Homemade Equipment Durability

Today’s blog entry wasn’t planned. I woke up to a nasty email from someone who questioned and criticized the durability of the homemade equipment I’ve demonstrated in past tutorials. A summarized version of his email was that homemade equipment is bound to break and should not be used by industry professionals.

Unfortunately, when I tried to respond, I received an error message that the destination email was not valid thus my message could not be delivered. Perhaps the email came from an equipment supplier who feels threatened by my homemade gear. Maybe he prefers to remain anonymous with his sarcastic tone and comments. It’s no surprise in today’s keyboard warrior world.

As for my response, I stated in the email that I do not have financial connections with any hardware stores. I don’t own stock in Home Depot and I don’t earn money by promoting homemade tools. And what may come as a surprise to some, I don’t enjoy the process of making homemade equipment. If the equipment won’t offer specific benefits and/or cost savings, I won’t waste my time.

I only make equipment if it is going to serve a particular purpose for me and those I train. I don’t randomly make things without rhyme or reason. Furthermore, it has been my experience that homemade gear often lasts longer than what I’ve seen with many commercial alternatives. It isn’t as if hardware stores sell parts that are more destined to break when compared to an exercise tool that is manufactured as inexpensively as possible by a large revenue driven business.

Clearly, your mileage may vary based on craftsmanship, parts used, etc., but to suggest that all homemade equipment is destined to break prematurely is just plain ridiculous. More than half of my gym is outfitted with equipment that I built myself.

Below is a picture from earlier today that shows my homemade dip/chinning belt comfortably holding 180 pounds. This is the same dip/chinning belt that I demonstrated over a year ago in a video tutorial (see here). This belt is used regularly week after week and is still as strong as ever. I couldn’t break the chain if I wanted to. You’d be hard pressed to find any commercially sold dip belt with chain that is anywhere near as thick.

About an hour after taking the photo from above, I had a 150 pound dumbbell break on me. The timing could not have been any better, although I was upset as this dumbbell has served me well over the years. Clearly, this was just a random case, but homemade gear is up 1-0 for the day against its commercial counterpart.

In summary, don’t knock something until you’ve tried it. There are plenty of homemade options that are as durable as anything you’ll find at the local sporting good store.

For more homemade equipment ideas, please refer to the link below:

Homemade Equipment Archives

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  1. Next thing he’ll ask is if you are “certified” to be teaching/coaching in your own blog. God bless you Ross.

  2. CTKWingChun said it best, “no love for the haters”. If someone doesn’t think a piece of homemade equipment will safely perform like commercial equipment then that person should save their pennies and only buy retail products. We will keep spreading your word to the masses. Thanks for all the great content.

  3. Why even bother replying to these malcontents?

    I made a dip belt after your homemade design a couple of years ago and it’s still doing me proud. These days commercially made equipment is designed to break. Not just gym equipment but anything from refridgerators to tin openers. After all, if they didn’t break you would never need to buy another.

    1. Sorry Mosley, but I’m well aware of the potential uses. I’ll be keeping these boys around. I have loads of ideas already.

  4. I’ve gotten a lot of great ideas for homemade equipment from your site and I’ve saved a lot of money by making my own stuff. I’ve noticed no worse durability from any of the stuff I’ve made, as opposed to commercial products. Plus, there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that you’ve made exercise implements from scratch – I find I enjoy the workouts a little bit more with that knowledge in the back of my mind. Plus, people often comment upon cool or innovative ideas in homemade stuff – nobody has ever complemented me on a piece of storebought exercise equipment.
    Keep up the awesome site!

  5. Ross – keep the ideas coming… your ideas help motivate me get in the garage and move the steel… thanks !

  6. Thank you for providing the useful info. It helps guys like me who can’t afford or go to the gym increase the size of our exercise tool box.

