Turn Those Household Items into Gym Equipment

While prepping for a Virtual Y workout, I noticed the instructor had dumbbells and kettlebells lying on the ground next to her. I panicked – how was I supposed to complete the workout if I didn’t have the equipment? This sent me on a scavenger hunt around the house to find replacements that I could use instead. I ended up finding loads of household goods and ideas for workout alternatives. If you’re like me and haven’t invested in at-home gym equipment, use this as a guide to find your own household substitutions.

Since everyone is at a different point in their fitness journey and looking for different things from a workout, I’ve split up these alternatives by desired weight.

If you’re looking for 1-3 lbs. each:

  • Canned goods
  • Large, full bottles of shampoo, conditioner or body wash
    • I used the jumbo size bottles (32oz, I think) and they were kind of awkward to hold. I’d suggest using these when you do side lifts or other similar exercises where you can hold them from the top or the bottom. You shouldn’t encounter the same issue with smaller bottles.
  • Filled reusable water bottles
  • Hardback books
    • Grab the biggest hardcover book that you can hold with one hand and prepare to be amazed.
  • Cast iron pots and pans
    • I used mine for arm circles and they worked great. They do require a tad bit more coordination, so I’d avoid using these if you’ll have to be reaching behind you and over your head.
    • Bonus tip: The handles can start to hurt your palms after a while, so try to keep that in mind if you’re selecting cast iron kitchenware as a workout partner.

If you’re looking for 3-8 lbs. each:

  • Reusable grocery bags
    • What do you do if you can handle more cans of soup, but you can’t actually hold anymore? Put them in a reusable grocery bag or tote! Totes are great for more than just cans of soup – you can throw in some of the items listed in the previous section for an easy way to store the extra weight.
  • Detergent jugs
    • Dish or laundry detergent jugs work great. The handles make these very easy to lift and maneuver. 
  • Unopened box/package
    • This one can vary depending on what’s just been delivered.

If you’re looking for 8-15 lbs. each:

  • Backpack
    • This is a similar concept to the reusable grocery/tote bags, except you’re able to wear the backpack either on your front or back (or both if you have two backpacks and are in search of a challenge). Load up the backpack(s) with however much weight you’d like, and do some wall sits, squats or other similar workouts.
  • Gallon jugs
    • It’s best if these are filled with water (you know, just in case you drop them). If you’re looking for a real test, try doing arm circles while holding full gallon jugs. If you’re not quite there yet (like me!), the good news is you are in control of how full they are. Fill them up a quarter or halfway if needed.
  • Suitcase or duffel bag
    • If it is evenly filled, this can be a great solution to an at-home press (shoulder, military, bench, etc.) workout. Just be careful it’s not too heavy and avoid putting anything fragile in there on the off chance you drop it.

I hope you find some of these options helpful! As a bonus for making it this far, I’ll also suggest using old leggings as resistance bands- they’re just the right amount of stretchy. 

Happy exercising!


Disclaimer: I am not a personal trainer, I’m just a woman trying to find cheap and easy solutions to getting a gym-worthy workout without real gym equipment. As with any workout, use your best judgment, make good decisions and stay safe.

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