Are Home Workouts Effective?

Are home workouts really effective as gym workouts? I got together with some of the team to discuss, here's our answer.


Written by Hyde Phillips

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Are home workouts as effective as the gym?

Home workouts are easily as effective as the gym, and come with a number of unexpected benefits too.

It’s natural to think that gyms are simply ‘where you go’ to exercise. That’s why gyms have historically dominated the fitness industry. For good reason, that has very much begun to change.

Is there still a place for gyms? Of course, but – for most people who simply want to be fitter, stronger, look better and feel better – home workouts are as effective as gym workouts, plus they come with a bunch of extra benefits.

“If you want to be a strongman or a power-lifter, then unless you’ve got a well equipped home gym, home workouts are probably not right for you. But for 90% of the population, who just want to look and feel a bit better and lose some weight, then absolutely - it’s arguably more effective.”

Martin, At Home Fitness Andover & Online

How effective is working out at home?

It’s often thought that more equipment = a more effective workout. 

Surely the variety of exercises combined with the resistance of weights and machines means you can get more out of it?

This is partly true, but misleading.

The effectiveness of a workout routine is determined by 4 simple principles (with the acronym FITT):

  • Frequency – how often you exercise
  • Intensity – how hard you push yourself
  • Time – the duration of the workout
  • Type – the type or style of exercise you’re doing

If you apply this formula – i.e. you 

  1. exercise regularly
  2. push yourself a bit harder in each session
  3. complete enough exercise each week, and 
  4. do exercise that matches your goals and that you enjoy

…then your workouts will be effective and you’ll get results. In terms of pure workout effectiveness, location and equipment are far less relevant.

Actually, working out in your living room or garden gives you the home advantage (literally) because of the freedom, efficiency and inspiration it brings. 

“If you’re working out from home, you have more freedom - you could do 10 min bursts throughout your day, which might be more beneficial for you.”

Hannah, At Home Fitness Guildford & Online

Not only that – you’ll also save heaps of time and faff packing your bag, driving to the gym, finding a locker, saying hi to the staff, waiting for equipment and all the other bits in between.

When time is short, at home fitness simply means you can do more exercise in less time, and get better results with less stress.

 

Do I need lots of equipment to get a good home workout?

Nope! Contrary to popular belief, you can do a fun, effective and varied workout with little or no equipment at all.

To help us out here, think of exercise as broken into four essential categories: 

Endurance   Strength   Balance   Flexibility

According to Medical West Hospital, get all four of these into your workout routine and you’ll experience the wide sweep of benefits that most people want: being fitter & healthier, looking and feeling good, being physically and mentally strong and enjoying life more.

With home workouts, you can combine all four categories into a fun, varied, circuit-style routine that works your muscles, gets your heart rate up, whilst simultaneously improving flexibility and balance.

Can each of these be achieved at home? Yes, and with benefits! Here’s why.

 

Can you get fit from home?

Endurance (aka cardiovascular or ‘cardio’) exercise is a big one, as it’s often thought of as the go-to exercise for fat loss. 

As well burning calories for fat loss, endurance exercise also leads to improved heart and lung health, increased fitness & recovery and a host of other physical and mental health benefits.

In the gym, treadmills and cross-trainers are designed to get your heart rate up, not because they’re ”cardio machines”, but because they use lots of muscles repetitively over a period of time.

Muscles need oxygen to fuel activity – so the more muscles worked and the harder it is, the faster your heart will pump to get oxygen in.

With this simple science – there are almost unlimited ways you can get your heart rate up from the comfort of your home.

“A lot of people think of weight loss…and think you have to go for a run. Most people hate running! It’s just about encouraging people to get creative with their workouts - dancing in the kitchen, getting a skipping rope, running up and down the stairs, using the stairs for stepping.”

Hannah, At Home Fitness Guildford & Online

Star jumps, squat kicks, stepping, mountain climbers, side to side shuffles, air-punches, thrusts, ice skaters and a whole library of other exercises can all be done in your living room. A bit of creativity and guidance, and you’ve got all the exercises you need and more to achieve the same result.

So it’s a tick for home workouts when it comes to endurance.

What about the second category, strength?

Endurance  STRENGTH   Balance   Flexibility

 

Can home workout build muscle?

Strength (aka resistance) training leads to increased muscle, metabolism and physical ‘tone’ – plus often neglected benefits including improved movement, bone density, joint strength and injury prevention.

Lifting weights is a type of resistance training. Not because of the 10kg label on the side, but because lifting them puts controlled strain on your muscles for a set time or number of repetitions.

