April 02, 2012

Pick Up Some Free Kettlebells

Sometimes quick and easy is good, right?

(That's what I'm trying to learn about blogging, anyway. Not every post has to be a 30,000 word novella.)

But "quick and easy" (and "cheap" or "free") are very handy concepts for exercise too! No matter how thorough and elaborate your usual workout regimen is, sometimes you need a workout that (a) doesn't require a gym (b) can travel with you and (c) doesn't force you to fork over craploads of money to replicate something you already have access to somewhere else.

A few pieces of free or nearly-free workout equipment can often mean the difference between "I don't have time to workout, damnit" and "Holy crap, you can do a lot in 20 minutes if you don't have to leave the house/hotel/brewpub!" (Or wherever you like hang out). So I've got a couple of suggestions for ways to take a workout wherever you go... including some free kettlebells.

But wait, you may be wondering... when is anything ever free? And what's with the "wherever you go" bit?  Aren't kettlebells really heavy and uncomfortable to carry around and isn't that the whole point of them? And do I really want to explain the odd contents of my carry-on bag to the cranky TSA lady at the airport?

OK, so sure, there's a catch or two. They're portable because you acquire them at your destination and throw them away again.

And they're completely free only if you drink liquids in large quantities, or don't mind rooting around recycling bins and being mistaken for a homeless person. But heck, dumpster diving is exercise too, right?

The Cranky Fitness Milk Jug Kettlebell Experiment

The Lobster and I are lucky enough to have a DIY Home Gym back on the east coast. But lacking that option in San Diego, we don't generally exercise unless we schlep to the gym or go on a long walk somewhere. And some days... that doesn't happen. So, in search of a cheap kettlebell/dumbbell alternative for home use, I thought I'd try:

The Milk Jug Kettlebell!

It's Easy:

Just rinse out old contents of bottle and refill with water.

Tah Dah!

Beverage containers have handles, come in different sizes, and some have sturdy screw caps. It might be worth going with a different size or brand to get the "perfect" fake kettlebell.

But What Kinda Sucks and How to Fix It:

1. Too Light Even When Full

A gallon of water only weighs 8.35 lbs. This is not enough for many exercises, like the chest press, even if you try to get all fancy and add instability.

Upgrades can be made by buying larger water jugs, and/or by buying a bag of sand at the hardware store to use as filling instead of water. A two gallon container of sand (depending on grain) could weigh a respectable amount.  Because sand weight is so variable, I couldn't get a good figure, but 12.5lb a gallon was one estimate.

However, there are plenty of moves that are challenging even at low weights, so you may want to modify your routine accordingly.

Just ignore Crabby's bent wrist, she is so NOT an expert on form.

2. Top May Not Be Secure Enough for Wild Flinging

Even with a screw cap, I noticed a little leakage when I started to hoisting with too much exuberance. I'm thinking duct tape or glue, and if that doesn't work, upgrading to a more durable container that actually costs money, like a gas can kettlebell.

Milk Jug Workout?

Though in my own mind I "invented" the milk jug kettlebell idea in a sudden flash of dairy-fueled inspiration, I suspected others might have done the same.

A quick google confirmed this and even yielded a milk jug workout.

Kettlebell workouts:

There are also tons of these if you google. A beefcake version can be found over at Men's Fitness; cheesecake version at Women's Health. And there's even a traveling kettlebell workout over at Girya Girl.

Other Cheap Portable Exercise Solutions:

There is a whole previous post on Cheap Do it Yourself home fitness equipment back in the archives, but to repeat a few obvious suggestions:

Body weight exercises are free and portable, hooray! College Candy has some suggestions, and there are a bunch of no equipment exercises at the Ace Exercise Library.  Other cheap/free options include jump ropes, elastic cords, stretchy bands, and DVD's from the bargain bin or the library. Oh, and there's always the Crabitron for dips!

Suspension trainers can be made on the cheap too, like this DIY suspension trainer. But note... I was thinking there might even be a simpler way using a necktie or bathrobe belt, but when I started to google... whoops! Apparently the bondage folks got there first. (On the plus side, they seem to be Eagle Scouts when it comes to knowing their ropes).

Anyone else experimented with DIY fitness equipment?


  1. Combining the sand and the water will make your jugs even heavier. Not sure how heavy, but it's an option.

  2. I was wondering about that, DK!

    Though until I get bottles with heftier caps (I'm eyeing a sturdy OJ jug but the Lobster isn't done with it) I'm thinking could get REALLY messy if I get carried away...

  3. Hilarious about the neckties! *gah*

    Great ideas for DIY Crabby. For me, a DIY is to use everyday physical chores/tasks and intensify or modify to get as much out of them as possible. Sounds goofy, but ever tried vacuuming the whole house with the opposite arm?

  4. Great ideas Joyce! And "vacuuming" ... that sounds vaguely familiar... is that the contraption in the closet that makes noise when you turn it on?

  5. We have to buy sandbag weights to keep our art show tent on the ground. I'm already thinking they will be perfect for working out on the road.

  6. Why yes it is Crabby! If I didn't view the vacuum as a source of exercise I'd never use the dang thing!

  7. I have used the milk jugs in water, partially filled for weights out of water and buoyant weighs in the water. I do not like them for kettleballs because the balance is wrong for my workout. Also, if I ever missed the grip on one of these milk jugs that is a gallon of water I have to clean up when it crashes to the floor. But I have to go look at some of the other ideas. Thank you for the suggestion.

  8. I needed to use weights on a leg to rehab a knee a few years back and filled socks with garden dirt. I think there may have been some plastic bags involved, too. The sock wrapped easily around the leg and I could mess around with the weight until I got what I needed. I ended up buying proper leg weights later on, but it did work.

