Get in Shape Affordably at Home!
Hello, from a fitness geek named Lillie! You’ve come to the right place if you want the motivation and structure to start working out regularly with an at-home exercise program. Huzzah for getting healthy and fit… for less time each day than a single TV show, and less money each month than one pizza delivery!
I’ve spent the past year researching the best Beachbody on Demand workout programs (while juggling remote teaching and parenting two young kids), and am here to help you find the best fit for YOU. Time to dive in…
Why You Should Trust These BOD Reviews:
Let’s start with why this article is honest, and will actually be useful to you. First, I truly DID every single day of every single Beachbody program in my ranking of best ones. Further, I personally sampled all the others in my section covering the “not so good” Beachbody programs. Hopefully this will save you time wasted in attempting inferior programs!
Second, BOD is not paying me for this article, nor did they ask me to write it, nor am I a Beachbody coach. I’m just a middle school teacher who is fascinated by the BOD platform, and who has gotten huge benefit out of using it. (Note: In terms of compensation, there ARE some affiliate links here which provide a small commission at no cost to you, ex: for my blue leggings pictured, but the main way I support this blog is by display ads, which function simply by you being on this page and reading!)
Third, my life goal is for as many people as possible in this world to feel healthy and happy, and I’ve found Beachbody to be one extremely affordable and effective solution for getting in shape at home. I’ve seen it work to transform bodies and lives… at the cost of just $8-$14 a month!
Finally, I’m a fitness fan who really enjoys gossiping about which exercise programs are best. I was a college athlete (high jump) and now am the volunteer coordinator of a 800-person fitness network in Boston to help motivate people to exercise and find the best fitness match for their lives (be it walking, lifting, or online programs).
Does Beachbody on Demand Work? Get Results This Way:
Yes, Beachbody on Demand works like crazy to get people in shape and fit fast, but you have to DO IT RIGHT. What do I mean by “do it right?” Too many people do Beachbody erratically, meaning that they skip around between programs and do workouts out of order, then take long periods off, doing nothing at all. DO NOT DO THAT.
Skipping around and taking random huge breaks is NOT how Beachbody is designed, and so that strategy will not produce the results you want. In fact, skipping around is dangerous, because programs are designed with a specific flow to protect your body as you get stronger.
The entire point of Beachbody is that experts spent months — even years — researching and planning a full program with a beginning, middle, and end. In that way, the platform is superior to (and cheaper than) any in-person gym. Pick a BOD program and do it as designed. You wouldn’t read a good novel by skipping to the middle, right? It disrespects the craft and it’s not effective. Go in order.
The two exceptions to the “do the programs as designed” rule are rest days, and following the specific nutrition plan. Regarding rest days, I actually DO suggest adding extra rest days to the Beachbody programs that run 6-7 days a week, especially if you’re like me and your “rest days” involve 5-mile walks. Listen to what your body needs, and after any extra rest days, just pick up where you left off in the correct order of program workouts. (Don’t repeat the previous workout that you already did before the rest.)
Here’s the nutrition component caveat: Each program has a workout component, and a nutrition plan. If — and that’s a big “if” — you already are doing well with your nutrition, just do the BOD workout component without the food suggestions, and you’ll still get results. (Indeed, “abs are made in the kitchen!”)
Since I’m already obsessive about healthy eating, protein, and hydration, I will focus 100% of this article on the exercise aspect of each program, but I encourage you to check out the nutrition side of BOD if you’ve been struggling in that area, as most Beachbody programs have a cool eating plan included.
Best Intermediate & Advanced BOD Programs:
At last we’ve come to the most important rankings! After months of trying different ones, here are the TOP THREE Beachbody on Demand programs that I did from start to finish and loved.
Note that for all of these, you need a base layer of fitness (at least intermediate level) and the ability to listen to your body and modify if a move doesn’t work. If your level is more beginner, scroll down for those easier program recommendations. Here we go!
