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6 Strength exercises that don't require weights or a gym

Laura Williams, M.S.Ed. is a personal trainer, freelance writer and entrepreneur who works with a wide variety of fitness clients. She's the founder of the popular website, - Girls Gone Sporty, and she's the host of the High Impact Blogg...

A weight training workout that proves you don't need a gym membership

Weights are overrated, but strength training's not. Rather than spend money on dumbbells and medicine balls, you can lift weights at home by using readily available household supplies.

Grab a file box, your favorite pet and a container of laundry detergent — and just like that you've created a full-body home gym with no weights at all.

A weight training workout that proves you don't need a gym membership

Image: Karen Cox/SheKnows

1. Doggie squats

A weight training workout that proves you don't need a gym membership

Grab your pooch and get squatting. As long as you have a compliant dog that doesn't mind being held, you can easily add weight to your squats and lunges by simply cradling Fido close to your body. Just remember to keep a focus on form — your knees should remain behind your toes and in line with your toes as you lower yourself into the squat. Then, keep your torso upright and tall as you press through your heels to return to standing. Because you'll have to physically hold your dog in your arms, you'll also work your upper body.

2. File-box rows

A weight training workout that proves you don't need a gym membership

File boxes can be a bit bulky and hard to handle, so they're not a great option for exercises like bicep curls or shoulder presses, but they're exactly the right size and shape for bent-over rows or deadlifts. Simply grasp the box by its handles, then tip your hips backward and keep your torso straight as you bend forward. When your torso forms a 45-degree or less angle, with your arms hanging loose from your shoulders, simply bend your elbows and tighten your back as you pull the file box up to your body. Just remember to keep your core tight throughout the movement to help protect your back.

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3. Backpack push-ups

A weight training workout that proves you don't need a gym membership

Load a backpack up with books for the perfect home gym accessory. Simply strap the pack to your back to add weight to any number of exercises, including squats, lunges and push-ups.

Perform your push-up as usual, keeping your core tight and strong, while balancing on your knees or your toes. Wear the backpack on your back, using the chest strap (if your backpack has one) for added stability. Start light with just a few paperback books, but gradually build up your strength by testing your hand with the giant family Bible or Grandpa's old encyclopedias — who knew they could still come in handy?

4. Purse presses or swings

A weight training workout that proves you don't need a gym membership

Handles are an alternative-home-gym builder's best friend, which means it's time to raid your purse closet. Select a purse with strong straps and a zippered closure to help guard against a potential mishap. Once you've selected your purse, add weight by throwing a couple water bottles, canned goods or books inside. Zip up the top and you're locked and loaded for any number of exercises — shoulder presses, overhead triceps extensions or even "kettlebell" swings.

A weight training workout that proves you don't need a gym membership

Exercises are performed as usual, just remember to keep a firm grip on your purse straps and tighten your core. The purse's uneven distribution of weight is going to require greater core strength to control, so start light and add weight as needed.

5. Paint-can curls

A weight training workout that proves you don't need a gym membership

It's handles for the win! If you happen to have a few paint cans hanging around the house, it's time to put them to use. Paint-can handles are perfect for bicep curls, upright rows and lateral shoulder raises — just make sure the lid's on tight — you don't want to end up with any unfortunate spills. If you're working with empty paint cans, fill them with water for an added challenge. As the water sloshes in the can, you'll be forced to work harder to overcome the constantly changing distribution of weight.

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6. Detergent twists

A weight training workout that proves you don't need a gym membership

Sub out the medicine ball for a container of liquid or pod detergent. These compact tools are easy to hold while doing ab exercises, like oblique twists or twisting lunges. Some detergent bottles seem made for this purpose, even offering "handles" on each side of the container that you can grip while working out.

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