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Isotonics means challenging your muscles for a full range of motion against a resistance that moves, such as weightlifting or pulling strands (springs, elastic cables).


Clubs originated as a form of exercise in India. This form of muscle and strength building was popular in the 19th century and has recently been making a resurgence. There are now a few companies that manufacture perfectly balanced and weighted clubs which can also be quite pricey. An alternative is to make your own perfectly balanced and weighted clubs.

The sites that offer 'em claim their clubs are far superior & safer than any homemade version. I believe their claims are exaggerated & hence I want to share some club construction ideas.

Fill a flat plastic bat with sand; lead shot is tempting but the plastic may not hold up. In any case it'll help to reinforce the bat by wrapping with strong tape.

Fill an aluminum bat with lead shot. For comfort, safety, & added thickness, I've taped on pipe insulation. Ring weights & ankle weights also may be added.

Chest crushers(bendable rods) may function as light clubs. Again attach ankle weights to make 'em heavier.

Take your fav club(s) for walks. This will give ya a decent aerobic workout with a strength component. Vary the type of swings & throw in some crushing moves.

- gruntbrain

Clubs II

My club-bells are made out of pairs of 1,2, and 3 liter soda bottles. I filled them with Quikcrete about 2/3 of the way, added water, shook them to mix the cement, and then put in 2 foot pipes. When the cement set, I caulked around the opening to seal the pipe. They weigh about 10, 15, and 20 lbs each bell according to the bottle size. I use these mostly like fulcrum bells (like in Jowett's old courses) I do 6 reps with the bell extending from one side of the hand and immediately do another 6 from the other side. I spent about 3 bucks on the cement and a total of about 10 bucks on the pipe. I did ruin a 1 dollar funnel if you want to figure that in.

- guitarzan56

Sledge Hammer Creation

A handy, friendly sledge hammer. I started with a 12 lb. sledge. The shaft is encased with taped on pipe insulation. Ankle weights are taped on to create a 19 lb. sledge. When not pounding sand, the "business end" of the sledge is covered with a sweat shirt that is secured with a velcro strap.


Iron Boot

Here's a 22 lb. "Iron Boot" made by duct taping together ankle weights with an iron ring for a strap. This can also function as a kettlebell.

- gruntbrain

Dumbbell Handles

Cut a 5" length of 1" dia industrial rubber hose and slip it over a 15" x 1" wood dowel for a handle. A well-stocked hardware store will cut a length of industrial hose for you. It will take some effort to get the handle over the dowel. Once you get it going, you can tap it down with a hammer. Once the edge of the handle is flush with the end of the dowel, set the dowel on end and place a 1" (inside diameter) steel washer over the rubber. On top of the washer place a short length of 1 1/2" PVC or steel pipe. Pound on the top of the pipe to force the handle down to the middle of the dowell. The walls of the hose are 3/16" thick which makes it a tough, wide, comfortable grip.

For the collars, I used 1 1/2" lengths of the hose and tightened them down with hose clamps. The 1 1/2" lengths of hose slip on relatively easily as compared to the handle. Obviously, these collars don't allow for quick changing of plates, so the dumbbells I made are meant to be permanently set at a designated weight. At about $1.50 per handle, you could make a whole bunch of dumbbell handles. You can, if you want to, use commercial locks.

Why wood and not steel? It's because wood is a lot less expensive and easy to cut. Wood dowels are made of poplar, a hardwood with a tight, straight grain, and at such a short length, virtually impossible to break.

- Bruce Tackett

PVC Dumbbell Handles

I cut two 6" lengths of 1" PVC for handles, wrapped them with double stick foam tape, and then wrapped that with tennis racket grip resulting in the diameter of my handles being 1 3/8" as opposed to the standard dumbbell diameter of 1". I slipped these over two 1" wood dowels cut at 14" each. Yes, wood dowels are made of hardwood and they work just fine for dumbbells. The collars are 1" rubber utility hose cut into 1" lengths and tightened down with hose clamps. The inside diameter of the PVC is a smidgen greater than the diameter of the dowels, so the PVC handles rotate around the dowels.

The weight of the handles is negligable (as is the cost), so whatever the plates total is essentially the weight of the dumbbell.

