The Spartan Guide to Cheap, Efficient DIY Gym Equipment

The Spartan Guide to Cheap, Efficient DIY Gym Equipment
Presented by Spartan Training®

The gym equipment you buy at the store goes through meticulous testing to ensure that it is safe. It is up to you to be sure that these tools are properly constructed and appropriately used as part of your training.

The fitness industry is a big business — an industry with exponential growth.

From gym fees to expensive workout programs, and hi-tech clothing to activity trackers, the cost of getting fit can be worrisome to some. One way to minimize the cost is to build your own equipment

When it comes to equipment, heavy things are heavy things. Yes, a barbell setup can be a great strength-building tool, but 100 pounds on a barbell weighs exactly the same as 100 pounds in a sandbag. Both can make you stronger, and each has advantages over the other.

One of the advantages of Spartan SGX training is its focus on simple bodyweight exercises and bodyweight training tools, many of which can be made right at home.

Related: The Spartan Fit App Workout of the Week: 15-Minute Body Buster

make your own gym equipment

Do-It-Yourself Gym Equipment

Here are instructions for building an arsenal of training equipment, without having to dip into your children’s college fund.

1) Slosh Pipes

These pipes turn several conventional exercises into challenging stability tests. As the water inside the pipe sloshes around, your mind and body must work hard to keep the pipe from falling. The best part is that, in terms of supplies, the plumbing industry has done the prep work for you, and everything you need is easy to find at your local hardware store. Once you have the supplies, it is a simple process of gluing them together.

Required Materials:

- 6-7 feet of 4-inch PVC pipe
- Two 4-inch PVC end caps
- Watertight sealant glue or epoxy

Approximate cost: $20

To build your slosh pipe, follow these instructions:

  1. Glue one end cap to the pipe and let it dry.
  2. Fill the pipe about two-thirds of the way with water.
  3. Glue the remaining end cap to the pipe and let it dry.
  4. Decorate the slosh pipe however you like.

Assembling it should take about 10 minutes, excluding drying time.

Your new slosh pipe will add a challenge to a walking lunge, overhead press, or squat. You can also carry the slosh pipe over long distances to mix balance with endurance.

2) Truck Tires

Tires can be great strength-building and conditioning tools. Their odd shape will force your body to adapt to movement patterns outside of what a traditional barbell or stationary machine requires.

It is easy to get a tire. Most truck-repair shops or scrapyards have used tires lying around taking up space, and often the shop owner will not charge you much (if anything at all) to take one off their hands. Just make sure you have a vehicle to transport it.

make your own gym equipment

Approximate cost:
At most, a used tire will cost about $50.

You can do flips, drags, deadlifts, “sled” pushes, box jumps, “in and outs,” heavy carries, and more with your tire.

3) Suspension Trainer

A suspension trainer is essentially a rope with comfortable handles. This unstable platform will test your neural function much more than a stable platform, and will make basic exercises more challenging.

You can probably find everything you need for your suspension trainer at the same home improvement store that you visited for your slosh pipe.

make your own gym equipment

Required Materials:

- 10-15 feet of 1-inch diameter nylon rope (You may use thinner rope if you double it up.)
- Two 6-inch sections of 1¼-inch diameter PVC pipe for handles

Approximate cost: $20

Thread the rope through the pipe on each end, tying it back to itself to create the handles.

Throw your rope over a sturdy tree branch and use it to build grip strength, upper and lower-body strength, and core strength. Exercises like push-ups, inverted rows, planks, and mountain climbers will be more challenging with this device. Google “TRX exercises” for limitless ideas.

Related: How to Do These 8 Great Core-Strengthening Exercises

4) Wrist Roller

Grip strength is important for completing obstacles such as the Rope Climb, the Hercules Hoist, and the Traverse Wall. A wrist roller, as its name suggests, works your wrists and forearms.

Required Materials:

- 2 feet of 1- to 2-inch PVC pipe
- 45 inches of nylon rope, at least ½-inch diameter
- One large carabiner

Approximate cost: $10

To assemble your wrist roller, follow these steps:

  1. Drill a hole through both sides of the pipe near the midpoint, making sure the hole is large enough to thread the rope.
  2. Thread the rope straight through both holes and tie it off.
  3. Tie the other end of the rope to the carabiner.
  4. Attach the carabiner-end of the rope to a small kettlebell, dumbbell, or anything else you can think of to add some weight.

To use the wrist roller, hold the pipe in front of you with your arms at your sides and elbows bent at 90 degrees. (Your palms can be facing up or down.) Lift the weight by twisting the pipe. The rope should wrap around the pipe as you twist. Twist in the other direction to lower the weight.

