you.

No Pain, No Gain: How To Get Started

Before we go into any details, you’ll need to actually start taking action to improve your body. It’s often said that the first step for anything is the hardest, and this is especially the case for working out if you’re not used to it.

Here are some ground rules that anyone can use to improve their workout at any time, even if you’re in quarantine.

Find Some Space

First, you’re going to want space.

Now, we’ll go into more detail later about a potential gym space and the kinds of workouts you’ll want to do if you don’t have any professional workout equipment, but you at least need some space to get started.

Since you’re limited to the home, it will be pretty easy to get into the habit of working out once you start associating a small part of your house with regular exercise.

It doesn’t need to be fancy, all you need is a stretch of flooring that you can perform exercises on, preferably with a mat for comfort’s sake, and if you have space in your backyard you can also use that for cardio.

Some suggest decorating your indoor workout space, either with a bright, exciting paint job or a simple but motivational wall hanging.

Colors, or more specifically the social ideas we attach to them, are thought to bring out certain emotions and motivations in people.

Think about red as the color of aggressiveness or passion, but it goes both ways too, with Baker-Miller Pink being used in some US prison cells to subconsciously calm prisoners, giving it the nickname “Drunk-Tank Pink.”

The shade of pink is even at the center of a Western Athletic Conference rule that says the home team and opposition team’s locker rooms must be the same color so that there isn’t a different psychological effect based on the colors of those rooms being different.

Find Some Clothes

You’ll also need something to wear to get started. You need to wear clothing that’s comfortable but functional, so it doesn’t get in the way when you’re exercising.

Look for fabrics with sweat-wicking abilities for maximum comfort. This doesn’t need to get expensive, and you can always invest in better gear later, just buy what you can get away with for now.

Take the most care with your shoes, make sure they’re comfortable but suitable for working out.

Having your own clothing and space will help solidify your exercise routine, so there’s more of a likelihood you’ll keep exercising regularly. You can reinforce this habit by starting small.

Start with smaller commitments that can be done anywhere and move onto more substantial exercises once you’ve established these exercises into your weekly routine. We have more examples of these exercises later on. 

Find Some Support

Most people get motivation from working out with a friend. Now, our friend’s circles have become much more restricted this past year, so this may be more difficult but it’s not impossible.

Getting an exercise buddy is great for keeping both of you motivated and, if your buddy is more experienced and can show you the ropes, that’s even better.

Speaking of experience, the internet gives us all access to home workouts from online trainers and influencers who make videos that we can learn from.

Whether it’s light yoga, strength training, or high-intensity exercise, you can find it all online. Just be careful that you don’t get distracted and lose productivity by spending too much time online instead of working out.

You can also download an app to keep you in check. Everyone’s found themselves looking at screens more often than they would this year, and this can kill productivity, so having a watchdog on your phone that can tell you when it’s time to exercise is a good idea.

We’d recommend a high-intensity interval training app since they’re highly customizable and can grow with your expanding routine over time.

Take It Easy

Rushing yourself is a fast-track route to frustration and disappointment, which will kill your exercise routine before it’s even begun.

The best part of a home workout is that it’s entirely at your own pace, so you can get as much from it as you’re willing to put in.

If you’re completely new to working out, however, then you don’t want to overdo it.

Your Environment: Getting The Right Equipment

Let’s go into more detail about the equipment you can get to facilitate and improve your workout. You only need a small selection of gear to see a great improvement in your exercise routine, though this does depend on the kinds of workouts that you’ve chosen.

We’ve already suggested that you get an exercise mat, but you should also pick up some weights and maybe a resistance band to get started.

Between these three items, you have a comfortable foundation for your workout area and two very versatile options that you can use for a full-body workout, and you can get these for under thirty dollars.

While it’s an option, you don’t need to get too much equipment that’ll amount to a home gym.

We’ve covered home gyms here for those of you who want to go all-in with their home workouts, but you can take a mat, some weights, and a resistance band anywhere with you.

This means you can continue your easy quarantine routines when they ease up, taking the gear to hotels and other places away from home.

