PE with Joe Wicks

    The best fitness workouts to try on YouTube

    7 April 2020

    When I wasn’t snogging boys or drinking vodka in school fields, I spent the majority of my teenage years doing workouts in my bedroom. I had every celebrity exercise video ever released, from Wicksy off EastEnders to Jet off Gladiators.

    Later (yes, this spanned beyond my teenage years) I worked out at home with Tanya Turner from Footballers Wives, and former Page 3 girl Nell McAndrew. And it wasn’t just celebrities. I loved the big names in fitness, such as the effervescent Denise Austin who favoured a Donna Summer soundtrack and catchphrases such as: “EXERCISE! GIVES! YOU! ENERGY!!!

    I later qualified as a studio instructor, and following that, a Personal Trainer, so all in all I feel pretty well placed to share my thoughts on working out at home.

    There’s now an abundance of free workouts you can do on You Tube while you’re stuck indoors dodging the Coronavirus. Want 20 minutes of hip hop style Tabata for beginners? You’ll find it. Want 40 minutes of high impact kickboxing cardio with handweights? It’s there. Here are some of the big hitters you should be aware of before diving in and finding a routine you love:

    Joe Wicks

    Cheeky chappy Joe Wicks aka The Body Coach is currently staking his claim as the nation’s PE teacher, offering live workouts every weekday morning. With staples such as star jumps and running on the spot, the 30 minute sessions are aimed at kids, but Joe demonstrates two levels of difficulty for pretty much every exercise, so the workout’s as hard as you want to make it. There are shout-outs to people joining in, so this is a nice one to do with your kids.

    If you take a shine to Joe, you’ll find more of his easy-to-follow workouts on his You Tube channel. But be warned – the more you watch, the more he morphs into an amalgamation of Russell Brand and David Brent.

    Pop Sugar Fitness

    To feel like you’re working out with Elle Woods in her Legally Blonde sorority house, check out POPSUGAR Fitness. Guest presenters include Selena Gomez’s PT, and anyone who’s ever trained a Victoria’s Secret model. While the presenters and the style of class vary (from cardio to barre and booty-training) they all have the high energy atmosphere of an IRL studio class, and offer three levels of difficulty, with easier and more advanced versions of each exercise demonstrated by additional instructors flanking the main presenter. You’ll also find a little clock on the screen, counting down the minutes to when you finish.

    Fitness Blender

    For no frills fitness, check out Fitness Blender and train with husband and wife duo Daniel and Kelli. Their workouts take place in front of a white backdrop, exuding all the vavaoom of a public health warning by Chris Witty, who may have also chosen their gym kit. If this appeals, you’re not alone – Fitness Blender is apparently one of the top five fitness channels on You Tube so there’s clearly an audience for a minimalist approach.

    However, like Joe Wicks they use a “BEEP! BEEP!” every 30 seconds or so, to signal the start of each exercise. When you’ve done a few of these workouts, you start to feel like you’re living with an unceasing soundtrack of a microwave, so you may want to watch with the sound down.


    If Fitness Blender floats your boat, you’ll like HASfit which sees Coach Kozak and Claudia do all their exercises in front of a brick wall. Coach Kozak (who sounds like Nicolas Cage) has a voice suited to a sleep app and they both wear headsets as if they’re about to shift some highly absorbent kitchen cloths. But they’re amongst the top 10 fitness channels on You Tube, so they’re hitting the spot for a lot of people, and that could include you.


    For an amazing backdrop of beaches, marinas and sun soaked swimming pools, check out GymRa. Like POPSUGAR, they have a range of workouts, from bodyweight to kettlebells, as well as a variety of instructors. Some of them speak directly to camera as they’re doing the routine, while others record a voiceover (which can feel less like they’re in it with you), and some workouts are music only (ie the presenter simply demonstrates). So if you try one workout and it’s not for you, it is worth checking out some of the others, because the routines tend to be good and there’s no beeping.

    Finding a trainer you like will be a case of trial and error, but here are some general points to bear in mind:

    • If you can step forwards, backwards and side to side, you do have enough space.
    • If you have problems with your knees or ankles, or if you live in a flat and you’re trying not to disturb downstairs, search for “low impact” or “no impact” – you’ll still get a great workout, but without the impact on your joints or your neighbour’s ceiling.
    • Warm-up safely. Lots of workouts go straight into high impact exercises that will damage your joints if you do them before you’ve warmed-up (and sometimes these exercises are actually included in the “warm-up” section). You shouldn’t be bouncing, jumping, or jogging on the spot until you’re already warm, so if in doubt do this warm-up before you start your workout.
    • Lots of “no equipment” workouts still involve floor exercises which are best done with an exercise mat. If you don’t have one, look for “standing only” or have a cushion handy (eg for your knees, if you do three-quarter press-ups) or thick towels for your back, when you’re lying down doing abs.
    • Pilates and yoga are perfect if you need to be quiet, although you do need a mat. Five Parks Yoga has some fantastic routines, as do Adriene and Fightmaster.
    • You’ll find Pilates on pretty much every fitness channel, but they won’t necessarily give you proper guidance. Lynne Robinson’s Back to Basics is exactly what you need to master technique, alignment, and breathing and you can take Lynne’s advice to “breathe in, breathe out, zip and hollow” with you, if you do Pilates on any other channel.

    Samantha Rea can be found tweeting here