Substitutes for Dumbbells

A simple water bottle filled with sand or rocks can substitute for a dumbbell.

A simple water bottle filled with sand or rocks can substitute for a dumbbell.

Strength training is an important part of any balanced exercise program. Strength training increases the strength in your muscles and reduces the risk of injury. Increased muscle mass also increases your basal metabolic rate and helps you lose weight or maintain your healthy weight. When most people think of basic strength training, dumbbells come to mind. But they do not have to be your only option. Maybe you do not have access to dumbbells. Maybe you are looking for something that is easier to take with you instead of hauling around a set of dumbbells. Whatever your reasoning, there are dumbbell alternatives available.

Resistance Bands

Think of the exercises you typically use your dumbbells to perform. Modify the exercise with the use of resistance bands.

Perform a biceps curl by placing the middle of the resistance band underneath your feet. Grab the handles of the resistance band with an underhand grip and curl your arms up toward your chest, similar to how you would with dumbbells.

Perform an overhead press. Stand with your feet at shoulder width. Place the center of your resistance band underneath your feet. Hold the handles with your palms facing forward and your hands at shoulder height. Keep your elbows bent. Press your arms up toward the ceiling and slowly return to starting position.

Homemade Dumbbells

Make your own dumbbells using used water or soda bottles. Keep these empty if you are traveling and fill them when you need them.

Open the water bottle top and fill with water, sand, rocks or any other material you have on hand to make the amount of weight you are looking for. Use a scale to check the weight. Place the lid back on the bottle.

Perform the exercises you would normally use your dumbbells with and substitute your homemade dumbbells.

Items you will need

  • Resistance band
  • Water bottle
  • Water
  • Sand
  • Rocks


  • Make sure that the lids are tightly secure on your water bottle dumbbells. You do not want the contents spilling out mid-exercise.
  • If you are making a set of water bottle dumbbells, make sure that each dumbbell weighs the same amount.

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About the Author

Deborah Lundin is a professional writer with more than 20 years of experience in the medical field and as a small business owner. She studied medical science and sociology at Northern Illinois University. Her passions and interests include fitness, health, healthy eating, children and pets.

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