Creative replacement gear for at-home workouts while WFH

For many of us, our exercise routines look a bit different these days while we are working from home. For starters, even getting motivated is a challenge, but keeping up with our exercise routines can be difficult without our regular equipment.  This list provides some creative ideas for replacement gear.


This article originally appeared on CNN on May 5, 2020.

Dumbbells sold out? Try these creative replacements

It's not easy staying motivated these days. As Mondays blend into Wednesdays, the weeks feel both surprisingly fast and excruciatingly long. For those who enjoyed an active fitness routine pre-pandemic, finding the same energy at home can sometimes feel impossible.

This is especially true when you don't have access to the same gear that's at your gym or workout studio. So, you decide to buy some. But then — wait a minute — the online wait is six weeks?! And shipping is how much?

Finding dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells and boxing bags is tricky right now but there is good news. Rather than putting your name on a waiting list or skipping another sweat sesh, you can order these not-so-high-in-demand products instead.

Here, fitness professionals recommend the best MacGyver-like swaps for common workout essentials. Though it may feel a little strange, these hacks will provide the resistance, weight and durability you need to meet your goals — or at the very least stay moving indoors.

Dumbbell replacements

Dumbbells, also known as hand weights, are a versatile must-have for every home gym. Whether you use them to build tone in your arms or to make lunges and squats even harder, they are an effective way to upgrade your workouts. But when you can't find 5-pound, 10-pound or any-pound sets online? These options will do the trick.

Canned goods

Because they can last for months, canned goods are a common purchase during emergencies. So chances are high you have black beans, chickpeas, canned tomatoes and all sorts of other veggies hanging out in your pantry.  Everything from bicep curls and lateral raises to tricep extensions are easy to pull off while holding cans.

Water bottles

When you set up the scene for your home workouts, what do you grab? A towel, a yoga mat and a water bottle, right? Rather than sipping out of it, try using it as a weight.

Reusable grocery bags

Since some grocery stores, like Whole Foods, have prohibited bringing reusable bags inside, your stash may be collecting dust. So it's time to whip them out and use them in a different way, according to nutritionist Amanda Edell. She suggests loading them up with whatever you have at home — cans, books, you name it — and holding one in each hand. Just make sure to use a scale so they're the same weight.

Kettlebell replacements

Kettlebells workouts are one of those exercises that once you learn it, you love it. Whether you swing them, use them to perform a deadlift or find two smaller ones for arm workouts, they can be a fun way to elevate your fitness level. If you can't find this uniquely shaped fitness necessity online though, these creative alternatives can provide the same workout.

Cast iron pots and pans

Every home chef knows the importance of having a cast iron pot or pan — and they can also serve as a kettlebell substitute.


Remember commuting? Packing up your laptop, notebooks, perhaps a book, your lunch and so on? It might not have felt like it since it was simply part of your routine, but carrying around extra weight is a workout in itself. When you can't find a kettlebell, Lauren McAlister, the fitness expert for Mindbody, suggests loading up a backpack with books, cans, whatever you want. Then, zip it up — and get to work.

Laundry detergent jug

You may be doing more laundry than ever since you're home 24/7, but that doesn't mean you need to recycle your laundry detergent jug right away. In fact, group fitness instructor Melissa Bonner suggests filling it up with water once you're finished and using it as a makeshift kettlebell. It works well because the handle is sturdy, and you can adjust the weight simply by pouring water out. Bonner just recommends sealing the lid with duct tape to be extra safe from spills.

Resistance band replacements

Commonly used in barre classes or as part of a strength-training routine, resistance bands might not seem like much, but they pack a punch. Many fans have scooped them up online, making them tough to secure, so these at-home solutions will mimic much of the same sweat.

Bungee cords

Many people use bungee cords for outdoor recreational use. Think securing a kayak on the top of your car, holding a mountain bike in place and so on. But Heather Gunn Rivera, a trainer at the Grassroots Fitness Project, suggests using these as an alternative for resistance bands.

Beach towel

Your annual trip to the shore may have been canceled this season, but you can still use your beach towel in your workout. As recommended by strength and performance specialist at Strata Integrated Wellness Spa, Tracy Iverson, a long towel closed in a door provides a resistance band-like workout.


Do you have a pair of leggings that definitely have had their heyday... and then some? We all have a few we should probably donate, but now, Bonner says they can be used in a different way. Because they are stretchy, they will provide the tug-o-war and resistance you need to perform bicep curls, upright rows and so on.

Boxing bag replacements

When you need to relieve stress, there's something detoxing — and gratifying — about punching a bag. Unfortunately, your go-to studio is closed and finding a boxing bag online is a tall order. And even if you can find one, scoping out the space in your home to hang it is another story. Instead, try these tricks of the trade.

Twin mattress

If all of this time sleeping in the same bed and not traveling has proven you definitely need a new mattress, don't throw your old one out, just yet. A twin-sized mattress or futon pad serves as a great punching bag.

Carry-on suitcase

Do you miss packing a bag, boarding a plane and going on an adventure? Though you can't take it anywhere but your home, you can work up a sweat and fill your carry-on to the top with this boxing bag hack.

Then, hang it up outside on a tree or on your patio... and get started. Wearing leather gloves is also recommended — especially for a beginner — to soften the impact of your hands on the surface, he adds.

Barbell replacements

For strength-training, a barbell can't be beat. You can add as much or as little weight as desired, and you can use the bar itself, too. But if your home doesn't have much space for this heavy-duty piece of equipment, or you can't find one online, you can try these alternatives instead.


While barbells are ideal for bench presses, squats and deadlifts, all those moves can also be done with large sandbags.

Broom and water jugs

This one may require a little more DIY, but it can easily be completed in less than ten minutes. All you need is a broom handle and two buckets.


Written by: Lindsay Tigar


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