For Muscle Building And Toning

The weights and resistance band are a good start for building muscles and toning your body, so it’s possible to get by with just these if you have the right full-body workout routine.

The weights are the most important for building muscle and, while we’d advise you to start out with a few dumbbells at first, you should expand your collection of weights if you’re going to continue your exercise.

This means getting a barbell, a kettlebell, and possibly other forms of upper-body muscle builders like power twisters or chest expanders.

For Fitness And Stamina

For general fitness, you can perform full-body workouts using dumbbell weights, but otherwise, you’ll train your stamina through cardio workouts.

Like we’ve said, a nice patch of land that you can run or jog around would be great.

That said, it can feel even more like a prison workout at times if you’re running through the same yard over and over again. 

Otherwise, look to the nearest jump rope. The jump rope is an easily portable piece of equipment that’s great for a full-body workout that greatly improves your stamina, hence why many athletes, boxers, in particular, swear by it.

Get a rope whose handles will reach your armpits if you step on it in the middle and pull it upwards. Also, practice good and loose jump-rope form so that you’re not too rigid and not getting the most out of a jump-roping session.

Speaking of boxers, assuming you have a target that you can consistently strike without causing long term or consequential damage, a pair of boxing gloves can also be great for keeping fit and maintaining a vigorous upper-body workout.

For Recovery And Rest

The gear you use after exercise can be just as important as the gear you used to exercise in the first place.

Burning calories and getting in shape is great but, if you’re expecting to see muscular gains, you’ll need to have a successful rest period after exercising.

If you don’t get enough of a rest period, you won’t get the full benefits of working out.

This is because exercise promotes two things, muscular hypertrophy and microtrauma. Hypertrophy encourages muscle cells to grow in volume as more protein is synthesized by your body and your muscles can store more glycogen and myofibrils.

Microtrauma is much simpler, involving the fibers of your muscles becoming very slightly damaged through intense weight training.

It may sound daunting but it’s a net positive, the muscular tissue knits itself together to become stronger than it was in the first place.

So, what should you get to help with your rest periods? A nice, cushioned place to crash with a protein shake is a good start.

From there, you can get all sorts of rollers for your back or your feet to massage them and promote healing in those areas. You can even get electric therapy massagers if you’re too sore to manually manipulate a massage roller around your back. 

If soreness is an issue, you can use cooling packs to promote a faster recovery and dampen the nerves in problem areas. Of course, if you’re on a budget you can always get some frozen peas from the freezer and get a similar effect.

If your legs are the issue, this could be down to muscle twitches following a good run. In this case, compression socks or leg warmers can help keep this area under control.

Home Gyms: Do You Need One?

Now that we’ve covered how you can get started and what rudimentary equipment you can store in your home, we need to talk about home gyms. Do you need one? No, no you do not.

If you did, we wouldn’t have spent the last thousand words offering easy and portable alternatives that everyone can use from the comfort of their own homes. That said, is a home gym more effective than some handheld equipment? Definitely yes.

While having workout equipment is great for a home workout, there’s a reason your local gym isn’t just a flat open space with wayward jump ropes strewn about.

Gyms have professional rigs that mimic activities like running and cycling, with some also having rock climbing and other more exotic activities.

If you’re interested in a home gym but still undecided, bear in mind you’ll need a room with a lot of space to fit any of this gear in.

Though it’ll always be more expensive than buying other gear, it might not be as expensive as you think. See below for advice on how to start your home gym, the equipment you should start with, and suggestions on how to design the space.

How To Set Up A Home Gym

Getting your own home gym started from nothing can be pretty daunting but we have a small guide here to help you.

You’ll find equipment and a suggested setup below, but here we’ll talk about the location of your space.

How big is your potential gym area? And will it be indoors or outdoors? If you have a large enough garden with a solid, stable surface then there’s no reason your home gym can be in your backyard.

If you’re working out in a smaller gym area, which we’ll say is part of a pre-existing room or an alcove you have that can host some gym equipment, you’ll want to minimize the space that this home gym takes up.

