There’s a standard line in many workout videos: “If you don’t have dumbbells, grab whatever you can find—soup cans work great!” To which I inevitably respond to the screen: “Soup cans? Really?” This household item—which is 1 pound at the most—seems to be the only weight alternative fitness instructors can come up with.
But there have to be other options, right?
Right. Here are just a few household items you can sub for dumbbells during your home workout.
Gimme Some Sugar
Instead of soup cans from the pantry, try a bag of sugar or flour for more heft (up to 5 or 10 pounds). The bags are usually durable, but you might want to double-bag them in plastic grocery sacks for two reasons: You’ll have a handle, and the bags will contain any stray bits of sugar or flour that escape from the cracks. Other useful pantry items: bags of rice or potatoes.
Grab a Jug
A large water or milk jug or a full bottle of laundry detergent work especially well for exercises that call for a kettlebell. Click here to see actress Halle Berry rocking a few of these.
Fill a Bag (or Bucket)
Scrounge up a duffel bag or backpack or bucket, and stuff it with balls, rocks, firewood, books or any other weighty items.
Take a Scholarly Approach
Pull out your old Merriam-Webster or pile up a stack of books, depending on the exercise.
Try Bungee Cords or Towels
Bungees can stand in for exercise bands, but towels work a little differently. I primarily use them for back exercises, like this one: Grip one end of a thin towel in each hand. Extend both arms in front of you about shoulder-level, and then pull your hands away from each other, as if trying to pull the towel apart. Then, keep up the tension as you bring the towel to your chest, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and return to the starting position, as if performing a rowing exercise. The more tension you maintain on the towel, the more it works your back muscles.
Recruit Your Kid
Lift a baby over your head to work your shoulders, or hold a toddler in your arms as you perform a squat. Just be sure to maintain your form throughout the exercises, so you don’t end up injured. Kids tend to be a little more squirrelly than dumbbells.