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8 Things to Use for Weights at Home

Woman with a resistance band around her sneaker pulling it toward her

Home workouts have seen a rise in popularity over the last few years, but unlike heading to the gym, you don’t have unlimited equipment. Thankfully, though, there are things to use as weights at home.

Nowadays, it’s easy to check YouTube for countless guided workout videos. There are also apps and digital programs specifically designed to help you reach your fitness goals. With some simple home items, there are ways to improvise when you need weights.

So, what can you use for weights at home to get the fitness results you want?

Soup Cans

Person holding a can of Campbell's tomato soup in the grocery store

Soup cans (or any canned food product) are the old standby for people wanting to use weights at home. They’re a great substitute for weights for people who might just be starting out. The average soup can is about 10 ounces, which doesn’t seem like much, but if you’re trying to build muscles gradually, cans can add just enough resistance to help with toning until you work your way up to something heavier.

The great thing about using soup cans is that they’re affordable, widely available, and very easy to grip and hold in your hand. If you’re a beginner when it comes to strength training, start here!

Shelf Reliance Cansolidator Pantry Plus 60 Cans Organizer

This organizer is a great way to keep plenty of cans on hand!

Milk Jugs

Want to take things to the next level? Repurpose old milk jugs and turn them into weights. If you fill an empty gallon jug with water, it will weigh just over 8 pounds.

That amount of weight is perfect for muscle stimulation and can be a great substitute for dumbells if you’re trying to tone up and get a long and lean look to your arms. You’re not going to turn into Schwarzenegger with milk jug dumbells, but you’ll definitely feel the burn if you use them regularly.

Plus, it’s a unique way to recycle plastic jugs, so it’s a win for you and the planet!

A Full Backpack

Man sitting on concrete steps with a gray backpack between his legs
Evgeny Kononov/Shutterstock.com

Remember how it felt nearly impossible to carry around all of your books and papers in school every day when your backpack actually felt like it was full of bricks? Well, if you’re trying to improve your squat routine and tone your legs and thighs, it’s time to bring those memories back.

If you have a backpack—especially one that can be stabilized with a strap around your waist as well as shoulder straps—consider filling it with things that will add weight. Gallon jugs, an actual dumbbell or two, weight plates, sandbags, or bags of beans or rice are all great options.

The average backpack can hold anywhere from 20-40 pounds, so you can adjust the weight accordingly to help you meet your goals.

Classic Design

JanSport SuperBreak One Backpack

A simple and convenient backpack with spacious storage in the main compartment and a front utility pocket.


Are you a bookworm with an expansive home library? Or, do you have a stack of heavy novels that always seem to be “on your list,” but you haven’t gotten around to reading them? Either way, books can be a wonderful substitute for weights.

Obviously, depending on the book you choose, the weight will vary. But, if you’re using them for bicep curls on both arms, try to choose two that are roughly the same weight—a kitchen or bathroom scale can make that easy for you.

Bags of Apples

Person holding a plastic bag full of apples
New Africa/Shutterstock.com

Fall is in the air right now, but you can use bags of apples (or oranges, or pretty much any other round, hefty fruit or vegetables) to get swole at home. Apples make a great substitute for weights because you can put them in a handled bag for better grip, and you can adjust the weight to fit your individual needs and goals, especially for bicep curls.

Every apple is different, but you can usually count on about three apples per pound, so choose a strong bag that won’t rip or tear, get in a solid workout, and you’ll have a nice snack on hand when you’re done!

JM-capricorns 4 Pack Portable Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable produce bags are great for the environment and for lifting heavier loads of apples, oranges, and other fruits or veggies.

Laundry Detergent Bottles

Similar to using milk jugs, you can use full laundry detergent bottles for weights at home in a pinch. A large bottle weighs about 10 pounds when it’s full of detergent. But, if you have empty bottles taking up space, you can fill them with water, rocks, sand, or whatever else you have on hand.

Obviously, what you use to fill them is going to determine how heavy they are, so this is another case in which it’s helpful to use a scale for accuracy. You can also take away or add weight if they’re not completely full, adjusting to your needs without having to buy anything new.

Five-Gallon Buckets

Five-gallon orange bucket from Home Depot
Brian Kapp/Shutterstock.com

Head to your local hardware store to get the latest and greatest in strength training gear—the 5-gallon bucket. Actually, you might already have a couple in your garage or shed from a previous home project.

Five-gallon buckets can be filled with anything from rocks to sand. Depending on the fill level and what you actually fill it with, you can customize the weight to fit your needs. For example, a 5-gallon bucket filled with water will weigh about 42 pounds. That’s significantly heavier than other options on this list, so if you’re more advanced or looking to gain mass, it’s a perfect option, especially for squats.

5 Gallon White Plastic Bucket Only

Simple, effective, and can be repurposed for a variety of home projects.

Resistance Bands

If the reason you’re not investing in dumbbells at home is the cost, consider making a smaller investment and purchasing some resistance bands. They don’t take up space, they’re inexpensive, and you can take them with you everywhere. So, if you’re a frequent traveler and want to work out on the road, you don’t have to give up your fitness routine.

Resistance bands come in a variety of levels, and you can even find sets with different levels so you can pump up your workout as necessary when you’re ready to build more muscle and take on a challenge for both your arms and legs.

There are plenty of options for weights at home that can be used to get in a good workout. If you’ve been wondering what to use instead of weights, try some of these options, and don’t be afraid to experiment to discover what works for you. Whether you’re a beginner or a strength-training pro, at least one of these substitutes for weights should help you reach your fitness goals in the comfort of your living room.

Stacey Koziel Stacey Koziel
Stacey Koziel is a news writer at LifeSavvy. She's worked as a freelance writer for over ten years, focusing on family and lifestyle content. She also has a background in marketing and social media, and is always eager to talk (and write!) about the latest TikTok trends. Read Full Bio »
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