A trainer at the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games demonstrating a makeshift kettlebell swin …"People waste a lot of money on useless home exercise equipment that never gets used. I work out at home often, and though I don't hand make a lot of equipment, I actually find it fun to figure out things to use around my house and ways to take advantage of my environment," says ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified Personal Trainer and Lifestyle/Weight Management Coach David Tacheny of Proformance Athletics
David teachess an outdoor mountain fitness class in NYC, offered through Discover Outdoor, that I've taken, where I found myself throwing boulders, dragging my friend through an open field and squatting with tree branches!
Related: Yoga Moves for Flat AbsCost-cutting tip: Make Your Own
"My new favorite piece of equipment, purchased or homemade, is a sand bag! There are many kinds and designs and they can usually be made at home for less than $20! The types are important: there is the 'bulk bag' (my term)- a large duffle bag or backpack filled with heavy material (large ropes, wood chips, wood burner pellets, pet food, cat litter, etc.) to make them heavy. Pick them up, move them around, jump over them, stand on them, carry them up the stairs on your shoulders or in your arms.
There is the 'Bulgarian sand bag,' which is used more like a kettlebell. These are usually made from old car or tractor inner tubes, duct tape and sand, and are used in a much more athletic way. Video instructions on construction and exercises can be found with a quick Google search.
The simplest form of a sand bag would be to take an old pillow case or laundry bag, line it with two or three trash bags, fill it with sand, seal the trash bags, seal the pillow case or laundry bag with zip ties and duct tape (all available at your local hardware store) and go to town," David says.
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I've also seen trainers make a mock kettlebell out of a water jug (see above for pictorial proof)!
"Another thing I'll suggest is a basic suspension trainer, made from 15 feet of good nylon strapping or a 1/2 inch rope. Fold the rope in two, use a simple knot to make loop handles on the ends. In the exact middle of the rope, use a simple knot to make another loop. This loop can be hooked over a door handle or wedged in a door jam and the pulled or pushed against," David says. "To avoid falls or breaking your door, be careful to adequately test the straps and anchor points before giving them your whole weight and never hang or push directly from or against a moving or unstable object, like a door."
Cost-cutting tip: Find Substitutions
"As far as 'making' exercise equipment, the key I find is to keep it simple. Try to find ways to keep things measurable and consistent. Cans of soup and soda bottles come in regular weights and volumes. They make great dumbbells. Fill a 1 gallon plastic milk jug (the kind with a good handle) with sand, gravel or dirt. Secure the top with duct tape and you have a simple kettle bell. Fill a backpack with books and you have a comfortable way to increase resistance during squats and pushups."
Cost-cutting tip: Use What You Already Own
Chairs/stool: "A solid chair or step stool (nothing that folds or is made of plastic) is another great piece of 'home gym' equipment. A stool can be used in place of a step, a chair can act as a bench. Place a chair against a wall for stability and use it as a bench to do dips' to tighten up the backs of your arms." Get SELF's supereffective bench workout!
Towels: "Large bath or beach towels make great yoga mats or stretching devices. A yoga mat is more about defining a space for exercise and meditation, and a towel can do the same thing." Also, try this heart-pumping move with your towel.
Cost-cutting tip: Work Out Anywhere
'In New York, most people have the most fantastic leg/thigh/butt toner on earth built right into their homes: stairs! I live in an 8-story building and do 2 or 3 laps from bottom to top as a warm up," David says. And, you can constantly vary your workout. "Stairs can be run quickly, one at a time, to get a burn in those quads, or taken slowly, 2-3 at a time to target the butt, thighs and core. They can also be bunny hopped for a bit of a plyometric effect. You can lean your hands against them to achieve a decline chest press effect, or put your hands on the floor with your feet up for an incline chest press effect. Or simply marching on and off a single step, while holding the railing, is a safe effective way to get the heart going."