How to Work Out at Home Without Equipment

Health & Well Being

In this time of social distancing, we’ve had to skip gym workouts, group fitness classes, and the motivation that comes from exercising in an organized class or with friends. The experts say to get out and walk because it can relieve stress, keep your weight down, and improve heart health.

All true. Walking indeed provides these benefits – and even more. But there are a few things walking doesn’t do. First, walking does little to maintain strength or tone muscles. For that, you must rely on resistance and strength training. Walking also doesn’t help with flexibility. In fact, your muscles may feel tighter after a walk unless you take a few minutes to wind down and stretch when you finish.

Not everyone has a well-equipped gym at home, and who knew we’d be spending so much time inside. You may have a resistance band or two lying about, a mat for yoga or stretching, and maybe even a few small hand weights. But even without official gym equipment, you can still get a good workout at home. Take a look around and chances are you’ll find plenty of at-home DIY exercise options within plain sight. Remember, always talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

For Toning and Strength


Anything that is (or was) filled with liquid or a product can double as a hand weight. Most of us have canned soup, tomatoes or beans on hand, and these products are usually available in 15-ounce cans. That’s nearly one pound, and one-pound weights are good for arm exercises with the goal of doing a lot of reps for toning, rather than lifting a lot of weight. Try doing forearm curls, tricep kickbacks, or lateral arm raises with 15-ounce cans.

Bottles Up

Distilled water bottles and laundry detergent jugs make great dumbbells when you want to lift more weight. Use these household staples to do front raises, overhead presses, or use them as you would use a kettlebell in the gym.

Hit the Walls

Every room in your house has four walls and each presents a workout opportunity!

Find a clear space along a wall and work your quadriceps by doing wall sits. Stand with your back against the wall and slide down to a sitting position, or wherever you’re comfortable. Hold the sit for 15 seconds and slide back up. Repeat until you feel the work in your thighs.

Use the same wall for push-ups. Face the wall, extend your arms, and place your palms on the wall shoulder width or wider apart. Bend your elbows and bring your face and chest close to the wall, then push away, just as if you were doing a push up on the floor. Start with 10 push-ups, or as many as you feel comfortable doing.

Counter Intelligence

You can use a countertop for push-ups or also tricep dips. For tricep dips, face your back to the countertop and place your palms on the countertop behind you, fingers facing toward you. Bend your elbows to lower down and then push back up, focusing on feeling the effort in your tricep muscles.

Have a Seat

You can also use a stationary chair (no wheels) with sturdy arms to do tricep dips. Secure the chair against the wall, grip the chair arms and lower yourself up and down from the seat using your arms. You’ll feel the effort in the backs of your arms.

Use the same chair for seated leg raises. Sit all the way back in the chair to support your back, grip the chair arms, and raise your legs straight in front of you – together or one at a time. You’ll feel this exercise in your quadriceps.

For Resistance and Stretching

A towel or t-shirt make fine substitutes for a resistance band. You can also use a towel to stretch your arms and back by holding on to each side and pulling in front of your chest, or behind your back, and diagonally with one hand above and in front of your head, and one behind your back.

A classic physical therapy exercise uses a doorway to stretch the back and shoulders. Stand close to the doorway and plant one foot behind you and one in front. Raise your arms to shoulder height and place your palms on the doorway. Lean forward to feel the stretch in your arms, shoulders and back.

For Cardio

Climbing the stairs in your home or building a few more times each day is a great way to get in some quality cardio. There’s no need to go any faster than you would on a normal trip up the stairs. Just go up and down several times in row to get your heart rate up. Be sure to hold on to the handrail for support.

Even when you’re not actively exercising at home, there are lots of opportunities to add more fitness into your day. Deadlift the laundry basket a few times before starting to fold. Make a conscious effort to contract your abs and twist at the waist when using a broom. Add some knee lifts or arm circles into the mix when out for a walk. Pay attention to your posture – even when no one is watching. These little moves can be a big help in maintaining fitness until you can get back to exercise class or the gym.