  9. Great! Also you can use these empty in a pool and try to hold them under the water!

    Don't do that will real kettlebells or it will be like walking the plank :-)

    PS I can't wait to win these in your contest, lol!

  10. I totally laughed at the chest press because I know those things were sloshing around and trying to fall to the side.

    Once I used 35 pound containers of cat litter sold at Costco. Obviously not one in each hard for chest pressing (I wish). I think I was in a mood and desperate.

  11. Love these suggestions! Sock weights, swimming pool options, and kitty litter!

    And yeah QD, those jugs were definitely sloshing around and trying to fall to the side. Oh wait, you meant the MILK jugs. Those too!

  12. That first photo is so cute. Sometimes when I go for a walk on the local walking trail, I look for an easy-to-grip round river rock to carry in each hand. It's not much weight but it does make a little difference.

  13. Good ideas! After all, if you are what you eat -- or exercise with -- then i am cheap, quick, and easy.

  14. I loved your post and this cracks me up because it is so timely. Friday I got home and after unloading my car, I did a series of sets of squats w/ upright rows using the 6 bottle wine carrier/tote bag with the bottles of wine in it as my kettlebell.

  15. Can we get a Tele Novella sometime? You can video it and you can only speak spanish...I think I would donate hard earned $$ to see this.

  16. Hey, eight pounds is better than nothing. I always do a lateral raise or a front raise with the water jug when I've refilled it and am about to put it back in the refrigerator. But I agree with Jane that the balance is wrong.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  17. So yo mean we have no more excuses not to exercise now??? Not that I use an excuse but just in case! ;-)

    I love that you are showing people that there are so many ways to get some exercise in o matter what!!! As for that vacuuming, I should do some housework - for me since I hate it, it would be like a week's worth of house work! ;-)

    Great suggestions! I do love my gym though! but I have stuff at home too for a little extra this & that!

    BTW, you look GREAT!!!

  18. So, yeah, I like my triceps; I think they're pretty developed but, apparently, I've been neglecting my biceps. I need to do whatever you're doing...

  19. oooh DIY?
    a child who may not go to school today?
    THANK YOU :-)

  20. OK first - because I cannot continue with a comment without getting this out first - Hello Crabby Mc BigGuns!

    OK. Ahem.

    You know what else you can use while traveling? Collapsible water jugs like you use for camping. They are 5 gallon hosses and collapse to nothing.

    I had not considered doing this before so I really appreciate the suggestion.

  21. Damn, woman...your arms are amazing!!!

  22. Hey even more great ideas! Wine bottles in carriers, collapsible water jugs, and just generally grabbing exercise whenever you can. Thanks for more great suggestions!

    Damn, you guys are so funny and sweet... would so much rather run off to your blogs and hang than deal with trying to organize and categorize the entire freakin' Cranky Fitness archives and attend to other adminisrative details of web migration. But I've put myself on restriction. Which will probably mean many of you will wander away again, which is only fair, but I love it when you stop by here.

    Oh, and thanks for the biceps compliments! Doorway pull-up bar may have helped more than water jugs on that. Have never had them before, and they only show up in certain poses and with certain camera angles, plus I'm notoriously lazy... so I want to document them whenever I can before they totally disappear again. Even now, in a more natural pose from the side, my arms are pretty much your basic formless blobs.

  23. I've lifted lamps in my hotel room like dumbbells :)

    This was before I learned a variety of bodyweight-only workouts...

  24. LOL! the "milk jug workout" had me picturing some blonde chick with large breasts... Oh. Never mind then.

  25. Very inventive training equipment!

  26. In my capacity as curator of our new little museum way out here in the wilderness, I have discovered why women back in the day never worried about fitness - they didn't have time, and their everyday life was a workout!
    Just today, I accessioned a flatiron that they would have heated on the woodstove (after chopping the wood, carrying it into the house and starting the fire) in order to iron every freaking thing in the house! And that little sucker was heavy!

    Love the idea of using whatever is around the house, though. (And you are looking awesome, girl! Wanna come and demonstrate how to crank the milk separator? That, too, takes a lot of arm power!)

  27. Just saw a post on sixpackfactory about making your own sand bag weight with bags of sand or gravel inside an old duffle bag. It can be used as a medicine ball, sandbag or weight. Very versatile and cheap.

  28. Bag Lady, you are right, those flatirons were dang heavy! And keeping the fire going was no mean task either, not to mention filling and draining a washtub with water heated on the stove so folks could get a bath. No shortage of physical labor back in the day.

  29. While we are losing weight we must has to be know about something important things, diet must be of calories and protein, rather it could be anti effect reduce your body strength.

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  30. Oh wow! That's a great idea. I liked

  31. Filling the bottles with sand may make it harder to control the weight if you need to reduce it.

    Regarding kettlebells, some people make them out to be something they're not. They are simply a tool. It's how you use them that makes the difference. You can get fit without them.

  32. Love the whole idea of DIY! Someone once told me to put cans of veggies in a bag and use that as weights when I need that little something extra. I thought she was crazy, but I love the idea of the milk jugs. It’s a wonderful idea and I will give it a try.

  33. Is urine denser than water?

  34. Love this article. It is so easy to make practical use of everyday items. It is so easy to make excuses to not go to the gym. Those milk jug kettlebells are great! Yard work, washing the car can all be turned into exercise.

  35. This is amazing and best way to do exercise at home with the things available at home.

  36. My 4 year old weight 19kg and I usually swing 20 kg in the gym, so planning to use her for normal swings and now milk jugs for the lighter exercises!


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