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17 Things to Use as a Substitute for Weights at Home

By Tim Trainor

17 Things to Use as a Substitute for Weights at Home

What Can You Substitute for Weights at Home?

As we settle into the new normalcy of at-home workouts, you may have noticed that virtually all gym equipment retailers have sold out or aren’t shipping for months. Bodyweight workouts are all the rage--as a coach it’s amazing to see clients making the most of an unusual training situation! Many people may not realize you can do A LOT with just your bodyweight. Some of the hardest workouts I’ve ever done have been with me, myself and I, no equipment necessary. But for those looking to add some weight to their routine (besides the old ankle weights you found in the attic and the 1980s boxing gloves in the basement), there are plenty of household objects you can use to spice up your workout! Let’s break down our list into three buckets: Items with handles, items with no handles, and miscellaneous objects.

Items With Handles (Barbell, Kettlebell or Dumbbell Alternatives):

  • Gallon of OJ / milk / water
  • Laundry detergent
  • Teapot with water
  • Basket / laundry basket
  • Buckets (most likely plastic)
  • Case of water
  • Paint can
  • Wheelbarrow

One of the best reasons to use these items is you can control how heavy or light they are. Items with handles are great for “pull” movements like bent-over rows, high pulls, lateral and front raises, bicep curls and deadlifts. Maybe even use the teapot filled with water instead of a kettlebell for a swing?! Just make sure there are no small children in front of you to start... Objects with handles are also perfect for farmer’s carries, lunge variations, cleans, snatches and step-ups. Check out Sam Dancer, a friend of WHOOP and an OG in the fitness world, as he uses 5-gallon jugs to up his quarantine training:

Items Without Handles (More Alternative Weights):

  • Tub of protein or other supplement
  • Water bottles, all sizes, filled
  • Canned foods
  • Bag of rice / beans / potatoes / flour
  • Bag of pet food / pet supplies

Objects without handles can also be used for some of the “pull” movements listed above, but in general they are great for “push” exercises as well as adding weight for squat or lunge variations. For example, try putting one of the bag items on your shoulder or holding it in front of your chest to add weight for lunges or squats. Filled water bottles and canned foods of all sizes are great for pressing overhead and bench press variations. Using a tub or protein or other supplement of sturdy nature can be great for push-up variations if you have two of the same size. And let’s not forget about the coveted/loathed ab exercises! Weighted sit-ups, Russian twists, plank pull-throughs, v-sits… how about a side plank while holding a filled water bottle up towards the ceiling with your free hand?!

Miscellaneous Other Things to Workout With:

  • Large towels
  • Backpacks (filled)
  • Books
  • Steps / benches / stools

This small but mighty list can be used to make everything mentioned above even more challenging. Large towels are great for stepping on and pulling through as if to mimic a heavy deadlift (see below). Time under tension here will get you sweating in no time. Filled backpacks are great for adding to everyday movements like walking, running, squats, step-ups and all variations of lunges and jumps. Backpacks are also a simple way to add weight to push-ups.

A large towel can be used as an alternative weight to mimic a deadlift.

Track Your Progress With WHOOP

The WHOOP Strain Coach makes exertion-level recommendations based on your daily recovery, and tells you in real time exactly how close you are to meeting your activity goals. We want to hear from our members too! How are you taking advantage of alternative weights and exercises these days? Get creative, be smart and share your own workouts with unusual household items via the WHOOP Live feature on social media! Use the hashtag #WHOOPLive and tag us @WHOOP.