- Bruce Tackett

Fat Bars

Here are my 2" and 2 1/2" Fat Bar dumbbell handles on the lower deck

The 2" handles shown above I made by cutting 6" lengths of 1" PVC and 1 1/2" ABS, pressing them down on upturned duct tape concentrically, the PVC within the ABS, and then filling the gap with casting resin. After allowing the resin to cure for 24 hours, I wrapped the handles with double stick foam tape and then tennis racket wrap over that. I allowed the full 72 hour curing time before putting the dumbbells together.

The 2 1/2" handles shown above I made by cutting 6" lengths of 1" PVC, 1 1/2" ABS, 2" ABS and pressing them down on upturned sticky paper concentrically, each within the other, and then filling the gaps with some Goop glue to seal up the gaps on that end. After the glue had dried, I turned them over and pressed them down on the sticky paper, and then I filled the gaps with casting resin. After allowing the resin to cure for 24 hours, I wrapped the handles with leather. I allowed the full 72 hour curing time before putting the dumbbells together.

The bars are hardwood dowels which work just fine. They're inexpensive and they aren't going to break. The collars on the 2" dumbbells are 1 1/2" lengths of rubber utility hose held down by hose clamps at a cost of just over a dollar each. They won't budge.

- Bruce Tackett

Leg Extensions

This works great! You sit on a stool and lift the padded bar to the insteps of your feet using the handles. Hold the handles down on your thighs and begin leg extensions.

Make it - A pool noddle fit over an 18" x 3/4" pipe. to the ends of the 18" pipe screw on straight connectors (couplings), and then 3" pipes to the ends of those. Slip desired barbell plates over the 3" pipes and then screw on elbows loosely so that they can rotate around the pipe. From there, 24" pipes, elbows, and 8" pipes with caps as shown in the above picture

- Bruce Tackett

Triceps Bar

- Bruce Tackett

Aussie Scrap Metal Dumbbells

I made this set of dumbbells with scrap lying around the yard at work. 1 inch rod. 4 transformer wheels, and bit of heat shrink for the handles, and spiders living in the holes an optional extra. They weigh in at 32 pounds odd each !

- jab061

The Zombie Apocalypse Biceps Bomber

This honey feels like a Nautilus machine. It'll definitely get your biceps screaming! The 45 degree handle units are loosely screwed into the central 4-way connector so that they rotate. The handles are NPVC foam sleeves on 6" pipes. Tennis racket wrap would work just as well for a grip. The padding on the end of the bomber is comprised of foam piping insulation over NPVC foam. 12" lengths of a pool noodle from Walmart would have worked just as well. This device works best used with an arm blaster or seated with your elbows braced against your knees.

- Bruce Tackett

The Zombie Apocalypse Triceps Bomber

- Bruce Tackett


My Healthlift is made from two 50# garden tractor wheel weights. I like this handle made from PVC conduit elbow w/ trimmed ends. I smoothed and rounded the ID of the ends to lessen abrasion on the 1/2" rope. I have also been using this for two handed swings. This handle is really comfortable, especially when I pull up into a partial bent or upright row because it accomodates the angle of my arms, with less strain on my wrists - more ergonomic.

The weights were free, the 1/2" braided rope was a few bucks for 50 ft @ flea market. The most expensive piece was the 1" ID, 90* PVC conduit elbow. If I wanted the handle to be thicker, I could slide a piece of vinyl tubing over it, but I like the diameter as is - 1.3125" dia OD.

Bottom View and Side view

The wheel weights are positioned face to face, considering the face to be the side seen when mounted on the tractor. Therefore, the top and bottom is the side that is recessed into the wheels. You can see that the cutouts for the tire valve stem are lined up. I suppose that's not critical, but that's how I did it. Might be more balanced if they were on opposite arcs of the circumference, but I don't know that it makes a big difference.

I cut a piece of the 1/2" dia braided rope that would be long enough to weave from the bottom of one bolt hole, up through both weights, through the handle, down through the bolt hole on the opposite and same side of the handle, 1/4 way around the inset from the weight flange, then up through that bolt hole and into the handle on that side, down through the last bolt hole. The ends of the rope were melted w/ a bic lighter flame brought near to stop fraying. The starting end was knotted and began the weaving process. When the rope is pulled out the last bolt hole, it's knotted as tight to the wheel weight as I could. It takes less time to weave the rope through the bolt holes and the handle than it does to make the knot sufficiently tight. Even so, there is some stretch in the rope. After the rope is secure, I jockeyed the handle into a position to be in the center over the weights by pulling around on the rope.

