- Staying or getting fit at-home doesn't mean you have to shell out for expensive subscription fees (or equipment) to stream on-demand workouts and fitness classes.
- There are plenty of free, at-home, virtual workouts for every fitness ability, mobility level, and time constraints.
- Our top pick, the Nike Training App, offers the highest quality routines with the most variety of intensity levels, time requirements, and workout types, as well as the most motivational trainers.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise and temperatures outside dropping quickly, most of us are ditching public gyms and outdoor workouts and turning to at-home fitness options. This can seem like a bummer — it can be hard to stay motivated and truly get a good burn with nothing but a yoga mat and TV unless you're willing to pay for those programs everyone you follow on social media swears by, like BBG and Tone It Up.
But in actuality, the digital library of high-quality, motivating fitness routines on Instagram and free apps had exploded over the last five years, creating a deep well of routines to help you work up a serious sweat at home.
What's more, many long-established programs, like Nike Training Club, lifted their membership fee at the start of the pandemic to make it easier for people to de-stress and stay fit, and a few (NTC included) haven't reinstated it.
These free at-home virtual workouts not only reprieve you from having to figure out how to see results with just your bodyweight or a single set of dumbbells, but they also offer engaging coaches to keep you going until the clock runs out when it'd be just as easy to press pause and sit on the couch.
Here, we've not only rounded up great at-home workouts that will cost you nothing, but we also put in the time to test the best currently available. From fully featured workout apps via recognizable names like Nike to more beginner-friendly programs from the YMCA, we tried it all. Below, you'll find our favorite free at-home virtual workouts that let you break a sweat at no charge.
Here are the best free at-home virtual workouts:
- Best overall: Nike Training Club App
- Best for yoga: CorePower Yoga
- Best for older adults: YMCA 360
- Best for beginners: Life Time Athletic
- Best for boxing: FightCamp
Updated on 12/3/2020 by Rachael Schultz: Updated intro, changed photos, checked and updated the links where necessary, and updated the formatting throughout.
The best free virtual workout overall
Previously $15 per month, the Nike Training Club app is now free, offering high-quality streaming strength, cardio, core, upper body, lower body, and full-body workouts.
Pros: Offers tons of workout variety, all taught by expert Nike trainers
Cons: Some workouts are full videos versus others which are just videos of specific individual exercises with a set and rep scheme
Nike Training Club has over 185 workouts, including strength training, core workouts, machine-free cardio sessions, upper and lower body-focused routines, and yoga routines. Each workout ranges from 15 to 60 minutes, so the commitment adapts to your day. Plus, the brief tells you what equipment you'll need — many programs are bodyweight, and many with weights offer modifications if you don't have any — so you know exactly what you're getting.
I'm used to varying my workouts daily — I usually do cardio each morning, either running, a group fitness class, or yoga, followed by a strength training class or body part-specific workout in the afternoon. I'm used to being able to do different workouts each day, and with this app, I was able to keep up the variety in my routine without it ever feeling repetitive.
Nike Training Club allows you to take individual classes or pick from a multi-week program, all of which are taught and programmed by elite Nike trainers. These trainers are really what make the difference — they have a unique ability to keep you engaged and motivated even through a screen, which is a hard feat for virtual workouts. The app also offers nutrition, sleep, mindset, and recovery tips from trainers and other experts, as well.
The best free yoga workout
If you're looking to keep your yoga practice and find some zen while working out at home, the free programs from CorePower Yoga are for you.
Pros: Yoga workouts are changed on a daily basis, meditation offerings
Cons: Limited number of workouts
CorePower offers a range of free signature classes, including:
- C1: a foundation-building, beginner-friendly course
- C2: a more challenging workout of postures and flow where experience is a plus
- YS: a yoga and strength training routine
- HBF: a blend of balance, core strengthening, and flexibility that's beginner-friendly
While the number of workouts in their library is limited, CorePower does change them up on a weekly basis, adding some variety and a fresh feel to the classes.
Though I'm more of a beginner or intermediate yogi, I've recently begun making yoga a part of my regular workout regimen. I'm not advanced enough to be able to flow on my own just yet, but I also don't want to lose my practice altogether. Using CorePower's workouts allowed me to continue keeping yoga in my weekly routine while continuing to learn at my pace.
The free workouts also offer a variety of meditations ranging from gratitude-focused courses to sessions based on love or trust.
The best free workout for older adults
Stay moving and get familiar with a new routine using the YMCA 360 health and fitness on-demand videos.
Pros: Short and long workout options across several exercise types, keeps time and rep counts for you
Cons: Limited number of total workouts, doesn't offer much variety in fitness level
If you're older and looking to stay healthy, YMCA 360 offers a section of videos specifically for the active, older user. This includes classes like Bootcamp, barre, yoga, weightlifting, Tai Chi, and Y Box.
For the younger crowd, there's even a youth soccer section with drills and a youth sports performance section with exercises to help develop skills — and to keep kids entertained while spending more time inside.
I liked that there was a wide variety of workouts to choose from, especially exercise skills for youth sports, though I mostly stuck with the Bootcamp-specific workouts. These workouts moved at a steady pace and offered exercise modifications to make moves easier to manage. I personally like a bit more speed and energy in my workouts, but these get the job done.
For anyone who likes familiarity with their workouts, and wants to know exactly what they're getting into, YMCA's videos are perfect. Because there's a limited number, you'll be able to try them all and easily identify your favorites to repeat.
The best free workout for beginnners
Members and non-members alike have access to a limited number of cardio, strength, and yoga classes from Life Time Athletic.
