How to Create an Arcade-Style Workout at Home

Turn Your Home Gym into an Arcade Experience

When Asphalt Green, a gym and recreation center in New York City, started offering AG6, an arcade-inspired workout program in 2016, it didn't take long for videos of the high intensity workout to garner millions of views on Facebook and a slew of media shout-outs for its exciting-looking new program. You see, this workout melds the flashing lights and neon colors of an 80s or 90s arcade with the addictive nature of full-body gaming, all while pumping up the sweat-quotient with traditional bodyweight exercises and circuit-based training protocols. The resulting 45-minute routine is purported to burn as many as 1,000 calories in a single session while enhancing speed, coordination, agility, strength, and cardiovascular endurance.

Even if it sounds amazing (and it would be hard to deny that it does), as of October 2016, Asphalt Green was the only gym in the United States to use the PRAMA system of high tech LED lights, timers, and multimedia management to enable the facilitation of more than 500 workout routines. That means if you don't live in NYC, you're kind of out of luck.

Except that you're not, at all. You just need to think outside the box to create your own arcade-style workout routine at home.

You also don't need to worry about missing out on the in-class experience. According to Chloe Miller, a writer for Business Insider who tried the AG6 routine in June 2016, most of the exercises aren't all that different from stations you'd find at other circuit-focused workout classes, and only a few of the stations actually use the arcade-style LED game boards. In other words, by creating the arcade atmosphere at home and developing your own game-like exercises, you can harness the style of the class without taking an impromptu trip to New York City's Upper East Side.

Set the Mood

Arcade Workout Experience
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Much of the excitement surrounding the AG6 workout boils down the the arcade atmosphere put in place with dim overhead lighting, neon colors, blinking lights, and loud, pumping music. In fact, the lighting and sound techniques themselves aren't all that different from other popular workout routines, including club-style group cycling and dance classes that capitalize on the "working out is going out" trend.

Truthfully, this isn't hard to mimic at home. All you need is a good speaker to play your favorite tunes, a room where you can turn the lights low and set up a few lamps to make sure you can see what you're doing, and colorful LED rope lights strung around the ceiling or floorboards to help create an arcade-like feel. If you really want to go all-out on your arcade gym set-up, consider the following suggestions:

  • Buy the iHome iP76 LED speaker system for your iPhone or iPod. This speaker system enables you to dock and play your favorite playlist directly from your Apple device, and the tower docking system lights up with different LED lights and can be set to pulse or strobe for a more arcade-like effect.
  • Listen to the Spotify playlist, Audio Arcade, for electronic dance music that mimics the sounds of a real arcade.
  • Replace the light bulbs in your overhead light fixtures and lamps with LED color changing bulbs so you can choose the room's color scheme and enjoy a different environment every time you exercise.

Use Playing Cards to Guide You

Part of the fun of arcade-style workouts is that you, as the participant, don't know exactly what's coming next. While it's hard to recreate the same feeling of anticipation without the multimedia management provided by the high-tech PRAMA system, you can put together your own low-tech version of the unknown by using playing cards to guide your workout routine. Here's what you need to do:

  • Choose any four exercises for your circuit. You can use basic strength training exercises, like squats, lunges, dumbbell curls, bent over rows, and sit ups, or you can try a few of the game-inspired exercises detailed below.
  • Using a standard playing card deck, assign one exercise to each of the suits.
  • Remove all the number cards lower than four from the deck.
  • Set up your stack of cards face down, and set a timer for 10 minutes. Flip the first card over and do the exercise associated with the card's suit for the number of repetitions designated by the number on the card. For instance, if the exercise associated with hearts is a squat, and you pull a four of hearts from the deck, you'd perform four squats. For face cards and aces, perform 12 repetitions.
  • As soon as you finish the reps for the first card, flip the next card over and continue.
  • When your timer dings, rest for up to five minutes, then choose four new exercises and continue your workout. Perform three or four 10-minute circuits, each circuit featuring different exercises.

Create Floor Games With Glow in the Dark Tape

Many of the exercises featured by the AG6 workout are based on precision. Participants use grids and circles outlined on the floor to successfully perform sliding, jumping, and throwing movements. Use these tips, along with colorful, glow in the dark tape to recreate similar moves at home. Don't be afraid to get creative with the grids you create and the exercises you perform.

