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4 Most Important Types of At-Home Exercise

Catherine Miller
4 exercises at home
Working out is good for our bodies and our minds, but knowing where to start can be tough. When building your exercise routine, it’s important to include a mixture of the 4 main types of exercise: aerobic/cardio, strength, stretching, and balance.

Aerobic/cardio exercises are those that raise the heart rate, which helps you burn calories, increase circulation, and improve organ function. Strength training means using your bodyweight, free weights, or mechanical weights to get stronger and build muscle. Stretching increases flexibility. It can help your muscles work more effectively and aid in recovery after you work out. Balancing exercises challenge your body, improve your posture, and can help you avoid falls as you get older.

Tackling all four types of exercise means you have a better chance of keeping your body in working order and are more likely to see improvements in all types of fitness as you embrace a varied routine. 

In this article, we present 3 routines for each type of exercise that you can do with your at-home fitness machines to make sure you’ve got a well-rounded workout habit. 

Cardio 1: Treadmill sprints

For a more exciting workout than just running on your treadmill for half an hour, try varying your speed by pushing yourself to a sprint, slowing down to rest, and then sprinting again. Sprints of 20-30 seconds followed by rest periods of up to 2 minutes should work well. By doing this, you turn your workout into a high intensity interval training (HIIT) session rather than steady-state exercise. This will challenge your body and help you build cardio fitness quickly. 

The exact speeds you need to use on your treadmill will depend on your personal fitness and comfort levels. You also need to consider safety. It’s worth testing out lower speeds first and making sure you can handle them! You should also warm up and cool down properly by including a gentle jog at the beginning and end of your session. State-of-the-art treadmills like those made by Assault Fitness or Nautilus come with ready-made programs to lead you through a cardio workout if you’re not ready to create your own.

Cardio 2: Stationary bike speed intervals

You can apply the same HIIT principle of running on the treadmill to using your stationary bike, mimicking the way you vary the speed—which is also called cadence—and resistance of your workout during spin classes at the gym. The advantage to using the bike for HIIT is you can mix in a bit of strength training by dialing up the resistance to challenge your legs. But if strength isn’t your priority, you can simply cycle faster or slower depending on the interval.

Here is a sample HIIT cycling workout:

  • Get your heart rate going by pedaling at a high cadence with a low resistance for 5 minutes
  • Alternate between 30 seconds of fast pedaling and 30 seconds of recovery for 10 minutes
  • Alternate between 3 minutes of pedaling at a high resistance and 2 minutes of pedaling at a low resistance for 15 minutes
  • Cool down with 5 minutes of pedaling at a low cadence with a low resistance

In addition to creating your own interval workout, the latest models of bikes from brands such as MYX Fitness or Echelon may come with streamed video classes. Additionally, smart bikes like the CAROL can use AI to optimize your workout over time. 

Cardio 3: 1,000-meter sprints on the rowing machine

The rowing machine is one of the best pieces of equipment for cardio workouts. Because rowing works the whole body, it challenges your cardiovascular system. It can burn a significant number of calories and is a great low-impact cardio option since it doesn’t have the same joint-thumping action as running or jumping. Even if you don’t have much space, you can find a rowing machine to suit you, like the Sole Fitness foldable SR500 model.

While you can just keep rowing at the same pace for 30 minutes or longer, changing up your routine can make it more enjoyable. For example, you could try 1km sprints to challenge yourself. Varying your strokes-per-minute (SPM), or how often you go back and forth on the machine, is a great way to vary your intervals. You could try:

  • 5 minutes of low SPM rate to warm up the body (an SPM of 20 should work well)
  • Row 1,000m with a high SPM (e.g. 26)
  • 5 minutes of low SPM (e.g. 20) to recover
  • Row 1,000m with a medium SPM (e.g. 24)
  • 5 minutes of low SPM (e.g. 20)
  • Row 1,000m with a low SPM (e.g. 22)
  • 5 minutes gradually slowing to a low SPM to cool down

Strength 1: Using cables to build muscle

If you have a home gym machine with cables—or even a smart mirror with integrated weights, like that produced by Tonal—a variety of pulling and pushing exercises is open to you. You can build muscle in several different areas of the body such as the biceps, triceps, shoulders, and back with one piece of equipment. It’s also easy to adjust the difficulty over time, which you can do by adding more weight, increasing your number of reps in each set, or increasing the number of sets you do for each exercise. 