Squats, lunges, press-ups, tricep dips, planks, crunches, resistance band rows, bicep curls and hip raises hit nearly every muscle in your body, with minimal or no equipment, giving you the same results.

Strength exercises operate using a principle called ‘progressive overload’. While it might sound like a bad day working from home – this is the good kind. Basically if you push your muscles a bit harder each time, they’ll adapt and become stronger, muscles will grow, and the benefits follow.

While it’s obvious that you can add more weight at the gym, home workouts are simply about being creative.

"In order to build muscle all you need to do is push the targeted muscle enough that it is forced to adapt, lay down more fibres and get bigger. Try doing 20 squats, going as low as you can and holding at the bottom for 3 seconds each time. Repeat regularly as part of a balanced workout routine, and you’ll get stronger and your muscles will grow. You don’t need equipment, it’s just about working your muscles hard enough. Consistency, consistency, consistency - that’s the key to seeing results!"

Kevin Millington, At Home Fitness Ealing & Online

What about balance and flexibility?

Endurance   Strength   BALANCE   FLEXIBILITY

Let’s be honest, Balance and Flexibility lack the same appeal as their sexier and more heroic brothers, Strength and Endurance.

These often neglected aspects of exercise come with surprising benefits, though – and all work together to help you look, move and feel younger.

Balance and flexibility training helps you move better, feel more agile, reduce injury risk – and gives you stronger and more flexible muscles and joints. They bring confidence, help us feel younger and protect our bodies as we get older. 

So they’re worth throwing into the mix. And home workouts bring unique benefits to both.

According to Daniel Lieberman, Professor of Biological Sciences at Harvard University, we should interrupt our sitting on a regular basis, as this will likely improve your health and increase longevity.

“If you go to a gym and look around, the vast majority of people are sat down. If you workout from home, there are very few exercises you do that are seated; it encourages getting up and moving, which is really important.”

Martin Randall, At Home Fitness Andover & Online

Home exercise promotes moving your body and takes away the temptation to sit on a machine and work a single muscle at a time. 

That means naturally improving balance (because you’re on your feet), flexibility (because you’ll likely use fuller ranges of natural movement) – and the improved health and longevity of simply moving more.

As a team of home personal trainers, we get together each month to share ideas, and honestly – after 15 years of delivering home personal training workouts – I’m constantly learning interesting, creative new variations.

The truth is, you’ll never be shy of options to make home workouts fun, effective, varied and do everything you need them to.

 

Home workout vs gym workout

I know you love a list. So here’s ours (un-biased, we promise) for the respective benefits of home and gym workouts.

Pros of gym workouts

  • Access to heavy weights is useful if you want to gain a lot of muscle or strength
  • The gym environment can be inspiring for some people
  • Gyms bring a social aspect if you enjoy a chat and a sense of community
  • You can ask someone on the gym floor if you’re not sure what you’re doing
  • It’s useful to go to a separate space if you’re conscious to not disturb neighbours/partner/housemates.

Pros of home workouts

  • Convenience - less faff time and no childcare needed
  • Flexibility - workout wherever and whenever
  • Time-effective - no need to travel to the gym
  • Cost-effective - no gym membership needed
  • Inspires creativity
  • Promotes moving around
  • Positive influence on your family & kids
  • Your space, your rules, your music
  • Less social anxiety - with no-one looking in
  • Build healthy habits from home
  • Take workouts anywhere

To summarise…

Gym workouts are preferable if you want to lift heavy, you thrive in the gym environment and value the social aspect.

Home workouts work if you need a more time & cost-effective way to workout, prefer to train in private and want to establish healthy habits that rub off on the rest of your life and family.

We’ve helped thousands of people get fit from their home, and it really works. Get in touch here if you want help getting started, to experience all the benefits of home training with the guidance and support from a home PT expert.

 

Are home workouts effective for weight loss?

“It’s becoming more and more known to people that weight loss is not so much about cardio as it is about calorie deficit.”

Kevin Millington, At Home Fitness Ealing & Online

Weight loss is achieved by creating a calorie deficit. Use more calories than you take in and you’ll lose weight (except rare metabolic or medical issues.)

Following the FITT guidelines (Frequency, Intensity, Time & Type), you can focus your time VERY efficiently to get the most of your home workouts – with the added benefit of saving a load of travel and gym-related faff time.

But there’s more…

 

Can you lose weight exercising at home?

Where home workouts make the biggest difference is the knock-on effect they have on healthy eating, sleep and mindset – it’s one of the reasons online personal training is so effective at helping build a regular fitness routine.

