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4 Household Items That Can Double As Fitness Equipment

There's fitness equipment all around your apartment in disguise.

You may be one of the many athletes currently stuck at home and without access to a gym due to the coronavirus pandemic. If so, you might be concerned about those precious gains turning to steady losses. Whether you are a CrossFit athlete or a powerlifter without weight plates, you likely have a lot of potential fitness equipment hidden in your home that are veiled as household items: pots, pans, broomsticks, and backpacks. Here are ways to use these items to improve your at home workouts.

Pots and Pans
Image via Shutterstock/sevenke

Pots and Pans

What’s the plan? Pots and pans. These clunky pieces of metal that contribute to your gains in the kitchen are also suited well to assist you during a workout. Here are some ways that pots and pans can keep your fitness routine on track while quarantined.

Aerobic Step Platform → Pots

Flip a large pot upside down (top-down) on your carpet or rug, check to make sure that it is steady (safety first), and voila! You have a homemade step platform that can be used for exercises aerobic and anaerobic alike. Step-ups, lateral lunges with a hop, bodyweight Bulgarian split squats, if you can perform an exercise on a step platform at a gym, you can most likely do it with a pot on the carpet.

Pot Push-Ups

If you have two pots of equivalent size, you can situate them as platforms for elevated push-ups. Try this adjustment with push-up variations.

When using a singular pot, place one hand on the pot (which is positioned top-down) and one hand on the floor. Uneven push-ups like this are commonly seen in the gym with athletes using medicine balls, but a pot will work just as well, though it’ll challenge your stability just a little less than keeping a wobbly ball in place.

Pot Push-Up Pyramid

If you have a set of pots of varying sizes, line them up and use their differences in height to your advantage. Start with one hand on the floor and one hand on the lowest pot and perform 3 push-ups, then move the hand on the pot to the next pot one size up. Repeat up to the biggest pot and then change sides so the hand that stayed on the floor instead moves from pot to pot.

Feel free to change the rep range based on the number of pots in the set you have. Try fewer reps per pot if you have a large set (four or more pots) and more reps per pot if you have a small set (three or fewer pots.)

[Related: Learn how to build strength using reverse pyramid training.]

Decline Pot Push-Up

A simple tweak will allow you to add decline pot push-ups to your home workout routine. Place a decent sized pot top-down on your rug, carpet, or yoga mat. Then assume a push-up position and place your feet on the pot. Try 3 sets of 10 reps to start (these may be more difficult than standard push-ups) or add them to the end of your pot push-up pyramid if you’re more advanced.

Russian Twists With A Pan

When doing Russian Twists, slow and steady control of your core is important. Quite often, heavy weight is not necessary. A pan or skillet can present enough weight to add significant difficulty to a Russian twist. Simply hold the pan as you would a weight plate and perform the twist as normal. If you want to increase the difficulty, hold the pan by the base of its handle. The further towards the end of the handle you grip when performing the movement, the more resistance you should feel.

Check out this post from Jordan Syatt‘s Instagram page below for a quick primer on proper Russian twist form:

View this post on Instagram

I always say I’m going to keep it short. – The write a mini-novel maxing the character limit on every caption. – I know. – But today I really am going to keep it short. – Listen. – Russian Twists are sort of like the Crutiatus Curse…except they make your abs sexy like a chocolate covered strawberry. – Issue is most people do them like a brand new baby house elf, born without a bone in their body. – So. – Scroll through and watch each instructional video above. – And when you do Russian Twists, remember: – 1️⃣Lean slightly backward with your chest tall and good posture. No slouching. – 2️⃣Slightly lift your heels off the floor. Not much, just slightly. If you can’t do that, keep your heels on the floor but put as little weight on them as possible. – 3️⃣Put your arms straight out in front of you, in-line with your eyes and pointing upwards. Not down. – 4️⃣The twist comes from your abs…not your arms. Your arms shouldn’t move at all. Think of your nipples as headlights and your goal is to shine the headlights as far to the left and right as possible while maintaining control of your body. – 5️⃣Keep your legs as still as possible, too. Don’t let them twist side-to-side. Keep them right in front of your body without moving. – 6️⃣You don’t need to use extra weight. This movement is hard enough as-is. If you’re loading it up with a lot of extra weight, you’re doing it wrong. – 7️⃣Generally, 2-4 sets of 6-15 reps per side is plenty for this exercise. I prefer to do it at the end of a workout along with any extra accessories (grip work, neck strength, etc) so you don’t fatigue your abs too early in the session. – I hope this helps. – Also. – If you want more home workouts I’m gonna be texting several bodyweight workouts to my Very Important Muggle (VIM) text community next week and you can get them by texting me here: +1 (617) 249-7381). – So text me. – Now. – #russiantwist #russiantwists #corestrength #coretraining #abs #abstrength #abtraining #coreworkout #abworkout #functionaltraining #functionalstrength #personaltrainer #fitness #workout #bodyweightworkout

