The 15 Best At-Home Exercises for Building Muscle or Losing Weight

During this time of national quarantine, it’s important to keep as many of your healthy routines as possible. This does not mean you should break into your closed gym and sneak a quick workout. It also doesn’t mean you need to put on the dreaded #quarantine15. What you can do is get creative with your at-home workouts. There is no reason you can’t continue to pursue your fitness goals while practicing responsible social distancing at home. Here are some of the best at-home exercises for building muscle or losing weight.

Building Muscle At-Home

Before any exercise routine, it’s important to establish your goals. Often, many fitness goals overlap. But there are certainly more of some things you will do if you are trying to build muscle versus more of others if your primary goal is to lose weight.

Let’s start with some at-home exercises designed to build muscle.


Pushups are the classic chest workout that comes with many modern varieties. One of the first best things about pushups is how incremental you can be in your improvement. If you can only do 10 pushups per-set on your first day, that’s fine. Make it 11 tomorrow, and then 12 the next day. By the time this quarantine is over, you may be doing 25 or more reps per set.

Pushups work not only your pecs but also the muscles in your shoulders, arms, and back. Depending on your fitness level, a good pushup goal can be anywhere from 25 to 500. If your goal is to do more than say, 200 pushups, you may prefer spreading them out over the day. You will still want to spend some time on focused exercise, but there is nothing wrong with doing part of your pushups during that time and then spreading the rest out.

As for alterations on the standard pushups, you can also do the following:

  • Incline Pushups: You can do incline pushups by positioning your hands on a table, chair, or counter. The lower the object better because ideally, it is only a few feet (3 or less) off the ground. Incline pushups, like incline press, will target the workout more toward your upper pectoral area. Incline pushups are a great exercise for building muscle at home.
  • Decline Pushups: For decline pushups, set your legs up something like a chair or any stable object or surface at least a foot off the ground. The key is that your body slopes downward. This will focus your pushups more on your lower chest area.
  • Wide Pushups: Wide pushups are a great thing to throw into your normal pushup routine. Wide pushups focus the movement more on your outer chest and shoulders and also give you a good stretch.
  • Triangle Pushups: Triangle pushups focus the movement more on your triceps and shoulders than your chest muscles. Triangle pushups can be difficult, so it is often best to work up to these. But, once you can safely do them, they are worth including in your at-home muscle building workouts.


You don’t need large equipment to do machines. You can hang your butt over a wall with your feet in front of you, or you can put a sturdy piece of wood or metal in-between two chairs. Either way works. Dips are a great upper-body exercise that you can use to build muscle at home. Specifically, dips are good for your triceps, shoulders, and chest.


If like most people, you do not have a squat rack in your home, that’s fine! You can do air squats, or if you want to add some weight, just hold something heavy in your hands. The key with squats is to go as deep as you can and maintain good form. If you are in good shape and are more familiar with at-home workouts, you can try jump squats.

With jump squats, you go down nice and slow, just like normal. But then you explode up off the ground before returning to your next, controlled downward movement. If you are interested in building muscle at home, you have to try squats.


Lunges work your quads, calves, and hamstrings. One of the more effective at-home muscle building workouts, you can make lunges just about anywhere. Some people prefer to move forward as they are doing them, while others like doing them in place.

If you are looking to mix things up, trying to make reverse lunges as well, these are especially good for the hamstrings and will also improve your balance and flexibility.


Normally when you do throws, you would be using a medicine ball or slam ball, but if all you have is some open space and no gym equipment, try throwing something else. You do this exercise by squatting down, picking up your object, and then launching it backward over your head. Continue this for 20 – 50 yards, and your heart rate should be going pretty fast. Continue for two to four sets.

Pull-ups or Chin-ups

Pull-ups or chin-ups are one of, if not the best, at-home exercises for building muscle. Working your back, shoulders, arms, and core, pull-ups, and chin up is an excellent way to use your body weight to stay fit and keep your muscles growing.

If you can’t do regular pull-ups or do not have a pull-up bar (or strong tree branch), you can start with flat pull-ups. You can do flat pull-ups by setting a sturdy pole between two chairs and then lying beneath it. From there, you simply pull yourself up from the ground and then lower yourself back down for as many reps as you can do.

