Just because you can’t get to the gym doesn’t mean your workout aspirations are ruined for the day. It’s easier than you think to build muscle and burn calories at home.
These five exercises provide a hefty bang for your muscle-building buck. Each one is a compound movement that activates muscle fibers across several muscle groups. Separately, compound exercises burn more calories than isolation exercises such as dumbbell curls, and they also elicit a much greater post-workout response in anabolic hormones such as testosterone and human growth hormone. Used together, they comprise a total body workout that hits almost every major muscle group and movement pattern. If you use short rest periods and relatively high reps (especially with the burpees) you’ll even get an aerobic benefit that will have you gasping like you’re running 400-meter repeats on a track.
But wait, where are the abs?
You actually don’t need specific core training for this workout. Each exercise demands a significant amount of core activation to move through the range of motion or to maintain midline stability for the duration of the movement. But If you have the time, feel free to add some crunches and planks to this workout.
You can use these moves in several different ways: multiple sets, as a circuit, or even for time. The Push-Up, Row, and Burpee rely on your body weight for resistance, but the Goblet squat and Lunge are much more effective with some extra pounds. You can use just about anything: a dumbbell, a weight plate, a water bottle, even a small child.
1. Goblet Squat (lower-body push): Place your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a weight close to your chest with both hands. Shift your hips behind you, bend your knees, and slowly descend into a squat position. Keep your chest up and your eyes on the horizon. Your heels should stay in contact with the floor the whole time. Come down until your hips pass your knees. Then, push through your heels and come back to the start.
2. Multidirectional Lunge (lower-body pull): Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders squared, and hands on your hips. Step your left foot forward into a lunge until your front thigh is parallel with the floor and your back knee is about an inch off the ground. Push back to the start and then step your right foot into the same lunge. Following this left-right pattern, perform a lunge at a 45-degree angle, then directly to the side, then backward at a 45-degree angle, then directly behind you. Then start again, beginning with your right foot.
3. Push-Up (upper-body push): Get into a classic push-up position, with your arms extended, hands under your shoulders, head in alignment with your spine, and your body forming a straight line. Bend your elbows and bring your chest toward the floor. Push through your hands and return to the top. Make sure your hips do not arch or sag during the movement.
4. Inverted Row (upper-body pull): Place a broomstick or dowel across two chairs or two kitchen counters. (You can also do this underneath a table, grasping the tabletop for support.) Lie down underneath the bar and grab it with an overhand grip slightly wider than your shoulders. Your body should be straight, with your heels on the ground and your arms extended. Flex your elbows and pull your chest towards the bar. Hold it in the top position for a beat before slowly coming back to the start.
5. Burpee (total-body conditioning): Stand in a relatively clear area with nothing on the floor behind you. Begin by squatting down, putting both hands on the ground and kicking your feet out behind you so you are in a push-up position. Perform one push-up and then jump your feet up towards your hands. From this position, stand up and execute a vertical jump while extending your arms overhead. Land in an athletic position and immediately repeat the exercise for several reps. Note: If you have already done push-ups, and your chest is fried, you can perform this exercise without dropping to the full push-up.