  7. In the end it’s all about money with a lot of people whether they are doctors, mechanics, lawyers, gym owners or personal trainers etc. Many doctors are no better than shifty mechanics or greedy lawyers and will milk patients/insurance companies for all the money they can get out of either. How many people out there leave the doctor sicker than when they arrived? People choose professions for the moolah instead of for the love of it nowadays, or maybe it has always been that way more or less, who really knows what makes someone tick. As for whether you use store bought weights or a broomstick with coffee cans loaded with cement on each end, in the end they’re both just simply tools to be used for strengthening your body and your muscles sure don’t know the difference. People can make some quick cash off of ingenious or imaginative marketing especially concerning anything with fitness or diet in an extremely image conscious society like we live in, granted we’re experiencing record obesity issues but people out there still yearn to be fit, but they are just looking for a quick and easy fix. Look at how kettlebells have been marketed in the last decade or so as the optimal fitness tool that can torch fat, build functional muscle, increase anaerobic and aerobic thresholds, make you a superior athlete compared to that “dumbbell” who elects to train with mundane equipment like barbells & dumbbells. Have you checked out the price of some of these kettlebells lately? What people fail to realize is the kettlebell lost out to the more convenient dumbbell for a reason. Kettlebells were escorted off to basements, attics, or the back corners of weightrooms and weren’t seen for decades except in Eastern Europe for a reason. A dumbbell CAN do all a RECENTLY expensive kettlebell can do and then some without wrecking your wrist and bruising forearms, elbows, and shoulders in the process. Tell me one kettlebell exercise that can’t be performed even better and certainly more comfortably with a relatively inexpensive dumbbell versus an overpriced kettlebell. I don’t know what price people pay for those maces or macebells, or Indian/Persian clubs, but you could certainly substitute sledgehammers for the exercises performed with the Indian mace or macebells and probably save a hell of a lot in the process. Look at Matt Furey. You got to give him credit, he made a lot of “cabbage” off of people by marketing routine phys ed type of bodyweight exercises combined with centuries old Indian wrestler exercises with exotic names as some kind of mystical way to attain superior fitness to all those knuckledragging weightlifters.

  8. Hi Ross,
    You have the best website for fitness…..period. There are and will always be web warriors. You are, and you have continously have demostrated, the real deal. Don’t let them get to you.

  9. don’t worry about it ross, your books and your homemade tools for working out are durable and very useful in getting the job done. I enjoy reading on your website and take your books to my work place to read even though I have read them already, you learn new things everyday, thanks for sharing!

  10. Oh noes, I guess I should buy only commercial sand bags for 200 dollars cause my 20 dollar one made from a navy sea bag will eventually break…

  11. Ross, I have made several DIY pieces of equipment from your site, Iso equipment, double wheel ab rollers (what ever you wish to call them), I made the roller in 2010, use them regularly, hasnt broken yet. My ISO device (which I e mailed you about) I have had since mid last year, no cracks in the ply wood, nothing, still good, after using it at least twice a week over the past year. Ross has nothing to prove, period, his ideas are based on what he has either created or has taken on board from else where and has been tried and tested. Watch his videos if there is any doubt.

    DIY equipment is a great way to go, and for one, creating can be fun, and two, if it helps to reach an objective at a lesser price, then that is great also.

    I am still yet to find anything whether it be training tools, manuals that are as effective with little fuss than all the stuff I have seen, purchased for myself and others from this site.

    I’ll put it this way, if you have surpassed all of the feats Ross has in his time, then you can question him, until then STFU and train.

  12. I too made an ab wheel roller using your guide and it’s still in great condition after 3 years. As others said, it’s just about money… there’s a big industry to support selling people stuff they don’t need.

  13. Ross, power to you. You always offer great advice and you truly do what you write/advise which is a great inspiration. Who cares about these small minded fools who criticise but don’t put their money where the mouth is nor have the gumption to do anything!! Keep those articles and good ideas coming because you have a lot of loyal followers (me very much included!!!) 🙂

  14. Just watched your video tutorial on your DIY dip/chinning belt attached to this article for the first time. Your homemade belt would definitely supply the lower back with more protection and alleviate the pulling and pinching problems commercial belts will pose on your lower back and hips when the belt is loaded with heavy loads. A load of 180lbs or greater would test the resiliency of just about any standard commercial dip/chinning belt. The average gym rat hardly progresses much beyond 75-100lb full range of motion dips in the first place, but even with that load many conventional belts are uncomfortable on the lower back. In your video I couldn’t figure out if you were dipping with 135 or 180lbs because of the angle, but either way it was quite impressive and those were nice clean full reps, and not like some of those other Youtube vids were some goober loads a sheetload of weight and performs spazoid twisting quarter reps.

