Towels, backpacks, MILK BOTTLES, and more can help boost your fitness at home.
With much of the world sheltering in place, our normal exercise routines have had to undergo a few changes. While running is still a great way to keep our fitness up (as long as you do it safely and alone if going outside), our in-gym yoga and strength training classes are on hold until further notice.
Good news: You don’t need to go anywhere cross-train—and you don’t even need any fancy home workout equipment either. Check out these 26 household items that can double as exercise equipment.
1 Use a hand towel as a slider.
Head to the linen closet and grab yourself two small hand towels. On a wood or tiled floor, place the towels under your hands or feet to increase the challenge of traditional abs moves like mountain climbers, knee tucks, and pikes.
2 Use laundry detergent as a kettlebell.
Swap clean clothes for single-arm cleans using a bottle of your laundry detergent (as long as it has a handle). Or perform a kettlebell swing, making sure to squeeze your glutes at the top of each movement.
3 Use a chair as a weight bench.
Folding chairs are great, not just because they’re portable, but also because they’re typically made out of durable steel.
Rest your hand on the chair while you perform bent-over single-arm rows with a milk jug or simply use it to rest your feet on while executing decline push-ups or Bulgarian split squats.
To perform a triceps dip, start sitting on the chair with your hands at your sides, fingers wrapped around the edge of the seat.
Extend legs to form a straight line from ankles to hips. Lift your torso about two inches in front of the chair. This is your starting position. Slowly lower down until your elbows form a 90-degree angle, then press back to start for 1 rep. Repeat for desired reps.
4 Use a couch cushion as a BOSU.
BOSU (a Swiss ball sliced in half) exercises test your balance because you’re working on an unstable surface. A couch cushion can serve a similar purpose.
Start simple with 3 sets of 12 deep squats with your feet on the cushion or bicycle crunches seated on the cushion.
5 Use a backpack as a weighted vest.
Why invest in a weighted version when you probably have a backpack at home? Simply throw a few soup cans or water bottles into a backpack, and get to work. Start slow, by taking a walk around the neighbourhood or even a hike on local trails.
Helpful tip: Weigh the bag on a bathroom scale so you know how much you’re working with and slowly increase as you build strength.
6 Use rope as a suspension trainer.
Head to the garage and grab that rope you have lying around. Ideally, measure about eight feet of rope.
- Tie a knot at both ends, find a sturdy tree branch in the yard, and sling one end of the rope over it.
- Use the rope to execute moves such as inverted rows or squats or make two loops at the ends to place your feet in for TRX-style planks or lunges.
7 Use a beach towel as a yoga mat.
No mat? No problem. Lay down your towel and get your downward dog on. It won’t feel as thick as a mat, so you can double up if you want extra padding. If you close your eyes in savasana and think warm thoughts, it might even feel like a day at the beach.
8 Use a basketball to make pushups harder.
When performed in unstable conditions (using a basketball or TRX straps), push-ups can help to activate hard-to-train muscle groups in a way conventional ones cannot, according to a study published in the Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness.
- First, get comfortable with executing a plank with both hands on the ball, core engaged.
- Then, lower down into a pushup and press back to starting position.
9 Use a broom for mobility work.
- Grab a broom with a wide overhand grip, and start with it in front of your hips.
- Bring the bar up overhead then behind your head and down toward your glutes.
- Return to start for 1 rep.
10 Use the stairs as a cardio machine.
A set of stairs is the perfect place for a quick cardio hit (maybe not on your long run day). Regularly walking up 400 steps —or about 33 flights—during the course of a day can substantially increase your endurance, giving you a 17 percent bump in VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen you can take in during exercise), according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
11 Use a coffee table book as a weight.
We’re not talking about a simple paperback edition of Catcher in the Rye.
Reach for something substantial (like a dictionary, encyclopedia, or other large, weighted text) to use as a weight that you’d hold with both hands.
- In a traditional crunch, for starters, start laying faceup, holding the book with arms extended.
- As you crunch upward, keep your arms straight and engage your abs.
- Return to starting position and repeat for desired reps.
