What to Use Instead of Weights When Working Out at Home

Here are some ideas for items that you can use as improvised resistance for working out at home with no equipment.


Your Body

This is the primary resistance available to everybody (no pun intended).

  • Bodyweight exercises are among the most effective exercises there are.
  • Knowing how to orient your body and use other items to help take advantage of bodyweight can be extremely effective.


Milk Jugs

Empty milk jugs are perfect for resistance training.

  • They can be the one-gallon/four-liter size or the half-gallon/two-liter size (depending on how much resistance you wish to have).
  • Simply fill the jug up with water and voila! You have a dumbbell.
  • How high you fill the jug will determine how heavy your dumbbell is (be aware that water will slosh if the jug is not full). A full gallon of water weighs about eight pounds.
  • If you need more resistance than what can be supplied by water, try filling the jug up with sand or dirt. If you want it even heavier, gravel will work also.



This can be anything from a mop bucket to a child's sand bucket (make sure it has a sturdy handle). Simply fill it up with something, e.g. cans or books or even sand or rocks.


Duffel Bags

The duffel bag is a useful resistance-holder. Fill the duffel bag up with books or cans or anything that has weight to it. The handles of the duffel bag make it ideal for exercise purposes. It's only drawback is its awkwardness and, in some exercises, the limiting effect it has on range of motion.



Fill a briefcase up with heavy books and you have yourself resistance, complete with a handle. This is very useful for exercising at work. Simply keep some heavy books at your workplace and when you get a chance, put the books in and go.

Some exercises you can do with the briefcase include: curls, kickbacks, one-arm rows, laterals, and lunges.



A suitcase can be a very effective exercise implement, especially when you are travelling.


  • A full suitcase can provide a good deal of resistance.
  • The major drawback is the size and shape of the suitcase. Quite often this is not conducive to working out.
  • You also may be limited by balance and range of motion.

Exercises such as one-arm rows, curls, and calf raises can work well with a suitcase.



The backpack is very useful for doing leg exercises with, e.g. squats or lunges, as well as weighted push-ups.

  • It allows you to keep your hands free to help balance as well as providing the capability for a great deal of resistance (depending on the size of your backpack).
  • An advanced trainer may put sandbags inside a heavy-duty backpack for leg training.
  • This is a very effective technique to use even if you don't need to improvise equipment.
  • Be sure to get a high-quality backpack if you are going to fill it with a good amount of resistance. You definitely don't want the straps to break or the bottom to fall out while you are in the middle of a set.


Another Person

Having another person provide the resistance can be extremely useful (even a very small person).

Another Person for Resistance Training

For example, if you can do a large number of push-ups and need more resistance, have a friend push down or sit on your back to increase the resistance.

If you want to work your shoulders, raise your arms out wide to the side to the top position of a lateral and have your partner push down on your elbows while you resist.


Bicycle Tire Tubes

The tire tube is essentially a big elastic band. The elastic band is very effective in providing resistance. All it needs is something to anchor to. This can be as easy as stepping on one end of it and doing curls, for example.

This is my recommended source for actual training bands. (Note: Use Coupon Code "rbtfitstep" to get 10% off your purchase of a band package)



Though this is technically not an improvised item, it is a very useful purchase as the number of exercises you can do with a simple set of dumbbells is enormous. I'd highly recommend it!


  • You can purchase an inexpensive set of dumbbells at any sporting goods store or even at garage sales.
  • Adjustable dumbbells are a better investment than solid-cast dumbbells as this makes it possible to adjust the weight to your needs rather than being limited by a pre-set weight.


Learn what you can use as improvised equipment and apparatus when working out at home.



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