Exercise Equipment

The ‘Household Items’ Total-Body Workout

Dumbbells, resistance bands, medicine balls — these pieces of exercise equipment can be great for helping you work out at home, but you don’t have to spend a penny on equipment (or try to find a place for it), to craft an effective at-home workout routine.

Rather, it’s important to remember that fancy pieces of exercise equipment are simply ways to load, or weight, the body. And if you take a look around your home, you are bound to have a wide array of possible loads, or weights, available to you, says Justin Kompf, a Boston-based certified strength and conditioning specialist. Recently, he has seen his training clients get incredibly creative with their loads, even going as far as to attach filled backpacks to a broom to create a makeshift barbell. Others have had their kids climb on their backs.

While you can certainly give those ideas a try, you’ll also be glad to know that building your own exercise equipment doesn’t have to be quite that involved, or intense.

To get the endorphin and creative juices flowing, get started with this total-body workout that you can perform using things that you likely have sitting around the house.

— Suspension-sheet squat to row.

— Laundry-detergent chest press.

— Duffel-bag deadlift.

— Towel slider lunge.

— Book shoulder raise.

Suspension-sheet squat to row

If you’ve ever performed a squat to row with TRX straps or other suspension trainers, you know that it’s highly effective at training the glutes and quads as well as back and biceps. It’s a choice squat variation for anyone with knee aches or pains, Kompf adds. Because the suspension squat involves sitting back, not just down, with each rep, it reduces stress placed on the knees.

That said, a sheet (or towel) is all you really need to make your own suspension-training system at home. Simply loop the length of the fabric around a pole or other sturdy anchor point at torso height. Alternatively, you can tie a knot in the middle of a sheet, then close a door onto the sheet with the knot on one side of the door and the ends on the other side. The knot will act like a “stopper” to keep the sheet secure during the exercise.


— Grab both ends of the sheet, bend your elbows to hold the ends at your sides, and step back until the fabric is taut.

— Stand with your feet between hip- and shoulder-width apart, and brace your core.

— Sit back as if there’s a chair behind you and simultaneously extend your arms, keeping the cloth taut at all times for balance.

— Lower as far as comfortably possible, pause, then drive through your heels to stand back up, pulling the cloth back to your sides to help you row your body back to standing. That’s one rep.

— Do three to four sets of eight to 12 reps.

Laundry-detergent chest press

When it comes to strengthening the chest, pushups are an at-home workout staple. But if you’re not able to perform many reps while maintaining stellar form — or you just want to isolate your chest and triceps without having to hold a plank throughout the entire exercise — doing a lying chest press can be a useful option, Kompf says.

To load this move, you can use one heavy or two medium-weight objects, he says. This example uses laundry detergent, but old milk jugs filled with water (so as to not spoil your fresh milk), wine bottles or a sealed bag of rice or potatoes can all work equally well. If you have limited grip strength and run the risk of dropping wine bottles or potato sacks, choose a weight that has handles, like the detergent bottle or milk jug, advises Cassey Ho, FitOn trainer and American Council on Exercise-certified instructor.


— Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and hold the laundry detergent bottle against your chest with both hands.

— Brace your core and press the load straight up toward the ceiling.

— Pause, then slowly bend your elbows to return to start. That’s one rep.

— Do three to four sets of eight to 12 reps.

[See: 6 Exercises Women Should Do Every Day.]

Duffel-bag deadlift

A deadlift amounts to nothing more than picking a dead weight up off of the floor — and you undoubtedly have lots of those lying around.

You can perform this exercise with any dead weight, but because this exercise represents one of the body’s naturally strongest movement patterns, the below instructions detail how to perform the exercise with a duffel bag. That way, you can more easily get the bag to a heavy weight; fill it with dense, heavy items, like books, for the greatest challenge.


— Fill a duffel bag to the fullness and weight that’s right for you. (If in doubt, go lighter; you can always add more weight later.)

— Stand with your feet hip-width apart and the bag positioned between your feet.

— Brace your core and while keeping a flat back, push your hips back behind you to lower your torso until you are able to reach the bag with your arms extended. If the bag has straps, grab hold of them. You can also grip the side of the bag.

— Drive through your feet to forcefully stand back up with the bag in front of your thighs at arm’s length. That’s one rep.

— Do four to five sets of six to eight reps.

Towel slider lunge

To make an exercise more challenging, adding more weight isn’t always the answer. For example, by using a towel as a slider, bodyweight exercises like lunges become much more intense, Ho says. That’s because sliding into each rep eliminates much of your ability to use momentum and can also slow down your movements to increase muscle activation and benefit.

She explains that small towels or wash cloths work best as sliders on slick floor surfaces like hardwood or tile; if you are trying to slide on carpet, try swapping the towel for one or two paper plates.