- mikey

Swing Bell

Here is my swingbell made w/ an 18" piece of 1/2" ID black pipe, hose & hose clamps, BMX grips, a couple washers and more of the plastic plates I had laying around.

- mikey

Loading Pin

Here's an easy loading pin to make. Assemble a 1/4" eyebolt, 1/4" lock nut, 1" washer, fender washers, washers, and 3/4" PVC. The white PVC pipe was painted black with Rust-Oleum plastic paint.

- contributed by Biggerfoot

One Arm Deadlift

The black nylon webbing made for the One Arm Deadlift Handle was purchased from a local outdoor store from their climbing department. The webbing was around 3/4" thick, only $.16 per foot, and holds over 4,500 pounds!

- contributed by CW

"Thomas Inch" Dumbell Trainer

My objective is to make a standard (1" hole) plate loading Thomas Inch dumbbell trainer. The least expensive one I could find to purchase was $140 plus shipping. I've read that the original Inch dumbbell had a handle diameter of 2.375" but that the replicas are usually 2.47-2.50" diameter. The commonly available PVC that come close to this outer diameter are 2" (2.375"OD) and 2.5" (2.875"ID).

Here is a great site for charts to help determine inner and outer diameters, as well as being a great source for PVC: Harvel

I decided to go with the 2.375"OD. I purchased about a foot of 2" PVC. For the ends I purchased 1.25" caps. These have an inner diameter of 1.66" to match the outer diameter of the 1.25"ID pipe. The outer diameter of the 1.25 inch cap is a little less than 2". So it should just about fit inside the end of the 2"ID pipe.

First I cut a 5.5" section of the 2"ID pipe. This will be the actual handle. Also, 5.5" is about the length of the handle of the dumbbell I purchased. Then I used a 1" hole saw to drill a 1" hole in the center of the 1.25" Cap. It would be a good idea to let a coat or two of PVC glue dry on the Cap before assembly to make it's outer diameter a little bigger so it fits snugly inside the 2"ID pipe.

Then I purchased a cheap dumbbell set. I like the spin-on collars, as one can tell if they're coming loose before the weight slides off the bar. The dumbbell sets from The Sports Authority have metal spin-on collars. The dumbbell sets from WalMart have plastic spin-on collars. At least that's what was available the day I went shopping. So I'm using The Sports Authority dumbbell handles.

It was then a simple matter to slather PVC glue over the areas making contact (outside of cap and inside ends of pipe/handle) and assemble. The caps with the holes slide over the dumbbell and the handle slides over the caps. Hold in place for two to three minutes to prevent the handle from slipping off center while the glue sets. It will take a day or so for the glue to cure enough for the dumbbell to be used.

- contributed by perrymk


I just actually wrapped duct tape around the handle until I could barely get the PVC on it. It's a very low-tech method.

- Contributed by J Starck

Thick Dumbbells

My thick dumbbells were made from some Olympic dumbbells I never used. Pipe foam and 2" PVC pipe worked well. For the grip, I used Rust-Oleum's plastic paint. I found that it is easy to clean, resists chips, and stays slick (and looks better than the plain old white PVC pipe!):

I do not care for the length of the dumbbells but I do use them for Zottman curls.

- contributed by Biggerfoot

Triceps/Forearms Killer

Here's a device put together with 3/4" piping and fittings. The handles are thickly padded with foam rubber and wrapped with tennis racket wrap. With all the stress put on your forearms, you're gonna need all of that padding. Hold the device by the handles behind your head with the weight plates down and facing outward. Perform triceps curls. The downward/outward pull of the weights hits your triceps more effectively than regular triceps curls, and the dynamics of the lift works the grip and ulnar deviation of your forearms. You can also hold this thing down in front of you with the weight plates facing downward, the same position it would be in if you were to bring it up and over your head and then down from a triceps curl position. With the Killer in front of you, you can do hammer curls, rotating the device upward as you raise it, hitting your biceps, grip, and radial deviation. You could go back and forth doing a triceps curl rep, raise it over head, bring it down in front for a curl rep and then back up again for another triceps rep. It can also be used to explore the Galaxy.

- Bruce Tackett

Dumbbell Rack made from an old Bed and Bench

The Posts

Attaching the Railings

The Finished Product

I made a dumbbell rack with what I had. I have about $10-12 invested in it.

I used an old bed frame and posts from an old bench. The the bed frame is a bear to drill through and to cut. I recommend cobalt drill bits and a metal cut-off saw.

