Home workouts: Substituting household items for gym equipment

A woman does yoga in her living room

For many of us, our gyms or workout studios are our happy place.

We go there to blow off steam, build up a good sweat and feel good knowing we are giving our body what it needs.

For most of us right now, our happy place is not available, and we are forced to make do by working out at home or outside. And considering some northern parts of the U.S. and Canada still have snow in the forecast, working out at home may be the only option.

A makeshift home gym

Perhaps the biggest challenge of working out at home is recreating the mindset you have at the gym. It will be difficult to power through your lifts and reps when your dog nuzzles you in the face or someone else in your household walks by.

Unless you’re fortunate enough to have space in your home already dedicated for exercise, you are facing a challenge. But setting the stage as much as possible with makeshift equipment at the ready will help.

We offer some substitutions to help you make the transition. Check with your gym or studio for other suggestions and don’t start any new major exercise routines without consulting your doctor.

Designate a space

You don’t need much space to work out, but you do need some. If you’re turning some common living areas into your home gym, take a look around for items that might be in the way of a kick, reach or stretch.

If you can lie on the ground fully stretched out without touching anything, you should be good to go. (Make sure the floor is clean while you’re down there, too. If not, grab a broom or vacuum before your first workout. You will thank yourself later!)

Dumbell weights propped with mat, towell, tape measure, and eSpring bottle of water,


You might lose the precision of knowing that you are lifting a 5-pound weight versus a 3-pound weight during your curls, but you can get pretty close with some items you have on hand.

Try a plastic jug—gallon or half gallon size. After you’ve used all the contents, fill it with water and you have weights with a convenient handle. A gallon jug of water weighs just over 8 pounds, or nearly 4 kilograms. Paint cans or detergent bottles are another option with convenient handles.

You can also try some canned goods, books or other items you find around your house, but make sure you can get a firm grip on them. Having a can of soup or the pointy corner of a book land on your toe is not a pleasant feeling. One option is to put them in a bag with sturdy handles and lifting that.

Resistance bands

You might have to sacrifice an old pair of stretch pants, sweat pants, leggings, tights or nylons, but you can recreate the experience of using exercise bands at home.

Look for elastic waist bands or stretchy fabric to replicate the bands or elastic straps you use at the gym or studio. Some fabrics will be more elastic than others, so you’ll have to make some adjustments.

Elastic belts, suspenders, old bike tires and bungee cords are a few more options. (Be careful with any hardware on the ends!)

Exercise strap

Do you miss that strong strap while stretching or doing other maneuvers? Grab a non-elastic belt from your pants, the one to a robe or a nonelastic scarf. Make sure you can get a good grip and it can handle the tension.

An exercise class lines up at a barre in a studio.


Having the sturdy barre to work from and hang onto in the studio is a comforting feeling. At home, you can use a sturdy chair.

Test it out and take steps to ensure it won’t topple or slide while you’re using it. You can brace the front of it up against a wall for added support. The wall itself will be a good barre substitute for some maneuvers, too.

Foam roller

Do you use a foam roller at the gym for release or self-massage? Try grabbing your rolling pin from your kitchen or a foam pool noodle from the garage.

Don’t have either of those? Grab a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, racquet ball or something similar. Those versed in self-myofascial release or self-massage will know how to use them.

Leaving the “gym”

Just like at the gym where you wipe down your equipment and clean up after yourself, follow the same procedure at home. If your exercise space turns back into a family room, office or other shared living space after your workout, carefully set your equipment and mats out of the way while keeping them accessible.

Making it easy to transition from one purpose to the other will help you keep to your regular exercise routine. Looking for more healthy living tips? Check out more blogs at Amway Connections.

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