The Hardware-Store Workout

Ordinary items to get you extraordinarily fit.

Look around, you don't need a fancy gym to get fit.     Photo: sparkia/Thinkstock

On summer nights, the last place you want to be—aside from the office—is in the gym. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect strength training. In fact, you can get a top-quality session with stuff you probably have lying around your garage. Case in point: a slosh pipe, a length of PVC filled with water and capped at both ends, can actually be better than a barbell, because of the instability created as the water rolls around. “It teaches your body how to be tight and move efficiently when there are forces working against you,” says Michael Doscher, head strength and conditioning coach at Georgia’s Valdosta State University. Doscher, who works with all the school’s sports teams, is particularly fond of repurposing everyday items as workout equipment. “I walk into a hardware store, look around, and think, We can use that,” he says. This workout, featuring six of Doscher’s moves, will give you a total-body burn—sans membership fees.

Toolbox:

  • TOOLBOX All the gear you need, for under $100
    2 cinder blocks ($3); 1 50-pound sandbag ($4); 1 two-by-four, six to eight feet long ($3); 1 four-inch PVC pipe, six to eight feet long, and 2 end caps ($20); 2 utility buckets ($5); 1 two-inch-diameter rope, at least 20 feet long (from $50)
    2 cinder blocks ($3) 
  • 1 50-pound sandbag ($4)
  • 1 two-by-four, six to eight feet long ($3)
  • 1 four-inch PVC pipe, six to eight feet long, and 2 end caps ($20) 
  • 2 utility buckets ($5)
  • 1 two-inch-diameter rope, at least 20 feet long (from $50)

Cinder-Block Presses

Stand holding a cinder block with each hand and press them directly overhead, then bring them back down to shoulder height. To work your arms even more, lower the blocks to waist level after each rep and then curl them back up to shoulder height. Do three to five sets of five reps.

Bonus move: Hold a block with both hands, squat down, and explode upward, throwing it as high and far as you can, like a two-handed shotput. (This one needs some real estate and a soft landing: clear the area and do it in a grassy field.)

Slosh-Pipe Carries

Hold a six-to-eight-foot length of four-inch PVC pipe—half-filled with water and sealed at both ends—just below your chest, so it rests in the crook of each arm. Get into a three-quarter-squat position and walk forward, backward, and side to side. Do three sets of one minute each.

Bonus move: Do lunges with the slosh pipe on your shoulders or overhead.

Plank Rope Pulls

Get into plank position with 20 feet or more of two-inch-diameter rope stretched out on the floor in front of you and in line with your body. Balancing on one hand and both feet, pull the rope toward you with your free hand. Do three to five pulls, then switch arms. Attach something heavy to the other end to make the move more challenging.

Bonus move: Wrap the rope around the base of a tree trunk, hold one end in each hand, and alternate whipping them up and down—the classic battling-ropes exercise.

Bucket Swings

With a utility bucket filled with sand in one hand, stand with each foot on a separate cinder block. Squat down and gently swing the bucket between your legs, then stand up, lifting the bucket to about eye level, like a kettlebell swing. Do two sets of 12 to 15 reps on each side.

Bonus move: Fill two buckets with sand and walk, holding one in each hand, to build leg and grip strength.

Sandbag Sprints

Hold a 50-pound polypropylene bag filled with sand across your chest and do a 50-yard sprint. The extra resistance will improve your speed and power. Repeat six to eight times.

Bonus move: Lift a half-full bag of sand overhead with both hands, then slam it to the ground in front of you, driving through with your arms.

Two-by-Four Skier Jumps

Stand on one side of a two-by-four raised off the ground on cinder blocks and perform a two-legged jump up and over the beam. Alternate jumping direction, moving forward, backward, and side to side. Do three sets of 30 to 45 seconds.

Bonus move: With one toe resting on the board behind you, squat down with one leg while holding your balance.

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