Engage Your Chores – 6 Ways to Strength-Train at Home

Love 'em or hate 'em, household chores are not going anywhere, so why not use them for strength training?


By Natasha Grief |

Love ’em or hate ’em, chores are not going anywhere, so why not use them for strength training? When you ask cyclists what they do to get stronger on the bike, one of the most common answers is: “Ride more.” However, as most of us know by now, what you do off the bike with strength training is just as important as the number of miles you rack up in the saddle.

“Anybody who is serious about their performance strength trains,” says Mike Boyle, C.S.C.S., co-founder of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning. “For the average cyclist, I’d recommend strength training twice a week.”

That said, if the gym is unattractive or just plain overwhelming to you, you’re not alone. Even some pros don’t love it. And it is seriously duller than most household chores.

“Honestly, I hate going to the gym,” says Alex Howes, a pro cyclist who races for the EF Education First Cycling Team. Yet, rather than give up on strength training gains, Howes got creative.

“Once I started looking at many of the chores around the house as a form of training, it made it a lot easier to get them done, because they’re no longer chores—they’re a form of training,” he says.

“Honestly, I hate going to the gym,” says Alex Howes.

Howes’s go-to activity to build strength off the bike is everyone’s favourite chore: chopping wood—seriously. “[It] is great because it really is a full-body workout, and if you keep the pace high, it’s great cardio, too,” Howes says.

Colin Strickland, who races for the Meteor X Giordana Cycling team and won the 2019 Dirty Kanza gravel race, has a similar approach, and his routine started before he ever turned pro. Strickland worked as an environmental scientist for five years before transitioning to racing full time, where he’d often excavate embedded rock, roots, and soil.

“I always loved the mix of exertion and contortion required during these projects,” Strickland says. “Instead of going to a gym to lift inanimate objects for no apparent reason, I prefer to find a strenuous project to work on myself.”

Quality of movement is something essential to be conscious of—even in everyday chores—if you want to get stronger and not get injured.

“Taking it slow and employing good form is essential with these tasks, as it is easy to strain muscles with unusual weighted activities,” Strickland says. “But if you take the time, you can extract some excellent strength training and have some nice completed rock work or gardening to show for it.”

But what if you don’t have a woodpile lying around that needs chopping, or your backyard is a balcony? Here are some moves that can do double-duty as strength training and might even make chores like doing laundry a little more interesting.

1. Take the Stairs

The first one isn’t really a chore; one of the best functional exercises you can do every day is to avoid elevators in favor of taking the stairs, according to Boyle. “By design, functional training utilizes single-leg movements that require the balance to properly develop the muscles in the way they are used in sport,” he says. “It’s a pushing exercise that’s unilateral in nature, which is essentially what cycling is.” Better yet, take the stairs two at a time.

2. Farmer’s Carries With Shopping Bags

Schlepp your groceries and simultaneously build a stronger core. Pick up bags of close to the same weight in both hands, carrying them with arms straight by your side while walking with a tall posture and engaged core. Focus on keeping your upper body still and taking gliding steps while keeping your shoulders relaxed. The heavier the bags, the more effective this move will be.

3. Abdominal Twists With Laundry Baskets

Extend the loaded basket or laundry straight out in front of you. While keeping your arms straight, twist slowly to the left, then to the right, keeping your glutes engaged and driving the twist from your core and not your lower back.

4. Chores Winner; Squats While Loading the Dryer

Turn laundry day into leg day. Rather than simply bending over to toss your wet clothes into the dryer, transfer laundry an armful at a time by squatting down in front of the machine. Be careful not to arch your lower back and keep your chore – sorry, core engaged.

READ MORE 3 Moves To Power Legs

5. Single-Leg Heel Raises While Brushing Your Teeth

You’re going to have to stand there anyway, so why not multitask and build stronger calves? While brushing your teeth, put your weight one foot and raise yourself onto your toes while keeping the opposite foot off the floor. Lower your heel back down slowly, and repeat, alternating sides.

6. Lunges While Vacuuming – Chores Needn’t Suck

Turn the chore of vacuuming into an exercise snack by performing walking lunges as you push the vacuum around the room. Step forward and lower yourself down toward the ground by bending both legs to approximately a 90-degree angle, while keeping your front knee behind your toes. Push back up and step together. Repeat on the other side, alternating sides.

READ MORE ON: chores laundry stairs strength training