This is where smaller equipment like resistance bands and handheld weights can work well to get basic fitness requirements. If you get larger exercise equipment, you’ll want them to fold up so that they’re easy to store and won’t get in the way when not in use.

Though it’ll be snug, there is an upside to having a small workout area in a pre-existing room, such as the ability to watch TV while working out. Those of us who are prone to boredom know how helpful that can be when trying to work out.

If you have a spare room that you can turn into a gym but it isn’t that big, try to move any unnecessary furniture out to maximize floor space and make that your gym space.

If you only have room for one piece of professional gym equipment, it’ll be up to you to decide what that’ll be. We’ve gone into the gear in more detail below but we’ll say here that it’ll likely come down to a treadmill, an exercise bike, or a weightlifting bench.

The parts of your body that you’re focusing on and whether you’re targeting muscle mass, stamina, or calorie-burning should also inform your decision.

If you have a larger space, like a garage, you can fit lots of gym equipment in there. That said, should you do that? When starting out, we’d advise you to take it slow until you get into the groove.

You don’t want to spend a lot on gear only to never touch it after a month. If you do have a garage, check the information for any gym products you buy since some are sensitive to the cold and damp conditions that can happen in garages, and you can violate warranty protections if you place equipment in your garage.

For the backyard or a patio, it’s pretty much the same as when you have a larger workout space to play with, but with added benefits.

You’ll need covers, of course, or the outdoor space will need to be under some static or removable canopy or ceiling so that moisture doesn’t destroy the equipment. Once again, user manuals are your friend and will tell you if you can safely place something outside.

Equipment You’ll Need

So, to start your home gym you’ll want to meet the same basic needs that previously mentioned exercise equipment meets.

These will be muscle strength/toning and stamina/general fitness. You need to decide which gym equipment matches your workout plans.

Muscle training is still going to be heavily weight-oriented, but now you can have an even larger selection of weights and a proper weightlifting bench for that barbell you have lying around.

You’ll need a squat rack in your gym too, and it’s even better if that squat rack includes a pull-up bar so you can kill two birds with one stone.

That’s right, you’re still going to need the accessories we’ve already mentioned above, particularly dumbbells and a jump rope, but now that you have a home gym you may have a better place to store them.

We’d suggest getting an Olympic barbell that you can attach different weight plates to for a more varied and adaptive exercise.

This is because the barbell will see the most use during a consistent workout routine compared to the other pieces of equipment that we’re about to suggest.

Otherwise, you’ll want a treadmill or rowing machine to improve your stamina and general fitness. These cardio workouts are great for regulating your fitness and putting your heart through the wringer, strengthening it and your body’s ability to pump blood throughout it.

As you can imagine, this comes with so many health benefits including muscular health, so every good routine looks after both cardio and strength training.

Once you’ve chosen one or a few of these heavy equipment examples, add a selection of jump rope, punching bags, or other handheld gym equipment to fill in whichever workout blind spots you have.

The after-workout kit has already been covered above but suffice to say that you just need a comfortable room, somewhere in your house where you can relax and take it easy.

Designing Your Setup

Designing the perfect home gym will help you get the full benefits of your workout routines. Here we’ve covered the ideal space, flooring, noise levels, and security that you should aim for when setting up your gym at home.

Space

We’ve already mentioned how you’ll want to choose the largest accessible spare room or area to base your gym in. Don’t forget about the décor of this space and how bright colors can stimulate the brain.

Choose whichever color you want but look up any potential subconscious effects it can have. Personally, our color suggestion would be white.

There’s no mind games, just a clean and surgical color that’s associated with purity while still being bright enough to give you a boost of energy, which can be very much appreciated if you work out in the mornings.

Speaking of bright, your home gym should be well lit.

Optional decorations can include a mirror to see and monitor your own form and a sound system so you can listen to your favorite music during a workout routine.

Like paint colors, music has also been found to have an effect on your athletic performance and can be a great way to amp yourself up before an intense workout.