Four of the bed frame rails were 29 inches long, so I went ahead and made the rest of the rails 29 inches and this pretty much used up the railing I had and just happened to fit perfectly into a space I wanted to use.

I ended up with four tiers that will hold either 3 pro-style dumbbells each or a mix of other things. I made the bottom rail wider to hold either my Olympic dumbbells or my Wrist Leverage Bars. Since I could not really angle the tiers, I made wood spaces that staggered the tiers.

- contributed by Biggerfoot

Custom Dumbbell Rack

Material: Douglas Fir

This finished piece of furniture was built by:

Steven T. Klinger


Pulling Sled

I decided to put together a pulling sled to see what it was all about. Well, it lives up to its reputation.

Mine is but a rude wood sled made from scraps I had around the shop. A couple of 1x6 treated fence boards, a few 2x4 pieces, a few more 2x2 pieces, a piece of pipe, and some 1 1/4" screws and I had a working sled. I would have just gone to get a pallet from Home Depot but I want to be able to throw this thing into the back of the van rather than take it with my truck.

I took it out for its first use tonight and got my shirt nice and wet. A number of trips back and forth from goal to goal on a soccer field with increasing weight plus a full circuit of the two fields made for a good workout. I'm pulling on grass, some green some brown, so it's much harder than just pulling on concrete or gravel (or so I'd think).

For anyone thinking about using one of these, I'd say it's an easy project with a handsaw, a drill, and a bit of time.

- Contributed by WesM

Versa Bag

Get yourself a heavy-duty duffel bag (or sea bag, if you happen to be a Marine or a Sailor), and convert it into the Versa Bag by stuffing it with rags, towels, weight plates, rocks, anything that will give it a desired weight. You are now the proud owner of the next fitness craze - Versa Bagging! You can use this bag for virtually anything you can conceive of. Here are a few uses:

Sand Dragging

- gruntbrain

The Crank

Now here's an inventive and effective exerciser. It works your arms, back, shoulders, chest, and forearms all at once. Two 8" x 1/2" pipes are attached to the central two foot pipe with elbows and all are tightly screwed together. slip a couple of 5" x 1" dia rubber utility hoses over the 8" pipes for grips. Resistance is provided by one set of muscles working against the other. The deluxe model shown here has an ankle weight attached to a handle so that the crank can also be used for leverage or a swing club.

- gruntbrain

Homemade Power Rack

Click on Josh "Blood Stained Shins" Powel's The Ultimate Guide To Constructing A Personalized Gym to see how this was made as well as for some other great tips.

Message to Josh: I can't find any way of contacting you. If you should come across this and wish to contact me, please go to our Forum, gruntbrain's grotto , and either post a message for me or PM me.


- Shenandoah

Power Stands

Cut two pressure treated 4x6's to the desired length and then cut V's into the ends for barbell recesses. Set them upright in a couple of 5 Gal. buckets and pour concrete into the buckets at least half full. Clamp on some temporary bracing to hold the 4x6's upright while the cement sets.

Another useful item for power racks is a pair of Saw Horses.

- Contributed by abear

Dumbbell Slings

My heaviest dumbell is too light for effective wrist curls. Rather than spending money on a lot of new plates and making new dumbells, I made a couple of web slings and just hang one dumbell from another. I cut two 18" lengths of webbing, folded them back 3" on the ends, and sewed 1" squares from the ends. See the Miscellaneous page for "Important Webbing Tips".

- Shenandoah


Here’s a Keg-bell. This hard plastic portable cement mixer will hold about 80 lbs. of sand. You can also add heavier objects to it, such as weight plates. Consider other types of containers for bells, like large liquid laundry containers – great for leverage exercises.
- gruntbrain

This nifty kettlebell was built by Brian Long. Click on the kettlebell to go to his web page and see how it's made as well as for other great homemade ideas.

Kettlebell Clones

Here are a couple of comfort Kettlebells - stylish, yet practical. They won't rupture your forearm while performing those snatches.

- gruntbrain

Here's an idea: wrap some weight plates up in a towel, with towel between the plates, and tape it all thoroughly to a ring as shown above.

- Shenandoah

$1.00 Kettlebell Handles

I found an old triceps bar at a garage sale for $1.00:

I simply cut the bar in half and cut away the extra part of the bar above the handle:

It works! So far I have the two loaded up with 30 and 60 pounds. I have tried swings, twists, and curls with good luck. I am not sure if I would swing them over my head though. I am thinking I could load some more for farmers' walks.

