The Total-Body Workout You Can Do at Home (in Your Living Room)

No space to work out? Been there, tried that excuse.

I lived in a 300-square foot studio in Manhattan for five years and meticulously planned out where my queen-size bed would fit in my main room (to the right of the doorway) and how to squeeze my overstuffed 8-foot-long couch with recliners in that same room (to the left). The space that was left between the two? Wide enough for a yoga mat with about three inches on either side and a foot in front of me. In that tiny sliver of space, I still managed to do kettlebell swings, strength training routines, yoga, limited Pilates, and even some dance workouts I’d stream onto my TV with the laptop on the bed. Somehow, I figured out a way to make do and exercise—so I’m convinced you can, too.

Where there’s a will—and a few feet of space—there’s a way to work out in your living room. You can get fit from head to toe with this total-body training routine, with home exercises recommended by Paul Wright, NASM Certified Personal Trainer at DIAKADI in San Francisco.

First: Warm Up

Warm up the parts of the body that stabilize, like your hamstrings (back of thighs), glutes (butt), and your core, suggests Kymberly Nolden, CPT, NCSF, NASM and AFAA, exercise specialist at Hearst Tower in New York City. “I’ll usually do some form of a plank, that’ll warm my shoulders up and my core at the same time. I might also do some version of a bridge and then I’ll do something that gets my heart rate up—maybe bodyweight squats or jumping rope,” she says.

Once you’re all warmed up, try the living room workout below. Aim for two sets of 15 reps for each of these moves. Add another set when that’s too easy and later bump up the weights. You’ll need: dumbbells, a chair or couch, and possibly a kettlebell.

Knee Tuck On Chair or Couch

Sit close to the edge on a sturdy chair or your couch. With your hands holding on to the edge of the seat, lean back, contract your core and pull your knees up to your chest, doing a “knee tuck,” to work your lower abs, suggests Paul Wright, trainer at DIAKADI. Hold for a second at the top—feet will be off the floor. Then lower feet down. That’s one rep, aim for two to three sets of 15 reps.

Standing Overhead Shoulder Press

This dumbbell exercise builds strength in your upper body, particularly sculpting the shoulders. Pick up a dumbbell in each hand. Bring them up to your shoulders, palms facing out, and elbows close to your torso. Exhale, pushing the weights up until arms are fully extended, suggests Wright. Pause. Inhale and bring the weights back down to your shoulders, palms facing out the entire time. Complete 15 reps.

Glute Bridges with Chest Press

A glute bridge exercise will help firm your butt. Start off doing a glute bridge with feet flat on the floor about 12 inches from your butt, while your upper back and head are on the floor. Exhale and drive into your heels, using your butt to drive the hips up as high as they can go. Hold, and then release back down, suggests Wright. Add an additional challenge by increasing the height—placing feet on an elevated surface, like a Bosu ball if you have one, couch cushions on the floor, or your couch if it’s not too high. Do the glute bridges again, driving into the heels while your hips and butt lift up, shoulders and arms flat on the ground.

Once you have the hang of the glute bridge, work your upper and lower body by adding a chest press to build up strength in your chest muscles. With feet on an elevated surface, upper back on the floor, dumbbells in either hand, elbows resting on the floor, drive your hips and butt up to the top position of the glute bridge. Hold that position while pushing the arms from a bent, 90-degree position, to a straight, extended arm, weights over your chest. Pause, then bring the weights back down to the starting position. Hold your butt and hips up while completing 15 reps.

Bird dog

Start on your mat in a tabletop position—knees under hips and hands on the floor under your shoulders, suggests Wright. Raise your left arm out in front of you until it’s parallel to the floor while extending your right leg behind you, no higher than butt height. Pause, then lower down to the starting position. Switch to the opposite side. Once you’ve extended both sides, that’s one rep. Aim for 15 reps. “This move builds core and back strength as well as stability,” says Wright.

Dumbbell or Kettlebell Row

Begin in a shortened lunge position, left foot staggered in front of the right, feet pointed straight ahead. Bend over and pick up a kettlebell or dumbbell with your right arm. You can rest your left hand on the left thigh while the right arm is extended below with the weight in hand. Exhale, pulling the weight back towards your right ribcage, squeezing your back muscles and continuing to bring the weight as far as you can without twisting the torso. Inhale and lower the weight to the starting position. Do 15 reps on one side. Switch leg positions and place the weight in other arm, repeating with the left arm.

Kettlebell Squat

You can do this exercise with a kettlebell, dumbbell, or even a heavy book or gallon jug of water. Stand with feet slightly wide than hip-width apart, toes slightly turned out, holding the weight close to your chest with both hands. Keeping back straight, weight in the same position, lower down to a squat, sitting back as if you’re sitting in a chair. Hold for one second, then push into your heels and use your butt to drive back up to the standing position. Repeat. This exercise works your glutes and builds lower-body strength.

Elevated Lunge

“You’re working your glutes, hips and quads in this compound leg movement with dumbbells,” says Wright. Focus on having your shoulders back, core tight, good posture, he suggests. Stand with legs hip-width apart, dumbbells in hands, placing your left leg behind you on a bench, chair or couch that’s about three feet behind you. Keep hips facing forward and tucked under to get more of a glute contraction, says Wright. Inhale, lowering the back knee towards the floor but don’t let it hit the floor. Your front knee should not go over the toe. At the bottom of this movement, exhale, driving into your right front foot to push back to standing. The dumbbells will remain hanging by your sides. You should feel this the most in the glutes of your front leg and that same quad. This exercise is a challenging one and you may find you need to work on your balance. Take it slow. You can practice doing the exercises without dumbbells first to get the hang of it and build lower body strength.


Photos: Christine Han | Wardrobe Stylist: Shea Daspin | Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh | Hair/Makeup: Valissa Yoe

Wardrobe: Sports tights: H&M | Tank: Lukka Lux | Shoes: Athletic Propulsion Labs | Water bottle: S’Well Ombre | Hand weight: FILA® at Kohl’s | Leggings: JoyLab, exclusively sold at Target | Yoga mat: Manduka | Yoga kit: Gaiam at Kohl’s | Leggings: Koral | Sports bra: Old Navy | Socks: Bombas

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