You don’t have to spend money on equipment to get just as good a workout in your home as you did when you were in a fitness class. Household essentials all around you are just waiting to be swung like a kettlebell, lifted for some biceps curls and ready to support you while you do your tricep dips.
Towels for yoga
No yoga mat? No problem. Simply lay down a bath towel — or a bath sheet or beach towel, for some extra length — and you have the space to practice some yoga. (This usually works better if you’re lying your towel down on carpet, as opposed to a slippery hardwood or tile surface.)
You can also use a rolled up towel as a yoga strap to aid with stretching tight hamstrings, by hooking the midpoint around the sole of your foot and holding on the ends with each hand.
Stairs for cardio
Stairs are a great way to get your heart rate up, whether you live in a multistory building where you can time yourself running up and down or just have a few steps leading to your home that are ideal for step-ups.
But you don’t have to sprint up them to get the maximum benefit. You can incorporate more steps into your day just by replacing one elevator ride per day with the stairs, or by making multiple trips back and forth from your car after grocery shopping, or by taking a five-minute walking break from your home office.
Step stool for glute workout
Step stools are ideal for step-ups. Instead of purchasing an actual step platform like the ones used in aerobics classes, you can use your household version (though you may need to brace it against a wall to keep it from sliding forward).
If you want things to get a bit more intense, try doing some step-ups with added weights, or time yourself doing toe taps in 30-second intervals.
Fuzzy socks, paper plates, hand towels for balance
Sliders resemble small discs and are used to reduce friction under hand or foot, creating an unstable surface while you’re doing basic moves like lunges and planks. In return, your muscles work harder to maintain balance, and your core has to kick in even more to maintain overall stability.
You don’t need to buy them, though: Pull on a pair of fuzzy socks, take out a couple of paper plates, or grab a couple small towels to place under your feet or hands and get to work upping the ante on certain moves, such as mountain climbers, reverse lunges and plank jacks. All you need is a non-carpeted floor so your socks/plates/towels can slide around.
Wine bottles for weights
A standard wine bottle weighs a little over two-and-a-half pounds, making it fine to use as light hand weights for cardio and HIIT workouts that require a little extra load.
Kitchen chair as barre
I’ve been taking a live Instagram ballet class with New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck a couple hours a week, and my kitchen chair doubles as a ballet barre.
If you aren’t keen on ballet or barre workouts, you can also use your chair to do incline pushups, seat taps or to perfect your squat form (chest up, butt back, tap the chair seat with your tush).
Detergent bottle as kettlebell
A full 200-ounce laundry detergent jug weighs over 13 pounds. With one (or two!) you can do deadlifts, bent-over rows and even some kettlebell swings (just don’t plan to do laundry the same day, as your detergent is going to get pretty frothy).
Empty gallon milk or water jugs refilled with water and securely taped closed work just as well, and weigh over eight pounds each. Better yet, if you have any sand or kitty litter, fill that old jug up with that for more weight (12-plus pounds!).
Cast iron skillet for triceps
On average, a standard 12-inch cast iron skillet weighs eight pounds. Before you whip up your next recipe, whip out a few sets of tricep extensions with one of these.
Couch as all-in-one gym
Couches sans their cushions can be a good stand-in for a workout bench, for exercises such as step-ups, supported bent-over rows and tricep dips. I also like to use the cushions as equipment. Whenever I’m practicing crow pose in yoga, I place a couch cushion or a bed pillow in front of my head — that way if I tip over and fall out of the pose, my head has a soft crash pad.
The couch cushions are also great to do core work, like bicycles, on top of, because the foam provides the same instability of an exercise or Bosu ball, to make those exercises even harder.
Full backpack or suitcase for heavier loads
Wearing a heavy backpack filled with books or canned food during any workout session is similar to wearing a weighted vest, and makes whatever exercise you’re doing that much more difficult. Try it while going for a walk, or strap on your pack (chest and waist straps tightened) before busting out some pushups, plank walks or bear crawls.
If you’re looking for a workout that includes more heavy lifting, a carry-on suitcase filled with books is great for those who long for the weight racks at the gym. You can use it for deadlifts or squats while holding the handle with both hands, do bent-over rows with one hand, or do (actual) suitcase carries while walking or lunging. Or place it on the floor as an obstacle to jump over while doing squat jumps.
Books to add weight
Let’s be real: When was the last time you flipped through those fancy art books that have been sitting out for far too long? Exactly. It’s time to put them to good use. These, as well as unused textbooks (or encyclopedias, if you’re really old-school), are great replacements for weights for certain exercises.
For example, you can hold a book overhead while doing lunges (waiter-carry style), squats, sit-ups or burpees, or use one instead of a basketball for a heavier challenge in Russian twists.