In a perfect world, you’d like to make it to the gym, but sometimes (okay, most times) after a long day of work, lacing up your sneakers, going back outside, and hitting the treadmill could not sound more unappealing. Curling up with Netflix usually wins out over a good ab-tightening, glute-toning workout. But who said the two had to be mutually exclusive? What if there were toning and strengthening exercises you could do while streaming The Great British Baking Show in the comfort of your own bed? Well, as it turns out, there are. We turned to two expert personal trainers who gave us all the best body-sculpting moves you can do from your bed. Sure, maybe an in-bed workout won't burn as many calories as a HIIT class, or build lean muscle mass like a heavy strength training workout will, but sometimes the "next best thing" is the best thing for that day. And, when it comes to fitness, any steps forward should be celebrated.
So, with that in mind, read on for 12 strengthening exercises you can do to tone up while on your bed watching your favorite show.
Meet the Expert
- Hayley Geddes-Smith is a London-based certified personal trainer, group exercise instructor, evidence-based nutrition coach, and owner of Balance By Hayley.
- Elizabeth Kovar is an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer, yoga instructor, and the author of Finding Om: An Indian Journey of Rickshaws, Chai, Chapattis and Gurus.
Safety and Precautions
In general, any of the exercises here that you can do from your bed are safe for anyone. However, it’s important to consult your physician prior to trying them if you have any health conditions, injuries, or concerns. It’s also very important that you ensure you are centered on the bed or have adequate room on the bed on either side of your body so that you will not fall off.
The most notable myth or misconception surrounding the exercises our experts describe here is that you can’t do any sort of useful workout on your bed. Though it’s important to keep in mind that these bed exercises aren’t going to burn a significant number of calories, they still have plenty of strengthening and toning benefits. Exercise is about a lot more than burning calories, and doing some movement after a long day while you take well-deserved time to relax and unwind, should leave you feeling proud for doing a double dose of self-care for your body and mind.
By elevating your legs, you’ll isolate your abs with these crunches.
- Stack two pillows at the foot of your bed.
- Lie flat on your back with your feet resting on the pillows and arms crossed over your chest.
- Inhale to pull your core in, and then exhale as you lift your upper body towards your feet, squeezing your abs to initiate the movement.
- Slowly lower your body down, engaging your core and resisting gravity.
- Repeat 15 times.
Push-ups are great for strengthening the chest, arms, and core, but they can be really challenging. This variation offers some of the same benefits, even if you’re not yet able to do a traditional push-up. “An incline push-up is achievable for most people, as the gravity on the body is less than on the floor, allowing [you] to complete a full range of motion,” explains Kovar. “The knee drive promotes further core stability, so it strengthens the entire front side of the body.”
- Place your hands on the edge of the bed or couch, and walk your feet back to where your body forms a straight incline plank from your heels to your head. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder distance.
- Engage your core, and bend your elbows to lower your body towards the bed (avoid bending at the hips) until your elbows are at 90 degrees.
- “Return the arms back to the starting position and then drive your right knee forward and back, and then the left knee forward and back to its starting position,” explains Kovar.
- Complete 12 reps.
This move targets your glutes and abs, and strengthens your hips.
- Lie on your back with your arms and legs extended.
- Lift your right leg an inch or two off the bed and rotate it up and out in a wide circle, keeping your leg straight.
- Once your leg is level with your hip, bring it up to the center of your body and lower it back down to the starting position.
- Repeat your circle in a slow and controlled motion five times, and then reverse the direction.
- Do 10 reps of the entire cycle per leg.
"Most people say that they don't feel the glutes contract as much as they would like. The main thing to remember while performing this exercise is to really focus on squeezing and activating your glutes—this is known as the mind-muscle connection," explains Geddes-Smith. "Studies have shown that you get more activation when you’re thinking about the muscle you are trying to target, so less thinking about what you are going to have for dinner tonight instead!"
- Lie on your bed with your knees bent, feet on the floor, and arms extended at your sides.
- Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips off the bed until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line.
- Lower with control, keeping your glutes engaged.
This move will tone your core, glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
- Lie on your back with your legs extended out in front of you.
- Squeeze your legs together and lift them up about three inches off of the bed.
- Draw a circle the size of a basketball in the air with your toes.
- Complete 20 reps in one direction, and then complete 20 reps in the reverse direction.
- Switch legs and repeat.
For more of a challenge for your lower abdominal muscles, draw figure-eights instead of circles.
Sit and Twist
This is a great move for your abs, and the twist component targets your obliques.
- Lie on your back, knees bent, and feet flat on the bed.
- Place your hands behind your head with your elbows bent and out to each side.
- Exhale, engaging your core as you sit up.
- Once you reach sitting position, twist your right elbow towards your left knee.
- Come back to center and lower your body back down.
- Do 20 sit-ups, alternating the side you twist to each time.
“Dips are an effective exercise to strengthen the back of the arm, the triceps,” notes Kovar. Your arms will be behind you on the edge of your bed or the couch while you lower your butt towards the ground.
- Sit at the very edge of your bed or couch with your hands on either side of your butt and fingers over the front edge of the bed. “Place the soles of the feet on the floor, knees bent to 90 degrees (for a more challenging dip, keep the legs straight and heels on the ground),” says Kovar.
- Lower the torso toward the ground, bending your elbows to 90 degrees.
- Press through your palms and use your triceps to straighten your arms and lift your body back up—don’t lift from your hips.
- Complete 12 reps.
This is another effective exercise for the obliques.
- Sit up straight with your feet flat on the bed, arms at a 90-degree angle, elbows in line with your shoulders, and core engaged.
- Keeping your head stationary, twist your torso and arms side to side for 60 seconds.
To increase the calorie burn, pick up the pace and add a punch each time you twist.
Knees to Chest
This simple exercise will tone two hard-to-target areas—your lower abs and inner thighs.
- Sit on the edge of the bed or couch.
- Engage your core to bring your knees up into your chest, squeezing your legs together.
- Lean back as you extend your legs out straight to a 45-degree angle so that your body is in the shape of a “V.”
- Hold that position for a few seconds, and then return to the starting position.
- Complete 15 reps.
Side Leg Lifts
This movement is small, but don’t be fooled—you’ll feel the burn in your glutes and hips in no time.
- Lie on one side with your legs extended, hips stacked, and your head resting on your arm.
- Keeping both hips stacked, pull your navel into your spine and lift your straightened top leg as high as you can.
- Hold the top position for a few seconds, and then lower back down.
- Complete 20 reps, and then switch sides.
“These help you to get full contraction of the abdominal muscles, which will build more strength and improve muscle growth whilst also stretching the lower back and opening up your hip rotators, which will ultimately help with lots of other exercises, including the squat,” explains Geddes-Smith.
- Lie on you back with the soles of the feet together and your arms outstretched above your head.
- Using only your abs and not your arms for momentum, lift your upper body in one fluid motion, reaching forward and touching your heels.
- Engage your abs to slowly lower back down to the starting position.
Back Extension Squeezes
Geddes-Smith says back extensions are a great exercise for strengthening the lower back muscles. “Adding in the V-squeeze also recruits the upper back muscles,” she says.
- Lie on your stomach with your body fully extended in a straight line and your hands on either side of your head.
- Contract your glutes and back muscles to simultaneously lift your upper body and chest and lower body off the bed as if you are Superman flying. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, pulling your elbows towards the center of your back.
- Hold for one second and then slowly lower your body back to the bed.