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11 exercises to do at home - perfect for beginners
Looking to get fit without leaving the house? Here's an easy home workout that can be done from the (relative) comfort of your own living room, whether you're looking to tone or build muscle, lose weight or just stay healthy.
By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Apr 27, 2023
If you're after a fitness regime without going outside, you don't necessarily need an entire home gym (although if you've got the budget, why not). All you need is some minimal gear: workout clothes, a mat and ideally some dumbbells. See below for some must-buys from Mumsnet users, and check out Mumsnet's Exercise forum or The Weights Room for more support and tips.
If you are unable to get hold of any dumbbells, tinned food works as a good substitute for a low weight (typical weight of a tin eg of beans, is just under 0.5kg).
Good form is essential when exercising alone. So we enlisted some expert help in the form of certified personal trainer to the stars Nick Finney to create a programme which encompasses 11 exercises to tone and strengthen muscle groups in the entire body: the lower body, upper body, arms and mid-section. These are all moves you can do at home, whenever you've got five minutes to spare.
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How it works
When you've completed each set of moves (aim for 10 to 15 reps of each), you can either repeat the routine or – if your muscles are quibbling – move on to the next.
Nick recommends building up to repeating each sequence (for lower body, upper body and triceps) three times before moving on. For the mid-section, steadily increase the time you spend in plank position.
A weight-bearing or weight-resistance programme (rather than a cardio workout) like this one is not just about weight loss or even maintaining a healthy weight – it's going to perk up your posture and help strengthen your joints, which can become particularly lax during pregnancy and childbirth.
Do note that new mothers should always be cleared by their doctor before taking up an exercise routine, with extra care taken on moves that work the stomach particularly hard. In this programme, you can ease the pressure by coming on to your knees, instead of your toes, in the plank and press-up positions.
Use these exercises to target the inner and outer thighs while strengthening the knees.
1. Squat (wide and narrow)
For wide squats, start with a relatively wide foot position (hip-width or slightly wider) and toes out. Focus on the bum moving out the back, use your hands as a counterbalance and keep your knees in line with your toes. Travel down as if you were sitting in a chair, and then straight back up.
Narrow squat: the same movement as above but a narrow version, this time with your hips, knees and feet in line and toes straight.
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Take a long stride and move your torso up and down. Initiate by bending your back knee with your back heel raised. Stomach braced, hinge at the hips so the glutes and hamstrings are working hard, making it effective. Change legs and do the same (10 to 15 reps on each side).
You could also try doing squats and lunges using a Swiss (or stability) ball. With the squat, hold the ball above your head. For the lunge, place the ball behind you and put one foot top-down on the top of the ball.
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3. Deadlift (or stiff-leg deadlift)
A good guide to the form is to hold a dumbbell in each hand (as light or as heavy as you like, experience/strength-dependent) – or whatever type of weight you're using. Using a neutral feet stance, from an upright position, move your torso down and your bum out, allowing movement through the hips with your back remaining flat. Try and keep your lower legs straight, avoiding the bending of the knees of a squat movement.
Arm and upper body workout
4. Lateral raise
Grab your weights and start with a good posture – chest up, shoulders drawn back and head neutral – and flap your arms up and down, parallel to the ground.
5. Shoulder press
Take a nice stable stance with one foot forward and raise your arms with your weights straight up over the head, and back down again into the shoulders.
Feet, knees and hips are neutral. Hold your weights by your side and push your bum out to maintain a neutral spine. Then use your arms to 'row' straight back.
7. Bicep curl
With the hands neutral and the palms facing the body, keep your chest up and shoulders drawn back and bring the weights towards your shoulders, turning the biceps up on the way up. Great for upper arms strengthening.
8. Triceps dip
You need something extra for this exercise but, luckily, it's just a household chair. Sit on the very edge with your hands by your sides, ready to hold your weight, and with your feet at whatever distance you feel most comfortable – the further away your feet are from the chair, the harder it will be. Take your bum off the chair but keep it nice and close to it, and lift your weight down towards the floor and up again.
These can be done with your knees on or off the mat. If you're new to this sort of exercise, feel free to keep your knees down as it eases the pressure off your arms. If you are on your knees, make sure you keep your ankles up and off the ground.
Tilt your chest towards the floor. You don't actually need to go all the way down – just find your own range. Make sure that the bum, the head and back are moving together as a unit.
10. Triceps extension
Lay on your back on your mat, with some cushioning under your head (you can roll up the top of the mat if you like) to keep the head neutral. Hold your weights with a straight arm above your body and lever through the elbow down towards your shoulder, and back up again.
Ab and mid-section workout (how to plank safely)
There's no end to controversy over stomach crunches and sit-ups and whether they're great for toning or bad news for your back. Skip all of that with Nick's number one move for targeting the stomach and core: the plank. Getting your technique right helps to tone while also strengthening your back.
Start on your front, with your heels and forearms resting on the mat (as if you were holding 'daggers into the grass'), head in line with the spine and shoulders drawn back, in order to activate the lats. Drive-up through the feet to lift your body into the air, raising the stomach as if bracing for a blow, and squeeze the bum. Remember to keep breathing. As you do this more often and find yourself getting stronger, try to steadily increase the duration. You could do this in intervals, ie up for 10 seconds, down for 10 seconds. Repeat this 10 times in a round and (don't hate us) do three of those. Like press-ups, you can also do the plank on your knees if you'd prefer.
At-home workout gear
Even if you're not a fan of downward dog, yoga mats are all-rounders for any exercise.
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