If you're the proud owner of a gym membership, you pretty much have no excuse to get your strength workout in. After all, you’re paying to use the facility’s equipment and machinery. But if you’re the kind of person who prefers to at-home workouts, or if a gym membership isn’t exactly in the budget right now, trying to get any serious strength training without a proper set of weights might seem impossible. In reality, you don’t need a gym membership or any fancy equipment at all — even when it comes to heavy strength training. In fact, you might already have several items at home that you can substitute for weights.
It’s time to take inventory of your kitchen pantry, cupboards, closets, and garage. With just a few household items on hand, you may never again be tempted by that gym with the shiny logo or that crazy fitness gizmo you see on TV infomercials.
7 At-Home Workouts That Build Strength With Common Household Items
1. Cans of soup or beans.
If you’re just starting out with adding a bit of resistance to your routine, soup cans (or any type of canned goods) are an ideal option if you’re new to lifting weights. Depending on its size and contents, canned goods typically weigh about 1 to 2 pounds. With one can in each hand, you can use them to do bicep curls, hammer curls, overhead shoulder presses, and even tricep kickbacks.
2. Jugs of water, milk, or juice.
Looking for something slightly heavier to lift? Jugs of liquid will do the trick. And you probably already know just how heavy they can be when you’re carry your groceries from your car to your front door. A gallon of water or milk is about 8.5 pounds. If you have two, you can hold one in each hand and use them to add more resistance to lower body exercises, like squats and lunges.
3. Bags of apples or potatoes.
Now we’re talking heavy lifting! Similar to using jugs of liquid, you can really kick things up a notch with big bags of produce. The more you have in a bag, the heavier it will be. These might be more appropriate to use for bicep curls and hammer curls when you’re ready to move on from the soup cans, and you can definitely use them to add extra weight to your squats and lunges if you don’t have any jugs of liquid lying around.
4. A weighted duffel bag or backpack.
Ever seen someone working out with a medicine ball or a kettle bell? You can create the same effect just by throwing a few heavy things in a duffle bag or a backpack. Try large books, cans, containers, and anything else that isn’t terrible fragile. With straight arms, you can lift the bag or backpack out straight in front of you, up over your head, or out to each side for a good upper body workout. You can even combine these moves with lower body movements like squats and lunges.
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5. A regular old chair.
Everyone has a chair at home that they can use to take their workouts up a notch. It just needs to be sturdy enough to support your weight. With your back facing the chair and two hands placed behind you on the seat, you can lift your body weight up and down to do tricep dips. The Bulgarian split squat is another popular move to do with a chair, which is basically a traditional lunge with the back leg elevated by placing the foot on the chair.
6. A hand towel.
Seriously? A hand towel? You bet. It may not be a heavy item, but it will do wonders for your core. While seated, lean back to engage your core. Holding each end of the towel in both stands straight out in front of you to add some weight, twist from side to side to work your obliques -- similar to a Russian twist. If you can lift your legs and balance, you’ll get an even better core workout from it!
7. A scarf or a belt.
You’ve tackled your obliques with the hand towel, but you still have that pesky lower abdominal section to take care of. By tying the two ends of a scarf together or buckling up a belt, you can wrap it around your ankles and lie down with your back flat on the floor to get ready for a killer lower ab workout. With your legs straight up and spread as much as the scarf or belt around your ankles will allow, slowly lower your legs down and back up several times while trying to keep your lower back touching the floor -- similar to how you'd do it with a stability ball.
Shiny weights and complicated machinery are fine, but they’re not necessary. All you have to do is get a little creative with what you’ve already got.
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Working out with chair image via Shutterstock