  15. First off Ross I love your site. I just found it a few weeks ago when I was cruising the internet looking for tractor tires.

    The funny thing to me about people who always say commercial stuff is better then home made. Is that at one point everything was home made. That’s how it works. And usually when a product gets to the commercial stage, its so cheaped out to make sure money is being made, that its just crap.

  16. 180pounds?!? Holy shizzz!
    Great respect for that feat – yr the man!

    Don’t waste energy/lifetime with haters. You opened up my horizon to start thinking of homemade equipment. Used to buy everything, nowadays I check first if I can do it myself.

    Stuff I made myself:
    – ab rollers; cost me 12€ instead of 45€
    – sandbag; cost me 20€ instead of 100€
    – heavy medball; cost me nothing (old basketball), instead of at least 60€
    – chinning belt; cost me 15€, instead of 50€
    – Indian clubs made of plumbing material; cost me nothing, instead of at least 100€
    – bulgarian bag, cost me ca. 20€, instead of 120€
    – various stones for griptraining and odd object lifting; cost me nothing, instead of ?
    – swing apparatus made of plumbing material, cost me nothing instead of ?
    – dip station of pvc, just started assembling, cost ca. 20€ instead of ?

    As you can see – quite a saving and I have equipment I built and absolutely trust. I wouldn’t build a rackstation, other than that anything can be build.
    Cheers & keep it coming.
    Sven, Italy

  17. @Sven

    What makes that 180lbs even more impressive is that it would blow away a lot of hardcore serious bodybuilders and pure strength athletes who specialize in strength training ONLY and spend little time in aerobic or general fitness conditioning exercises. I actually googled up two legendary “dippers” from the past to see what there totals were in this all-purpose upper body exercise. One was Pat Casey, the first man to officially bench press 600lbs raw, which means sans bench shirts and other ridiculous lifting aids of the modern day powerlifter, and this man performed this way back in the Sixties. After reading about Pat it seems the parallel bar dip was his main assistance exercise for improving his bench press. Casey topped out with a 620lb bench press while weighing about 300lbs in bodyweight. During this time his training consisted of lots of weighted dips with the weights ranging from 205lbs to the low 300’s. I couldn’t find a mention of the rep ranges but one can’t imagine he performed a sheetload of reps with 300lbs given he weighed 300lbs and as a powerlifter probably trained in the rep ranges of 3-8reps max. Another extraordinary dipper and chinner was 40’s-50’s bodybuilder/weightlifter Marvin Eder. It was said believe it or not Eder who weighed between 190-200lbs completed a parallel bar dip with two men hanging from his feet for a combined weight of 434lbs!!!!! Just to prove Eder wasn’t a one trick pony he also did 7 pull-ups with an extra 200lbs added.


  19. I can’t believe someone would send that email. Further illustration that some people have more time than sense.
    “You can’t train profesionals with home made equipment.” Really, I’ve been doing it for years and I have the results to prove otherwise.

    Was that your basic response?
    I think you hit the nail on the head. It boils down to craftmanship. When I make something I make it to last and I’ve seen a lot of commercial equipment that is sadly lacking in that dept. I’d like to point out that is a sick photo, 180lb chin up. Just sick man.

  20. @Eric,
    thx for the information. I knew about Mr. Eder and his feats. Truly impressive.

    Ross isn’t the biggest guy but his strength vs. his physical nature are just amazing! Pulling with 180lbs beneath you just blows my mind. Period.

  21. Hell, Sven I was impressed with the “180lb” parallel bar dips, but pull-ups or even chin-ups with “180lbs” is superhuman. I’d heard of Eder and knew he had put up some decent totals in the Press and Bench Press and was a prodigious dipper/chinner but I had no idea he was that STRONG in the dip and pullup. According to the article Eder performed 80 pullups with bodyweight only, 25 bodyweight only handstand pressups/pushups on a horizontal ladder(I’m guessing that is either “Monkey bars or dip bars), and performed 8 one arm consecutive one arm pullups, as well as those astounding poundages he used in the weighted versions of dips and pullups. The article concerning Pat Casey made a pretty logical claim that most people never look to push weighted dips beyond a certain level and that most will routinely stop at say 100lbs thinking that it is sufficient poundage for their needs. The article goes on to state that most looking to bench press double bodyweight, which is an elite goal for natural lifters who lift raw, should devote the time and effort needed to be able to perform a dip with at least their bodyweight for one rep. It logically calculates that Casey at a bodyweight of 300 or some odd pounds was able to dip with over 300lbs and thus his combined bodyweight and dip poundage was roughly equivalent to his best lift in the bench press give or take a few pounds.