Flooring

Having exercise mats is all well and good but, if you have the resources and the cash, you can get gym flooring that you can place.

This can be everything from rubberized or foam flooring to vinyl or carpet. Carpet is obviously the simplest option since many of you will have a carpeted room somewhere in the house that you can use.

If you’re looking to get your own flooring, you’ll have to choose a material. Rubber floors come as both thin rubber tiling and heavy-duty mats that you can use to replace the floor.

Foam flooring works in much of the same way but with added shock resistance, which is great for high-intensity workouts.

Vinyl is tough and won’t gather mold, it’s easier to clean and won’t suffer from heavy-handed chemical cleaning.

It’s more rigid and easier to break, however, so it’ll depend on how kinetic your workouts are.

Noise Levels

This isn’t about the noise you want in the home gym; this is about the noises that you don’t want echoing through the house. If you’re playing music anyway, it’s respectful to limit how much of it escapes the room.

Along with potential music, you don’t want your equipment banging or clanging to distract your family members, especially since they have literally nowhere else to go nowadays if your area is quarantined.

Rubber and foam flooring already has sound dampening properties so, if that was your favorite out of the flooring options, you’ve already taken a first step towards reducing sound coming from your gym.

Likewise, wall insulation is available too. You may have seen foam padding on the walls of your favorite podcast, and that’s because they dampen acoustic sound so that it doesn’t travel around so much.

Security

If your home gym is in a room tucked into your house then this won’t be so much of a concern since it’ll come under general home security.

If your gym is in the garage or the backyard, however, you might want to protect all that expensive equipment from potential pilferers.

Keeping the garage safe is pretty easy, just make sure it can only be accessed via key or keypad and that only trusted people have the means of unlocking it.

Also, remember the number one rule of having a garage, always lock the door between your house and the garage when not in use, so that anyone who gets in won’t have access to the house at large.

Having a patio or backyard exercising space can be trickier to keep secure, but it is possible. First, the backyard itself needs to be secure with a fence or a wall that’s also locked if it’s accessible from the outside.

Having a trunk where you can keep handhelds is, well, handy if you don’t want to store them inside.

As for the heavier equipment, you can padlock them to each other or to part of a wall or fence, so even in the unlikely situation a thief tries stealing your treadmill in the dead of night, it’ll put up one hell of a fight.

Home Fitness: What If I Don’t Gym?

If you don’t have enough room to establish a gym, or even do some of the standard handheld equipment activities, it’s still not over yet. There are still other means and workouts that you can try to maintain fitness during quarantine and beyond.

Other Workouts That Help You Stay Fit

If you can’t go to the gym or bring the gym to you, there are still other ways you can work out.

If you can move, you can lose weight and gain muscle, simple as that.

Many quarantine regions have provisions for exercise, allowing people outside to jog, run, or hike as long as you don’t interact with others too closely.

These are great for cardio workouts and they’ll keep you fit and healthy.

Otherwise, bodyweight exercises are where it’s at. What are bodyweight exercises? We have some examples in our ten best workouts that you can do at home below, but they’re essentially what you’d describe as prison workouts.

They’re where you can stand, lie, or do something in between in a very small space, manipulating the weight of your body to create a strain on your muscles, working them out. The most famous of these bodyweight exercises is the push-up.

Staying toned and in-shape will depend on a lot of things. We’re assuming you have room to stand in your house, right? Why not find a mat and start practicing yoga?

This is known to tighten your body while requiring no equipment and taking up as little space as possible.

What Routine Should I Follow To Stay In Shape?

Every routine can be broken down into the sum of its parts.

First, you have the warmup where you’ll stretch and maybe do some light exercises to limber up.

This could be anything from a brisk walk to a slow, cycling motion.

Then the main body of your exercise routine should be either, or a mix of, cardiovascular and strength training. We’d recommend both since you’re already working out but some can get away with just one to stay generally fit.

Cardio will usually be what you did to warm up but at a higher intensity while strength training will be dominated by weights and bodyweight exercises.