5) Climbing Rope

This is something you will definitely want to practice before race day. Mastering this obstacle requires skill and strength, but not a lot of money.

You can purchase a rope from our Spartan shop. We recommend you buy about 25-35 feet of manila rope, 1-inch thick, with a splice loop. Plan ahead, and decide where you would like to hang the rope before you buy it. It is better to have a little extra rope than not enough.

make your own gym equipment

Approximate cost:

To build your climbing rope, follow these instructions:

  1. Find a secure branch or beam and throw the loop end over.
  2. Slip the other end through the loop, and pull tightly. This should not take more than two minutes.

Once you've mastered S- and J-hook techniques, try using the rope for pull-ups and dead hangs to work your grip and upper-body strength.

Related: 5 Workouts for Rope Climb Success

6) Atlas Stones

Training with an Atlas Stone can help you develop strength and explosive power. This DIY variety offers the added benefit of awkward size, which means that it will take some additional effort to stabilize the load. Use stones of different sizes for different movements.

You might be able to find a good-sized rock in your backyard, or in the nearby woods. If not, you can buy a stone at your local landscaping retailer. Anything between 20 and 45 pounds will do.

make your own gym equipment

Approximate cost:
2-10 cents per pound, depending on type and size

If you have purchased a large, heavy stone, read up on how to “load,” or lift, an Atlas Stone. (We want to be cost-effective, but we do not cut corners with safety.) You can also incorporate your Atlas Stone into your favorite gym exercises, such as the squat. If your stone is not round, try pinch grips, pinch swings, and a pinch-grip farmer’s carry.

7) Tire Sled

Now that you have your tires on hand, you can double their functionality by using them as a sled. You can do this in two ways. First, you can pull the sled from a seated position. Second, you can pull the sled from a standing position to strengthen your legs. Either of these variations will serve you well on race day.

You can find all of the supplies you need for a tire sled at your local home improvement store (or in your garage, collecting dust).

Required Materials:

- 2-½ feet of ½-inch diameter linked chain (Make sure to purchase linked chain, as other chain is pinched together and not soldered. With heavy loads, it will separate. Use the cutting machine at the store.)
- Link-chain connector conduit (Before you leave the store, make sure that this connector will fit inside the link chain, so you can connect the two pieces.)
- 10-30 feet of ½-inch diameter nylon rope (Measure your space beforehand so you can estimate how much rope you will need. Many stores will cut and melt the ends for you, so do not be afraid to ask.)

Approximate cost: $15

To assemble your tire sled, follow these instructions:

  1. Loop the chain around the tire(s) and secure using the link-chain connector conduit.
  2. Use the rope to tie a knot around the chain at any point. You do not need to tie it at the connector conduit. (This chain link allows you to remove the assembly so you can use the tire(s) for other purposes with ease.)

To use the sled, place the tire as far away from you as you can. Extend the rope to its maximum length. Sit. While seated, dig your heels into the ground, grip the rope, and pull the tire toward you. Stop when the tire reaches your feet. Repeat.

8) Sled Drag

This exercise activates your hands, arms, abs, back, and legs. Scale the exercise by varying the weight of the sled, its distance from you at the start, or the diameter of the pulling rope.

make your own gym equipment

Look for the following items at your local hardware or home improvement store:

- Chain and link-chain connector conduit (See instructions for the “tire sled” above. Before you leave the store, make sure that this connector will fit inside the link chain so you can connect the two pieces.)
- 10 feet of nylon rope (at least ½-inch thick) or small link chain (at least ½-inch thick)
- 2-3 feet of ½-inch rigid electrical conduit (Be sure to buy the rigid conduit that is designed to be bent into curves. You can purchase it pre-cut or ask to have it cut to length.)

Approximate cost: $10

Note: If you have already built the tire sled, it might be much cheaper.

To assemble your sled drag, follow these instructions:

  1. Thread one end of the rope or chain through the electrical conduit.
  2. Once threaded through the conduit, tie the ends so they are secure. (Try a double fisherman’s knot.)
  3. Put the chain and link (from the tire sled) around the tire.
  4. Interlock the chain that is around the tire with the loop that is threaded through the conduit.

To use the sled drag, step into the loop and place the tire behind you. Bring the section of conduit to your hips. Depending on the size and weight of the tire and the surface of the floor, you can use the sled drag to do acceleration drills or full-out drags. 

Related: 4 DIY OCR Tools to Amp Up Your At-Home Gym 

With a little creativity, research, and tenacity, you can train in your garage or backyard for less than the cost of a nice pair of sneakers. 

Amp up your fitness and wellness routine NOW. Click here to find a Spartan Race close to you!