A fitness professional once said that trying to lose weight through exercise alone is like trying to drink the sea with a spoon.

Ok, maybe a slight exaggeration…but the truth is, it’s FAR EASIER to lose weight by reducing food-calories than it is by increasing how much exercise you do.

When it comes to weight loss, exercise will make a dent. But the greatest weight-related/aesthetic benefit by far is its spill-over effect onto everyday behaviour. 

Here’s 3 reasons why…

1. Exercise inspires you to make healthier choices

Ever noticed that the first thing you eat after exercise is healthier than usual? 

When you exercise, mood-boosting endorphins combined with a ‘positive motivation cycle’ (good decisions lead to more good decisions), means you’re more likely to make healthier food choices more of the time.

2. Regular exercise makes you think twice about unhealthy choices

It’s easy to get caught in the fallacy that says, “I’ve exercised, so now I can eat what I want”. It doesn’t work, because it’s much harder to lose weight through exercise alone.

However, being mindful of the above, regular exercise has the power to make you think more holistically about your choices, and reduces the likelihood of wanting to undo your hard work by splurging on unhealthy calories.

3. Exercise improves sleep

If there’s one thing that affects the choices you make more than anything else, it’s sleep.

Tiredness makes us lazier, hungrier, grumpier and more susceptible to self-sabotage than nearly any other essential lifestyle factor.

Regular exercise improves both the quality of your sleep and the likelihood of establishing a better morning and night-time routine. Therefore, exercising regularly means you’ll sleep better – and consequently eat better as a result.

So regular exercise means healthier choices.

But hold tight. This is where home exercise really starts warming up.

 

What are the extra benefits of home workouts?

Home workouts come with two extra advantages.

  1. Association

  2. Influence.

Exercising isn’t just a physical act – it has psychological power. Done regularly, the right way and with the right balance, it helps you feel stronger, more confident & in control, and – according to BMC Public Healthmore resilient too.

As humans, we naturally build associations between how we feel and the environment we’re in. Can you think of a location that makes you feel a certain way whenever you go?

Working out at home helps build positive associations of strength, resilience, confidence and control where you spent most of your time – rather than compartmentalising them within a separate location.

“If you separate your life, and then go into a gym, that creates two realities. It’s much better to integrate them because it’s not just going to gym, it’s how you eat, how you sleep, how you de-stress - all the other things will contribute to your goals. If you then separate your life into these two strands you’re not going to see the same kind of results - especially if it’s to lose weight and increase cardio fitness”

Kevin Millington, At Home Fitness Ealing & Online

Using the gym as your standard exercise spot can lead to a sense of separation. Gyms are a place to be fit & healthy, before you come back to real life (via the garage for a celebratory Wispa.)

But if the place you workout is also the place where you start and end your day, prepare meals, rest, spend time with family and make life plans, you’ll build healthy associations into your lifestyle that will influence how you arrange your daily and weekly routine.

Working out at home also means positive influence for your family. If your kids see you exercising regularly, it will normalise it and make them want to copy. 

If your spouse sees you exercising regularly, it can often lead them to reflect on their own routine and sow a seed that inspires them to do something similar. 

Check out our blog on Influencing kids to exercise for some inspiring real life examples of how profoundly exercising at home can influence your family.

 

How can I get started?

I hope this has inspired you to see the convenience, effectiveness and power of working out at home!

As we all know, theory is only as useful as its application – and we’d love to help you kick-start your journey. Here are 3 ways you can get started:

  1. Download our eBook – your DIY guide on how to get fit from home.
  2. Try our free beginner’s home workout routine below as a starting point
  3. Get 1:1 help from an expert to kickstart your home fitness journey.

 

Home workout routine

Designed by

Martin Randall, At Home Fitness Andover & Online

Warm Up

5 moves, 30 seconds per move

  1. March on the spot with horizontal arm swings 
  2. Butt kicks
  3. Squat to overhead reach
  4. Wall press ups
  5. Standing trunk rotations

Main workout

Complete 3 rounds of 5 exercises – 30 seconds per exercise, 30 seconds rest – with 1-2 minutes rest after each round.

  1. Squat
  2. Reverse Snow Angel
  3. Press Ups or Knee Press Ups
  4. Jumping Jacks
  5. Mountain Climbers or Geckos

Cool Down

5 stretches, hold each stretch for 30 seconds per side

  1. Standing quad stretch
  2. Seated hamstring stretch
  3. Lying glute stretch
  4. Single arm chest stretch
  5. Standing shoulder stretch