How to use household items as free weights

Home workouts: 3 ways to use household items as weights

Posted by for Strength

Here’s how to add resistance into your workout now that all the dumbbells have sold out.

What was the first thing you did when lockdown was announced? Pack a bag and head to your parents house? Bake a banana bread? If you’re a fitness fanatic, chances are you opened your web browser and ordered some dumbbells

Equipment was quickly selling out on every online shop, and demand was so high that many retailers still haven’t been able to restock kettlebells, resistance bands and barbells. 

If you didn’t manage to get your hands on any equipment, we understand the pain; going six weeks without lifting has been frustrating for many of us. But don’t think that you need to give up on your strength training plans just yet.

“There’s this idea that home workouts need to be wildly different to your gym workouts, all focused on cardio or abs,” says strength and nutrition coach Pennie Varvarides. “But they really don’t have to be.”

There are a ton of bodyweight workouts you can do to get stronger, but sometimes adding in some extra weight makes for an extra good workout. And let’s be honest, curling a 400g tin of beans might not cut it, either. So how can you add in a strength-boosting amount of resistance, using just what you have in your cupboard?

“My clients have been doing their sessions in their living rooms or kitchens,” says Pennie, who’s just one of the many PTs who has been training her clients via FaceTime or Zoom using whatever they have in their home. “We’ve used chairs, coffee tables, sofas and drawers for Bulgarian split squats, dips, push ups, step ups, pike presses. We’ve also used bottles of water, books and, in one case,a 10kg bucket of rice. That worked pretty well to load her split squats.” 

Here are some other Strong Women recommended makeshift weights you can try… 

A DIY kettlebell

Add those aforementioned tins, a couple of bags of flour or some rice into a plastic or canvas bag, tie it tightly. Hold by the handles and use it in place of a kettlebell for virtually any exercise, like lat raises, squats, lunges and curls.

Use your towel

Sure, your towel can be used as a slider to do pikes or mountain climbers, but it’s even better when used to add some resistance in to your bodyweight moves. A shorter hand towel can be pulled apart tightly at the ends and used in place of a medicine ball to do russian twists. Also add it in to your upper body workout to target your lats by holding the ends apart tightly and pulling it up and down above your head.

A rucksack weight 

We all know the pain of an extra packed rucksack, so put it to good use. Pack it with some heavy books and tighten the straps so it doesn’t move around. Strong Women ambassador Caroline Bragg likes to put it on her front for a front loaded squat, or you can also wear it on your back while you do press ups for extra resistance. 

Want effective at-home workouts? Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts.

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).