Reviews of Other Good Beachbody on Demand Programs:
Effective BOD Programs That I Quit:
There were several Beachbody on Demand workout programs that I did the first three weeks of, then quit. Why? They each have major downsides that didn’t match my goals. That said, they’re worth including here because I got as far as I did in them since they DO have a lot of positives, and the flaws I saw may not be dealbreakers for your personal goals.
1. “LIIFT4″ with Joel Freeman
“LIIFT4” is a very good program — especially if you’re a man and want a powerful triangle body shape. The program is fun, funny, effective, and short (about 30 minutes a day with THREE rest days a week). So why did I quit after just 3 weeks? Well, I found it incredibly unbalanced in favor of arm building. There is waaaaaay too little leg and glute lifting, and as a woman, that’s will not lead to the results I want.
Check out the calendar to understand what I mean. In the four days a week this program runs, THREE of them involve upper body lifting (biceps, shoulders, triceps, etc.) and only ONE is a leg day — and every other week the leg day is just plyometrics instead of leg lifting! So this means that with “LIIFT4,” you only get leg and glute weight lifting once every two weeks?! What?!?! No thanks, Joel.
Speaking of balance, the other dealbreaker flaw for me with “LIIFT4” is that it is TOO balanced in terms of symmetrical workout moves. It is very important for stability building and health to lift and work in asymmetrical exercises, and I found that “80 Day Obsession,” “The Work,” and “#mbf” + #mbfa did a far and away better job with this element.
2. “Barre Blend” with Elise Joan
For some people, Barre workouts are ideal. They are low impact, and involve high reps with very light weights (1 to 5 pounds) in a ballet style to build long, lean muscles. I made it three weeks into the “Barre Blend” before quitting. Why?
This workout drove me crazy with irritation. I like heavy weight lifting, and have a very long (6-foot-tall) body, meaning that high reps were excruciatingly burning to my long lever muscles. I also found the ultra “feminine” vibe grating, but it may be a great fit for some people.
To be clear, this workout is low impact, but it’s not easy. “Barre Blend” is truly challenging in a unique way. My muscular husband did a few episodes of this workout, and found it extremely difficult! (Though he smirked at the direction to “write the name of your male celebrity crush with your feet during this leg lift.”) This program may be a match for you if the dealbreakers I mentioned aren’t concerns for your goals.
3. “P90x” with Tony Horton
“P90x” is the famous workout that (with “Insanity”) put Beachbody on the map. Countless people have used it to reshape their body. Yet, I made it just one week in the program before quitting. Why? Two reasons.
Reason one is that Tony’s jokes were… intense. Reason two is that “P90x” came out in the age of DVDs — before Beachbody had its “On Demand” feature — meaning it’s one of the many old BOD programs which require REPEATING videos in what I found to be a complicated, repetitive pattern.
Now that there are so many great On Demand era programs with unique videos for each day (which increase in difficulty appropriate for each week), my two cents is that there’s no reason to do the older DVD-style programs which require repeating episodes. Repeating videos is far less motivating and less growth-assisting than unique videos.
Knowing this fact immediately cuts down the number of programs you need to select from, which makes the massive Beachbody library less intimidating. How can you tell if a program repeats videos or not? Open the program page and click to “Workouts,” then see if it has “Week 1” and “Week 2” section and so on, each with unique videos. If not, I’d vote you close it and go for a newer program! (BOD has some really outdated programs still in its library, so beware.)
4. “Insanity” with Shaun T.
I’m obsessed with Shaun T. as a person, and follow him on Instagram to my great delight. He has several programs on Beachbody, including “Transform 20” (just 20 minutes a day), “T25,” and “Cize” (dance that I found fun but lopsided) — but his most famous is “Insanity.” There is also “Insanity Max: 30” which has shorter versions of his workouts.
I really enjoyed the “Insanity” episodes I did, and found them sweaty, heart-pumping, and effective. However, I did not complete the program because, first, it is the older model which requires repeating videos, and second, I love weightlifting, and Shaun’s workouts are almost fully bodyweight-only.
