How to turn your kitchen into your own personal gym

Dec 12, 2014 at 11:48 a.m. ET

Hide your kids! Hide your wife! Hide any exposed skin, really…winter is back and it looks like Mother Nature is still in a bitterly b*tchy mood. In a perfect world we’d send her flowers, a gift card for a nice spa day, and all would be right again. But, unfortunately our hands are tied, dried out and absolutely frozen.

It may sound dramatic, especially from a former "Winterpegger," but I hate winter! I hate layering socks and wearing long underwear. I take no joy in spending more money on winter boots than any of the shoes that I'm not embarrassed to be seen wearing. I loathe trying to stuff the arms of my chunkiest sweater into a jacket that isn't flattering, and walking around feeling like an overstuffed marshmallow. I could go on, but I feel like you get the point. Suffice it to say, when winter comes I try to minimize suffering by simply not going out unnecessarily.

As a certified fitness junkie, the hardest part of staying in is finding exercise routines I can do at home that are both difficult and diverse. So, I spend much of the winter (from my couch, with woolly socks and a glass of Baileys on the rocks, obviously) coming up with a variety of condo-compatible workouts that will make me sweat and keep me engaged. I may not be able to cook an award winning meal, but I recently thought up the perfect way to cook up a really good sweat in the kitchen! From the countertop, to the dishrags and even the cans in the cupboard, turns out the kitchen is stocked with extremely useful exercise equipment!

Countertop series

In the gym you have a bench, in the kitchen you have the counter. Just a bit of countertop space goes a long way, and there are many awesome upper body exercises to choose from.


The first counter move is a push-up.

  1. Standing facing the counter, extend your arms shoulder width apart with hands clasped around the edge of the surface. Remember, the farther your feet from the counter, the harder it will be. So adjust according to the level of challenge you desire. Also, make sure you have some grip on your shoes so you don't slide out. (Unfortunately for me, that means no woolly socks. #SeparationAnxiety!)
  2. Slowly bend elbows, lowering your body until it's hovering over but not resting on the counter, and then slowly push back up again. For an extra challenge slow it right down, counting three beats down and three beats up and try keeping your elbows as close to the side of your body as possible.
  3. Do eight super-slow pushups and repeat three times.

If you need even more of a challenge, try lifting one leg at a time to fire up the stabilizer muscles in the abdomen. To work the outside of the arms, narrow the stance of your arms.


Another exercise that will carry on our perpetual mission for Madonna arms is the tricep dip. You're likely familiar with this exercise in a gym setting and the kitchen is no different.

  1. Turn your back to the counter, arms and legs straight, palms of your hands resting on the edge of the counter and the majority of the weight on your heels. Remember, the further out your feet, the harder the dip will be.
  2. Without bending the legs or breaking in the waist lower your body down just using your arms.
  3. Slowly push back up until your arms are straight again.
  4. Do 12 dips and repeat three times over.

Dish rag series

Another useful piece of equipment in the kitchen is the dishtowel. I know it may not be the most glamorous accessory, but it's certainly effective. The towel acts like a gliding disc on hardwood, helping to increase the demands on the core and intensifying a multitude of exercises from lunges to planks.

Reverse lunge

First let's talk legs!

  1. Place the dishrag on the floor underneath your right foot.
  2. Bend the left leg slightly and slide the right foot back until you're in a lunge position and then slowly bring it back up again until the right foot is staggered slightly behind the left. To maintain intensity throughout the exercise keep the left leg bent the whole time and only bring your right leg back part way.
  3. Repeat this exercise 15 times on each leg; feel the burn while you visualize Beyonce's flawless bottom and belt out "Drunk in Love." I find it really helps with motivation.


Can't ignore the core! The towel works in a similar way to intensify planks.

  1. Take a plank position from your hands.
  2. Place the rag underneath one hand and slide that arm upward so that your hand is no longer under your shoulder and is instead above the head.
  3. Now bring it back to start position, and then slide it outward so that your hand is now on the outside of the body.
  4. Now bring it back and repeat eight times on each side. This adds up quickly and is a killer for the obliques.

Cupboard series

Like I said, the kitchen is loaded with exercise equipment, you just need to get crafty. To add a little bit of strength training into the mix, look no further than the kitchen cupboards.


Reach in and grab a big soup pot and lid, fill it with water and, tadah, you have the perfect weight to add to your squats. Naturally, the more water you fill, the heavier it will be, so go to a level that is challenging but not straining.

  1. Take a stance just wider than hip width and hold the handles of the pot with both hands.
  2. With your arms extended towards the floor, as you squat down lift the pot of water until it's shoulder height.
  3. As you come up from the squat, slowly return the pot to start position. Execute 12 squats and repeat three times.

Arm hold

A few arm exercises require a slightly smaller weight and have no fear, you'll find that here too. Do you have a collection of cans in your pantry? (If you don't, you may need the link to my coveted grocery delivery service.)

  1. Grab one can in each hand, and extend your arms straight out on either side of your body holding them steadily at shoulder height.
  2. Hold here for as long as you can... if you start shaking, you're doing it right and just hold longer.
  3. Once your arms are fully fatigued, simply bend your arms to 90 degrees and start thrusting the cans up to the sky and then return them back to a right angle in an alternating fashion.
Do at least 15 reps per arm before resting and run through the entire canned food arm circuit three times over. I promise you'll never look at a can of corn the same way again.
Images: JP Tanner/SheKnows