You Don't Need Dumbbells to Lift Weights - Use These Everyday Items as Easy Alternatives

Maggie Ryan

If you're going to be stuck at home for a while and are avoiding the gym, you may feel hopeless without the gym equipment you are used to using to get a good full-body sweat. Unless you're sitting pretty on a garage or basement home gym deal, most of us don't have room for a treadmill or a Peloton bike. I mean, most of us (I raise my hand slowly) don't even have room for free weights. And while bodyweight workouts are effective, if you're looking to fast-track muscle gain and weight loss, weightlifting is hard to beat.

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Free-Weight Substitutions

You can, in fact, do resistance training without actual weights - you just have to get a little creative about it. POPSUGAR asked for at-home weightlifting tips from Joe Bach, ACE, founder and CEO of the fitness brand Bach, whose trainers often make house calls on clients for home workouts. His recommended adaptations for classic weightlifting moves are perfect for when you don't have any actual weights to lift, whether you're traveling or working out in your own living room.

  • Bicep curls: Curl cans of food, jugs of milk, or a big bag of dog food
  • Weighted squats or lunges: Hold a bag of laundry, a 5-gallon water jug (filled according to your strength), or a full reusable grocery bag to add weight to your squat.
  • Overhead presses: Do overhead shoulder presses by holding on firmly to two cans of food or a couple of jugs of milk or bottles of water (filled according to your strength).
  • Triceps kickbacks: Grab a couple of cans of food or filled water bottles, which feel almost the same as weights when you're doing triceps kickbacks.
  • Bulgarian split squats: Hold your water bottles or cans of food in two hands and place your back foot on a coffee table or low chair to work your glutes with this move.

Resistance Bands

Have a couple resistance bands? You don't need them to get a good home workout, but they open up a whole new range of possibilities and are a lot easier to store and pack than free weights. (Try these Fit Simplify Resistance Bands ($11) from Amazon to start.) You could even use large, sturdy rubber bands instead, but be careful that they don't break and snap back on you. Joe recommended a couple of easy exercises you can complete at home with a resistance band, and here are four bonus moves you can also add to your routine.

  • Shoulder presses or bicep curls: Stand and step on the end a resistance band with one foot. Hold the other end in one hand, bring it to your shoulder to do a bicep curl, or press it upward for an overhead press shoulder exercise.
  • Chest presses or back rows: Wrap your resistance band around a full water bottle. Set the water bottle outside a door and shut the door so that it holds the water bottle in place. Use that anchor to do chest presses or rows for your back muscles.

Slider Exercises

Disc sliders are another cheap at-home workout investment - this six-pack of Inmaker Exercise Sliders ($10) is available on Amazon Prime - but you can also replace them with towels or soft socks on a hardwood floor, or paper plates on carpet, to work on balance, strength, and control. Joe recommended reverse lunges and mountain climbers, and if you're feeling creative, here are four other moves to try out.

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Substituting your weights and working out at home isn't any more dangerous than working out at the gym, Joe said, but you should still be aware of your space and its limitations as well as your own. "Be careful of slippery surfaces, and make sure you're nourished so you don't fall and hit your head on something," Joe said. "There may be no one else around, like in a gym, if you pass out or feel ill."

Beyond that, go for it. "Crank up the music, turn off the TV, get off your phone, and set a timer. Get that workout done in 20 or 25 minutes," Joe told POPSUGAR. "That's the best part about a home workout: the convenience and saving time."