Short on Workout Equipment? Try These Tips

Lack proper gym equipment? Get more from less with these DIY workout solutions.

My first college strength and conditioning job was at a Division II school with less than 1,000 students. I worked with 10 teams in a spartan weight room. The workout equipment included a few racks, benches and TRX suspension trainers, a pull-up bar, two platforms and a bunch of dumbbells and bands. I quickly learned that I needed to improvise to get my athletes through a training session efficiently while also providing them with an enjoyable, solid program.

Here are some of things that I did—and you can do too—to get more out of less.

Sled Substitutes

No Prowler? If you have a basketball court or a tile floor, grab a towel, a PVC pipe, another human and a plate. If you want to do Sled Pushes, place a plate on a towel and push that. For Sled Drags, sit on a towel holding one end of a PVC pipe and have a partner grab the other end and drag you. I call this "Human Drags."

Learn how to make your own prowler.

No Glute Ham Raise or Leg Curl Machine?

If you have legs and a towel you're in luck. Try towel Slide Curls or Russian Hamstrings. I tend to start my athletes off with Slide Curls and progress to Russian Hamstrings.

To perform a Slide Curl: Lie on your back with your heels on a towel and your legs straight. Pull your heels towards your butt and simultaneously raise your hips. Return by reversing the motion. Check out NFL linebacker Connor Barwin's Towel Leg Curl in the video above.

To perform a Russian Hamstring:

  • Kneel on a pad or towel and have someone or something hold your feet down.
  • Staying tall (don't break at your waist), slowly lower yourself to the ground and catch yourself in the bottom of the push-up position.
  • Give yourself a slight boost with a push-up, and leg curl yourself back up to the start position.

Learn Manual Resistance

Missing a lot or have nothing? Find a friend and learn manual resistance. In the video below, I discuss manual resistance and demonstrate how to perform the Bench Press, Chest Fly, Row, Lat Pull-Down, Shoulder Press, Upright Row, Front Raise, Lateral Raise and others.


Not enough barbells? Or are you just looking for some non-conventional ways to train? Find a tractor tire store and ask for old tire tubes lying around and a tractor tire or three. The tubes may sound weird, but they can be transformed into sandbags. All you will need is a razor blade, zip ties, duct tape and sand. Cut the tube into whatever size sandbag your heart desires, zip-tie one end, fill it with sand, zip-tie the other end and bingo—sandbag! Just leave enough tubing on the ends for handles and tape down the zip ties to prevent bleeding.

As far as the tires go, every tractor tire store I've ever visited gladly gave me as many tires as I wanted. One store even transported a tire to the facility I designated, just to get it off their premises. The other two made me find my own transportation, but if you know someone with a truck, you're set. I fit one smallish tire in the bed of my pickup truck. It wasn't the sexiest tire in the world, but it was good for beginners to flip, and it was great to hit with a sledgehammer.

Learn how to build your own homemade gym equipment.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock