DIY Fitness Gear: How to Make Homemade Weights and Other Workout Equipment

A man uses a tire in his DIY workout session in his backyard
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You don’t have to join a pricy gym to stay in shape. Supplies to make weights and other workout equipment can be found at your local hardware store, supermarket or even in your kitchen cabinet.

“You can really use anything from weight vests to soup cans to gallon jugs,” said Max Cicero, general manager and performance coach of Diesel Fitness in Tampa, Florida. “You can add resistance with your own body weight to make exercises more intense.”

Here’s how to DIY your dumbbells and up your workout game — all from the comforts of home.

How to Make Homemade Weights and Other Fitness Gear

Here are some ways to make your own fitness gear or find substitutions.


Fill two gallon jugs with sand, rocks or water. Use socks to tie them to either end of a metal rod. Add or switch to half-gallon jugs to change the weight.

Hand weights

Fill individual water bottles with sand or water.

Lift those wine bottles before you empty them.

Cans of beans or soup work just as they are.

Ankle and wrist weights

Fill knee socks with rocks, dried beans or sand and tie them around wrists or ankles when walking or working out legs and arms.

Added weights

Load a backpack with bricks or books wrapped in a towel for padding. Wear it during squats.

Jump rope

A good length is twice the distance from your feet to your armpit. Cut a nylon rope the length you want and use short pieces of PVC pipes for handles.

You can also use plastic grocery bags. Make loops from the bags, tie them together to create three strands the length you want your rope. Braid the three strands together tightly and wrap each end with duct tape to make handles.

Water flow bar

A PVC pipe partially filled with water forces your body to engage its core. Hold the bar level and lift it in various ways while keeping the water from flowing from one end to the other. Use it for deadlifts, during crunches or even when walking.

Medicine ball

That same backpack can be a medicine ball to lift or move from side to side during crunches.


Car repair shops sell damaged tires for $20 and up. They can be used as free weights, a step for cardio workouts, an obstacle to jump or something heavy to flip.

Yoga mat

You can use a bath mat with a rubber bottom that won’t slide and is extra cushy.

No-skid socks with rubber treads on the bottoms enable slide-free yoga without a mat.

A towel is an obvious substitution, but try stacking two or three towels to make this a softer situation.

Resistance bands

Tie a pair of tights or pantyhose into an oval about 20 inches long for resistance bands to use around your ankles.

Stand on the center of another pair and pull up on each leg for resistance work for arms.

Cicero also offers these suggestions for making exercises more intense in the absence of weights:

Slow it down. Instead of doing squats for one second going down and one second going up, make the squat harder by counting slowly to four on the way down. The same goes for push ups.

Isometric holds: Hold your position in place for a few extra seconds when doing exercises such as leg lifts, push ups or squats.

Add tension: Hold a broom handle, lacrosse stick or small tree limb from the yard above your head with both hands and squeeze it tightly in your hands when doing lunges or squats. This adds tension to activate the core and upper body.

Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.