Skip to main content

13 Household Items That Double as Exercise Equipment in Quarantine

Finding the motivation to workout is an exercise in itself, especially in today’s social climate. The gyms are closed and personal trainers are non-essential, meaning those looking to get and stay in shape have started crafting their own at-home workout regimens. Excuse the cliche, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

You could look into building a home gym, but sometimes it’s hard to justify the price tag on the equipment. Thankfully, there are creative and cost-effective solutions for getting your sweat on without gear. If you look around, you might find that you have a surprising amount of useful and free items that can double as workout instruments.

Now, we’re not talking about filling your beer glass and counting every pull as a rep of curls (if only it were that easy). However, you’re headed in the right direction.

You might not realize it, but over the years, you’ve been secretly collected up serviceable weights from grocery and hardware stores. A heavy cinder block or a box of books for squats and deadlifts? Maybe a full gallon of milk for bicep curls or shoulder press?

We’re going to press through some common household items that double as exercise equipment to help further your at-home fitness routine and keep you in shape during quarantine.

Couches and Chairs

As with pushups, sit-ups, and squats, using your own weight as a piece of exercise equipment is one of the most effective methods for a swole-worthy at-home workout. One way to maximize this workout method is to make use of your living room couch or dining chairs as a workout bench to round out your routine with challenging tricep dips, ab workouts, and even some vein-popping shoulder drills. We found this Instagram post from Red Bull to be mighty inspiring.

household items home workout fitness
Shestock/Getty Images

Buckets and Jugs

A 5-gallon jug or bucket is a great tool to have around the house if you need to wash your car or mix some soil, but it can also be a practical workout instrument when filled with something heavy like water, rocks, sand, or dirt. They make for great makeshift dumbbells and kettlebells for arm workouts, and can also be used in tandem with a pole or sturdy stick to imitate a barbell for exercises such as squats, bench press, and more.

Garbage Bags

If you’re really looking to maximize your household item workout, a trash bag full of water is easily one of the most effective tools for creating a tough, heavy-duty workout at home. There aren’t many “workouts,” per se, but manually lugging it around the backyard is a full-body workout you’ll wake up feeling the next morning.


Swinging your kid around is something that brings us closer together with our favorite little people in the world, however, it’s also one helluva workout. Considering all the time you have at home with them in quarantine, it might be time to start turning playtime with the kiddos into an at-home exercise. You can lay on the ground and use your kid as weights for bench press, have them lay on your back while you do push-ups, sit them on your shoulders and do some squats, or maybe have a kid on each arm for some whacky, laughter-filled kid-dle bell swings.

home fitness plank kids
Cavan Images/Alamy Stock Photo


Towels are one of the best household items to use as exercise equipment simply because they’re so versatile and easy to use. They make sure a suitable alternative to resistance bands to add more difficulty to your at-home pushups and planks, as well as a makeshift core disk glider for added performance when strengthening your core. Larger beach towels are serviceable yoga and stretching mats, too. Though a good yoga towel and yoga mat don’t cost too much.

Cans of Food

Aluminum food cans are great to have in the house for when food supplies begin to run dry but they also make for a great tool to use as small weights for high-repetition workouts. We’re talking exercises that boost your muscular endurance, correct muscle imbalances, and ultimately tone your muscles more effectively. Some of these toning exercises include bicep curl pulses and tricep kickbacks, among others.

Water Bottles

Similarly to cans of food, a full insulated water bottle can also be a suitable tool for light endurance exercises, especially if you have a larger reusable water bottle that can provide more weight if necessary.

Tote Bags

Similarly, a durable tote bag is another vessel that can be filled with heavier items like books or cans of food to mimic exercise equipment. It might seem awkward at first, but you’ll quickly be surprised at how tough it is to maneuver. In fact, it acts as a resistance band in a sense that it requires your muscles to move slower in a more compact, concentrated manner. This is another great option for curls, deadlifts, and dumbbell presses.

man holding tote bag
Tascha Rassadornyindee/EyeEm/Getty Images


If your house has a flight of stairs then you have a leg up on everyone else for calisthenics and cardio workouts. Walking or running upstairs is a sure-fire way to maximize your endurance, burn fat, and effectively train and strengthen your legs. We recommend trying out this 20-minute stair exercise for when you need a sweat break when working from home.

Frying Pan

You might be thinking, “How in the world can a frying pan be used as fitness equipment?” There are actually quite a few exercises you can do with a pan to enhance your faux at-home gym, including tricep extensions and surprisingly difficult front raises. If you have a heavy cast-iron skillet, use that for added weight.


