It’s a universal truth: The fewer stumbling blocks on the way to a workout (it’s raining; the class is booked; I’m just a beginner), the more likely you are to stick with a regimen. Which is why you can thank technology for your soon-to-be-firmer thighs and mellower resting heart rate. A broad, new range of targeted DVDs, downloadable workout videos, and apps make it possible to find challenging and inspiring workouts around the clock.
“Fitness doesn’t have to be limited to the four walls of a gym or include special equipment for you to reap the many physiological and psychological benefits that exercise provides,” says Jessica Matthews, a senior adviser for health and fitness education for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). And building fitness skills or mastering exercise techniques at your own pace has never been more motivating. “From DVDs and live-streamed classes to free high-quality fitness videos on YouTube, there is no shortage of fun and effective ways to get in a great workout at home,” says Matthews. These workouts in particular earn top praise from fitness pros.
Yoga and Pilates
Simply Yoga Free (Apple and Android app, free). With this app, there’s always time for yoga. “I like that it has live videos to get into each asana, and it provides audio for 20-, 40-, and 60-minute sessions,” says Mindy Caplan, a clinical exercise physiologist certified by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor. This user-friendly app delivers clear narration that will have you performing poses you never thought possible, in the amount of time that you have.
Rodney Yee’s Yoga for Beginners (DVD, $15, yeeyoga.com). “Yoga can be challenging and even dangerous when you’re doing it yourself without any experience,” says Jim White, a spokesman for ACSM, an exercise physiologist, and the owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios. That’s why this DVD, which encourages mastery of basic yoga poses in the proper progression, is so effective. Yee carefully demonstrates each pose as a narrator offers precise instruction.
Pilates:Killer Abs With Kristin McGee (digital download, $4, kristinmcgee.com). Ideal for days when time is tight, this Pilates ab workout clocks in at just under 17 minutes. McGee’s fast-paced, encouraging style keeps your body busy and your mind engaged. With functional Pilates moves, such as Bug, Twist, and Saw, you’ll find your strongest abs await.
Perfect Pilates Body With Andrea Speir (DVD, $19; or digital downloads, $3 to $6 for each workout segment: andreaspeirpilates.com). Do the eight 10-minute workouts one at a time or in your preferred combination for a customizable experience; perform them all in succession for a full practice. Speir also includes breathing cues for an extra stress-releasing benefit. “I love that the DVD focuses on strengthening, toning, and increasing flexibility of the entire body,” says White.
Amy Dixon Breathless Body 2: The Edge (DVD or digital download, $20, amydixonfitness.com). This 55- minute, no-equipment workout offers four sets of three drills, performed in 20-second intervals, with 10-second recovery periods. Exercises such as plyometric (high-impact) lunges and side hops will strengthen your muscles and your mind’s resolve. Choose as many drills as you want, or follow Dixon through the entire circuit. You’ll cover multiple sets, targeting every muscle group, in one action-packed workout.
Indoor Jogging Workout With Jessica Smith (video, free, jessicasmithtv.com). An indoor jogging-inspired workout that doesn’t rely on a bulky treadmill? It’s not a dream—it’s this 40- minute cardio session, which combines high- and low-impact choreography. “It’s perfect for days when you can’t exercise outdoors,” says Matthews. Smith’s casual, welcoming coaching style emphasizes proper posture and form. She offers creative exercises that will challenge both the novice and the avid exerciser.
Daily Cardio Workout Free (Apple and Android app, free). Choose from 5-, 8-, and 10-minute high-intensity workouts. No equipment is required and not much space is needed as you’re guided through a series of heart-pumping exercises—from squat knee-ups to mountain climbers. “This app is quick and challenging yet achievable," says White. "I would recommend it for anyone trying to squeeze in a workout.”
Ace Hiit Series With Chris Freytag (2 DVDs, $23; or digital download, $20: acefitness.org). Need some motivation? “Chris’s energy is contagious!” says Matthews. (And if that doesn’t do the trick, the 30-day workout calendar will help keep you accountable.) All you need to do each day’s different 30- minute workout is a set of 3- to 10-pound dumbbells. This is a powerful, comprehensive program that offers maximum benefits, fast.
Sworkit (Apple and Android app, free). This weight-free workout packs the training power of a weight room full of equipment. Use only your body for allover routines made up of moves such as genie sit, planks, and squats. Can’t let go of your faithful dumbbells? The $3-a-month Sworkit Premium upgrade lets you create custom routines. “And by adding weights, you can get a stronger workout,” says Caplan.
Element: Targeted Toning Yoga (DVD, $15, collagevideo.com). Instructor Meaghan Kennedy Townsend guides you through extended holds of postures that load muscles far more than a traditional yoga workout. Choose one 20- minute session (each targets gluteals, thighs, arms, shoulders, abdominals, or core), or stack workouts together for a total-body challenge.
SpiroFIT (streaming, $20 a month, spirofit.com). Like a pocket gym membership, SpiroFIT has a large roster of videos and live classes from top pros in many disciplines, including balance, Tai Chi, indoor cycling, and martial arts. Choose a workout based on fitness category, intensity, experience level, or duration.
Grokker (digital downloads and streaming, $15 a month, grokker.com). Grokker takes a multipronged approach to fitness, with workouts, healthy recipes, cooking videos, reminder settings, and member forums. Disciplines, including meditation and HIIT Club, are varied and range in level from beginner fitness to advanced.