A post shared by Jordan Syatt – SyattFitness (@syattfitness) on

[Related: Listen to Jordan Syatt discuss the great calorie debate on the BarBend podcast.]

Try performing a set holding the pan and then a set holding different parts of the handle to get a sense of the resistance. Once you have your form down pat, try out 3 sets of 20 reps (rotating to each side and back to center is a single rep).

Pasta Pot Goblet Squat

Take your biggest pot and hold it by the handles like you would a dumbbell for a goblet squat. When you perform the exercise, it will feel pretty much like a bodyweight squat. Now fill up that pot with water. The more water you pour into the pot, the heavier it will be. If you’re worried about spills, simply place the pot cover on top when performing the exercise.

Stability is a key to ensure the water doesn’t slosh around and obscure your balance; an added training benefit that dumbbells don’t offer by comparison. Perform slow and controlled reps that induce a burn through the quads and you’ll forget that you’re in your living room instead of the gym.

Try out 3 sets of 12 reps and adjust based on how much water (how heavy) you pour into the pot.

Backpack Pushup
Image via Shutterstock/ra66

Broomsticks and Backpacks

Weighted Backpack

If you have carried anything heavy in your backpack recently, you’re likely familiar with how draining it can be physically. The benefit during a quarantine though, is that a heavy backpack can function close to a weight vest.

Although we can’t be on the beach right now like the guy in the picture above, his weighted push-up game is on point. By wearing a backpack filled with enough items to weigh it down comfortably, it becomes similar to doing push-ups with a weight plate on your back.

When incorporating a backpack into your workout, pull the straps tight enough so the backpack fits snugly (not leaving any space between the backpack and your back). This will prevent the backpack from sliding to one side or the other and keep the weight distributed evenly during the exercise.

Try doing 3 sets of max reps. If you find any set too easy, add more things to the backpack (increasing the weight) to up the difficulty.

Broomstick Barbell Backpack Curls/Tricep Extensions/Upright Rows

Backpacks are more versatile that meets the eye. A backpack’s straps don’t have to always wrap around you. They can wrap around other household items to further expand your household item home gym. Fill your backpack with items to provide the desired weight, slide a broomstick through the straps so the backpack is positioned in the middle and you have a broomstick barbell. 

Slide left to the fourth video below in this post from 2019 Olympia Classic Physique Champion Chris Bumstead’s Instagram page to see what this set up should look like:

Bumstead shares several exercise variations with household items such as couch squats (with his rug adding ankle mobility), towel hamstring curls, couch skullcrushers, and suitcase rows. Of course, if you find any of those intriguing, feel free to incorporate them into your workout. Just be safe when lifting furniture above your head.

View this post on Instagram

I NEVER thought I’d see the day of an at home workout😭 Desperate times… For real though gyms are being shut down world wide and the gym is not only about gains, but it’s a stress reliever, something we need now more than ever. I’ve put together a new program on the @cbumfitness training app for minimal equipment/at home sessions that will be launching tomorrow. All you’ll really need are things like a broom, back pack, books, a couch, suitcase, etc… And I’ll be around in the Facebook group to answer any questions. Link is in my bio🙏🏼 These are definitely worrisome times, but there’s plenty of things we can still do to keep anxiety low and gains high. Physical health is extremely correlated to mental health, be aware of that, be safe, and look out for other members of your community who may be struggling.

A post shared by Chris Bumstead (@cbum) on

Once you have your backpack lined with a broomstick as Bumstead displays above, you can perform bicep curls, upright rows, and even standing tricep extensions. Treat the broomstick equipped with a backpack as you would a normal barbell when performing each exercise.