When your daily runs and high-activity cardio workouts become less challenging, you can look at using your backpack as a weighted vest to add some extra weight to your load. Simply fill it up with something heavy yet unobtrusive for your workout, and feel the burn of the added baggage.

man packing backpack
Portra/Getty Images


A shovel can be used in many ways to maximize your at-home workouts, with the most obvious being digging holes or moving dirt or gravel from one place to another. However, one of our favorite uses for a shovel is unilateral training and core strengthening. Hold the shovel over your head with one arm during core workouts or squats to add extra difficulty to your exercise while also helping isolate and correct muscle imbalances.


As we mentioned earlier, manual labor is one of the best methods for getting a successful workout. You might as well get some chores done around the house while you’re at it. A wheelbarrow is a versatile form of fitness equipment that you can fill with rocks, sand, soil, and more to obtain an extreme full-body workout while simultaneously completing your home improvement goals outside.

Helpful tip: whenever you are filling an empty bag or bucket with something to use as equipment, make sure you’re weighing your bag out so you can set goals to reach as your strength increases.

Editors' Recommendations

Bryan Holt
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Bryan Holt is a writer, editor, designer, and multimedia storyteller based in Portland, Oregon. He is a graduate from the…
Looking for Freedom in Quarantine? Try Riding a Bike
riding a bike during coronavirus pandemic self quarantine shelter in place man on the parking with face mask

Exercising outdoors is the best thing you can do for your physical and mental health, and riding a bike is a great way to clear your head while working out. There's nothing quite like that burst of vitamin D alongside that endorphin rush one gets from a great bike ride. With most of us going back into quarantine for the winter and the sun setting earlier in the day than we're used to, this winter will surely be hard on our physical and emotional wellbeing. Many of us are doing everything from home: Working, teaching children, cooking, exercising ... the list goes on. Getting outside those same four walls even for a few minutes a day is incredibly important if you want to keep your sanity.

During the chaos of the last few weeks, I’ve been riding my bike nearly every day, definitely more than I expected. Over the last few years, I’ve done some mega routes, including the Pacific to the Atlantic and Cabo to Anchorage, but hopping in the saddle is different now. It’s a safe break from reality, a responsible way to exercise, and frankly, a little bit of freedom. 

Read more
10 Best Workouts to Do While Watching TV
exercise fitness at home watching tv

There will be two kinds of people emerging from quarantine: those who use it to get fit and those who use it to get fat. This time away from the public eye has turned up the dial on our social fears, motivating us to work out religiously so that we don’t make our reentrance looking like a schlub. But for others, social distancing is our ultimate workout excuse. Why put yourself through the trouble of staying fit when nobody’s going to see you?

If you lean toward the second category, you might want to rethink it. Laziness feels great for a while, but it doesn’t take long to catch up with your physical and mental health. Regular exercise is a crucial part of keeping your immune system strong and your mindset in a stable, positive state. It also contributes to creativity, productivity, and resilience in the face of resistance.

Read more
Can You Go Outdoors During a Self-Quarantine or Shelter-in-Place Order?
social distancing park walk dog coronavirus

The novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is clearly here to stay for a while. With more than 4,300,000 cases worldwide and over 1,400,000 cases and counting in the U.S., cities and states around the country are taking drastic measures to curb the spread of the infection. These include closing restaurants, bars, and other businesses, implementing lock-down orders, and calling on citizens to practice social distancing and self-isolating at home to flatten the curve and prevent our healthcare system from being overloaded.

But even for the purposes of public health, being cooped up inside all day can be difficult, which begs the question: Can you go outside during a self-quarantine? What about during a shelter-in-place order, which more locations are adopting? If so, where can you go and for how long? Could you go to a national park? Can a group of people go outdoors as long as the individuals maintain the proper distance from each other? In this article, we’ll answer your questions about going outside during a global pandemic. While the information provided here is up-to-date as of the time of publication, please check the Centers for Disease Control website and your local health authority to stay on top of changes and updates.
My state or city is currently under a shelter-in-place order. Can I go outside?
Shelter-in-place is defined as “finding a safe location indoors and staying there until you are given an ‘all clear’ or told to evacuate.” This term is generally applied to active shooter situations where there is an immediate threat, which is why it’s a bit of a misnomer for the current COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, you should absolutely stay inside and away from others as much as possible, but that doesn’t mean you are banned from leaving your home. As long as you are not currently infected or suspect you might have been exposed to infected individuals, you can still go outside. Many governments that are implementing shelter-in-place orders actually encourage people to go outside occasionally for their mental and physical health.

Read more