Perhaps you've used water gallons for dumbbells, paper plates for sliders or even a broomstick for a barbell. But just when you thought you'd tried every at-home exercise prop possible, it's time to bring out the old textbooks.
Your books can benefit your body as well as your mind with this at-home 20-minute total-body workout, created by Matt Cheng, CSCS. No books were harmed in the making of this workout, but if you want to keep your personal library extra safe, place a towel over your stack.
Check out more of our 20-minute workouts here — we’ve got something for everyone.
1. Push-Up to Shoulder Tap
- Start in a high plank with your stack of books under your right hand, left hand on the ground. Keep your hands directly beneath your shoulders, legs extended behind you.
- With a flat back, bend at the elbows and lower toward your body in a straight line from toes to hips to head.
- Stop when your chest hovers just above the ground.
- Exhale and push back up to the starting position.
- Keeping your right hand rooted, lift your left hand and tap your right shoulder.
- Bring your left hand back to the ground.
Reps: 10 on each side. Do 4 sets total, resting for 60 seconds between sets.
As you perform the shoulder tap, keep your hips as steady as possible and avoid rocking them side to side. This will really activate your core muscles.
2. Bulgarian Split Squat
- Place a tall stack of books on the ground and stand about three feet away from it.
- Gently place the toes of your right foot on the stack, putting as little pressure as possible on your right leg.
- With most of your weight in the left leg, bend the left knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground.
- On an exhale, press through your left heel and return to standing.
Reps: 10 on each leg, 4 rounds total. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between sets.
Bulgarian split squats are great for sculpting your legs and glutes. But if you're worried about damaging your books, just place a towel on top of the stack!
3. Elevated Push-Up
- Place two slightly thicker books on the floor. Spread them shoulder-distance apart.
- Place a hand on each book and come into a high plank. Keep your back flat and hips in line with your body. Your hands should be directly beneath your shoulders.
- Bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle from your ribs and lower your chest to the ground. Lower until your chest just hovers above the ground.
- Exhale and press the floor away, coming back into a high plank.
Reps: 4 rounds of 10. Rest for a minute between sets.
If you can't perform a push-up with good form, you can modify this exercise by dropping down to your knees, Cheng says. Remember to keep your hips from hiking or sinking even when doing knee push-ups.
4. Ab Crunch
- Lie flat on your back with your feet flat on the ground, a few feet apart. Place three stacked books between your feet.
- From the ground, crunch up toward your knees, keeping your abs engaged.
- With both arms, reach between your knees and grab one book from the pile, arms extended fully.
- Keeping your arms straight, lower back to the ground and extend the book overhead, placing it on the ground above your head.
Reps: 4 sets of 10, taking a 30-second break between sets.
Focus on keeping the tension on your abdominals and less in the neck, Cheng says.
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