Pull up between two chairs


Bent-Over Twists

All you need for bent over twists is a broomstick or a mop. Simply place the rod or pole behind your head and grip it with both hands as if you were about to use it for squatting. From there, you slowly twist and rotate the right end of the stick to your left foot, then return to upright and rotate the left end of the rod to your right foot. This is a good exercise not only for building the muscles in your abs and obliques but also for stretching your lower back and preventing injuries.

T spine rotation

Calve Raises

To work your calves, simply put a phone book on the ground or find a slightly elevated surface, or even a stair, and step on it, then use your calves to raise your body up and down.

You can improve the effectiveness of your calve raises by using different angles. Start with your feet facing forward and do a few reps that way, then point your toes outward and dew a few reps that way, then try inward. Although calve muscles are notoriously difficult to build, don’t worry–if you stick to it, they will eventually grow!

Complete Muscle Building Routine

The Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was nice enough to post his entire at-home muscle-building workout. Because Arnold is older and grew up in a place where traditional gyms were far less common, he had to come up with some creative routines for putting on size and strength. Here is what at-home exercises he recommends:


  • Beginner: 25 Reps
  • Advanced: 50 Reps

Dips between chairs

  • Beginner: 20 Reps
  • Advanced: 50 Reps

Row between chairs

  • Beginner: 30 Reps
  • Advanced: 50 Reps


  • Beginner: 30 Reps
  • Advanced: 100 Reps

Bent-leg raises

  • Beginner: 25 Reps
  • Advanced: 50 Reps

Bent-over twist

  • Beginner: 25 Reps
  • Advanced: 50 Reps

Knee bends (squats)

  • Beginner: 25 Reps
  • Advanced: 50-70 Reps

Calf raises

  • Beginner: 25 Reps
  • Advanced: 50 Reps


  • Beginner: 10 Reps
  • Advanced: 30 Reps

And here are demonstrations of each exercise.

Losing Weight At-Home

Aside from building muscle at home, in many ways, it is probably easier to focus on weight and fat loss while working in quarantine than it is to get stronger. Why? Because many of the best at-home exercises for weight loss do not require any equipment or machinery. Focussing on losing body fat comes down to putting yourself into a caloric deficit. Calorie cycling and being cognizant of the calories you’re consuming and when is super important.


Jogging does not deserve the bad rap that it sometimes gets in the modern fitness community. It’s true that jogging is not the most effective way to burn fat or lose weight. But that does not mean jogging is not without its uses. For one thing, there is more to jogging than just burning calories. For instance, jogging is also great for your cardiovascular and respiratory systems. But jogging at a moderate pace for long distances, you are strengthening your heart and lungs.

Also, while jogging may not burn as many calories as HIIT-based workouts like interval training, it still does burn calories. By jogging for an hour, you can burn anywhere from 750 to over 1,000 calories—that is nothing to rub your nose at! Just choose a time and or place that does have many people and go!


Sprints are some of the most effective fat burning workouts you can do. If you want to make sprints at home, make sure you are prepared with quality running shoes and are warmed up and stretched out. Mark out 40 steps, get into position, and go! If it is your first-time doing springs (or simply running fast) in a while, start slow. You will be surprised at just how sore 3 or so sprints can make your calves, shins, hips, and other muscles.


Similar to air squats, bounding is a leap-frog exercise where you get down into position and then leap forward as far as you can. You do these 10 or more times for anywhere from two to six sets. Bounding is a great HIIT-based exercise that will burn calories while building up your quads and glutes. It is best to do this exercise outdoors or somewhere else that you have enough room to move.


Burpees are a full-body exercise that not only helps you build your strength, but also burn a ton of calories. A favorite at CrossFit gyms across the country, if you are unfamiliar with how to do burpees, here’s an illustration:

Burpee demonstration


Jumping Jacks

Jumping jacks are another classic at-home exercises that you can do right from home. In addition to being good for cardio, jumping jacks also stretch your back, arms muscles, and lower body.

Jump Rope

Jump rope is one of the more difficult weight loss workouts. Aside from getting your heart rate going, jumping jacks are also great for your calves, shoulders, and back. Try adding several sets of jumping jacks to your at-home exercise routine.


There you have it, some of the best at-home exercises to build muscle and / or lose weight. Remember, to stay fit, stay healthy, and relax. The quarantine will not last forever and, if you stay fit now, you will be thankful later. You can also see some at home workouts I personally did on air with Good Day Sacramento here.