I should add that to keep the collars from slipping, I used hose clamps tightened against the collars. I have used these on spin lock collars for years and they work perfectly for keeping the collars on tight.

Unfortunately the bar is hollow, but it seems to hold 60 pounds without a problem. If I find a solid one, I will definitely grab one.

- contributed by Biggerfoot

Sliding Weight Carriage

This sliding weight carriage was once attached to the side of my wood free-standing chinup bar (see the Bodyweight page), both of which no longer exist. Damn! I wish I had taken pictures way back then or known there was going to be an Internet someday.

Basically, a cord or rope is secured to the eyebolt on top and the carriage is dragged up the length of the 2 x 4. Metal casters attached to the insides of the carriage, on all four sides, allows the carriage to move smoothly up and down the 2 x 4. There is a 1/16" clearance between the casters and the 2 x 4 on all four sides. This carriage could also be built for a 4 x 4. It could be used for any number of things, such as a wrist roller. The weight won't swing as you roll it upward. You could even incorporate it into some sort of a home fitness machine.

The sides of this carriage are made of 3/4" plywood glued and screwed to five 2 x 4's, four of which have metal casters secured to their inside surfaces, and the fifth 2 x 4 tilted at the same 20 degree angle as the slope of the plywood. That 2 x 4 has a 1" hole drilled in its center about 3/4 the thickness of the wood and a 3/4" pipe fitted into it to stack plates. The size of this carriage is about 10" wide by 10" high. It was designed to hold 25 lb. plates.

Deluxe Calf Gadget

Center a 4" x 4" block on a 1" x 12" board. The block & board lengths should be at least 18". Use woodscrews to secure the block but even nails are OK. This creates a stable calf exerciser.

The large eye screw centered on the 4 x 4 allows for multiple uses, a couple of examples of which are shown above.

Bonus tip: turn your "deluxe calf machine" over so that you'll be standing on an angled board rather than the block. This provides for an achilles heel stretch(static or dynamic). Add some non-slip strips to the board & perhaps hold onto to something for balance.

- gruntbrain

Micro Weights

Three 1" steel washers makes a 1/2 lb. weight. Laminate washers together with a couple dabs of Super Glue between them. Set a weight plate on top of them and let them sit for awhile.

Here's another item that makes ideal microweights - 7 oz. Donut Magnets:

Restoring Weights

I found this abondoned set of rusty dumbbells in a garage. The first thing I did was get them under a hose and clean the gunk off of them with a wire brush. I then quickly dried them off with a towel and then I placed them in a turkey pan where I covered them with Coca-Cola - yes. Coca-Cola. I left them in the Coke for four days and swished them around once a day. When I took them out, I put them under a hose and washed off all of the rust using a wire brush. The rust came right off. Then I quickly dried them off and sprayed them with WD-40.

My next step will be to paint the plates as shown below.

- Shenandoah

Painted Plates

I painted about 1200 pounds of plates and I figured that I did it at under 2 cents a pound using a good quality paint and primer. I used Rust-Oleum's hammered paint and a good primer. I made a paint box and used an old broom stick so I could rotate the plates to paint them.

- contributed by Biggerfoot

Heavy Hands

Go to to see the latest revision of Dr Len's Program.

I believe H H provides excellent cardio benefits. However, you can make your own effective "tools" for the arm pumping Heavy Hands walks. Start out by just doing the vigorous arm pumps with 2 pipes (or PVC). To increase the challenge fill sand or lead shot in your pipes; tape will hold in the filler. Also consider securing weight to one end of each pipe. You now have an adjustable H H tool - as you tire move your hands towards the weight to lessen the load.

Note, with the release of the new H H book, a company is re-issuing Heavy Hands weights. I believe what I describe above is better than the commercial models since they're probably not adjustable or cheap.

- gruntbrain

Power Abs

Here's a unique abdominal exerciser. Using a webbing lifter belt, I draw it up tightly as I suck in my waist, and then push it out using my abdominal muscles.

- gruntbrain

Leg Raises and Extensions

Loop some webbing and attach it to a dumbbell or to individual plates for leg raises and extensions. See the Miscellaneous Page for webbing uses.

- gruntbrain

Comfort Calf Block

I rounded out the top edges of a 2 x 4 to about a half inch radius, and then I covered it with carpet padding and carpet that I got as scraps for free at a carpet store. Now I can comfortably do calf raises barefooted.

- Shenandoah


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