Pros: Strength, cardio, and yoga offerings, great for users at a beginner or intermediate level
Cons: Limited variety in fitness level, limited number of workouts, no new workouts added
From the fitness center giant comes Life Time Athletic, an app that allows users to choose workouts based on a few different categories: the muscle groups they want to work, the equipment they have at home, or the type of workout they want to do (cardio, strength, yoga, etc). Each video states the length and optional equipment needed upfront, so you're never caught off-guard.
For light cardio classes, the Life Time Athletic courses are perfect. While I would classify some of the exercises as beginner level, they still kept me moving and elevated my heart rate, which is what I was looking to do.
If you're a Life Time member, you'll be familiar with some of the specific classes like Strike, Warrior Sculpt, and Shred. The workouts are good for any beginner or intermediate users who want to keep moving at home and prefer limited video options to choose from.
The best free workout for boxing
Keep your punches in check while getting in a full-body cardiovascular workout when you download FightCamp.
Pros: Boxing workouts for people of all fitness levels, delivers a full-body workout, more than 350 workout routines
Cons: Programming is mostly boxing-specific, the full FightCamp setup is required for the interactive experience which requires money and space
While FightCamp does offer the option to purchase a bag, gloves, and sensors to track your punches and progress, the brand also offers its actual workout videos via its app for free. This means that anyone who has a bag and gloves of their own, or who wants to shadowbox, can follow the free workouts. You can also let the app know your boxing experience and fitness level and have workouts suggested accordingly.
My New York City apartment is too small for a boxing bag, so I chose to shadowbox during the workouts. Surprisingly to me, I found them to be great cardio. Non-boxers may find it odd to wail away at the air, but the intensity of the workout keeps you moving from start to finish and breaks a good sweat in just 20 minutes.
If you love boxing or boxing-inspired workouts, consider downloading this app. There are more than 350 boxing and bodyweight workouts, so you'll never be lacking in variety.
What else we considered
While testing free workout apps, we came across several other services offering workouts at no cost through Instagram or Facebook Live streams or extended free trials. Here are a few of our favorites that stood out, but ultimately didn't make the cut:
Box + Flow: Led by fitness expert, Olivia Young, Box + Flow takes the popular boxing class formula and adds the mindfulness of yoga for a well-rounded, yet intense, workout. The NYC-based brand hosts daily streams of its workouts via Instagram Live, with Young herself leading a few of the workouts. Classes are free for the first seven days for new subscribers and then require a monthly fee.
Camp Gladiator: Participate in live streaming workouts through Camp Gladiators Facebook Live channel, or try its at-home printable routines. These are free always but the site doesn't offer a library of on-demand workouts.
Peloton: Peloton now offers a free trial of its Peloton Digital Membership for 30 days. The app features thousands of on-demand workouts including running, strength, yoga, and cycling — and you don't even need a bike to access them.
Tone It Up: Strengthen, tone, or get in some cardio with founders Karena and Katrina, as well as the app's community of trainers. Choose individual workouts or do a program to follow. It was free in the spring of 2020, but has since reverted back to a free seven-day trial for new subscribers and then a monthly fee.
The Class by Taryn Toomey: Exercise your body and engage your mind with this untraditional form of training. The workouts on The Class help you to release stress and anything weighing you down through repetitive movements accompanied by loud exhales. It's a transformative experience that everyone should try. The app currently offers a free two-week trial.
FitBody: We love the shred, tone, and sculpting programs created by trainer and social media personality Anna Victoria, but it only offers a seven-day free trial for new subscribers, and then a monthly fee.
Snap Fitness: Snap Fitness currently offers free 90-day access to FitnessOnDemand.com, where you can stream workouts from Sweat Factor by Mike Donvanik, Nora Tobin, SH1FT, and DailyBurn.
obé Fitness: Join a live workout from a daily schedule of 14 classes, or choose from its library of over 4,000 on-demand workouts including strength, Pilates, dance, HIIT, cardio boxing, and more. It only offers a seven-day free trial for new subscribers, and then a monthly fee.
Jazzercise on Demand: Jazz up your usual routine with a little dance party. These workouts combine jazz dance, yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, and HIIT. New users can sign up for a free two-week trial.
Hydrow: Join this brand's free at-home 14-day challenge, which has a mix of 20- to 30-minute rowing (if you have a machine) and mat routines that include yoga, Pilates, and more.
How we tested the apps
Each of these apps was tested not just for their respective use case but also across a variety of categories, including ease of use, variety, effectiveness, and entertainment value. Since each app is entirely free, it was important to create a benchmark for how well they perform and to associate a different kind of value to them without factoring in price. Here's what we looked for in each category:
- Ease of use: An intuitive app experience is vital to not only enjoy using it but also to get the most out of it. If an app is cumbersome in its navigation, or makes finding and choosing workouts difficult, then it won't promote much in the way of motivation or desire to work out.
- Variety: Though we broke down the guide into specific sections on activities like yoga or boxing, we wanted to see that the apps that fell into the other categories were diverse enough in what they offered to keep the experience fresh and engaging. This means offering more than just one or two workout styles, as well as making available a library of classes.
- Effectiveness: This category doesn't necessarily mean results from a fitness standpoint. Though that is important, there's not a way to judge that reliably or to stand behind one person's interpretation of it, so this instead means how well it's able to motivate you to workout, if it's able to push you through to the end of a session, and if it offers enough variety to allow you the chance to learn new exercises.
- Entertainment value: If you enjoy working out, you'll do it more often — plain and simple. Even free apps can offer some form of entertainment which can serve as a huge reason to revisit it (and workout) often.
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