The Absolute Best Free YouTube Workouts For Busy Parents—Or Anyone Who Hates The Gym

Our curated list of effective, no-BS workouts to cram in during your kid's nap or a lunch break.

September 29, 2017
woman working out at home
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My husband and I recently purchased a family gym membership. We were pumped. It has amazing childcare, a pool, a café, and a spa—all of which we will never use. In the two months since joining, I’ve started working out almost daily at home instead. It’s not because we enjoy lighting money on fire. No, we just didn’t consider our family’s sacred nap schedule when we signed up. 

We’re a little uptight about upholding the kids’ nap routines. Between the 11-month old and 3-year old, someone is always sleeping between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. As much as I love my Barbell Strength and hot yoga classes, I can’t sacrifice a nap (or my sanity). So I work out from home. 

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On good days, I will experience the “holy grail” of a nap overlap. This is the coveted time for parents during which all uninterrupted cleaning, laundry, yard work, dishes, and exercise must occur. Squeezing in a workout is tough, but with YouTube, I’ve found lots of short workouts (30 minutes and under)—and they’re all accessible from my judgment-free living room.  

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A big challenge is quickly selecting a workout among the 8 million YouTube exercise videos available. Yes. EIGHT. MILLION! They range in length from 5-minute booty boosters to full-length, 60-minute classes. It’s easy to waste precious nap minutes just searching the endless catalog—so it’s really helpful to have a starting point. 

After several weeks of working out at home, I’ve developed my own list of go-to workout channels and videos that can be completed within the nap “sweet spot”—about 30 minutes. These range in style from barre classes to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), power yoga, and Pilates. With such variety, it’s fun changing it up.

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Obviously, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s out there. But I am a perfectionist, so I’ve done a lot of terrible workouts to arrive at this list.

While I have absolutely zero credentials other than being a mother who is strapped for time, here are my personal criteria... 

+ Free with minimal product pushing 
+ 30 minutes—up to 45 if the kids are super sleepy or I decide not to shower
+ Decently challenging—not too easy, but not barf-inducing
+ Minimal equipment—if the video calls for more than dumbbells, a yoga mat, a towel, or a ball (I use my son’s rubber basketball), then I move on

With that in mind, here are my top YouTube fitness channels and my favorite workouts on each. Happy sweating! 

Fitness Blender workout
1/5 Photograph courtesy of Fitness Blender
Best one-stop-shop: Fitness Blender

If I could choose just one channel, this would be it. I love, love, love Fitness Blender. With videos led by a husband and wife team, Fitness Blender offers 500 free workout videos that are searchable by keyword, difficulty, workout times, calorie burns, training type, and equipment needed—all in a free search tool on their website.

I’ve found their HIIT videos and targeted strength-training classes to be my absolute favorites—and they are seriously killer. Fitness Blender’s workouts are professional, and include a calorie counter, timer, and preview of the next exercise in the upper left portion of your screen. They offer great modifications and plenty of workouts requiring zero equipment. 

My go-to workouts: The 25-minute Ultimate HIIT Workout for People Who Get Bored Easily and the 30-minute Bodyweight Only Fat Burning HIIT Cardio Workout + Total Body Toning are my personal faves. Really crunched for time? This 17-minute workout is an oldie but a goodie. 

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5 Parks Yoga workout
2/5 Photograph courtesy of 5 Parks Yoga
Best break-a-sweat yoga: 5 Parks Yoga

Five Parks Yoga with Erin Sampson has something for everyone—from Vinyasa flow to “yoga fit” classes with weights—and includes a number of easily searchable playlists based on length, as well as sports-focused classes, specialty classes (like prenatal), supported chair yoga classes, and classes for various muscle groups. There’s something for everyone. Bonus: The videos are filmed in gorgeous locations like Colorado, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua—a nice change from your living room. 

My go-to workouts: I especially like the Vinyasa flow classes because they include faster flow movements, getting my heart rate up while strengthening, toning, and stretching various muscle groups. My go-to workouts are the 30-minute Vigorous Vinyasa Flow Yoga Class and the 30 Minute Power Vinyasa Yoga Class.

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SummerGirl Fitness workout video
3/5 Photograph courtesy of SummerGirl Fitness
Best barre workouts: SummerGirl Fitness

Barre is super trendy right now, and I sampled a lot of “barre” workouts before I found some that I felt drew real inspiration from ballet and gave me a great workout in the process. Marielle (a.k.a. SummerGirl) combines real ballet moves with killer arm exercises (I mean, ouch!) that require only 1- to 2-pound dumbbells or water bottles. Marielle keeps an upbeat tempo and her Dallas charm is actually kind of endearing. 

My go-to workouts: I like to combine two short barre routines to create one 30-minute routine. I start with the 15-minute Beach BARRE Workout: Legs, Abs, Booty, which kicks off with what I’d call “fast yoga” and ends with quick Pilates moves. Then, I add the 15-minute Barre Fitness Workout – BOOTY & ARMS, which provides great ballet barre moves with a killer arm section (chair and light weights needed). If I have the time, I go for the Full Length: Total Body BARRE Class, which manages to target every muscle group in under 45 minutes.

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Amanda Russell circuit workout
4/5 Photograph courtesy of Amanda Russell
Best circuit training: Amanda Russell

A former competitive sprinter, Amanda Russell offers more than 100 videos focused on building strength and endurance with goal-focused titles like “Skinny Jeans Workout” and “Strapless in 15 Minutes Workout.” She offers total body workouts along with videos targeting abs, arms, shoulders, legs, and “bootay.” 

The videos tend to be short, giving you the option to repeat the circuits or rounds for longer routines. You may initially hate her—her outfits are always spectacular, she’s model thin, and her hair looks fabulous—but she’s fun, quirky, and gets the job done. The only con: You’ll want a new workout wardrobe.

My go-to workouts: I love her FULL Cardio & Sculpting Workout, which gets the job done in less than 14 minutes, with three rounds of five exercises. Her 17-minute Full Perfect Circuit Workout is also great. Optional equipment includes light dumbbells or water bottles. 

Related: 5 Crazy Fun Alternative Fitness Classes

Jessica Valant pilates workout video
5/5 Photograph courtesy of Jessica Valant Pilates
Best pilates with a side of PT: Jessica Valant Pilates

I will be the first to admit that I don’t love Pilates. I hate the abdominal work. I feel like it can be slow and boring. And I haven’t encountered many great YouTube channels focused on this discipline—until I discovered Jessica Valant. She’s a mama, a physical therapist, a business owner, and a great overall instructor. She has some action-packed workouts that move quickly and provide the general cardio, strengthening, and stretching I’m looking for.

Additionally, she offers workouts for various muscle groups, for athletes, and even for those things that ail you—like knees, hips, sciatica, and scoliosis. As a mom, I love that she has prenatal and postnatal classes, including those to help strengthen the pelvic floor and correct diastasis recti (separation of the ab muscles). 
 
My go-to workouts: She offers a one-two punch with her Cardio Pilates - Pilates Workout Full Body Part 1 and Part 2, which can be done separately or together. They’re a little faster in pace than traditional Pilates – which is perfect, in my opinion. Because I’ve suffered from diastasis recti and some pelvic floor weakness in the past (you know, when you sneeze and pee a little), I also love her Diastasis Recti Exercises

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