The Five Best YouTube Exercise Videos

There are two things I know for sure: Armie Hammer looks beautiful in a tracksuit and I don’t want to leave my apartment this winter. Because of the latter, I realized online exercise routines could be my saving grace. So, this month, I put five YouTube workout videos (old and new) to the test — with apricot LaCroix cans as my weights…

7-Minute Workout, 2013, 9:04 minutes (x3)

What it is: A scientifically-based, animated routine that features 12 high-intensity exercises (wall sits, squats, jumps) using only your body weight.

Required materials: A wall, a chair and no downstairs neighbors.

My take: First, the good: The title is “7-Minute Workout,” and there are breaks every 30 seconds. A stoic, faceless man in a royal blue muscle tee (the secret to success?) shows you the moves. As for the questionable: Research behind the routine suggests the workout should be repeated three times for optimal impact, actually making it a 21-minute workout. Then come the push ups. And minutes later, more push ups with rotations — a move that requires you to rotate your body from push-up position into a 90-degree angle away from the ground, extending both (trembling) arms. Despite a week’s worth of attempts, I could never keep up in these final minutes. All in all, this video does remain true to one promise: it’s a workout. The only catch? It felt a little boring.

Beautiful Ballet: Total Body Sculpt Workout, 2013, 15:15 minutes

What it is: A ballet-inspired routine with concentrated toning moves led by former ballerina Mary Helen Bowers.

Required materials: A yoga mat and coping strategies.

My take: If one were to watch this video without physically following along, they might describe it as peaceful. Mary’s posture is majestic, her voice is soft, and her gentle movements could rock a baby to sleep. But don’t be fooled, this workout — intended to length muscles by repeating tiny movements — is tough. YouTube comments from past participants included: “If I had a dollar for every break I took during this workout,” and “This is madness.” They were right. Within minutes, the miniature movements felt piercing. Sets went by where I forgot to breathe until she told me to. But once the video was over and the pain subsided, I was proud of myself. Later that night, feeling strong, I even flexed for my boyfriend. So, I bookmarked it to do again.

Tiffany Rothe: Mountain Climber, 2011, 11:12 minutes (x3)

What it is: A routine featuring core workouts and cardio exercises taught by fitness guru Tiffany Rothe.

Required materials: Three- to five-pound weights (or pantry cans) and zero witnesses.

My take: I found a lot to love in this routine, which mimics climbing a mountain. Some highlights included running with an imaginary backpack (pushing your weights above your head), clearing leaves from a pathway (picking your weights off the floor) and crossing unexpected bodies of water — “Uh oh, here comes the stream,” she says — by rowing a boat (moving your arms in circles). It was weird and funny enough to distract me into doing lunges. There’s also Tiffany herself. She teaches at a speed that feels manageable, wears a flower in her braids and offers kind encouragement like, “That’s it, mountain climbers, almost there.” This was the sweatiest of the workouts I tried, but I’ve already happily returned to it.

Yoga with Adriene: Core (and Booty!), 2017, 28:42 minutes

What it is: A yoga practice guided by Adriene Mishler to tone the core and buttocks, with an emphasis on mindfulness.

Required materials: A yoga mat and a tissue.

My take: This class is a thirty-minute motivational speech for the motivational-speech weary. “We have so much that we didn’t know was possible, so much energy, so much potential,” she mentions casually in a Namaste pose. It was then that I realized I had just taken my first deep breath of the year. Her instructions are easy and relaxed, and filled with modifications for beginners. “Take your time getting there,” she whispers. I can’t touch my toes and I’m clumsier than I expected, but Adriene doesn’t care. She laughs at herself, too. And for that, I will tune in again.

Jane Fonda: Lean Routine, 1992, 60 minutes

What it is: An aerobic dance routine led by THE Jane Fonda.

Required materials: A large room and an appreciation of tube socks.

My take: It’s difficult to know when my infatuation for this video began. Maybe it was Jane’s lacy bodysuit. Maybe it was when she winked and said, “We’re going to go out to roof and have some fun,” as the video panned to studio set with a fake (but impressive) New York City skyline in the background — complete with flashing lights and smoke. Or maybe was it because, when starting the cool-down routine, every dancer nonchalantly put on sunglasses. However it started, here I am. The workout moves swiftly with jumpy hustles and twisting cha cha moves you combine into longer sets. It was difficult to keep up with, but I, like the rest of America decades ago, was hypnotized. Although I can’t picture myself making aerobic dance videos a habit, I’m 100% queuing this up the next time I host a party.

Thoughts? Do you have any workout videos you like? What do you do for exercise?

P.S. Five great exercise classes, and random activities considered a workout.

(Top photo of Jane Fonda.)