Good Beachbody on Demand Programs I Haven’t Fully Reviewed Yet:
I have heard rave reviews about “21 Day Fix Real Time” and “21 Day Fix Extreme Real Time” by Autumn Calabrese, but haven’t done them yet. (Note that the “Real Time” version gives different workouts each day, versus the version where you have to repeat videos.) Given how much I got out of Autumn’s “80 Day Obsession,” my guess is that these programs (just 30 minutes a day) are fabulous. Stay tuned for when I try and review them.
Other Beachbody on Demand programs I haven’t tried but friends have loved are “10 Rounds” (boxing and weights with Joel Freeman, who did “LIIFT4”), and “Morning Meltdown 100” (100 days of 20-30 minute workouts with Jehrico McMatthews).
New Beachbody on Demand Programs
BOD is always coming out with great new programs, and one new Beachbody on Demand series that I’ve just completed is “30 Day Breakaway” running and weights program with BOD’s only Latina trainer, Idalis Velazquez. I have a dream of doing the Spanish language version of #30DBA to boost both my running AND language skills, simultaneously! Autumn Calabrese also has a very interesting new program called “9 Week Control Freak” which I just finished reviewing.
Best Beachbody Programs for Beginners:
As you can see, my top BOD program recommendations are geared towards people with a base fitness level, but what if you’re just starting out? Never fear! Beachbody has some really fun and accessible programs for beginners.
The official Beachbody blog has the most comprehensive list of beginner On Demand programs, which include “PiYo,” (a neat combo of cardio, pilates, and yoga that my husband loves), “Country Heat” (I really enjoy that one for an easy dance workout), “21 Day Fix,” “Shift Shop” (I liked the workouts I sampled in that one), “Mes de Mas,” “3 Week Yoga Retreat,” “Clean Week,” (with the #mbf trainer, Megan Davies), and “A Little Obsessed.”
Another fitness expert I follow writes that “Barre Blend” makes a good beginner workout, and that even beginners can try harder programs like “Insanity” as long as they modify movements.
I would agree with that analysis, and say that the most important thing is to find a trainer and style that resonates with YOU, then be zealous about listening to your body and changing exercises to avoid injury, until you build enough strength to do the workouts fully. (Note — I’ve been an “advanced” athlete for decades, and still need to modify many moves, so there’s no shame in it!)
Bodyweight Programs vs. Buying Beachbody Equipment
One thing that may be stopping you from starting a Beachbody on Demand program could be that you don’t have much exercise equipment at home yet. Here’s my advice about that: Start with a bodyweight program like “Insanity” or “Core de Force” (a kickboxing program), and if you even slightly like them, YES — invest in equipment!
It may seem like a lot of money to buy weights, or a mat, or resistance bands, but the payoffs are SO WORTH IT. I started out with a cheap used set of dumbbells to do the first few programs, then invested in a massive adjustable dumbbells system — and I don’t regret a single penny because I use those weights multiple times a week. Any piece of equipment you actually use to make your body healthier merits the price!
What Beachbody Equipment is Most Needed?
The equipment you end up buying will depend on which Beachbody on Demand programs you end up doing, but here is my ranking for which order to purchase them in, organized by most useful and essential, with tips alongside each for how to affordably acquire them. Note that shipping is often faster if you just buy online versus through Beachbody itself.
1. A soft exercise mat (ideally two).
No matter which program you do, a thick, soft exercise mat like this one will make your life soooo much less painful — especially for floor moves like sit-ups, or if you work out barefoot like I do!
Ideally, in addition to that smaller super-squishy thick mat, you could also get a larger, thinner mat like these puzzle piece workout floor tiles.
2. Dumbbells (ideally at least two sets).
If you are just starting out, try to get a set of dumbbells that are 5 lbs., and a set that are 10 pounds. If you can only get one, I’d vote for tens, because you can get a lot of miles out of them. If ready to invest in a third set, 20s or 25s make sense.