12 Use paper plates as sliders.
Don’t have hardwood or tile floors at home? Not a problem. Double up on a standard paper plate, and work with them in the same way that you’d use the hand towels but on carpeted floors.
Try mountain climbers, plank jacks, and pikes to get started.
13 Use a heavy pan for upper body strength.
After breakfast, use that large pan for a few overhead triceps extensions.
Holding the handle overhead, bend at the elbows until the pan touches your back then return to starting position. Bonus points if you use a heavy cast iron skillet.
Use a mop for an abs burner.
Holding a mop overhead (overhand, wide grip) while doing core moves such as standing oblique side crunches or standing bicycle crunches helps build functional, all-over strength and will really light up your core.
15 Use a laundry basket for a deadlift.
If there’s one constant among runners at home, it’s having an abundance of sweaty clothes to wash at any given time. Put all that laundry to good use by using the laundry basket for functional movement.
- Start standing with a microbend in the knees.
- Send hips back to lower down and grab the basket.
- Engage hamstrings and glutes to press hips forward back to start.
- Aim for 3 sets of 20 basket deadlifts.
16 Use a duffel bag as a sandbag.
Sandbag training is great since it tests strength, balance, and often—patience. Fill a duffle bag with a bunch of clothes, and get ready to work. Try the sandbag walking lunge:
- Start with feet hip-width apart and the sandbag in front of you.
- Grab the handles and clean the bag to your chest, press it overhead, then rest it on your shoulders behind your neck.
- Lunge forward with left foot until right knee taps the floor, making sure to keep the torso upright.
- Press through right heel to stand for 1 rep.
- Repeat on opposite side. Do 3 sets of 10 alternating reps.
17 Use a bag of flour as a heavy weight.
There’s just one rule for this one: Avoid a messy situation by placing the bag of flour in a Ziploc bag before you begin. Then use the heavy weight to make basic bodyweight moves such as squats and lunges more challenging.
18 Use a steel water bottle to add difficulty to planks.
“Steel” is the key word here as you need something that’s going to be able to support most of your body weight.
- In a traditional plank, place one hand on a water bottle that’s on its side.
- Use the bottle to roll your hand out, bracing through the core, as you lower into a low push-up position.
- Return to start for 1 rep.
- Do 8 reps; repeat on opposite side.
19 Use a milk Bottle as a kettlebell.
Ready to update the Turkish get-ups? Rather than holding onto the handle, add extra difficulty by palming the jug itself. (You can fill it with sand or water).
Keep your eye on the bottle as you execute the full movement.
20 Use a wooden crate as a plyo box.
Flip a sturdy wooden crate upside down and make sure it’s large enough for plyometric work such as box jumps or simple step-ups. Before jumping on it, give it a weight test by standing on top and performing small hops to ensure its stability.
21 Use soup cans as small weights.
Soup cans are the ideal size for small hand weights. Use them for low-weight, high-repetition movements such as biceps curl pulses, overhead triceps extensions, and platter-serving extensions to build upper body muscular endurance.
22 Use a door frame to better your burpee.
Add extra oomph to a standard burpee by jumping to tap the top of a doorframe between each rep.
23 Use your bed for balance practice.
Just like a soft couch cushion, your mattress is the perfect place to test your balance—without even getting out of bed.
Stand up carefully, and practice doing light balance work including tree pose and single-leg deadlifts.
The unstable surface with challenge small, stabilising muscles.
24 Use your toilet for box squats.
It’s time to rethink the way you look at the porcelain throne. Coincidentally, the place you do a lot of your deep thinking is also a great height for box squats.
- Stand facing away from the toilet with the lid closed.
- Send hips back to lower until glutes tap lid then return to starting position.
25 Use a wall for walks.
Ready to turn things upside-down? Use a wall for wall walks.
- Start in a high plank position with your feet up against the wall.
- Engage your core and start to walk up the wall until your face meets the wall and your body is vertical.
- Slowly return to start for 1 rep. Do 6 reps.
26 Use a couch for glute bridges.
- Lie faceup on the floor and rest your heels on the edge of your couch. This is your starting position.
- Squeeze through the glutes and raise your hips, creating a straight line from shoulders to knees.
- Lower back to start for 1 rep.