Think Outside the Dumbbell

Think Outside the Dumbbell

Ditch the Dumbbell

Can’t make it to the gym today or simply don’t want to drive (or walk) all the way there? We don’t blame you! Use some of the stuff you have around the house and try this expert-made, DIY workout that can help you get results at home!

Effective At-Home Workout

At most gyms you walk into, there is equipment as far as the eye can see — fancy treadmills that have TV’s with push-button controls and machines that isolate every muscle imaginable.

Lots of equipment is nice and gives you no excuse not to exercise and get in shape.  However, when exercising at home, you haven’t got the luxury to afford those machines that tone your inner and outer thighs.

How else are you going to hit those hard-to-reach areas?

Seriously, people who exercise at home or aren’t fans of big-box gyms just need to get creative and think outside the dumbbell.

Let’s face it, your muscles don’t care if you’re doing a biceps curl with a milk jug or a dumbbell.

Now is the time to look at your common household items in a different light. These can give you the workout of your dreams or nightmares, depending on your point of view.

So just for a little while, that couch is not for sitting on, those paper plates aren’t for eating off and that towel is not for drying your hands.

It’s sweating time, baby.

1. Couch

Who doesn’t love to stretch out on the couch, relax and watch TV? It’s so comfy, inviting, and just calling your butt to sit on it. However, the couch can be also used as a tool to give you stronger legs and chest. Think of it as a weight bench, without the weights.

Coaching Cues:

Elevated split squat – Drop your back knee and then push through your front heel.

Decline pushups – Maintain a strong plank position, squeeze your butt, and have your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart.

Couch jumps – Hinge your hips back with your weight on your heels and land quietly.

2. Wall

The trusty wall is not only a place to hang your pictures or somewhere to put your grubby hands.  It can be used as a tool to improve your squat and posture because it gives you instant feedback. Hard to imagine?

Watch the video and try it for yourself.

Coaching Cues:

Face the wall squats – Fingers behind the ears, face the wall and have your feet hip-width apart. Stand far enough away from the wall that no part of your body touches the wall while you’re squatting.

Bodyweight row – Have your head, butt, and heels touching the wall. Have your hands shoulder-width apart at shoulder height. Touch elbows to the wall and push into the wall for a count of 3 seconds.

Explosive pushups – Have your hands shoulder-width apart and your wrists just below shoulder height. Lower slowly and explode away and clap.

3. Paper plates

These are great for picnics and if you’re just too lazy to do the dishes. They’re also great for adding a new dimension to your core work — just don’t eat off them afterward, please.

Coaching Cues:

Plank reach – With hands on the plates, slide one hand as far as you can without comprising your plank position and alternate sides.

Plank walk- With toes on the plates, take small steps with your hands while your feet drag behind you. Maintain strong plank position throughout.

4. Towel

The following exercise was introduced by David Jack a few years ago and I’ve never looked at the humble towel the same way. Once you do this, neither will you.

Coaching Cues:

Towel row- Place a towel under your midfoot and take a big step back with your opposite foot. Lean torso forward with a straight back and a puffed-out chest.

Using those four common household items you can program your own personal routine. Or, you can use the one below that came out of my devious mind.

The House Circuit

Do the following routine as a circuit resting as little as possible between exercises and circuits. Do two to three rounds and then use your towel to wipe your sweat.

  1. Couch jumps – 6- 8 reps
  2. Decline pushups 8-12 reps
  3. Elevated split squat 12 rep on each leg
  4. Towel row- 30 seconds ( alternate legs)
  5. Plank reach or drag 8-12 reps on each hand
  6. Face the wall squats – 12 reps
  7. Explosive pushups- 8- 12 reps
  8. Bodyweight row- 1 minute


After doing this “no dumbbell needed workout”, you can decide if the gym is the better option after all. 🙂

Updated 10/03/2018

Shane “The Balance Guy” McLean, is Personal Trainer at Anytime Fitness Forney, Texas. Specializing in core stability , mobility, and strength programs. Putting the fun back into exercise, one person at a time.
Shane McLean
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Think Outside the Dumbbell