Heavy Lifting without A Gym


This post was kindly written by our crossfit coach, and owner of CrossFit 1440, Max Shippee.

“I feel like I don’t have a lot of strength.”

“When’s the last time you picked up something heavy?”

“Like, how heavy?”

“Heavy enough that you have to hold your breath.”


“Thought so.”

Something heavy

There’s nothing better for your bone structure than lifting something relatively heavy for you. It’s also quite good for your brain, coordination and metabolism (more on this in an upcoming post).

There is good news about lifting something heavy: “heavy” can mean different things to different people and still be effective. So much so that you can pick up something a little heavy a lot of times or something REALLY heavy a few times and still get a similar response from your body. Not the same, mind you, but similar enough for most of us with general health goals.

So, great, now you know you should go heavy, but all you have at home are some 5-lb pink dumb bells that you bought in college, so what’s a person to do? Go out and buy a bunch of weights?

No need, we’re going to hack this stuff! ;)

What DO you have?

Do you have an old back-pack lying around? No? How about a trash bag?

Fill a bag, backpack, trash bag (double bag it!), whatever, with stuff. Honestly, the stuff doesn’t matter. Old clothes are soft & therefore work well. Bricks may not be the best choice, since they hurt your toes if you drop it!

Just filling a trash bag full of old clothes will usually be heavy enough to get a renewed sense of sweat from a workout.

Squat Your Stuff

You’re going to pick the bag up in whatever way you can (yes, yes, well do a post on this too!), then hold/hug it in front of you. You want your elbows high and the back nice and flat. Keeping your back nice & straight with yur chest & elbows up, squat down to full depth, then return to standing. You may be very surprised by how hard this is to maintain balance. Even a bag with 10-20 pounds is going to present a challenge!


Most people feel activation happening not only in the legs, but all the way up through the back as well. If you’ve been told to work on your “core,” or have been looking for a way to strengthen your lower back, this is one of the BEST things you can do!

Fixing/Feeling Faults

If you’ve seen our awesome 5-part squat series from before (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), then you know that you want to try to keep your chest high (or your back vertical) as you squat. Having a little weight in front of you to have to counter balance against is going to help TREMENDOUSLY when it comes to core and back strength.

The great thing about hugging a bag in front of you while you squat is that you will be getting immediate and definitive feedback. If you’re letting your chest drop, or you hips come up first, you’ll know!

If this is happening you have a few options to help fix it.

1. Lessen the weight. The weight could be a little heavy for you. If this is the case, then lightening the weight will usually be the easiest option. Take a few pairs of socks out of the bag, and give it another go.

2. Don’t go quite so deep. While not as effective in the long run (we want full range of motion after all) it can be a help as we adjust to heavier weights to just get down to parallel thighs before standing again.

Heavy Is Important

One of the best ways to keep bone density on your frame, and to keep your whole system humming along is to lift heavy things. In the past, you would have been regularly exposed to heavy lifting, just through your daily chores of chopping wood and carrying water. Turning up the thermostat and faucet aren’t nearly as effective at up-regulating your metabolism.

No one ever comes to me and says I want to be weaker… but that is how many of us live our lives: we actively try to make things easier on ourselves, which in turn makes us weaker. I’m not saying that we should all start going hunter gatherer Paleo here, but what I am saying is that there should be something physically challenging, in a heavy way, on your roster on a regular basis.

It’s good for you, and it makes you feel awesome.

Go find a back-pack, a duffle-bag, or a sack on potatoes, get down, and give that thing a hoist.