This page was updated in August 2020.
With the country in lockdown and gyms closing their doors, increasing numbers of people are looking for ways to keep active at home.
Luckily, over the past few years, the fitness industry has responded to the demand for at-home, video-led or live-streamed workouts, and there are a staggering number of options out there to help you break a sweat from the comfort of your living room.
We tested a wide selection of workouts including HIIT (high intensity interval training) sessions, weight training, yoga, pilates, boxing, and functional fitness videos. We also tested a range of difficulty levels and durations, from 10 minutes up to an hour.
When choosing your workout, it’s worth bearing in mind your current fitness levels – are you looking to ease yourself into exercise, or will you need elite-level workouts that will really give you a challenge?
Consider the type of exercise that you enjoy the most and any physical considerations – are you looking for explosive, high-energy HIIT workouts or something that’s slower paced and gentler on your joints?
Finally, if you’re considering investing in a paid-for subscription service, see if you can try before you buy. Most platforms offer a free trial period so you can test it out before you commit – just be sure to check the terms and conditions and cancel before the trial period expires if you decide that it’s not the right fit.
Where equipment is required for online videos, we’ve included links to products recommended in our best home gym equipment review.
Take care when exercising to avoid injury. Before starting a new regime, ensure that the type of exercise and intensity level is suitable for you. Speak to your GP or healthcare provider if you have any concerns about exercising.
Best online workout videos
Les Mills On Demand
Best for recreating that gym class experience
If you’re craving your regular Les Mills class at your local gym, this on demand service means you don’t have to miss a beat. With over 800 workouts ranging between 15-55 minutes, you could do a different workout every day for two years if you wanted – and that’s not taking into account the 15 new workouts that are added each week.
The huge range of workouts offers good value for money, although you’ll need to invest in some home gym equipment if you want to try them all.
Featured programs include Bodypump (strength training); Bodycombat (Martial Arts-inspired workouts); Grit (HIIT sessions); Bodybalance (a yoga fusion); CX Work (core conditioning); Body Step (step aerobics); Sh’bam (dance workouts); and Barre (ballet-inspired training).
Many of the workouts are filmed as virtual versions of fitness classes, with up to five instructors on stage leading a room full of participants, so you get that group class feeling without the risk of treading on someone else’s toes (although you’ll probably want to move your coffee table out of the way).
The site is easy to navigate and you can stream from your TV, laptop, mobile or tablet.
I tried some of the Bodypump classes and found them to be excellent, incorporating classic moves such as deadlifts, dead rows and squats. I didn’t have a barbell, so I used dumbbells instead, and used an aerobics step as a makeshift bench to lie on.
The instructor, Glenn, was very easy to follow, descriptive and clear. There’s a focus on proper form and avoiding injury throughout, and a Getting Started guide, which is very helpful both for beginners and anyone looking for pointers on their form.
Subscriptions from £11.95 per month, £28.70 every 3 months, or £95.60 per year.
Yoga with Adriene
Best for accessible yoga at home
Friendly, warm and funny, it’s easy to understand how Adriene Mishler has amassed more than 6 million subscribers on her YouTube channel.
She currently has over 500 yoga videos accessible entirely for free, covering a huge range of topics, from yoga for stress management to yoga for equestrians (yes, they really do get that specific).
The videos aren’t always labelled with difficulty levels but all the ones that I tried were very approachable, and modifications are offered where possible to make the moves easier or harder, depending on your ability.
Adriene is both motivational and encouraging, without the exclusivity or technical language that can put some people off starting a regular yoga practice. Adriene’s motto is to ‘find what feels good’ – as a frequent reminder to connect with your body throughout the practice.
I particularly enjoyed the 20-minute full body flow, and the 10-minute yoga for neck, shoulders and upper back, which melted away the tension from long hours spent hunched over a laptop at home.
Unsurprisingly, you don’t need specialist equipment – although a good quality yoga mat will help to provide cushioning and grip.
If you’re keen for even more yoga with Adriene, she also offers a subscription service and community, Find What Feels Good, for $9.99 (£8) per month or $99.99 (£80) per year. The platform offers exclusive courses and videos, live classes and behind-the-scenes content.
Centr by Chris Hemsworth
Best for all-round wellness, covering fitness, nutrition and mindfulness
Sometimes referred to as the ‘Chris Hemsworth fitness app’, Centr aims to offer a holistic approach to wellness. Chris (aka Thor) has handpicked the team of nutritionists, personal trainers, chefs and mindfulness experts who work on the platform.
The app includes a weekly planner which auto-populates with recipes, workouts and meditations, a shopping list functionality, and a wealth of other health and nutrition content including articles and podcasts.
With almost 1,000 workouts, you’re sure to find a good fit for you, although be warned – they’re not for the faint hearted.
To really get that heart pounding and work up a sweat, try the boxing workouts with Michael Olajide Jr – often the only equipment required is a good old-fashioned jump rope – or the HIIT workouts with Ashley Joi.
High-energy, engaging and perfectly paced, her workouts are jam-packed with classic moves such as planks, lunges, squats and push-ups that really push your body to the limits – although modifications are frequently offered to lower the intensity if you need to. Other featured workout styles include yoga, pilates and functional training.
During the current pandemic, the Centr team have optimized the planner to include as many low and no-equipment workouts as possible, and have added new guides, tips and tricks to help you adapt to life under lockdown – including new kids’ meditation sessions narrated by Chris and Taika Waititi.
Subscriptions from £7.83 per month for a 12 months, £15 per month for three months, or £22.99 for one month.
P.Volve by Stephen Pasterino
Best for: Low-impact, functional fitness exercises
This functional fitness program was created by New York-based personal trainer Stephen Pasterino.
