On any normal year, mustering up the motivation to not only make a fitness-focused resolution, but also following through on that plan, can be challenging enough.
Throw in a pandemic and rampant gym closures for the better part of 2020 (and now well into 2021), and that goal can feel downright impossible. Without access to dumbbells, barbells, expensive cardio machines, and that charismatic indoor cycling instructor who both frightens and motivates you, how is it possible to plan for (and stick to) a goal like losing weight or gaining more muscle?
Listen: It’s okay to grieve time lost at the gym (and also loathe the notion of jumping up and down next to your dining room table). But staying in your own home and away from others is still the safest way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. So even if your local gym or fitness studio is open, depending on how dense the spread of the virus is in your local area, you may not want to enter it just yet.
A quick note of importance before we dive in: Weight loss is complicated, and it takes much more than just adding a few more steps or workouts to your routine. The most significant factor in your ability to lose weight is maintaining a calorie deficit, which, you guessed it, stems mostly how much food you’re eating: “Think about it,” Davis prevously told Health: “To burn 100 calories, you might need to walk for 45 minutes. To consume 100 calories, all you need is a few spoons of ice cream.”
High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
While exercise alone won’t cause you to lose weight, if there’s one workout that can give you a slightly sharper edge than others, it’s HIIT: alternating between short, intense bursts of energy with less intense (or completely restful) periods in between.
“Any time you’re doing a hard burst of activity with a shorter recovery, your heart rate and temperature go way up,” Davis explains, noting that those two physiological changes have a direct impact on your metabolism. As your body works to bring those two variables back down (or achieve homeostasis) for the next few hours, you’re still burning calories.
And the best part of all? No equipment (or abundance of space) is required, making it a perfect at-home workout.
Your go-to digital HIIT programs at home
Le Sweat by Charlie Atkins ($16.99 per month with your first week free) contains over 100 exercise programs, including HIIT, that require only your body, a small space to move, and tons of motivation.
Les Mills ($15 per month on IOS and Android with your first month free), an app with over 1,000 workouts ranging between 15 and 55 minutes in length, contains a trove of heart-pounding, equipment-free HIIT routines.
While Davis notes that weight training won’t burn a ton of calories in the moment, it will help to increase your muscle mass—which can affect your resting metabolic rate, or how many calories your body is able to burn at rest. And the more calories you burn at rest, the easier it can be to maintain (or potentially lose) weight.
And although you do need weight (or resistance) to strength train, it certainly doesn’t need to be in the form of dumbbells. Anything that has mass (including your own body, for bodyweight exercises) can be used to build muscle.
“It’s the muscle fatigue, rather than actual weighted equipment, that determines if you grow stronger,” Davis explains. “As long as you take whatever exercise you’re doing to a point where you’re fatiguing your muscles, you will see strength gains.”
What this means: So long as you’re feeling a burn from a biceps curl with a full wine bottle, or performing reverse lunges with your own bodyweight, you’re working to strengthen your muscles and potentially increase their mass.
Davis favors Costco-brand gallons of bleach (to replace kettlebells or dumbbells) while doing front squats. “I don’t know how much it weighs, only that it makes me tired after 12 or so reps. That’s the most important factor.” (FYI: She recommends picking an object, be it gallons of bleach or a suitcase filled with books, that will fatigue you in 12 to 15 reps.)
Your go-to digital strength training programs at home
The Nike Training Club (free for IOS and Android, but prices increase with premium subscriptions) is a favorite of Josh Honore, NASM-CPT, a trainer and coach for Row House. “Their versatile workouts get my muscles pumped without needing heavy weights in as little as 20 minutes.”
If you want to get in on the Peloton craze (but aren’t willing to fork over the cash to buy a bike or treadmill), you can still try the app. With a subscription ($13 per month for IOS and Android), you can access their library of equipment-free workouts––including strength sessions.
Dancing—be it in the form of ballroom dancing or trendy TikTok dances—has the potential to contribute to weight loss. That’s because it’s a form of aerobic exercise, which the American Diabetes Association notes can support weight management. It can also increase joint mobility and spinal flexibility, key factors in preventing injury (and ensuring you are limber enough to execute living room burpees and jump squats with confidence).
But perhaps the most critical benefit of all—especially right now? Dancing is straight-up fun. “Dancing has an emotional, energizing component that can’t be beat,” Davis says. “But it’s a super-effective way to burn calories, too, often without you even knowing you’re doing it” She notes that she often tracks her cardiovascular workouts using her heart rate monitor, and frequently finds that dancing will produce the highest heart rate—something she credits to the joy she’s feeling while doing it.
Your go-to digital dance programs at home
While the obé (or Our Body Electric) app ($27 per month) contains several types of exercises to choose from (HIIT, strength, etc.), the dance classes are arguably its biggest draw. Why? Expect to learn “moves TikTok hasn’t dreamed of” (according to its website) with a pastel-colored, 80s-inspired backdrop and super enthusiastic instructors to lead you through.
Another digital workout program channeling 80s Jane Fonda energy, 305 Fitness ($28.99 per month) is a hardcore HIIT session disguised as a dance class. Expect to jump, slide, dip, and of course, twerk your way to an elevated heart rate.
As anyone who’s taken a vinyasa or Bikram yoga class will tell you, it’s entirely possible to get your heart rate soaring during flows—especially when the room is heated. While a direct tie between yoga and weight loss is pretty murky, it might help you execute other exercises that do maximize calorie burns (HIIT, strength training, and dance) with more efficiency, Davis says.
“Any kind of strengthening and stretching is beneficial for weight loss because it will make your body stronger and more limber. This makes it possible to tackle your cardio and weight sessions with more intensity.”
Your go-to digital yoga apps at home
I love the YogaSix mobile app ($19.99 per month for IOS and Android) because it covers multiple aspects of yoga, from slow flows all the way to fast-paced power flows,” Honore explains. “All levels of yogis can find happiness and a challenge on this app.”
One of the top-rated yoga apps on the iTunes Store and Google Play, Yoga for Beginners, also happens to be one of the most economical ones (free for IOS and Android). Choose from beginner-friendly flows and yoga targeted toward specific parts of the body (like back and abs).