How To Build Muscle At Home Without Gym Equipment

How can you build muscle if you have no access to a gym? There are some ways to still build muscle without any gym equipment.

Without gym equipment it’s possible to build muscle with bodyweight exercises and some common household items like; backpacks, benches, stairs, water bottles, etc. By doing enough repetitions and sets, you can get muscles to grow without heavy weights.

Which exercises can you do to build muscle without equipment and which household items can you use? Here’s what you want to know.

How to Build Muscle Without Equipment

Bodyweight exercises are the best way to build muscle if nothing else is available. And make no mistake, bodyweight exercise can be very tough and build a great physique. While you maybe can’t achieve a bodybuilder type body with just bodyweight, you can get a very athletic physique with it.

Below we’ll go into some household items that can help you add extra resistance to these exercises but let’s look at the bodyweight versions first;

  • Push ups: For chest, triceps and shoulders.
  • Burpees: Cardio and chest
  • Squats: Lower body
  • Jump squats: Lower body
  • Plank: Core
  • Crunch/sit up: Core
  • Lunges: Lower body
  • Dips: Triceps, chest
  • Pull ups: Back, biceps. You will need a pull up bar for this.
  • Decline push up: Upper chest and shoulders.

By just doing those exercises, you can build muscle as long as it’s challenging. If you don’t add any resistance to these exercises, doing high repetitions will be necessary to get results. Doing 3-4 sets of 12-20 repetitions is going to yield good results for most people.

Once that becomes light, it’s time to add some resistance. Without any equipment, read below what you can use instead.

How To Use Household Items For a Workout

What you need of course depends on what type of workout you want to do. Some people want to do more muscle building workouts while others want to focus on cardio workouts. In this post, I’ll focus more on the muscle building variety. However, most home muscle building workouts can also be adapted to improve cardiovascular health.

What do you have around your house you can use to exercise?


Everyone has a backpack somewhere. A sturdy backpack can hold a lot of weight. That weight can be used to add resistance to certain movements. Of course the stronger and bigger the bag is, the more weight you can safely add.

Backpacks are made to be worn on the back. (Surprising, I know) That means you still have your hands free to do exercises. A hiking bag with good support is probably the best option since it’ll be strong and big, but also because they are usually very secure on your bag. There are several straps and clips you can adjust to keep it in place. Especially when moving around quickly, like you do during a workout, it’s a good idea to have something that doesn’t move around too much.

Exercise options

A weighted backpack is great for many exercises that you do on your feet and/or hands. A backpack isn’t very useful for movements that require your back to touch a floor or wall. The main reason to use a backpack is to add resistance to an exercise when normal weights aren’t available. Here are some great exercises you can do with a backpack;

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Burpees
  • Pull ups/ chin ups
Image of a man lifting a backpack as exercise

Sturdy shopping bag

Another bag that can be used for a workout is a shopping bag. A big sturdy shopping bag can almost be used as a kettle bell, although it’ll be a bit too bulky to do all the usual kettle bell exercises. Without any real kettle bells around it’s a good alternative however.

Since you’ll be filling up the bag with weight and move it around vigorously, it’s very important that the bag can handle the weight you’ll put in it. The handles should be strong and attached well to the rest of the bag and the bag itself has to be able to hold the weight as well.

If your bag can’t hold the weight, it might break halfway through a repetition and send the weight inside flying everywhere.

Exercise options

Unlike the backpack, the shopping bag is more suitable to hold in your hands. While the size doesn’t make it very practical for some you’d usually do with a kettle bell or dumbbell, there are still some useful things you can do.

  • Kettlebell swings
  • Goblet squat
  • One armed bent over row
  • Bicep curls
  • Lateral raise
  • Glute bridge

Water bottles

Then we get to the weight you can put in the bags. Plastic bottles filled with water are a very accessible option for most people. Everyone has PET bottles around. They don’t break easily and you can fill them up with different things. Of course everything you can get into the bottle can be used but not everything is practical. Water or sand are two good options that are practical, available to everyone and do too much damage if a bottle would break and the contents leak out. 

Exercise options

Water bottles are good to weight down the backpack and shopping bags named above. You can also use them like dumbbells. While they’re light by themselves, if you fill a bag up with a few, it can add up.

As dumbbells they’re not the best although for some exercises where you don’t need a lot of weight, they can do the trick like lateral raises.

Hard bench

A hard bench can be a good tool as well. A sofa won’t really work as well since the soft padding can make it difficult to get a solid grip or find a stable position. A sofa also gets dirty. The height difference between the seat of a bench and the floor is what you can use.

Exercise options

There are a few things you can do with a bench;

  • Dips.
  • Deficit push ups
  • Deficit plank
Image of two people doing dips on a bench outside

Floor mat

Without equipment, a lot of your exercises will be done on the floor. Having some kind of mat makes things a lot more comfortable, especially if you have a hard floor in the place where you do exercise.

A yoga mat is perfect and something many people will already have in their house. If you don’t have a yoga mat, a thick bathroom mat can work pretty well. It won’t be as big as a yoga mat but it’s a lot more comfortable for your back and head than a concrete floor.

Of course it’s important that it’s clean before you put your head on it.  

Use a floor mat for any exercise you feel it’s necessary. Often those are the exercises where more sensitive parts of your body will touch the floor. However, it also makes it much easier to clean up sweat.

Image of a woman rolling a yoga mat


Even if you’ve got an empty house, there are still at least four walls at your disposal. There are a few things walls are good for but more on that later.

If you touch a wall a lot, it will get dirty pretty quickly, especially when you’re sweating. So make sure you use a piece of wall that has to be painted soon, can be cleaned or put something on the wall protects it.

Exercise options

What can you so with just a wall, you might wonder. Here are some suggestions;

  • Wall sit
  • Wall slide
  • Handstand push up (Advanced)

Door frame/ceiling joist

A doorframe you can put your hands around or possibly a ceiling joist (watch out for splinters) is good for a few things but mainly for pull ups and chin ups. However, a door frame can also be used for rows. Rowing exercises are difficult at home since you really need some weight and it’s difficult to find a position where you could use your bodyweight to row.

Holding onto the edge of a table from the bottom can work but it can be a bit sketchy if your table isn’t heavy enough or doesn’t have four legs.

A door frame can be used for rowing by just letting yourself fall back while holding on to the sides. For more resistance you can add the backpack again.


A flight of stairs is a great thing to have. More for cardio but there are some muscle building effects as well. Just add extra resistance. Walk up a flight of stairs with a heavy backpack a few times and you’ll feel your legs. Sure, it’s not the same as a heavy squat but it’ll do the trick for a while.

Single item home gym

If you want something that makes working out at home a little less sketchy than using a shopping bag filled with water bottles, there is one item that can make your home workouts a whole lot better.

That item is a kettlebell. With just one or two kettlebells you can do a lot of exercises that can get you into great shape. For men, a 16 kg/36lbs. kettlebell is a good weight while for women 8 kg./18lbs. is a good starting weight.

Here are kettlebells that offer great value for money. They’re powder coated and made from high quality steel so they’ll last for a long time. Click here to find them on Amazon.

Image of vinyl coated kettlebells


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to After working out in many different gyms for almost 20 years and helping people build their own home gyms, i've learned a few things i'd like to share with you.

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