Frigid winter weather keeping you on the couch? We asked four local trainers to come up with calorie-busting workouts—using common household items—that you can do at home.
The Milk-and-Towel Workout
Trainer: Elie Cossa, City Fitness in Cleveland Park.
Household items: One-gallon milk jug (full of milk or water, of course), ottoman, towel.
Muscle areas: Quads, gluts, hamstrings, core, triceps, and back.
Reps: Three sets of 12 to 15 reps for each move.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your back straight as you squat down until your rear touches the ottoman and your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. If you want to feel a better burn in your quads, hold the milk jug for extra weight.
For both leg and core stability, this is one of Cossa’s favorites: Put a small towel on the floor and hold onto the front edge of your kitchen sink. (This works only on a non-carpeted floor.) Put one foot on the towel and slide it back into a lunge. Slide back up to standing and then switch legs and repeat.
Any workout should include an exercise that involves some form of rowing, Cossa says. Hold the milk jug in one hand, and with your free hand hold the back of a sturdy chair. Bend over, keeping your spine long, so that your torso is parallel to the floor. Holding the jug, pull your elbow up past your body. Extend your arm back down and repeat.
Place a towel on the floor and get into a push-up position with your hands on the towel. (Your body and the towel should form a T.) Drop down as if you’re doing a normal push-up. Then, as you rise, slide your hands together. Push your hands back out, and repeat.
Don’t have an ab roller? That’s what the towel’s for. Put both forearms on the towel and get in a plank position. Slide the towel back and forth—pushing your forearms out away from your body and then pulling them back in so that they’re perpendicular to the floor—just as you would with the ab roller. Keeping your knees down will make it easier and put less strain on your back. Don’t go farther out than you can support.
The Chair Workout
Trainer: Former bodybuilder Yaz Boyum, Definitions Gym in Georgetown.
Household items: Chair, stairs, and table.
Muscle area: Chest, triceps, calves, and core.
Reps: Two to three sets of 15 to 20 reps for moves 1 through 3; do exercise 4—the plank—for a minute at a time and repeat it once after each set of the other three exercises.
For beginners or those who struggle with push-ups, try doing them on an angle. Use a table or back of a chair that’s knee-to-waist-level high. Stand back far enough to lean your body diagonally onto the table or chair, using your arms to hold yourself up. As with regular push-ups, make sure to keep your body straight and your hands shoulder-width apart. Boyum’s 87-year-old client loves this exercise; on her second set, she’ll lift one leg for added difficulty. “There are always ways to make every movement a little bit harder if you need to,” Boyum says.
Use the seat of a chair for dips (make sure the chair isn’t on wheels, of course). Facing away from the chair, place your hands shoulder width apart on the seat, and scoot your rear off the chair. Slowly drop your body until your arms are bent at a 90-degree angle, then push up. Think of it as a backward push-up.
To tone your calves, stand on the edge of a step with your heels hanging off. Raise yourself on your toes, up and down. You should feel a nice pull in your calves.
Boyum likes the plank exercise to strengthen the core. Lie on your stomach and raise yourself onto your forearms with your shoulders directly over your elbows. Keep your body in a straight line and don’t let your hips drop. Stay as firm as a board, and remain stationary for up to one minute. If that’s too easy, do the same move with one foot raised two inches for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
The Stairs Workout
Trainer: Elizabeth Brooks, Effervescence Personal Training Studio on Capitol Hill.
Household item: Stairs.
Muscles: Quads, triceps, chest, gluts, and core.
Reps: Exercise 1 should be repeated three to five times; for the rest, do two to three sets of 12 to 15 reps.
Climb the stairs, taking them two at a time. Then walk down. Hold a soup can in each hand if you want to add some weight.
After each stair set, do 12 to 15 reps of incline or decline push-ups. For incline push-ups, keep your feet on the floor and put your hands on the stairs; push your body up and down, as you would in a traditional push-up. Decline push-ups are the opposite (and more difficult): Place your hands on the floor and prop your feet on the step.
Put your right foot on the second stair, leaving your left on the floor. Bend your left leg into a squat, making sure your knee doesn’t come forward past your ankle. Straighten and repeat 12 to 15 times. Switch legs.
Shape your triceps by doing dips on the stairs. Face away from the stairs, place your hands on the step, and drop your body, bending your arms to a 90-degree angle and then pushing back up.
To get a great abdominal workout, Brooks says an exercise called the side-hip bridge is a good bet. Place your elbow on the first or second stair—so your body is facing to the side—with legs straight and feet on the floor. Dip your hip down and up. To add difficulty, reverse your position, placing your feet on the first step and your elbow on the ground.
The Burning Workout
Trainer: Laurent Amzallag, trainer for Oprah Winfrey’s Live Your Best Life tour. He teaches a class at Sports Club/L.A. in DC’s West End.
Household items: Two towels and a bottle of laundry detergent.
Muscles: Chest, triceps, hamstrings, biceps, and quads.
Reps: Two sets of 15 reps.
Start with stationary high-knees—running in place, bringing your knees has high as possible—for 20 seconds. Then, for another 20 seconds do squat jumps: Drop down to a 90-degree-angle squat and jump up, then drop down into a squat again. Move on to heel kicks, running in place while kicking your butt with your heels for 20 seconds.
On a non-carpeted surface, put each foot on a towel and do mountain climbers, sliding your feet. “Your legs will be on fire,” Amzallig says. “Your butt will be on fire. Everything will flame up.”
To get your biceps bulging, grab your detergent bottle and do some curls. You can also work your quads by lunging while doing your bicep curls. As you lunge, keep the detergent at your side. As you stand, curl the detergent. Be sure to switch legs.
If a snowstorm makes your whole family stir crazy, Amzallag says the easiest way to burn calories is by “shaking your booty.” For 15 to 20 minutes, dance to your favorite songs. In that time, a 120-pound person can burn 68 calories.