  22. I been following your blog for 6 years now and I am so grateful for your continued effort in developing and sharing with us all your DIY training equipments. Not only has it saved me a lot of cash, but it also has inspired me to perform new exercises and allow my training regime to evolve. Keep doing what your doing Ross.

  23. Great idea, gotta be careful with the recommeded max on a ‘Powertower’ though. Many aren’t rated above 125kg.

  24. Ross, I think it’s great that you have skills to make your own equipment and share so others can do the same. I am fortunate that my husband is crafty like that and has made various things for my gym that I use with clients. I actually had to have my husband re-weld a safety for the squat rack because it bent. So just because something is company manufactured like the dumbbell, it has the propensity to break just as easily as home equipment. Thanks for the post.

  25. Ross, I just have to chime in. Like so many others I love your site and have been inspired by your DIY equipment.

    Somehow I missed the post on the dip belt – I’ll need to make one of those. 😉

    No love for the haters, but keep up the awesome content because the rest of us love it.

  26. The comment about customising DIY equipment is so true.
    I was nearly going to buy a prowler for $390, after which I would have needed to buy Oly plates (I only have standard).
    But this site and others have given me ideas to build one for around $100, and I can use my standard plates.
    Heck, if I get lazy I’ll just start doing hill sprints again!

  27. A prowler = $390? WHAT? Well ya know what PT Barnum was credited for sayin’. For anyone thinking about shelling out 400 bucks for something that is nothing more than an imitation of a football sled that can be found near or on any junior high or high school football practice field, please think before you act. If you work out alone maybe something like a prowler is applicable and will be worth your investment. Even if you work out alone what about pushing your car or truck? However, if you workout with a buddy or several others what about just implementing some old school wrestling drills where letting someone ride piggyback style on your back while you run a series of sprints or run stairs, or go to some high school practice field and use the football sled while your buddy goes for a ride.

    Herschel Walker used to put shot put shots in a tire and tie the tire to his waist with a rope and run sprints, and who can dispute the results. Another ridiculously priced commercial piece of exercise equipment are those “Power Wheels.” Once again if you have a workout partner why would you need a Power Wheel? Do wheelbarrows on flat ground, up and down steps or hills, or better yet, learn or develop the strength, agility, and balance to walk on your hands. If you can walk on your hands you won’t need a workout partner for assistance. I hate to mention the VersaClimber because I personally think it’s the best cardio machine out there, however, it’s extremely expensive. Former Olympian Rhadi Ferguson has an excellent alternative where he alternates all four of his limbs ala like a VersaClimber in what he calls a bodyweight VersaClimber, and those furniture sliding pads would probably compliment this exercise well.

  28. I’ll admit I was almost ‘duped’ into buying the prowler. Endorsements from all the top Strenght and Conditioning guys saying it’s the best conditioning tool out there almost got me.
    I’m not saying those people who actually paid for a prowler are idiots. A lot of people say it’s worth the money and it IS a great tool. I’m just a cheap bastard and in the end it wasn’t worth it for me to shell out the bucks when there are so many other free ways to get conditioning.

  29. Great article, I wish you posted that guys email though. I think making your own gear is great, as there many times at my gym where I wish there was a t-bar row machine, or even a decent chinup bar, anyone complaining about the durability of home made stuff is pretty much a loser. So many variables that go into that statemen that I dont have time and desire to cover but the consensus is the guy who emaild is a little bitch.

  30. Ross,

    Love the rant & agree with it totally. I guess sometimes people need to take their gear out of a shiny box. I’ve made your homemade jump rope, T-handle and sandbag. I’m going to make the dip/chin belt next. Thanks for all the advice! I love it!

  31. Hello sir,
    Keep up the great work. I have outfitted my garage with enough equipment(homemade), that the guys I roll with jiu-jitsu love it. Its my own little MMA gym.

    Thanks again.

  32. Your programs I bought are great, your blog is great, you are great…I always read your blog before working out or wrestling.

