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Easy DIY Gym: Stay Active with Common Household Items

You don't need a gym membership to enjoy strength training. Work up a sweat at home with items you may already have on hand.

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Woman exercising with a chairdiego_cervo/Getty Images

Bodyweight exercises are an obvious home workout choice; push-ups, sit-ups and jumping jacks don’t require any special equipment. Although these fitness staples are effective, they don’t yield the same kind of results as weightlifting. But how can you get the effects of strength training without access to a gym? With a little improvisation, it’s easy to make a DIY gym out of common household items. Here are a few ideas.

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Pull Up Bar Teresa Odland

Build a Simple DIY Gym Staple


If you’re up for a little building project, this pull-up bar is a quick DIY. Gym rats will be happy to bang out a few reps between laundry loads, and it doubles as a clothes-drying line when not in use. Try underhand and overhand grips to work different muscle groups.

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Single pulleyGatorDawg/Getty Images

Set Up a Weighted Pulley System

A pulley system is most commonly installed to help hoist heavy items. It can also be used as a make-shift cable machine. Attach a five-gallon bucket to one end and some leftover pipe to another, and you have a DIY gym machine for your triceps and lats. Simply add or remove weight from the bucket as needed.

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Bottle of Tidy Cats littervia amazon.com

Heave Anything Heavy with a Handle


You don’t need dumbbells to achieve the perfect bicep curl. If you have an empty gallon jug, fill it up with water and get lifting. Cat litter and laundry detergent will also do the trick. A gallon of water weighs just over eight pounds, and other pre-packaged items, such as this 20-pound container of Tidy Cats litter, will usually list their weights.

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White cloth bagbelchonock/Getty Images

Use those Reusable Tote Bags


The free reusable bags that seem to come with every career fair or conference will finally come in handy. Fill them up with canned goods, water bottles or books. Then sling one over each shoulder. You can squat, lunge and do calf raises while holding the bags this way. These also fit into the “anything heavy with a handle” category if you need something extra hefty for arm day.

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Package of a dozen water bottlesMipan/Getty Images

No Handle? No Problem


When working out at a gym, you have access to all kinds of easy-to-hold items. However, lifting an unusually sized or shaped weight will work on your coordination and grip strength more than kettlebells do. Opt for a large bag of dog food or a case of water bottles. Next time you pack for a move, the boxes won’t feel so awkward to carry.

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Woman perforing tricep dips on a couchEvgeniyShkolenko/Getty Images

Step-Up on a Sturdy Chair


Step-ups, tricep dips and other elevated exercises are typically performed with a special box or bench, but you can perform the same motions with any stable platform. A sturdy chair or high step will do the trick. Or, if you’re feeling up to a bigger project, you could put together a multi-purpose box of your own with our small stool or large bench tutorials.

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Woman drawing an agility ladder with chalkfamilylifestyle/Getty Images

Revive Hopscotch — With a Twist


In addition to being a fun children’s game, hopscotch can be a tiring high intensity interval training workout. You can go for the traditional sidewalk chalk shape or make a standard agility ladder out of rope, twine or masking or painter’s tape. The chalk-free options are better for indoor DIY gym setups.