You can throw some flexibility exercises in as you start to wind down, though these are more important for people who need to retain flexibility, like the aging or athletes who want to be at the top of their game.

Then you can cool down, either by turning down the intensity and returning to your warm-up walking or by performing some structurally beneficial poses on a mat, like the knee-to-chest pose.

These stretches maximize the blood circulating through your system, restoring your body and releasing all that built-up tension from the workout.

While the actual exercises themselves can differ, following this basic routine will guarantee a successful workout routine.

10 Best Workouts That You Can Do From Home

So, as we round off this guide, let us suggest some workouts you can do at home. Like most exercises we’ve discussed, they’ll be separated into exercises that build muscle and exercises that maintain fitness and stamina.

We’ll keep most of them as accessible as possible, but some will require you to have some of the kits we’ve already mentioned earlier in this guide. 

For Building Muscle

1. Push-ups

Probably the most famous non-equipment workout you can do, push-ups are very simple to do.

To perform a push-up with good form, all you have to do is lie belly-down on the ground and place your hands apart, roughly a shoulders’ width away from one another.

Your fingers should ideally be facing twelve o’clock, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t keep them like that during movement.

The more important thing is your back should be straight and your abdomen shouldn’t sag. From there, just lower yourself by bending your elbows and push back up again, you know how it’s done.

There are many different types of push-up as well as some ways to integrate weights and other exercise props. Get to mastering the standard push-up first and then you can experiment with different types later.

2. Squats

This is another bodyweight exercise that can be done even if you’re rooted to the spot.

Squats may be infamous because they’re the staple of any dreaded leg day, but the great thing about bodyweight exercises is that they get the anabolic environment that helps build other muscles too. This makes them a great addition to any routine.

Squatting is easy, just stand with your legs apart, about shoulder-width again, with your knees pointing out.

Push them out as you drop your hips and move them back.

This makes your torso lower and the goal is to have it go lower than your knees. Try to make sure your feet are below the hips to get the best form.

You can add a barbell or dumbbell to improve the standard squat, with each one demanding different form variations as to where your arms are.

If you have a barbell, they’ll be holding that across your shoulder blades whereas you hold a dumbbell close to your chest.

If your arms are free, you can either cross them or stick them forward, either straight or slightly bent at the elbow, do whatever feels comfortable but makes you feel the burn.

3. Wall Sits

Sliding up and down a wall like a bored school child might be on the nose for a lockdown exercise, but it can be a great bodyweight routine if your form is right.

There are a few forms but just try doing the basic wall sit, or wall squat, first. It’s a great lower body exercise, making it great for leg day, and pretty simple to do.

Stand with your back against a wall, preferably one of the flattest and most comfortable ones to lean on, if that makes sense.

From here, you just need to lower yourself into a 90-degree sitting position, so your thighs are parallel with the ground. Your back should be flat and vertical and your heels firmly on the ground.

Your knees should be above your ankles, not your toes. You’ll feel a pulling, but that just means it’s working. Hold it for twenty to sixty seconds before sliding back into a stand.

4. Bicep Curls

This is very simple and only involves dumbbells and/or a barbell.

We’d recommend getting adjustable ones that can scale with you as you increase your strength.

With bicep curls, the magic number is eight to twelve reps with dumbbells. You should tire before hitting twelve and, once you exceed that, increase the weight.

Barbells are more complicated and depend on how you’re lifting, but bodybuilders swear by the two for two rule.

This is where you start with a weight that’s comfortable and, if you can do two more reps than usual for two consecutive workouts, you should then increase the weight.

Increases in weight load are usually done in 5% increments, you don’t want to overdo it, after all.

5. Planking

Probably the simplest yet most intense of the bodyweight exercises, this is where you get into a vaguely similar position to the push-up but instead lie on your forearms, which face straight ahead.

As always, keep your back straight and your head forward as you hold this position. It’s a great core and thigh reinforcement to go with other bodyweight exercises. Try twenty seconds, and slowly increase when it becomes easier with a very long-term goal of one or even two minutes.

