10 Everyday Items You Can Use to Work Out

Beer bottles
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Even if you don't have access to a gym or traditional exercise equipment, like dumbbells or medicine balls, that shouldn't stop you from getting your sweat on. As long as you have a few common household items on hand (check your garage—it's a wealth of unexpected workout tools), you can piece together a full-body routine to match practically any gym-based workout. 

1. Paper Plates

Before there were Valslides or glider discs, there were paper plates. And frankly, they're just as good. If you're exercising on a carpeted or smooth surface, and you're looking to increase muscle engagement while performing standard body weight exercises, grab a couple of paper plates and put them to work. For instance, you can make lunges more difficult by placing your front foot on a paper plate before doing a forward lunge. The paper plate reduces friction between the floor and your foot, so instead of stepping forward into the lunge, you can slide the paper plate forward across the floor before sliding it back again as you return to the starting position. Controlling this sliding motion is challenging, so be sure to take it slow and steady!

2. Gallon Water Bottles

One gallon of water weighs roughly eight pounds, so if you have two gallons of water on hand, you can easily substitute them for traditional dumbbell exercises. Not to mention, the water bottle handles make them easy to grip, curl, and swing. Just make sure you use water bottles with a screw on cap—if you use ones with a snap cap, and it pops off, you'll have a mess on your hands.

Bonus tip! If one-gallon bottles seem too light, pick up three-gallon jugs. When filled completely they weigh about 25 pounds each, but you could fill them 1/2 or 3/4 of the way if you're not ready to curl and press that much weight.

3. Length of Rope

You don't have to buy a suspension trainer if you have a length of rope on hand—even relatively lightweight rope will do. Simply chuck your rope over a sturdy tree branch, grasp each end, and get to work doing assisted pull-ups, suspension planks, and pushups.

For added security, consider tying sturdy knots at each end to improve your grip, or even tie loops at the ends to use as hand- and foot-holds. Just make sure the knots will hold fast throughout each exercise.

4. Beer Bottles

Believe it or not, full beer bottles are a perfect size and shape to use in place of the "super lightweight dumbbells" (usually 1- to 3-pounds) called for in barre workouts. Most full beer bottles weigh 1.25-pounds (accounting for the weight of the beverage, bottle, and cap), and the narrow bottle makes it easy to grip. Plus, if you pull the bottles straight from the fridge, they're nice and cool to hold!

5. Couch Cushion

Couch cushions (and pillows in general), are nice and squishy, making them the perfect alternative to expensive balance tools. They're more difficult to stand on and perform exercises on because your body has to work harder to maintain stability atop the foam or stuffing-filled surface. Granted, actual balance tools generally introduce a greater level of instability to each exercise, but that doesn't mean cushions aren't a good alternative. Try doing pushups atop a cushion, or split squats with one foot on the cushion, and one foot on the floor.

6. Backpack

The original weighted vest was a backpack—do you remember lugging around what seemed like 20 pounds of books as a kid? Simply fill a sturdy backpack with books or canned foods, strap it on your back (bonus points if your backpack has a cross-chest strap you can clasp for added support), and wear it around your house, while doing chores, or to add weight to body weight exercises, such as squats, lunges, and pushups. You can even take the backpack off and grasp the straps to perform curls, shoulder presses, or makeshift kettlebell swings.​

7. Length of Heavy Chain

If you happen to have a long length of heavy chain sitting in your garage (at least 30 feet long), why not use it as a battle rope? You can anchor the center of the chain around a post or tree, grasp one end of the chain in each hand, and swing away! If you've never tried battle rope-style exercises before, definitely watch some tutorials and remember to keep your core tight and your knees bent throughout each movement. You may also want to wrap the ends of each side of the chain with duct tape to help protect your hands as you perform each exercise. 

8. PVC Pipe

PVC pipe is a pretty amazing fitness tool, especially if you pick up caps from a hardware store to close off the ends. You can fill a large piece of PVC with water or sand (either partially, or completely), and use the pipe as an unbalanced, weighted barbell (commonly called a slosh tube or slosh pipe).

If you're really handy, you can construct almost anything using PVC. For instance, Todd Kuslikis built an entire freestanding fitness jungle gym from PVC—talk about impressive!

9. Heavy Book

Almost any exercise you do while holding a medicine ball or a weight plate can be done with a heavy book. For instance, switch out the medicine ball for a book when doing weighted oblique twists, weighted situps, or cross-body wood chops.

10. Beach Towel

Beach towels can be used as impromptu yoga mats (primarily on carpeted surfaces) and stretch straps. And if you're on a smooth surface, you can fold them up and use them for sliding exercises, much like the paper plates mentioned above.

A Word From Verywell

At the end of the day, solid workouts don't require fancy or expensive equipment. What they do require is a willingness to put in some sweat equity, even if that means finding creative equipment solutions. So go ahead and take a lap around your house to see what hidden workout tools you can uncover—they're probably hiding in plain sight as simple, everyday items.

By Laura Williams, MSEd, ASCM-CEP
Laura Williams is a fitness expert and advocate with certifications from the American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine.