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Home Alternatives to Your 5 Favorite Gym Exercises

June 18, 2020

Due to the recent health crisis, gyms across the nation and the world shut down indefinitely. For many of us, the gym is our ‘happy place,’ a part of our daily routines, a place to help us unwind, and a place where we achieve health and fitness goals. And although gyms are slowly starting to re-open across the globe, many remain closed—and, even if gyms do open their doors, many people simply don’t feel comfortable returning to ‘normal’ quite yet.

Luckily, whether your gym’s doors are still locked or you don’t quite feel up for returning just yet, there are still plenty of exercises you can do at home or outside that are just as effective as using gym equipment. You might not have access to cable machines or a full set of barbells, but you can still work up a sweat, improve your strength, and have a powerful workout by swapping out a few gym exercises for some home alternatives.


Gym Workout: Leg Extension
Alternative Workout: Bodyweight Bulgarian Split Squats

Typical leg extensions are amazing for strengthening your quadriceps (the big muscle in front of your upper leg/thigh) and are normally performed using a leg extension machine. As an alternative, Bulgarian split squats will target not only your quadriceps but your glutes, hamstrings, and hips as well.

How to do it:

  • Stand with your back to a bench, stool, or chair. You can optionally hold two dumbbells if you have them available.
  • Split your legs into a lunge stance, resting the top of the left foot on the bench, keeping your right foot on the floor.
  • Bend the right leg, lowering the left knee toward the floor. Continue to lower until the right thigh is parallel with the floor and the left knee comes close to the ground.
  • Push up through your right leg and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired amount of reps then repeat on the other leg.


Bodyweight Bulgarian Split SquatsPhoto credit: Evelin Montero /


Gym Workout: Chest Press
Alternative Workout: Push-ups

The bench press is a fantastic exercise for building up the pectoral, shoulder, tricep, and even bicep muscles. However, not all of us have a bench with barbells in our home or garage. Thankfully, the good old-fashioned push-up is tried and true—and doesn’t require any equipment whatsoever.

How to do it:

  • Put yourself into a plank position. Keep your arms straight and make sure your arms are slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your elbows and lower your body toward the ground—elbows should bend to around 45 degrees.
  • Straighten your arms and push yourself back up into plank position.
  • Repeat for the desired amount of reps.

Note: To modify the push-up, keep your knees on the ground. To make it more difficult, use resistance bands or place weight onto your back. Alternatively, to place the work in your triceps, keep your arms and triceps hugged against your body as you perform the push-up.


Push-upsPhoto credit: Pexels


Gym Workout: Leg Press
Alternative Workout: Wall Sit (Weighted or Non-weighted)

The leg press is one of the most coveted machines in the gym. That’s because it is one of the best machines and exercises for working practically every muscle in the legs, building a fantastic foundation for so many other exercises. Working the glutes, hamstrings, and quads, the leg press also engages the core muscles. The leg press machine at the gym will most likely have the options to add some seriously heavy weight, and although you might not have access to weight plates, you can still get a great leg workout with a wall sit.

How to do it:

  • Start with your back against a wall (optionally holding a dumbbell or weight, if available) with your feet planted a step or two from the wall.
  • Slowly slide your body down the wall until your legs are at a 90-degree angle (your thighs should be parallel with the ground). If you have a weight, rest it on your thighs.
  • Now—you stay here.
  • Continue to hold this pose until your muscles reach failure.
Wall Sit (weighted or non-weighted)Photo credit: rock_the_stock / Adobe Stock


Gym Workout: Lat Pulldown
Alternative Workout: Pull-ups

One of the most effective workouts for building and strengthening back muscles is using the lat pulldown machine. The lats, or the latissimus dorsi muscle, is responsible for our throwing and pulling motions. Of course, most of us don’t have a lat pulldown machine at home. Thankfully, pull-ups are just as effective (although you’ll need to invest in a pull-up bar or find an outdoor park). The substantial difference between a pulldown and a pull-up is that instead of pulling the bar down to you, you’re pulling your body up to the bar.

How to do it:

  • Jump up and grab the bar and put yourself into a hanging position (it is up to you whether you’d like to grip overhand or underhead, the positions will target different muscle groups).
  • Using your back and arm muscles, pull yourself up until your chin reaches the bar.
  • Lower yourself back into hanging position.
  • Repeat for the desired amount of reps.

Note: To build up strength to perform a full pull-up, try starting with dead hangs on the bar. Then, lift and hold yourself as high as you can go, then lowering yourself. Slowly work up to lifting yourself higher and higher until your chin can touch or go over the bar.

Pull-upsPhoto credit: Flickr / Tyler Read


Gym Exercise: Leg Curl
Alternative Exercise: Hamstring Walk Outs

Popular for building strong hamstrings and shapely legs, the leg curl is one of the most effective lower body exercises. Normally, you’d use the leg curl machine at the gym, but at home? Hamstring walk outs can work your hamstrings just as hard—without any weights. This move targets this muscle group through flexion of the knees and hips.

How to do it:

  • Lie on the ground as you would set yourself up for a glute bridge. Your knees are bent with feet on the floor.
  • Push your hips upward into a full extension (bridge position). Your shoulders are still on the floor.
  • Lift your toes off the floor so that your heels are supporting your weight.
  • Take small steps forward with your heels away from your body. Keep going until your legs are nearly straight.
  • Once legs are nearly fully extended, begin taking small steps on your heels back to the starting position.
  • Keep your hips up and repeat for the desired amount of reps.

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 Written by Ashley Brewer for Knockaround.

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