Broomstick Barbell Front and Back Squats

These require two backpacks and a sturdy broomstick. The same way you slid the broomstick through the backpack straps for the broomstick barbell curls, you’ll do the same for these front squats and back squats except that each backpack will be positioned on each end of the broomstick. If you do not have a broomstick strong enough to bear the weight and you can feel the tension, using a long enough foam roller is a fine substitute.

The actual broom head will ensure the backpack on that end won’t slide off. To ensure the backpack on the other end doesn’t slide off, simply tape the top of the broomstick with a tape nub thick enough to keep the backpack from sliding off. Homemade barbell clips never seemed so easy to make.

Another quick trick to keep the backpacks in place are to tighten the inner straps so they are more taught than the outer straps.

Once you have filled each backpack with equal weight and slipped the broomstick through the straps, perform front and back squats as you would if it were a normal barbell. If you can, use a scale and weigh each backpack to ensure they are at an equal weight. If there is a slight discrepancy since each backpack is likely filled with different items, remember to rotate the broomstick barbell between sets so that both sides are stressed evenly by the end of the workout.

Also, be conscious of the backpacks dangling; the motion throughout the movement should be slow and controlled to prevent the backpacks from swinging.

Broomstick Barbell Row

With a little bit of creativity, a broomstick can also be used to build upon your back gains. Angela Gargano of America Ninja Warrior fame shared a post on her Instagram page where she utilized a couple of chairs as a rack to support a broomstick that she then performed inverted rows. Check it out below:

View this post on Instagram

⚡️No Bar? No Problem ⠀ ⠀ Check out this makeshift 😉 way to create a bar at home using a broom and two chairs ⠀ ⠀ This is great especially for beginners who are working on their upperbody strength for a pull-up & and even great for the more advanced to work on strength and control ⠀ ⠀ Two things to note:⠀ 1. Make sure your broom is actually locked into the chairs before going and that it’s not made of easily breakable plastic 😉😅⠀ 2. Make sure your chairs aren’t going to move while pulling ⠀ ⠀ Drills to Try:⠀ ⠀ ➡️Body Row⠀ ⠀ ➡️Flexed Arm Hang ⠀ ⠀ ➡️Eccentrics: starting from the top and slowly lowering down ⠀ ⠀ ➡️Try switching up your grips !!! ⠀ . Listen to last two slides for details 🥳📣 ⠀ Anyways, try it out and let me know how it goes ! ⠀ ⠀ Don’t forget I also have a FREE Pull-up Guide that comes with a 7 day Pull-up Program, I also include a list of everything you need so you can get it done at home 😉 Link in Bio ⠀ ⠀ Who is going to try this?! 👇🏻⠀ ⠀ ⠀ #WHstrong #strongfeelsgood #warriorstrong #sundayfunday #homeworkouts #fullbody #shapesquad #popsugarfitness #pullups #pulluprevolution

A post shared by Coach & Pull-Up Expert (@angela_gargano) on

Once you are certain that the chairs are secure enough to both support a broomstick that is strong enough to support your weight without sliding, fix said broomstick snugly in the joints of the chairs where the seats meets the back supports. From there, position yourself on your back on the floor between the chairs and under the broomstick.

Grab the broomstick with the grip of your choice (if you scroll to the left of Gargano’s post above, she demonstrates several different grips including overhand and mixed), and then perform a row while keeping your shoulder blades down and back and remembering to pull from your elbows.

Wrapping Up

Just because gyms are closed during the quarantine does not mean you have to concede your workout routine. There are plenty of items in your home with the potential to fill the need for equipment so you can make sure your gains don’t go anywhere. Get creative, be consistent, and stay positive.

Feature image via Chris Bumstead’s Instagram page: @cbum

Phil Blechman

Phil Blechman

Phil is a native New Yorker with a BFA from Syracuse University.

Before becoming a Staff Writer at BarBend, Phil worked on the creative team at WWE, as a narrator for Audible.com with over a dozen titles, and as a producer, director, and playwright Off-Broadway in NYC where he worked for The Araca Group and co-founded IJB Theatrical Productions. He can be heard as a co-host of both the Here’s What’s Up podcast and Eternal Durdles podcast.

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