Although we can all attest to the environment a gym workout provides, the reality is that sometimes you can’t make the time in your day to hit the gym.
When push comes to shove, and you need to get in a workout at home there is a large variety of household items that can help you gain strength and improve conditioning.
Backpacks, large water jugs, cheap resistance bands, two chairs – there are a host of items already in the house that can be used to build strength for little cost.
In this article, we will break down 5 of the most effective exercises for developing strength and conditioning through your entire body.
5 Exercises Using Household Items
We all know that you can drop down to the floor and crank out a bunch of pushups or walking lunges – but how do you add variety into your home workout routine so that you’re not bored?
Household items can offer resistance (weight), which allows for more strength development, but they also provide variability into your training program.
By this, I mean household items can help you create unique workout programs or unique exercises unfamiliar to your body. Unique household items reinforce the idea of balance, proprioception, and strength through a complete range of motion.
Yes, you can drop down and do sets of pushups – but all you’re doing here is developing a baseline strength.
Those looking for more from their training program should look to create unique movement patterns that train accessory strength.
REMEMBER: Sometimes, the best home workout is one that prepares you for your next gym session.
There are my top 5 favorite exercises you can do at home to build strength and develop your conditioning without further delay.
Suitcase Squat with Water Jug
A suitcase squat is a unique squat variation where you are holding the resistance with one hand. In this home-workout alternative, we can use a large water jug, backpack with weights or rice bag.
Your movement cues are relatively similar to any traditional squat. The main difference here should to try and keep your center of mass in the middle of your body. Weighting one hand will pull you in that direction. Stay upright, tighten the core, and keep the weight spread evenly between both feet.
This isn’t a “strength” exercise, but more of a balance and accessory exercise. Great for warming up the quads, glutes, and hamstrings I’d recommend completing 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
Decline Pushups with Chair
Are pushups too easy? Put your feet up on a chair or couch behind you and complete the same movement with more resistance.
The most important cue here is not allowing your body to travel too far forward during the pushup – as this will place excessive stress on the shoulder. We’re still trying to train upper body pushing strength, so some shoulder action is okay – but we sure to maintain a strong plank position throughout the set.
It is very common for the hips to drop towards the ground during a decline pushup. Posteriorly tilt the pelvis (flex your butt), and this should help maintain a more robust core eliminating the hip-drop.
Decline pushups can have the same progressions as any other pushup. Start with 8-12 reps per set with slow movement speed – controlling every inch of the exercise. As you grow stronger, you can increase the number of reps/sets, slow down the movement even more or include explosive movements into your pushup.
Mountain Climber with Furniture Sliders
We all have those as-seen-on-tv furniture sliders tucked away in our dresser somewhere – why not use them? Slap one under each foot and assume a hand-plank position. Start slow and be sure your body is holding a plank throughout the movement.
I always find this exercise feels the most comfortable when you look 6-8 inches in front of your hand (makes an excellent neutral neck position), and you focus on trying to get your knees to your elbows.
This exercise can be done for reps or for time. Beginners should focus on completing a certain amount of reps with perfect form before attacking a timed interval set. Start with 10-20 reps (each leg) and slowly move towards timed sets where you are super setting with another plank variation like decline pushups.
Split Squats with Backpack
Lunge variations are some of the best exercises for any workout routine – but they become even more important at home when you have limited access to weights or resistance.
A split squat or Bulgarian squat is a variation where you raise your back foot on a couch or platform. This places more resistance on the lead leg and helps to build strength in the hamstring, glutes, and core.
Your front foot is the most important part of getting this exercise correctly. It would help if you tried to do this exercise barefoot to feel where your weight is being placed.
Push the weight through your heel and midsole, without allowing your knee to travel too far past toes.
Maintain an upright posture and, if necessary, use a broomstick in a high-bar back position to simulate a barbell as the backpack might push your upper body forward.
The split squat or Bulgarian squat is a difficult exercise, but you can still make the movement more challenging by slowing the speed of contraction or using a pause-rep.
A pause rep will make it so that you do not use any momentum and are great for building strength and stability in your exercise.
Start with sets of 8-12 reps and progressively make the exercise more challenging by using resistance (like a backpack or water jug) or slowing the movement down using tempo or pause-reps.=
Planking exercises are the most ignored, yet essential exercises in any workout regime.
Plank variation at-home can be done with deadweight – like a blanket with a dumbbell on it, or any ball you have in the house.
While holding a plank, take one hand off the ground and manipulate an object. It could be pulling a towel with a water jug on it across your body – or tossing a tennis ball off a wall in front of you and trying to catch it.
The idea here is to add instability – creating a plank that requires dynamic balance and not just one stationary static hold.
Using dynamic balance in your planking exercises will provide you with much more translatable strength and enable better strength adaptions down the road.
Building Your Body At Home
There are hundreds of exercises you can perform at home to build strength and develop your athletic potential. The biggest challenge will be finding the motivation to push yourself when no one is watching.
As athletes, we are used to coaches watching our every move at the gym.
Build your body at home using simple and useful tools and create variability in your program by incorporating more balance and proprioception.
Enjoy the progress and keep yourself accountable by using a workout tracker or including your coach in your programming.