Moving homes isn’t just mentally draining, it’s also extremely physically demanding. Especially when you do it yourself. Loading and unloading bulky furniture and heavy boxes for an entire day can wear you out if you’re not prepared.
That’s why we’ve compiled this list of trainer-approved workouts to help increase your strength, improve your flexibility, and ramp up your endurance.
Here are 10 awesome exercises to make your move easy and injury-free. Be sure to start training at least six weeks before your move date.
Jason Debel, personal trainer and founder of Urban Strength, says squats simulate good posture (which is key to picking up boxes), and strengthen your lower body so you can lift heavier items.
Stand with your heels shoulder-width apart and point your feet slightly outward, then lower down to a 90-degree angle.
“Focus on sitting back with a forward lean and maintaining a straight back, a bit like sitting in a chair,” Debel says.
Do 3 sets of 10-20 reps.
“The number one injury incurred while moving is lower back strain, almost always caused by picking up heavy objects without using the legs for leverage and mobility,” says Amanda Dale, a certified personal trainer, exercise instructor, and sports nutritionist.
Dale says deadlifts teach you how to lift with your legs, which increases your pulling power by strengthening your posterior chain of muscles: the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, keep your lower back neutral, then bend from the waist. Dale recommends starting with an empty Olympic bar (45 pounds) or an EZ bar (25 pounds). If you don’t have bars, use a set of dumbbells. “Once you’re comfortable, add weight in 5-pound increments until the tenth rep in a set is difficult,” Dale says.
Do 2 sets of 10 reps.
3. Box Jumps
Box jumps — where you jump with both feet onto a sturdy platform or bench — are the perfect way to prepare yourself for endless trips up and down the stairs. The exercise helps strengthen your quads and glutes, in addition to providing supportive strength for your knees and ankles, Dale says.
“Don’t worry about the height of the platform — focus on explosive strength and using both feet at the same time, then stepping down one leg at a time to save your joints some pounding,” says Dale.
Start small by jumping onto a curb or low aerobic step until you feel comfortable enough to progress to a bench or box around 16 inches tall.
Do 2 sets of 10 jumps.
4. Prone Glute Raises
Otherwise known as a bridge, this easy exercise strengthens your glutes and core, both of which provide healthy support for your back during lifting movements, Debel says.
To start, lay on your back and bend your knees at a 45-degree angle with your feet and arms flat on the ground. Then lift your buttocks. If the exercise is too easy with both feet planted, Debel suggests extending one leg straight out so you’re lifting with only one foot on the ground. Be sure to switch legs after each set. You can also hold a small weight over your waist to increase difficulty.
Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
5. Weighted Step-Ups
“If stairs are involved in your move, you have to practice moving your body efficiently even when saddled with unevenly distributed weight,” says Dale.
Stand in front of a stable bench or platform (aim for 16-20 inches in height), plant your left foot on the platform, then drive upward with your right leg until you’re standing on the platform.
“For an extra challenge to simulate moving odd-shaped objects, try holding two different weights (like 10 pounds in one hand and 8 pounds in the other) while performing your steps, then switch,” Dale says.
Do 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.
6. Bulgarian Split Squats
This single-leg squat lengthens and strengthens your hip flexors and glutes while simultaneously improving your balance.
“No more teetering between the moving truck and the curb while trying to unload and pass boxes to your moving buddy,” Dale says.
Stand in front of a sturdy bench and extend one foot behind you so that it’s resting on the bench (laces down). Take a wide stance and squat down slowly with your other leg. Make sure your front knee doesn’t pass over your toes as you bend.
Do 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.
7. Stability Ball Chops
“This multi-joint exercise involves the entire body and is a great warm up for any lifting or strength exercising,” says Chris Clough, a certified personal trainer.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a medicine or stability ball at waist-level with both hands (make sure it’s light enough to lift with relative ease). Turn gently to one side and bend your knees slightly to bring the ball to the outside of the knee, then shift your weight and raise the ball diagonally over your opposite shoulder (left to right).
Do 2 sets of 12-15 reps on each side.
8. Clean and Press
When you’re moving, you’re not just lifting boxes off the ground, you’re also loading them into cars and trucks.
“Lifting with the legs will get the boxes off the floor,” Dale says, “but practicing the clean and press will give you the momentum, initiation, and powerful movement strength to actually get the box up where it belongs.”
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keep your back flat, then bend at the knees and hips to raise the bar off the floor and above your head. Practice your form with an empty Olympic bar, then increase the weight in 5-pound increments once you’re comfortable. You may also start by holding the bar in front of you at waist level, keeping you back straight.
“Because this is a compound Olympic lift, make sure to ask a trainer or coach before you attempt it to make sure you don’t do more harm than good,” says Dale.
Do 2 sets of 10 reps.
9. Farmer’s Walk
When you move homes, you’ll inevitably have to carry plenty of heavy, oddly shaped items (think nightstands, floor lamps, and mattresses). A farmer’s walk, which is just the practice of picking up heavy weights and walking with good posture, “can improve grip strength, develop your forearms, and better your posture to move heavy items quickly and efficiently,” Dale says.
Dale says it’s crucial to use a weight that allows you to maintain an upright posture. “It’s best if you can walk alongside a mirror to ensure that your shoulders aren’t rounded forward and your neck, back, hips, and ankles are all vertically aligned.”
Walk 20 steps forward, rest without your weights, then walk 20 steps backward. Do this 3 times.
10. Bicep Curls, Shoulder Press, and Single Arm Kneeling Kickback
For a complete shoulder and arm workout to increase your lifting strength, personal trainer Julia Buckley recommends three exercises: bicep curls, single arm kneeling kickbacks, and shoulder presses.
To do bicep curls, stand tall and bend your arms at the elbow to lift your weights to your chest. Make sure to release your curl slowly and keep your elbows locked in place.
For single arm kneeling kickbacks, rest your hands and knees on the ground. Plant one hand on the ground and place the other arm against your side. Bending at the elbow, lift your weight forward then extend it back in a straight line.
To do a shoulder press, stand tall, hold your weights at your shoulders, then lift them above your head and back down.
Do 3 sets of 10-16 reps per exercise.