What about adjustable dumbbells? They’re what I currently use, but be warned that they do have tradeoffs. On the plus side, they save SO much room and hassle because you have about 10 different weights all in one. On the minus side, their shape and structure can make certain moves in Beachbody programs more difficult. If you do go adjustable, you should also have a set of 10 lb. standard dumbbells for the moves that require things adjustable ones can’t do well.
Want to save money? Check your local neighborhood secondhand listings. There are lots of people selling their old exercise equipment for a steal. Just make sure you use judgement and caution, as there have been some weird workout equipment scams going on lately.
3. Resistance loops and exercise sliders.
Quite a few Beachbody on Demand programs call for resistance loops, sliders, or both. I got this loop and slider pack which contains all of the above, but I actually find that using burp cloths on hardwood floors works better than sliders! Also bear in mind that Beachbody resistance loop colors are different than other packs online, so you’ll need to “translate” in your head what “blue loop” means, for example, in terms of resistance level.
4. Fitness clothing like compression socks.
Wearing the right gear, especially compression socks and good quality sports bras, can make all the difference for a comfortable workout. For compression socks, I’ve enjoyed this brand and this brand.
If you enjoy the blue outfit I’m modeling in the photos in this article, you can find the goods at my friend’s woman-owned, ethical company, Wanderbabe.
5. Possibly: Cordless jump rope, resistance bands, chin-up bar, etc.
Depending on the programs you pick, there may be random other equipment required. I urge you not to let unfamiliar new materials stop you from trying a program. Most items can be found very affordably online, and some aren’t actually necessary.
For example, “#mbf” requires a “Bod Rope” which is a cordless jump rope. I bought this one online for super cheap, and it’s perfectly functional as long as you make sure the top and bottom are screwed on tight before each use.
Regarding chin-up bars, don’t stress about them — especially if you are a woman and don’t feel like bulking up in that direction. Most programs, including “The Work,” offer modifications for chin-up moves, so the bar isn’t required. (Thank goodness because chin-ups are my nemesis.)
These aren’t mentioned in Beachbody equipment requirements, but I really appreciate having push-up stands like these ones to combat wrist fatigue in programs with a lot of floor work.
Other Beachbody on Demand Tips:
Enjoy the Cast Members’ Personalities!
Part of the fun of joining a community as large as the Beachbody one (we’re talking MILLIONS of users) is enjoying the personalities involved. My top tip that I don’t see talked about a lot is to find and follow the cast members of programs you like — not just the trainers.
One of my favorite cast members to follow online is Kevin Caliber (the muscular Marine from “6 Weeks of the Work,” who it turns out is a budding actor, and also a super nice guy).
Find a Workout Peer Pressure Buddy
Like most things, fitness is more fun when you do it with a friend — ideally more than one! See if there are people in your life who could be persuaded to start a program at the same time as you, or to recommend a program they’ve already done, and talk you through it.
These don’t need to be best friends — even a random acquaintance can make a big difference in motivation if you’re on the same page. There are also online Facebook or social media groups, and Beachbody BODGroups to assist in the motivation matching process.
Don’t be intimidated by the name “Beachbody.” Doing an exercise program is not about strutting around beaches like the Caribbean ABC Islands or Folly Beach in tiny bikinis, flexing for no reason — it’s about your own personal health and happiness.
What’s YOUR Best Beachbody on Demand Workout Program?
Share YOUR Reviews!
Launching your workout life with Beachbody — or any other fitness routine — is like dating. You need to try a bunch of different ones before you find the right match for you, but that exploration is part of the adventure! And you’ll never find a good fitness routine or a good romantic partner if you just sit idle on the couch and don’t try, right?
So what are you waiting for? DIVE IN to the vast On Demand library and see for yourself what’s a fit! Report back in the comments section below. I’m so curious to see what you end up matching with.
For those of you who’ve already done some Beachbody programs, which are YOUR favorites and least favorite, and why? Do your reviews match with mine or differ? Do share!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!