It’s a very unique workout that is based on what Stephen calls ‘The Method’ – small, controlled movements and stepping patterns designed to activate particular muscles. The result is a workout that looks very easy on the surface, but is much more complex when you try to copy it.
There’s a fair bit of learning required to get to grips with the terminology used to describe the six ‘foundational moves’ which form the basis for all the workouts, including terms such as ‘P.Sit’, ‘Catch and Tap’, ‘Shift Back’ and ‘Pelvis Articulation’.
Despite watching the videos explaining each of these, there were times that I wasn’t completely sure if I was doing it right – although I did develop a reassuring ache in my muscles after completing a few workouts.
P.Volve recommends that everyone spend at least 30 days as a Beginner and then another 30 days at the Intermediate level, no matter what your fitness levels are – presumably to allow you to get to grips with the unique movements.
I didn’t have all the equipment required for some of the workouts, such as ankle and wrist weights or ‘glides’, which are round discs that you put under your feet to slide – instead, I swapped in light dumbbells and, embarrassingly, clean and dry flannels (which kind of worked – I think).
As I don’t own one and couldn’t think of a DIY alternative, I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of the P.ball – a small, inflated ball connected to resistance bands that you use to activate your inner thighs – but luckily only a handful of the workouts used it, so it didn’t hold me back too much.
The stretching sessions were wonderful – in particular, Stretch to Elongate with Alexia, who is an excellent presenter. It had a good pace although I did pause the video at certain points to get a deeper stretch, but that’s likely only because my back and neck are knotted from the hours I spend sitting in front of a screen.
If you’re looking for a slower paced workout that’s also low impact, this is definitely one to try out – they offer a free 14 day trial so you can see if it’s suitable for you.
It is on the pricier side, but with 18 workout series and 240 videos, you do get a lot for your money. Just be prepared to part with a little extra cash in buying the equipment, as you’re unlikely to have similar items already, and of course invest some time in mastering the movements before you begin.
Subscriptions start from £17 for one month, £84 for 6 months, or £147 for 12 months.
P.E. with Joe by Joe Wicks (aka The Body Coach)
Best for family-friendly workouts
With parents up and down the country looking for ways to keep their children active during lockdown, Joe Wicks stepped up to the challenge with a daily P.E. lesson to ensure that kids (and big kids) got their daily dose of exercise.
Joe streamed live from his living room every morning at 9am, directly to the Body Coach YouTube channel and they’re all still available to peruse at your leisure.
As a 26 year old, following the live stream gave me a nice nostalgic feeling of being in an actual P.E. lesson, knowing that lots of my friends (long time fans of Joe) were also jumping up and down inelegantly in their respective homes.
The workout really did get my heart rate up, and Joe’s commentary was both useful and highly entertaining – ‘Come on, strong! Keep the abs strong, hands out, stay up strong – don’t throw up – three, two, one – relax.’
Although the P.E. series is primarily aimed at kids, Joe’s also uploaded a range of other workouts on his Youtube channel, including chair-based and low-intensity workouts for seniors.
Own Your Goals Davina by Davina McCall
Best for setting and tracking goals
If you’re a fan of the traditional fitness DVD, this might be the platform for you. Davina McCall has long been known for her enviable abs, and she shows you exactly how she trains on the Own Your Goals website.
There are four difficulty levels, ranging from the Get Started programme (for those new to exercise or recovering from an injury) through to Advanced (for regular gym goers looking to push themselves even further). Alternatively, you can choose programmes such as toning, or opt for yoga, pilates, boxing or dance workouts.
Lots of the videos are demonstrated by Davina, sometimes alongside other trainers. I found them straightforward and easy to follow but at times quite fast paced – occasionally I needed to watch the move before rewinding to follow along.
The intermediate workouts were a good level for me – challenging but not so hard that I wanted to give up – and although sometimes the moves looked easy, I did work up a sweat during it. For the intermediate programme, a lot of the sessions are split into sections, incorporating cardio, strength, balance and mat work.
The platform also offers tracking functionality in terms of measurements and weight, making it a good option if you have specific goals, along with nutritionist-approved recipes and wellbeing articles offering top tips, ideas and an extra dose of motivation.
For a limited time, you can sign up for a free 30 day membership (no payment card details required).
Best for free workout videos for all fitness levels
If you’re looking for free, high-quality home exercise videos using a range of equipment (or no equipment at all), Fitness Blender is the site for you.
Founded in 2010 by Kelli and Daniel Segars who are featured in the videos, Fitness Blender now offers over 500 free workouts ranging in length from 10-85 minutes and in difficulty from beginner to athlete.
There’s also a premium subscription service available called FB Plus, offering an ads-free experience, exclusive workouts, tracking functionality and extra challenges.
If you’re initially overwhelmed at the sheer number of workouts available, the website’s excellent search filters will be of use in narrowing down your choices.
You can enter your desired duration of workout, approximate calorie burn, difficult level, which part of the body you want to focus on, type of training and which specific items of equipment you have to hand.
Both Kelli and Daniel are excellent to follow – the videos are well paced and each movement is explained in detail. I particularly liked the preview that appears in the top left hand corner of the screen during the video, showing which exercise is coming up next and allowing for a smooth transition between moves.
Difficulty levels range from 1 (easy) to 5 (difficult), and I found these to be consistent and accurate. A level three was about right for me, while a level five was a real challenge – I tried the HIIT Cardio Butt and Thigh Workout and it was a 42-minute sweat fest.
I also particularly like that there are shorter videos between 10-15 minutes in length, ideal for a quick break during the day or tagged onto the end of another workout if you want a final push.
Access over 500 workouts for free on the website. FB Plus subscription available from $8.99 (£7.20) per month or $79.99 (£64.20) per year.
More on fitness
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This page was published in August 2020.
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