For Staying Fit And In Shape

1. Jump Rope

The number one way to maintain fitness all over your body is to jump rope.

It’s a brilliant endurance exercise that works out the entire body and is much more interesting than bodyweight exercises, which are essentially finding creative ways to lie on the floor.

Of course, you’re going to need a rope, and by rope, we don’t necessarily mean some expensive, high-tech sports rope designed specifically for jumping.

They’d be better, obviously, but any length of rope will do as long as you can jump it. You can find a suitable rope by placing your foot roughly in the middle of it and pulling upwards.

If the handles come up to your armpits, that should be enough to safely jump.

2. Walking/Running

It’s one of the more obvious options, we know, but maintaining overall stamina is best done by simply moving.

Even with lockdown measures in place, many areas are letting people out to exercise as it’s considered a human right by many institutions.

Think about it, even prisons let felons have their exercise, so you should be able to get away with a short jog.

If you’re uncomfortable with venturing outside right now, you might be in the fortunate situation where you have enough room in your garden that you can run laps.

If you’re really struggling to find anywhere you can move around freely, you can even walk or jog up and down your staircase, you’d be surprised how quickly that tires you out. Sure, it gets repetitive but when you’re desperate, you’re desperate.

3. Dance

This is another of those exercises that are great for the boredom-prone. If you can dance, then you can maintain general fitness by dancing.

Now, there’s a whole bunch of qualifiers here. You’re not going to shed pounds by doing the robot, you’ll need to perform kinetic dances that get your whole body moving.

There’s a reason “dancercises” focus on Zumba and not ballroom dancing. Kinetic, aerobic dance routines like Zumba or breakdancing are great for maintaining your fitness.

There’s a whole bunch of other dancercises based on other dances too, sourced from cultures all around the world, so find the one that you like the most and learn a routine that gets you sweating.

It’s also been theorized that dancing has its own unique benefits too, so there’s that.

4. Yoga

Many yoga poses are done while standing and the others aren’t exactly big movers either, so if you’re not up to the kinetic exercises that running or dancing offers, a great way to stay toned is to practice yoga.

Yoga is its own entire specialty, so there’s a wealth of knowledge out there for those who want to delve into the whole culture around yoga, but we’re here to give you practical advice.

You’ll need a mat, a yoga strap, blocks, a cushion, and a water bottle. Now it may come as a surprise after the year we’ve had, but we still have running water in 2020.

Hopefully, we will in 2021 too, so there’s no need to worry about that just yet, get your favorite bottle and fill it with H2O. You should also have any old cushion lying around, so grab that.

The mat doesn’t need to be hyper-specific either, just a thin athletic mat, though if you were to buy anything, we’d say to buy a yoga mat.

A scarf or belt can double as a yoga strap too, so only buy one of those once you’ve committed to practicing yoga regularly.

5. Cycling

Whether it’s an exercise bike or your childhood bicycle mounted onto a rack, it’s possible to cycle without leaving the comfort of your own home.

This one is simple as can be, it’s just riding a bicycle or some vaguely bicycle-like object with pedals, as long as the wheels don’t touch the floor, you’ll be fine.

That said, if you have the room in your backyard or around your neighborhood, it’s likely you can cycle a few laps of your home without breaking any lockdown restrictions.

Bonus: As a small footnote, if you can do all of these activities and want to really get the most out of each one, you can try circuit training.

That’s where you do a combination of cardio and weight-based activities in a non-stop intensity gauntlet. Cycle through each one for thirty to sixty seconds and repeat that cycle for about twenty to thirty minutes.

It’s a great way to keep your heart rate up and you can incorporate most of the above into a routine, and even do the less-intensive ones as a cool-down afterward.

Conclusion: When The Tough Get Going

You should have everything you need to start your exercises now, or at least when you get equipment in. Nowadays we don’t have many excuses for not taking care of ourselves, so there’s no reason to at least give some of the exercises in this guide a try.

The situation in 2020, and potentially 2021, might be dire for many but it’s the perfect opportunity to leave your home a changed, better person after making the best out of a bad situation.

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