While traditional fitness equipment like dumbbells and resistance bands seem to get all the credit, there are other clever ways to amp up exercises that you probably haven’t considered. Whether you’re at home or in a hotel room, you’ve almost certainly got an unexpected, creative workout tool nearby: a hand towel.
You read that right. While a hand towel might not sound like it adds much resistance, it takes muscle power to hold it taut above your head in a lunge, or to stay stable while it’s under your feet in a plank. Sure, your own bodyweight is an excellent tool on its own, but a towel can put a challenging twist on classic exercises.
Take these 10 hand-towel moves, for example, courtesy of Crank Cycling Studio in New York City. They’ll work your arms, abs, glutes, and legs—anywhere, anytime. “By using your own body weight and resistance from the towel you have the ability to tone muscles from the comfort of your own home, on the road, or even at the gym,” Crank told Women’s Health.
Bonus? You’ll already have a towel on hand for when things get sweaty.
ARMS: EXTENDED HORIZONTAL PULSE
How to: Grab both ends of the towel, and hold it out, shoulder-width apart. Relax your shoulders down and back, away from your ears. Slight bend your elbows, do not lock them. With your arms extended, pulse slightly up and down. Start small then make the movements larger as you warm up. Pulse for 60 seconds; repeat three times.
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ARMS: PROGRESSIVE ANGULAR TWISTS
How to: Hold one side of the towel in each hand, then extend your arms out, shoulder-width apart (a). Start rotating the towel from side to side, just 10-20 degrees away from your starting point. After 30 seconds, progress into a medium twist, after another 30 seconds twist a full 180 degrees or a half circle (b). Then progress back to medium then to small and continue the rotation. Do this for two minutes total.
ABS: PLANK SLIDES IN AND OUT
How to: Take your towel, fold it in half horizontally, and place on ground near your feet. Start on all fours, hands on floor shoulder-width apart; then place feet on the towel so you’re in a plank (a). Begin to slide your feet forward, bringing your knees toward your chest and stopping when you feel a full activation of your core (b). Then push your feet back to their starting point. Complete 15 times, and repeat the set three times.
ABS: RUSSIAN TWISTS
How to: Sit on the floor with knees bent and hold the towel horizontally in your hands. Bend your legs at the knee and begin to elevate your feet slightly off the floor. As you raise your feet, bring your body up into a V-shape. Now, while keeping the towel pulled taught between your hands, twist your body toward the right until your left-hand reaches your right knee. Continue to twist side to side with your legs and body elevated. Complete 20 times on each side; repeat three times.
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GLUTES: WALL SIT
How to: Hold your towel horizontally straight out in front of your chest. With your back against the wall, place your feet at shoulder-width apart and begin to slide down the wall, until you nestle into a squat position. Sit into your glutes and make sure your knees are away from the wall, and not directly over your feet. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times.
How to: Grab your towel at both ends and hold it horizontally in front of your chest with your arms extended. Stand proud with feet shoulder-width apart. Step your right foot forward and when you land on your right foot, begin to bend both knees toward the ground. Lower your hips until both knees are bent at approximately a 90-degree angle (your front knee should hover above the ground). While keeping weight in your heels, push your entire body back up to the starting position. Then repeat using the opposite foot. Complete 15 times on each side, and repeat the set three times.
LEGS: PLIE SQUAT
How to: Grab your towel at both ends and hold it horizontally in front of your chest with arms extended. Place your legs wider than your shoulders and angle your toes outward. Bend at your knees and squat down until they make a 90-degree angle. Then with your towel extended out in front, begin to pulse your arms and body up and down about three to four inches. For a more advanced move, and to challenge your calves, lift your heels and place your weight on the balls of your feet/toes while you pulse. Pulse for 30 seconds and repeat three times.
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LEGS: REVERSE CROSS LUNGES
How to: Grab your towel at both ends and hold horizontally in front of your chest with your arms extended, stand proud with feet shoulder-width apart. Begin to perform a rear lunge by stepping one flexed foot behind your body, lining up your back knee with your front ankle, until both knees reach 90-degree angles. As you do so, keep your arms extended in front and use the resistance from the towel to stabilize yourself as you rotate your torso across the front leg. Then return to your starting position and repeat using the opposite leg. Complete 15 on each side; repeat three times.
BACK: HIP BRIDGE WITH OVERHEAD EXTENSION
How to: Lie face up on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Extend your arms overhead while holding one end of the towel in each hand. Begin to lift your hips off the ground slowly and as you do so, lift your upper body off the floor, squeezing your abdominals as your rise to your knees. As you raise your body, extend your arms toward your raised hips. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Once you get there, lower your body slowly to the ground, while your arms return to your extended overhead position. Complete 20 raises and repeat times.
BACK: TOWEL ROW
How to: Here, we used a street pole, but feel free to use a bedpost or door to complete this exercise.
For a pole or bedpost: Wrap the towel around the pole, and grab either end of the towel in each hand. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and drop into a squat by leaning slightly backwards, using the towel for stabilization (a). Begin to pull back with your arms, squeezing your lats or shoulder blades together, activating those strong back muscles (b).
For a door: Face the entry to the room, wrap the towel around the doorknob inside the room, then close the door with the towel threaded through the crack in the door. (Closing the door helps to lock the towel in place.) Grab each end of the towel. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and drop into a squat but leaning slightly backwards using the towel for stabilization. Begin to pull back with your arms, squeezing your lats or shoulder blades together, activating and strengthening your back muscles. Complete 10 to 12 reps and repeat three times.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.
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