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Home Gym Workout Routines with No Equipment

Updated on February 28, 2012

An inventive person could go on for days thinking up ways to substitute common household objects for ‘real’ exercise equipment. Practically speaking, you may never have to spend a dime on a home gym; but, it might make sense to shell out a few bucks for a weight set, a pull-up bar/suspension trainer and a few resistance cables, if only so you don’t always have to improvise.

Whether you buy ‘real’ tools for your home gym or not, I believe we should never stop looking at our world as a wealth of opportunity for new ideas, even in the everyday. To demonstrate how to turn common household items into workout equipment, here are a few things you might find around the yard and the house (or apartment) and some suggestions for how to implement them into a fitness routine of any kind.

Homemade Sandbag!
Homemade Sandbag! | Source

This is an awesome book and reference guide.

The Javorek shoulder routine; substitute water bottles for dumbbells

Gym equipment you already have

These items are listed in no particular order, so be sure to scan through the entire list to see what you can put to use. Many of these ideas are effective for traveling workouts as well.

  • Water Bottles- Specifically, large water bottles with handles. It’s best if these have a screw on cap or haven’t been opened yet. We don’t want unnecessary spillage...Now you may be thinking there is little use for such a light weight. After all, a 3 liter bottle weighs in around 6 or 7 pounds, and a gallon bottle barely 10. Three notes to remember:

1. Because this is not a balanced weight, your muscles will have to work a little harder to stabilize it.

2. For some of you, this weight will be just fine.

3. Exhaust the muscles enough, and the weight starts to become irrelevant.

So here is a routine taken almost entirely from Coach Istvan Javorek to exhaust your muscles. While this may not build bodybuilder sized mass, it’s a great muscular endurance routine and will certainly give you a pump!

This is constant movement, no rest between exercises:

-Lateral elbow raise x20

-inward/outward circles (hands on chest) x 10+10

-Bicep curls x 14

-inward/outward rotation (push weights out and away from chest and back,) x 10+10

-High pull snatch x 10

-Lateral pronated arm raise x 10

-Bent-over laterals x 10

-tricep kickbacks x10

-breast stroke imitation x 10

-bent-over arm raise, front and back = 1 x 8

-front pronated arm raise x 10

-bent-over row x12

-Back stroke imitation x 10 + 10.

Whew! It takes a while to build up to that for most people. The first time I tried it I started out with 5 lb. dumbbells and had to drop weight! Try using small water bottles for this to start, or simply pouring (dropping) weight out of the bottle if it gets too heavy.

Use your luggage

  • Backpack + Weight- The weight you load the backpack up with could be just about anything. A small, strong duffle bag will work well also. Example of weights are thick textbooks, canned foods, melons, rocks, you get the idea. How much weight can you add? Depends on how strong you are and how durable your bag is. Maybe 50, 60 lbs.? What exercises can you do? Just about anything, especially if you have a broom stick and two packs.

Here are three ideas, put these together and repeat 3-4 times for a good conditioning workout.

-Squats (set the pack on a counter to strap in.)

-Push-ups (If your pack has a waist strap, it is a good idea to use it.)

-Upright rows (Hold the top hanging loop or both straps at the same time.)

If you have a broomstick or something similar, slide it through the top loops of two packs and do bicep curls or tricep extensions.

Seated Russian Twist with Bowling Ball

The "lumberjack" swing. Like performing a kettlebell swing but with the weight getting heaved over each shoulder Drive with the hips.

Got Balls?

  • Bowling Ball- A bowling ball is a great replacement for a $50 + medicine ball. Now this isn’t a practical option if you have to buy one new. However, if you already have a ball sitting in the closet or can find one for a few dollars at a garage sale, it’s time to put it to use. For obvious reasons, I don’t recommend slams or ball tosses. Duh.

*A note of caution: If the surface of a bowling ball is too slippery, apply some grip tape or scuff up an area with rough sandpaper on either side. There are an endless variety of exercises you can do with this tool, either as a complete workout or a good warm-up. Here are some suggestions:

-Clean to one shoulder and squat

-Weighted sit-ups


-Russian twists

-Lumberjack swings

-Turkish get-up

-Lunges and Pistols

Of course there are many more. Execute each carefully, and remember, don’t drop the ball!

Clean to Shoulder with Full Squat

Bags, Bags, Bags

Sandbags/Salt bags/Rock bags- If you have a water softener, chances are there are a couple of 40 lb. bags of salt in the garage. Remember how much fun those are to yank out of the car? Well it gets even better when you are trying to exert yourself!

Sandbags are only a few bucks at the local home improvement store, but be sure to wrap them in a garbage bag and stuff it in a duffle. Sand seems to leak like water. These can usually be found in 50lb. sizes or larger, so if you have a large duffle, pack it with two bags for a heavy workout.

Rock bags fit into this category because a.) you can buy pre-packaged bags at the store, and b.) you can find tons of rocks outside and stuff them in a backpack or duffle bag for nothing.

Here is a sample of the exercises I like to combine into a workout when using an unbalanced load like a salt or sand bag:

-XXX lift from ground (This is just squeezing the bag to your chest from the ground and rolling all the way up to a standing high pull position. The triple ‘X’ is for the extension in ankles, knees and hips)

-Front Squat (or front squat with overhead press.) Clean the bag to your shoulders and bring it down to cradle it in front of your chest with your arms. Squat to parallel and back up.

-Clean to shoulder with full squat: This is just like it sounds, cleaning the bag to one shoulder, and as you do so, dropping into a squat.

-Turkish Get-up: Usually performed with a kettlebell, doing this with one of these bags adds a unique challenge.

Put all of these exercises into a workout using a traditional set/rep schedule. For example, for a relatively fit person, try doing 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions each (more or less depending on the amount of weight or strength levels.)

As with any workout program, if you are in doubt about getting started, consult with a professional trainer. If you are ready, start searching your home with an eye for what you can improvise with. Options abound when you look at everyday spaces with a fresh perspective.

Triple Extension (xxx) Lift

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    • MosLadder profile image

      Chris Montgomery 7 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Ha, I never thought of the workboot, that's a good one. Actually, I will be adding pics or vids to this hub to explain some of those exercises, and I am writing another to showcase some more of my favorite home gym goodies. Thanks for the positive voting.

    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 7 years ago from northeastern US

      i use resistance bands (cheap). i also use canned goods in a heavy workboot in place of a medicine ball. i acquired a used stationary bike, which i wouldn't want to give up.

      i wish you would write another hub explaining some of the exercises you name in this one.

      voted useful and up.