Your cable strength routine could include:

  • Standing rows
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep pushdowns 
  • Chest presses (if you have two cables on your machine)

Strength 2: Smart mirror weights workout

Smart mirrors are the latest development in home exercise machines. They bring fitness classes into your home, giving you access to live and on-demand sessions with professionals that are streamed on a life-size screen to mimic the gym experience. Some mirrors such as Mirror or Tempo even come with weights, so you can build your strength from home, too. 

The beauty of the smart mirror is that you’ll be led through a routine by a professional instructor, so you don’t need to worry too much about creating your own workout. With the dumbbells provided with both Mirror and Tempo, you can expect a strength class to include exercises like bicep curls, tricep extensions, chest presses, and bent over rows. With Tempo, you can add other weight equipment like a barbell, kettlebells, and a squat rack, which will add even more potential to your strength training routine. 

Strength 3: Stationary bike incline training

The stationary bike is a great way to build your leg muscles. Many bikes come with a hill training program. You can also create your own workout by varying the resistance of your ride over time. Try short intervals of high resistance for 20-30 seconds followed by recovery periods of low resistance for anywhere from 20-60 seconds. You could also try alternating between standing on the pedals and riding while sitting, which will challenge your legs and core. 

Stretching 1: Treadmill lunges

You can do more on your treadmill than just run! By slowing down the speed of your treadmill, you can do walking lunges that stretch out your leg muscles. With the belt set at a comfortable, slow walking speed, step forward with one foot, bending the knee to 90 degrees as your body dips down. Keep your back straight and your chest up. It may be helpful to clasp your hands in front of you if you’re struggling with balance. Straighten up as your foot moves backward and step forward with the opposite leg. You could also add a small incline to the treadmill to stretch more muscles. Continue your lunges for at least a minute, rest, and complete another set. 

Stretching 2: Suspension trainer 

A suspension trainer is a versatile piece of equipment that you can install in a home gym for a multitude of purposes. You can improve your flexibility by using the suspension ropes to facilitate deep lunges, hip sinks, arm raises, and chest stretches. You can also use a suspension trainer to perform Pilates and yoga moves with added suspension to facilitate the exercises. 

Stretching 3: Smart mirror Pilates

Pilates is a great way to stretch and gradually increase the flexibility of your body, and a smart mirror can guide you through a routine and give you feedback. For example, the Tonal mirror uses sensors to detect your movements and give real-time guidance on your technique. Classic Pilates moves include the Pilates Hundred—holding your legs in a table top or extended position with your shoulders lifted off the mat—leg raises, and sit-ups. 

Balance 1: Hands-free elliptical workout

An elliptical machine is a great investment in full-body fitness. Brands like Nautilus, Sole Fitness, and Bowflex offer home ellipticals that you can use to build a great workout routine. The elliptical machine is perfect for cardio, but you can also challenge your body by letting go of the handles and using just your lower half to power the machine. Not only will this increase the impact on your legs and glutes but you’ll also need to use your core strength to stay balanced. You could even try reversing the motion of the machine by moving your feet in the opposite direction, which also challenges your core stability.

Balance 2: Leaning bike session

Not all home-workout bikes require you to stay in a fixed position. Bowflex’s leaning VeloCore bike will test your balance by simulating the leaning movement of a bike on the road. You’ll need to engage your core to move with the bike, which also works your arms and legs. This makes it a very efficient workout machine. As a challenge, you could use the VeloCore video sessions, which include a series of rides from worldwide destinations, so you’ll feel like you’re really on the move. 

Balance 3: Smart mirror yoga routine

Following a yoga routine using your smart mirror can help you develop better form and give you better balance, posture, and flexibility over time. Some yoga moves you could practice with a smart mirror include standing poses like the Warrior or the Tree. You can even do progressions to help you build up to headstands. Many mirrors give you feedback on your technique. The Tempo mirror, for example, features 3D performance tracking that can detect if you need to adjust your form.


It’s important to work on the 4 types of exercise to make sure you’re developing a balanced, harmonious, and healthy body. Using home fitness machines can be a great way to do this. Whether it’s a HIIT session on your bike, lunges on your treadmill, or calming yoga routines with a smart mirror, changing up your workout will challenge your body and help you achieve your health goals.

Catherine Miller
Catherine Miller is a lead member of personal finance and pension innovator Maji, where’s she’s responsible for content creation and running Maji’s personal finance masterclass. Miller also holds degrees in English and education, and worked as a teacher before moving into writing about finance for Top10.com. Today, she combines aspects of education and personal finance to help readers make better decisions in finance and beyond.