Fitness

6 Workouts You Can Do With DIY Dumbbells

These bodyweight exercises & DIY weights will tide you over.

A woman holds a water bottle during a run. These dumbbell alternatives make great at home workouts while dumbbells are sold out.
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By this point in quarantine, you may have concluded that all sellable dumbbells have vanished from the face of the earth — and you're not exactly wrong. Even if you surrendered to weight-free workouts early on in the pandemic, you've spent months getting stronger with your bodyweight and soup can exercises. But if dumbbell curls with Campbell's aren't cutting it anymore, fitness pros say you don't have to shell out extra money to work out at home with dumbbell alternatives.

To lift heavy at home with no weights in sight, you'll likely have to step out of your comfort zone. But that's actually good for your workout goals, says Mikey Newson, a certified personal trainer and a coach for the boutique fitness concept Row House in Chicago. "Using different objects at home for heavy lifting will force you to educate yourself on fitness and proper use for these items, and with that happening, you’re going to maximize effectiveness."

Newson tells Bustle that you don't need to learn fancy moves in order to get full-body workouts that will make your muscles and your heart stronger. Basic exercises that require you to push, pull, and rotate are more than enough to get your heart pumping and your whole body sweating. When you need to lift something heavier than a soup can, Newson suggests trying these six household alternatives to dumbbells.

1

Load Up Your Backpack

"One of the best ways to simulate heavier weights is a backpack loaded with books to add resistance while doing squats, lunges, and pushups," Newson says. Just fill up that backpack you haven't used since the start of quarantine with your old college textbooks and exercise like you usually would. Adjust the weight as needed — you probably don't want your massive organic chemistry textbooks in there while you're doing pushups, but you may want to pile them in for squats.

For an added challenge, hike up the straps of your backpack to make them as tight as feels comfortable, then slip the bag on backward. That way, you'll be putting all the load across the front side of your body, which will help you stay upright during movements and give your core some extra homework.

2

Carry Around Random (Heavy) Objects

"During a time like this, you have to get creative," Newson says. Sometimes, that means raiding your closets. Think about that toolbox you've been using for all your quarantine home improvement projects or that old computer monitor you haven't dusted off in years. Find a good grip. Then, carry your object around the apartment for as long as you can. Rinse and repeat at the top of each minute for five or 10 minutes.

You can also unearth the suitcase you've put away and load it up with clothes — instead of rolling it to the laundromat, try carrying it in one hand by your side. Keep your torso straight and your shoulders even with controlled steps, and you'll be performing a literal suitcase carry. Walking around while holding heavy loads will give you a cardio workout and strengthen your core, back, and forearms. That last bit is especially important now that you're at your computer more than ever — strengthening your hands, wrists, and forearms can help prevent typing-related pain, so you'll be getting your bang for no bucks with these household lifting implements.

3

Grab A Towel

If you've got a spare towel, you have an effective dumbbell replacement. What you lift with doesn't have to be heavy as long as you're engaging your muscles intensely. Do this by using the towel to create as much tension as possible.

"Grab the towel by both ends horizontally and pull it as if you’re going to rip it apart," Newson says. "You can do exercises like wall sits, Russian twists, front raises, and bicep curls," all while maintaining that strong towel tug. A little (or a lot) of shaking is both normal and invited, as long as you're not causing yourself any pain. You'll be challenging your stabilizer muscles in a big way, which is definitely something you want when you're sitting around all day.

4

Go For A Gallon

If you need to up the ante from doing curls with soup cans, Newson says you can try gallons of water. The cool thing about these is that you can roughly customize them to your desired weight. Need something heavier than a soup can but not quite as taxing as a full gallon? Pour some out and let your "weight" double as hydration.

If you've got a (very strong) broomstick or PVC pipe and you trust your DIY skills, you can also fill two gallon jugs and secure them to either end of the pole. With this well taped contraption, Newson says you can simulate barbell exercises like floor presses and deadlifts. Going heavier like this will enable your entire body to really lock into the exercises in a way that can be harder to achieve with bodyweight work alone. Just make super sure your makeshift weights are secured before getting started, and maybe don't lift them over your precious face.

5

Chairs Mean Enhanced Bodyweight Work

Using a stable chair, you can get into a range of motion that you just can't get on the ground. That means maximum muscle activation (AKA, a more intense workout). Newson says that strong chairs, side benches, and kitchen stools can all be useful for performing exercises like dips, which will engage pretty much all the muscles in your upper body. If you secure the chair next to a wall, you can also use it for teaching yourself pike pushups (which are halfway between a regular pushup and a handstand pushup). Who needs dumbbells when you've got a chair?

6

Sling Up A Bedsheet

To turn your old bedsheet into your new best workout buddy, tie a big knot in the center (or just tie two sheets together if you have them to spare). Secure the knot over the top of a sturdy door and close it all the way. Do a few test tugs to make sure it's stable, and let your housemates know what you're doing — your bedsheet workout will be awesome until one of your pals opens the door while you're in the middle of a rep.

"Exercises that you can do with a bedsheet slung over a door are inverted rows, single-arm row movements, assisted squats and lunges, and chest flys," Newson says. These exercises will simulate a much heavier load than dumbbells do because they'll be helping you use your body weight as the main source of resistance.

Experts:

Mikey Newsom, certified personal trainer, coach for Row House, Chicago