Unconventional Workout Equipment

A list of unconventional implements which can be used for workout routines to add variety or out of necessity.

The Backpack:

Got Backpack? An endless variety of fun...stuff with anything from soup cans, peanut butter jars and spaghetti sauce to books, rocks and beer bottles. On second thought, how about some plastic water bottles. Need something to do with your left over coffee cans? Fill them with gravel, wrap the tops in duct tape and put them in your pack.

The bacpack is not alone in contributing to the mad science of home workout routines. Try an old purse, a duffle bag or one of those cloth sacks wasted on your overpriced shoes (I'm talking to you ladies.) Actually this last is a poor choice, but the point is this: Do a quick search around your closet and garage and you might be surprised what you can come up with.

How heavy can it get? How much can you fit in it is a better question. A couple of oversized peanut butter and spaghetti sauce jars is about 15 pounds. Add a gallon water or milk jug and you will have approximately 10 more; and those rocks? I have a backpack sized rock in my backyard that weighs over 40 pounds. What can you find to stuff it with?
About 35 pounds, but feels like 45-50 in a backpack.

For a great home workout routine suggestion, read #1, the "Backpack Workout."

Medicine Ball Substitute

There are many ways to make your own medicine ball, but some of them require more work than others. If all you need is a weighted exercise ball, why not use a bowling ball? That bowling ball you have sitting in your closet is an excellent way to train real-life movement patterns with a light resistance. Like medicine balls, a bowling ball can improve power output, strength and endurance.

Another possibility is a discarded basketball. Poke a hole in it and using a funnel, fill up the bladder with sand. Then seal it with gorilla glue and duct tape or a tire patch; but consider buying a rubberized medicine ball if you plan to do slams and throw it against a wall. Otherwise you might end up with a face full of sand.

See this review for more information: Medicine Balls for Home Workout Routines

Sand/Salt Bags:  If you have a water softener, you probably invest in bags of softener salt. Use one of these, or stuff two or three in a duffle or trash bag. What can you do with these? Consider the following:

Triple Extension Lift:

Sand Bag Cleans:

Sandbag Turkish Getups

Rocks and Mason Blocks:

The heavy lifting fun is endless when you have a collection of these two hanging around the yard. Did you know that you can use an 8x8x16 mason block to do swings? Yup, pretty effective too.

Slip a pipe through two blocks and you can do Farmer's Walks. Perform one arm presses, bent presses and windmills. Use them to elevate your feet or stack them in a square for a plyo box so you can do squat jumps.

As for the rocks, I've always considered this the deadlift on steroids. Think Atlas stones, but with more grip. A true whole body exercise, no joke. Plus, you can collect these just about anywhere, as long as you have a way to get them back to the yard.

Here are a couple links you can check out to get some ideas:

MosLadder: Full Body System Shock Workout with ...Rocks?

MosLadder: Heavy Stones - Interval Training Workout for ...


Two sturdy chairs make an excellent dip station. Make sure they are on a non-slip surface.

PVC Pipes:

-PVC pipe is cheap and versatile when it comes to the home gym. Here are three things you can make with it and quickly incorporate into a functional fitness routine:

-Slosh pipe. Slosh pipes add a nice break from the monotony while still challenging strength and endurance. Read Are you Sloshing your Muscles into Shape ?

-Parallettes. This handy gymnastics tool is great for L sit holds, planche pushups (or as close as you can get to one,) and depth pushups among other exercises. You can find a lot of information about building a pair of these, but don't waste your time. Follow this link for the best instruction on building these efficiently and with minimal cash:  Crossfit Parallettes

For a different challenge, you can lengthen the straight supports to make them taller, just remember to compensate by making the side supports longer as well. Also, move up to 1 1/2" pipe if you do this. Just don't go too tall or the structure can become unstable. In the picture below, I have built mine with 1 1/2" pipe, 18 inches tall.

Suspension Trainer.  Finally we have the pvc pipe contribution to the simple homemade suspension trainer (as seen in the picture above.) For larger hands or enhancing gripping power, use 1 1/2" pipe and cut the pipe a half inch to an inch longer than your hand on either side. It is a good idea to cut some 1" handles as well. They are safer for smaller hands and make it easier to concentrate on the working muscles.

For best results, make the cuts with a fresh blade on a hacksaw. The major advantage of a homemade set of 'rings' is the price. You can make several for same price. The major disadvantage is that they do not adjust easily, so you may need to. For a reasonably priced commercial alternative, click below:

Jungle Gym XT

Metal Pipes: For less money than a Liebert Equalizer, a decent pair of dip bars can be made with cheap galvanized pipe, using the same design as for parallettes, but taller and longer. However, by the time you are done buying all the pipe, it may be as much as buying a dip/pull-up station from WalMart.

But don't despair! We still need galvanized steel pipe for:

-Pullup bar: Attach eye hooks into the joists in the ceiling at the same length as the pipe (36-48") Tie rope to the pipe and the hooks and presto! You have a pullup bar. In the picture below I have attached a clamp to either end of the pipe for extra security, but it isn't necessary if you tie good knots.

Alternatively, Husky makes carryall straps with strong carabineer hooks. The straps are made of rugged nylon and are velcro adjustable. This is even easier solution, especially if you have lower ceilings. Attach the eye hooks as before, then attach the carabineer on the strap. Set the bar in the straps and you are ready to go. In fact, this is the setup I am currently using. (See below:)

Another great pull-up solution is to attach a steel pipe between the door frame. To do this, simply buy the appropriate length pipe for the inside of the door frame and flanges to fit. A few screws later and the pullup station is ready.

Or for about the same price, you can get a doorway mounted, adjustable pullup bar complete with hardware. The bar comes with four separate low profile clamps for doing pull-ups, body rows and push-ups. It also makes a great place to attach resistance cables.


Chains are the louder, less comfortable version of battling ropes. Did I mention they're cheaper, too? You can pick up 2 packs of ~15' lengths of heavy duty towing chain for well under a hundred bucks, each of which weighs significantly more than a 1 1/2" Manila battling rope.

You can use chains for the same exercises you would use battling ropes for, but with the added weight, it becomes a more intense, muscle blasting workout.

In addition, you can use these chains to drape over your shoulder during dips, pushups, squats, pullups, etc. Oh, right, and if you ever need to tow anything, well, there you go.