Ladder Drills:

Use glow in the dark tape to outline a 12 to 15-foot agility ladder on the floor with two long strips of tape roughly 18-inches apart with shorter, perpendicular strips of tape every 15 inches. Using this ladder, exercises might include:

  • In-and-out quick feet. Start at the end of the ladder, jog both feet into the first square of the ladder, then jog them laterally to either side of the second square of the ladder. Again, jog both feet into the third square of the ladder and continue in this pattern all the way down the line.
  • Crossover lateral plank walks. Set up perpendicular to the ladder's length with one hand in each of the first two ladder squares. Walk your hands laterally all the way down the length of the ladder, leading with your outside hand first so you must cross it over your inside hand to place it in the third ladder square.
  • 1-2-3 Precision jumps. Stand at the end of the ladder and perform two-foot jumps all the way down the length of the ladder. The first time down the ladder, only hop forward one square at a time. The second time down the ladder, hop forward two squares at a time, skipping over one square. The third time down the ladder, hop forward three squares at a time, skipping over two squares. Continue in this same sequence for the duration of your set.
  • Wide-leg lateral squat walks. Stand at the end of the ladder, your right side pointing toward the ladder. Take a wide step with your right foot, placing it in the second or third ladder square. Press your hips back and perform a wide-legged squat. Return to standing and step your left foot to the same square as your right foot. Take another step laterally with your right foot and continue all the way down the ladder.

When counting repetitions for ladder drills, consider each trip down the ladder as a single repetition for speed or agility exercises, such as jumping or jogging, and each movement as a single repetition for strength exercises, including squats, lunges, pushups, and so forth.

Star Drills:

Use the glow in the dark tape to draw a six foot star on the floor, first using two, six-foot strips of tape to create a cross shape, then using shorter, three-foot strips of tape to create an "x" over the center of the cross. A few possible exercises include:

  • Precision sliding planks. Set up in a plank position so your body's parallel with the center bar of the star. Place your feet on a sliding disc or paper plate. Hold the position for a count of five, then slowly draw your knees toward your chest, trying to bring your feet as close as you can to the center of the star. Extend your legs, hold the position for a count of five, then draw your knees forward again, this time twisting your torso and knees out to the right as you try to bring your feet all the way to the bottom of the star's center "x" on the right side. Extend your feet back to start, then repeat to the left side. Continue this center-right-left sequence for the duration of your set.
  • Clock lunges. Stand in the center of the star. Lunge forward, planting your right foot at or near the top of the star. Perform a forward lunge, then return to standing. Next, lunge your right foot to the right, this time performing a side lunge. Finally, lunge your right foot backward, aiming the ball of your right foot to the back of the star. Perform a reverse lunge and return to standing. Repeat the sequence with your left leg for a full repetition. For this exercise you do not have to reach your lunging foot all the way to the ends of the tape.
  • "X" agility feet. Stand in the center of the star in a ready position with your knees and hips slightly bent, your weight on the balls of your feet and your elbows bent at your sides. Take a step forward to the end of the "x" tape on the right side, trying to plant your foot exactly on the edge of the tape. Immediately follow suit by stepping your left foot forward to the end of the "x" tape on the left side. Quickly step both feet back to center, immediately stepping your right, then your left foot backward, this time trying to plant your foot exactly on the edge of the "x" tape behind you to either side. Bring your feet back to the center position again, and continue. Perform this exercise as quickly as you can.

Use Tap Lights for Wall Games

Part of the fun of arcade-style workouts is that you receive an immediate, visual reward when you accurately tap an exercise's LED light cue. You can simulate this same reward system with simple LED tap lights. By adhering these lights to the wall in various patterns, you can run drills where you must accurately tap each light to turn it on or off. Here are a few light pattern suggestions you might want to try, along with corresponding exercise possibilities, but as with the floor tape grids, feel free to get creative.

Light Square:

Set up a six-foot square of four tap lights on your wall, so the top two lights are positioned just above your head, and the lower two lights are at roughly hip-level.

  • Squat, reach and slide. To perform the squat, reach and slide, start facing the wall at the right side of the square. Reach up and tap the top right light, turning it on. Immediately squat down, to tap and turn on the lower right light. In your low squat position, slide to the left, tapping the bottom left light on. Stand up, reaching your hands over your head to tap on the top left light. Reverse the exercise, this time turning all the lights back off again.

Narrow Triangle:

Set up a narrow triangle of tap lights so the bottom two are roughly shoulder-distance apart and about eight to 12-inches off the ground. The top of the triangle should be positioned above your head, so you have to reach to tap it on your tip toes.

  • Pushup patty cakes. Set up in a pushup position perpendicular to the wall so the tap lights are directly in front of either shoulder. Perform a pushup, and after you press up to the starting position, shift your weight to the right and lift your left hand off the ground, reaching it across your body to tap the light in front of your right shoulder, turning it on. Return your left hand to the ground, perform another pushup, and this time shift your weight to the left, using your right palm to tap the light in front of your left shoulder on. Continue this sequence, turning the lights off.
  • High light patty cake burpees. Stand facing the wall, about two feet away from it. Crouch down, planting your palms on the ground, and hop your feet behind you into a high pushup position. From this position, pick up your right hand to turn on the left bottom light of the triangle, then pick up your left hand to turn on the right light. When both lights are on, hop your feet back to the crouched position, then jump up into the air, tapping the top light of the triangle as you do so. Land softly, your knees and hips slightly bent before continuing the exercise, this time turning the lights off. If jumping is too challenging, simply stand up, rising up onto your tip-toes to turn the top light on or off.