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Can’t Find Dumbbells? Here Are 10 Alternatives

A young woman doing body weight dips using the edge of a sturdy planter to support herself.
Kjetil Kolbjornsrud/Shutterstock

Working out at home and need some weights? Here’s what to do if you’re having trouble finding dumbbells to stock your home gym.

There are plenty of advantages to ditching your gym membership and working out at home. Like anything else, though, there are also some cons. A major one is that unless you have a fully equipped gym in your home, you’re probably missing some key items, like dumbbells.

Of course, you can get in an effective workout without weights. However, if strength training is a priority, you’ll probably still need something to work with. Fortunately, there are a few alternatives to dumbbells if you can’t find any you want or simply don’t have the money right now.

Whether you need to use something around the house as a replacement, or you’re looking for something new, you’ve got options!

At Home Replacements

A young woman doing planks in her living room.
Orion Production/Shutterstock

To lift weights, you just need, well, something with weight! It doesn’t have to be a dumbbell, and you probably already have a bunch of items you can use instead that won’t cost you a dime.

Here are some alternatives:

  • Body weight: The most obvious and accessible option is to use your own body weight as resistance. These workouts are versatile because you can do them anywhere, at any time. Plus, they’re often basic moves that aren’t too difficult to learn. Don’t assume they’re easy, though. One study discovered that using body weight as resistance is an extremely effective way to decrease body fat and boost muscular fitness. Search “body weight workout” on YouTube to get hundreds of results (like this one from Jaclyn Wood). Apps like Daily Burn and Obé Fitness also offer videos and live classes that don’t require weights.
  • Canned goods: Grab something from the pantry and use it exactly as you would a dumbbell. Obviously, a can of soup isn’t going to be as heavy as a 10-pound dumbbell. However, it does offer some extra weight and resistance. A larger can of soup or beans will likely be a bit heavier than a can of vegetables, but just try them out to find which one works for you. There are even some canned food workouts you can watch for inspiration.
  • Filled water bottles: Another suggestion for makeshift dumbbells! They’re easy to grip. Plus, you can control their weight: just use larger ones to add more, or smaller ones to reduce it. And the best part is your water will be right in your hand the entire time, so you can stay hydrated.
  • Books: They’re not as easy to grip as canned goods or water bottles, but books can still make for an effective workout. Use paperbacks for lighter weight, or a heavy textbook for more. You won’t be able to completely replace dumbbell moves since they’re a different shape, but books work well for squats or lunges. If you want to make things a lot more intense, fill a backpack with some books and lift that.
  • One-gallon jugs of any liquid: Whether it contains juice, water, milk, or even cleaning solution or detergent, gallon jugs make great dumbbells. You can even tape them together to create a heavier weight, like this Instagram fitness influencer. If you hold one by its handle, you can use it the same way you would a kettlebell.
A woman doing squats while holding a one-gallon water jug.
Guillem de Balanzo/Shutterstock
  • Paint cans: These aren’t incredibly easy to grip and hold the same way you would a dumbbell, but they still make a great alternative. You can use them while doing squats, lunges, or any strength move that allows you to hold them. And if you really want to amp up your workout, fill them with rocks!
  • Bags of sand: These can be really heavy and fairly simple to hold while working out, so they’re an excellent toning option. You don’t want to fill just any bag with sand, though; try a burlap sack or something like these saddlebags (the handles make these even easier to use). But you don’t have to buy anything; you can literally shovel sand and dirt from your backyard into a trash bag, put that in an old duffel bag, and go! Don’t have any sand? You can use bags of rice or any similar grain instead.

ABCCANOPY Sandbag Photography Weight Bags for Video Stand,4 Packs (Black)

These saddlebags are easy to hold while working out.

Equipment Alternatives

If the idea of DIY dumbbells (or dumbbells in general) doesn’t appeal to you, and you want to make your at-home gym a little more professional, there are other types of equipment you can use.

All of the following items will work just as well, if not better, than dumbbells:

  • Ankle weights: Excellent for almost any workout, these add extra resistance for strength movements. Any cardio workout will be even more difficult and effective if you’re wearing these. They’re also very easy to use and slightly more comfortable than holding a weight. We recommend these by Henkelion because they’re adjustable, and the weight bags can be separated so you can control how much weight is in there. They’re also versatile—you can use them on your arms or legs.
  • Resistance bands: These offer several advantages over dumbbells. They’re more flexible, easier to control, and safer. They also don’t allow you to use your own momentum when things get tough, so “cheating” isn’t possible. We recommend getting a set of them because each has its own purpose. Plus, you can choose which one to use based on how much resistance you want.
  • Kettlebells: You use these almost exactly the same way you would dumbbells. Many people find them easier to use because they have a handle. They’re also great for burning fat because they’re designed for faster, higher repetitions. This one by Apex is adjustable, so you can make it work for you. It comes with a 15-pound weighted handle, four, non-weighted removable spacer disks, and a 5-pound bottom weight.

Whether you use your body weight, lug a bag of sand around, or buy an alternative, there are plenty of ways you can add weight and resistance to your home workouts without dumbbells.

Jessica Booth Jessica Booth
Jessica Booth is a freelance writer for LifeSavvy. She has been working in the editorial world as a freelance writer for over two years and previously worked as an editor for over eight years.  Jessica writes about travel, beauty, wellness, health, food, home decor, and parenting, and has reviewed and tested out products for all of those verticals over the course of her career. Read Full Bio »
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