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Missing the Gym? Use These Household Items for Your Workouts

Woman stretching at home, preparing to lift some DIY weights.

Tired from your at-home workouts and in desperate need of a challenge? When you can’t go to the gym, bring the gym to your backyard or living room by using these staple household items.


Move over dumbbells, it’s time for water (and other liquid) bottles to shine. Open your fridge or pantry, and grab whatever bottles you can find—the more and different, the better, as you’ll be able to perform a variety of different exercises.

They’re great for toning your arms and shoulders, tightening your core, burning out your legs, and even performing Tabata-style high-intensity workouts. Depending on how big your bottles are, you can use one in each hand, or grab a bigger one with both hands and use it as a great substitute for kettlebells. Play with what you have, or note down to buy extra water bottles on your next grocery store run.

Broom or Similar Stick

After you try some of these exercises, you’ll never be able to look at your broom the same. This incredibly versatile piece of equipment can easily turn into a barbell you can use to perform squats, deadlifts, military press, as well as chest press. You can use it alone, or put some jugs or filled up bags on each side to act as weights.

Challenge your abs with a short, but effective broom workout, and don’t be surprised if you end up feeling sore tomorrow. Substitute your cable machine by combining your broom and resistance bands for maximum result.

A broom can also be an amazing mobility tool and help you open your shoulders and increase your range of motion, while at the same time stretch out your spine and aid in recovery.

Big Bag of Rice or Beans

Ever wondered what you can do with the huge bag of rice you bought from Costco? Substitute it for a sandbag! Imagine, you can do “kettlebell throws,” overhead squats, front raises, and so much more. You can perform full-body workouts or isolate your movements and challenge your muscles in completely new and fun ways.

Do the workouts alone, or have a partner join you and even substitute the rice bag for a medicine ball you’ll toss to one another, strengthening your core and balance with each throw.

Towels & Pillows

Add some spice to your ab circuits and grab a couple of towels or kitchen rags, place them under your knees or toes and get to sweeping! From pikes and oblique bends to mountain climbers and plank jumping-jacks, your core will be burning by the end of it.

Towels are also great for working your glutes and inner thighs, as well as toning your arms, back, and shoulders. Don’t underestimate this simple household item and let your creativity flow!

When it comes to pillows, you can target your lower abs like no other workout will, as you’ll constantly need to be squeezing the pillow in between your legs so it doesn’t slide and fall out. In a gym, you’d usually be using something hard and stable like a yoga block, so the pillows actually elevate the whole workout because you need to be squeezing even harder.


While your travel plans might be delayed, put your suitcase to good use and substitute your gym tools with it. Fill it up with whatever you want and control how light or heavy you want to make it. Because of its shape and size, you’ll need to grab it with both hands and use it for shoulder press, chest press, and overhead squats; but you can also grab it for the suitcase hold if you wish to isolate your arms and do side and front raises, back pulls, or tricep extensions.

You can also work your glutes and thighs by using it for step-ups, single-legged glute bridges, and Bulgarian split squats, and challenge your stability and core.

Depending on how big and heavy your suitcase is, you can even use it as a substitute for a sled and push or pull the weight. Just make sure your neighbors don’t complain about all the rolling sounds you might be making across your living room floor.

Grocery Store Bags

Reuse your grocery bags once you come home from the store, and fill them up with anything that will add on to the weight. You can carry them around and do farmer’s walks, use them for shoulder raises and lunges, place them on your thighs for hip thrusts, or wrap them around your ankles and use them as ankle weights. You can also place them on both sides of your broomstick to create “weights” for your homemade barbell. Easy to handle and carry, experiment all you want!


Chair exercises are a great way to bring your workout to a higher level, whether you’re using any additional tools, like water bottles and rice bags or not. Tone your triceps with chair dips, try a variety of incline and decline push-ups, stabilize your Bulgarian split squat, burn your glutes with elevated glute bridges, or do a full-body high-intensity circuit and feel every muscle work.

Chair workouts are also great for recovery and mobility training, so don’t be afraid to get creative and come up with new ideas as you go through your moves.

When you’re unable to go to the gym, you might find it hard to get the same thrill from your at-home workouts. Look around your home and get creative with what you have, substituting weights with everything you can find. It’s time to recreate your own gym experience.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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