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December 09, 2020

No weights for your at-home workout? Use these household items instead

Paint buckets, food cans or a backpack filled with books can be alternatives to dumbbells and kettlebells

Fitness Workouts
Dumbbell alternatives Staff photo/PhillyVoice

You don't have to eliminate your strength-training regimen while the gyms are closed for COVID-19. Household items, like paint buckets and food cans, make great substitutes for weights, if necessary.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. nine months ago, three things happened. 

First, everyone in America panicked and bought about five years worth of toilet paper. Then, people bought enough frozen meat to sustain a small village and, finally, everyone apparently turned into Arnold Schwarzenegger and started buying dumbbells and kettlebells left and right until America was literally sold out.

This last one – I love. Feeling boxed in and under pressure, Americans seemed to prioritize their health and their fitness needs, and I have to be honest ... I am impressed. 

Unfortunately, this means that even if you were able to find a rare set of dumbbells, the price had skyrocketed. I had two kettlebells and a bunch of resistance bands, which is more than enough for me to get a good sweat going. But most people don’t keep kettlebells next to the washing machine (yes, I’m a crazy person), and so I realize I had it easier than most. 

Naturally, a lot of people felt they couldn’t work out because they didn’t have equipment. You may find that this next part sounds familiar – and I’ll say it louder for the people in the back – but I refuse to accept this answer.

First, bodyweight workouts are a phenomenal way to increase strength and conditioning and, to be perfectly honest, you shouldn’t be lifting any additional weight until you master your own bodyweight with pushups, squats and planks anyway. If you check out my Instagram, you’ll notice that one of my favorite workout styles is no equipment needed, and as my Drucker Fitness clients can attest, bodyweight workouts definitely do not equate to an easier workout. 

For argument's sake, I’ll admit that sometimes you just need a little something extra to spice up your workouts. When you don’t have access to a gym and you don't have any traditional equipment at home, it’s time to get creative.

Anything can be used as a weight if you try hard enough. One suggestion is to fill a backpack with books and throw it on your back. You now have a weighted vest substitute to make squats, pushups and lunges that much harder.

Another idea, which I’m stealing from a client because we actually do this during our sessions, is to grab a bag of kitty litter, dog food or salt (for melting ice). Use that instead of a kettlebell. You can bear hug it to mimic a goblet squat, throw it over a shoulder and test yourself with weighted lunges, or press the bag over your head as a shoulder press.

Canned beans are another alternative to light dumbbells. A can of chickpeas might not feel heavy for one or two bicep curls, but rep out curls or shoulder presses at 30-second intervals – your body will feel that burn. 

Are you convinced yet? Don’t answer. Try this workout first and then get back to me. I’m using a can of paint. Other alternatives can be a large jar of canned tomatoes or a soup pot (any heavy pot), but team, let’s get creative. This is a simple workout, but don’t let that fool you, you’re about to Get Drucked Up.

Gabby Drucker owns Drucker Fitness, a Philadelphia-based personal training studio and online training business. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and a Pre and Postnatal Certified Trainer. Follow her on Instagram at @druckerfitness or visit


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