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The Best Exercise From Home- The Answer Might Surprise You

best exercise from home

Choosing the best exercise from home wasn’t easy because I have several favorites that I go to time and time again. Burpees are always a classic choice because they can be done anywhere and burn a ton of calories. Then there’s the pushup- another timeless exercise that will never go out of fashion. Pull ups, squats, lunges- all good stuff, but I’m thinking of something else…the squat press.

Surprised? Good. Now let me prove to you why the squat press is the best exercise from home (and why you should start adding them to your workout immediately!)

What Is A Squat Press?

I need to make sure we are all on the same page before I go into why I like squat presses so much. If you’re not familiar with the exercise, it’s basically a combination between a squat and a shoulder press. Exercising from home, it’s usually easier to perform this exercise with dumbbells. But if you have a barbell set, you can use that as well (if done with a barbell, it’s known as a thruster).

  1. Grab your dumbbells and rest them at shoulder height (elbows flexed)
  2. Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
  3. Stick your hips back as you bend at the knees (keeping the dumbbells at their resting position)
  4. As you come up from the squat position, push the dumbbells up over your head
  5. Hold for a sec, and then return dumbbells to starting position

That sequence is one rep. I’d like to point out that you can do this exercise with your palms facing outward as if you are doing a traditional shoulder press or with your palms facing each other (neutral grip). I prefer the neutral grip because it is easier on the shoulders- and I would recommend this position if you have issues with shoulder impingement.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is even better:

This trainer does them the way I prefer, although I don’t pause as much as he does between the squat and the shoulder press. I like to make it a little more fluid, trying to use the momentum from the squat to help get the dumbbells overhead.

Now that we are all on the same page regarding squat presses, let me prove to you why this is the best exercise that can be performed from home.

Squat Press- The Best Exercise From Home

1. Total Body Workout

Like the trainer from the above video mentioned, the squat press is a total body exercise. This movement will almost literally encage every muscle in your body.

We are obviously hitting the legs hard during the squat: glutes, quads, hamstrings, and adductors all working together to control you as you descend into the sitting position and explode back up.

The upper body is working hard too. Your biceps are statically holding the dumbbells in place at the starting position. As you press the weight toward the ceiling, you will be targeting primarily your deltoids and triceps, but I bet your pecs and lats are kicking in a little (as well as your rotator cuff) to stabilize your shoulders during the press.

But I love the core strengthening aspect you get from doing squat presses. If you have never tried this exercise before, your abs will probably be sore the next day. As you squat down, your entire core is turning on to stabilize your body and keep you balanced.

The same thing happens when the dumbbells are over your head. If you pause for a second here, you will feel your core turn on to stabilize the weight and keep you balanced.

And by core, I don’t mean just abs. We’re talking obliques, transverse abdominis (very important deeper stabilizing muscle), and back extensors as well.

2. Burn More Calories

Working all of these muscles at the same time is going to get your heart rate up and burn a ton of calories. It’s been estimated that burpees burn between 8-14 calories per minute (depending on your size and speed). I would estimate that squat presses burn around the same amount.

Burning more calories means burning more fat. It can also help with weight loss and toning up. If you are trying to lose weight, I would suggest going with a lighter weight and doing more reps. 4 sets of 12-15 isn’t a bad place to start. You could also incorporate them HIIT style– do as many as you can in 60 sec, rest, and repeat.

3. Build Strength

Squat presses make a great cardio exercise for burning calories and losing weight, but keep in mind you are lifting weights here. This exercise is great for building leg and upper body strength simultaneously. I often do shoulders and legs on the same day, so squat presses are a key component of my strengthening workouts.

If going for strength, go for heavier dumbbells and decrease the rep range. I like to do 4 sets usually: 12, 10, 8, 6 with increasing the weight for each set.

You will notice your legs and shoulders getting stronger, as well as your core.

4. Improved Endurance

Squat presses work your entire body at the same time, which causes your heart rate to increase rapidly. This exercise is great to use for HIIT workouts because it gets your heart rate up high and does so fast. Exercising with your heart rate up to near max potential increases your cardiovascular endurance.

It also increases your metabolism so your body continues burning more calories after you stop exercising. Win-win!

This endurance improvement will be noticeable during other exercises such as running or cycling. You may also notice you get less fatigued during the work day or when running errands on the weekends.

5. Minimal Space Requirements

The squat press is a great exercise for all of the health benefits mentioned above. But it’s a great exercise to do at home because it doesn’t take much space to it. You really only need enough room to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

I would bet anybody, regardless of how small their home is, has enough room to do this exercise.

And the only equipment necessary is a set of dumbbells. It would be nice to have a full set of dumbbells, but it’s not necessary. Depending on the weight you have, you may have to adjust your reps a little to ensure a good workout.

No dumbbells? You could do this exercise with a resistance band if it’s long enough to stand on. No resistance bands? Grab some milk jugs.

6. Improve Your Durability

I wanted to keep it to 5 reasons (such a nice round number), but I also wanted to include this one: improved durability. What do I mean by this? Easy- you will be less likely to injure yourself in the real world if you do squat presses regularly and correctly.

As a physical therapist, I’m all about reducing risk of injury. It’s my job. The squat press is a perfect example of a functional exercise. It’s a movement that mimics movements we do often in the real world.

Think about picking something up and putting it on a shelf. Think about picking up a small child. Think about bending down to get something off the floor. These are all examples of movements we do everyday…and people hurt themselves doing these tasks everyday.

Squat presses will strengthen all of the muscles that will make you safer during these tasks. Strengthening your hips and core will significantly reduce your chance of injury during lifting tasks. Not to mention the added benefit of increasing your shoulder and upper body strength, which will make lifting those objects less taxing.

In my work I am often helping my patients get out of bed and out of chairs. The hip and core strength I gain from doing squat presses makes these tasks easier and safer for me.

Final Thoughts

So are you convinced now that the squat press is the best exercise from home? If not, here’s one final push to get you on my side.

Squat presses:

  • Are a full body workout
  • Burn more calories than most exercises
  • Build upper and lower body strength
  • Improve your cardiovascular endurance
  • Don’t take much space (or equipment) to do
  • Will make you more durable in the real world

Well, there you have it. Squat presses have become my favorite home exercise and I incorporate them into my workouts every week. If you aren’t doing them, I encourage you to give them a try. They are good for you!

But I’d also like to hear some different opinions. If not the squat press, what is the best exercise you can do from home? What is your favorite home exercise? Leave a comment and let the debate begin!


Will's a licensed physical therapist (DPT) with over 15 years of experience treating patients from all backgrounds. He's been lifting weights and exercising in one form or another since middle school and has been working out in his own home gym for over a decade. When it comes to fitness equipment, there isn't much he hasn't tried. In his spare time, if he isn't writing or working out, he's likely playing basketball, watching movies, or hanging with his family.

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