    I have a dip belt I made 25 years ago, along with a GHR, Squat rack.

    Stay Strong,
    David Hall

  33. Ross,

    I hope you read this, as youve helped me more then you’de probably think.

    I used to check your site multiple times a day for motivation. I weighed 250 lbs, and I contantly told myself that if i put my mind to it i could get in the gym and not only lose the weight, but get healthy. I would go on this site all the time and watch all the motivation videos and homemade equipment videos thinking for each video i watched, this is what will get me in the gym tomorrow. This is what will make the difference. Then i woke up one morning and weighed 251 lbs. That was my wake up call. I realized that i could watch 1,000 videos a day, but until I took the videos’ advice and actually DID it, ill never change. I’ll just keep watching and saying the word “tomorrow”. At this point in time i weighed 251, benched 185 on a good day (good day meaning i actually went to the gym) and couldnt run half a mile.

    I now weigh 215 lbs, bench (rep) 315 and am closer then ever to pursuing my life-long dream of fighting in a sanctioned bout.

    I stopped going online to look up how I could get stronger and lose weight, and went and did it. I first got in the gym in April, 2011. It is currently June of 2012. I went on your site today for the first time in a long time, remembering the day I weighed 251 lbs, and finally decided to take the advice you’de been giving me and everyone else who goes on your site.

    You are the man Ross, and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

    – Wes

  34. I made my own Ab Wheel.
    Two polyamid rubber wheels(20cm/8inch diameter).
    1 solid 2cm thick steel stainless steel bar(50cm/20inch) through it.
    Putting washers against the wheels ,then 4 bicycle handles sliding over the steel bar ,and voilà.
    You got an Ab Wheel a 400 kilo weighing Hulk could use without a problem.

    Don’t worry about criticizers Ross.
    You’re doing just fine.
    You inspirate lots of people.That alone is worth gold.

  35. Congrats Wes!

    Read your comment and I know how hard it gets staying motivated. Of course you do have the added motivation of an upcoming fight( I’m guessing MMA, don’t know if you meant a boxing bout) and it probably helps knowing that conditioning is probably the best tool to have in a fight whether it’s boxing, wrestling, MMA or whatever. When it really gets hard sometimes is when you are training to just stay in shape. You wouldn’t believe the excuses that will pop into your head to miss that workout, or not run today etc. This site is indeed a great motivator and covers everything from general conditioning, assembling your own workout equipment, boxing, MMA, inspirational videos etc. I wish I knew about this site years ago and I consider myself lucky to stumble upon it about a year or so ago.

  36. I think your record on this blog and the hundreds you’ve inspired speaks for itself. don’t listen to some naysayer who obviously doesn’t know what he/she is talking about.

  37. My former father in law owned a gym in the late 70’s/early 80’s.He told me that a lot of their equipment was home made.Some of his members were welders,pipe fitters etc.They would make barbells for bench pressing and various other gym equipment.Back then you couldn’t just go online and order what you needed.He was also a police officer back then and when going out on calls,he would shine his light around peoples houses,looking for weights.

  38. Ross,
    I’m sorry some guy made your morning lousy. For me, I try to ignore people who are annoying. I can attest that you have great products, and know what your’e talking about. One thing you discuss that I really appreciate is the need to train the non-glamour muscles in order to stabilize the whole body, prevent injury, and improve performance. I’ll never look at hamstrings the same again.

  39. Well it is what it is i guess. He can train his way and we will continue to train ours.
    Aurthur Jones said it best “ignorance we can deal with, stupidity, well thats genetic we cant change that”

    I strongly believe that its methods like yours Ross that are more effective, practical, and cost efficent.
    We will unlock our true potential, develop strong bodies, and save a few bucks while we are doing it.

  40. One thing the haters don’t realize is that when your homemade piece of equipment breaks, it’s a simple trip to the hardware store to buy a replacement part for a few dollars. Carabiner breaks on dip belt? $2 at home depot. Handle on homemade dumbell snapped in half? $6 at home depot vs dumping another $100 at the local sports authority.

    I’ve also found that building homemade equipment motivated me to start the training sooner. If I came up with an idea for some equipment, I could build it with sourced objects and see if I could actually work it into my routine, rather than spend much needed cash on a piece of equipment that would only gather dust from disuse.

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