Homemade T-handle Demonstration

Please refer to Part II as well, updated March, 2009

Throughout this holiday season, I’ve received several emails from readers inquiring about recommended equipment purchases. Many have asked what is best to buy with 50, 100, or even 200 dollars. My response is always the same. Monetary value does not always equate to actual value. Some of the best equipment that I use is homemade. I’m obviously not suggesting that I can build everything, but it is worth noting that more expensive purchases do not always equate to more value.

Throughout this blog, I often reference the homemade equipment sticky found within my message board. This isn’t by accident. I happen to enjoy building homemade training tools. I’m not the handiest person in the world, but many of these tools are very easy to build (not to mention inexpensive).

It is always nice to save money, but there is more to building equipment on your own (at least for me). It is in some ways similar to working on your home and taking pride in your own work. When my wife and I bought our home, we moved in knowing that it needed a lot of work. Neither of us had experience with home improvement. We bought several books and started working through one job at a time. We ripped out the old carpets, rented a sander from Home Depot and refinished the hardwood floors that were underneath. We put down the stain and polyurethane. We then tried our hands at tiling. We tiled the kitchen floor, the bathroom, and the hallway. We then put in our own kitchen cabinets and even made our own countertop out of large tiles. Over the course of a few years, we refinished every room in the house.

Yes, it was great to save money, but there was also a sense of pride in doing the work ourselves. Building or working on a home is obviously not the same as building a piece of training equipment, but in many cases there is at least some pride that you can take away from doing it yourself, not to mention the assurance that you’ve built it properly.

Below is an example of one such piece of equipment. I mentioned this tool on a recent blog entry after it was brought to my attention by one of the readers. This T-handle cost a few dollars to build and is really a great piece of equipment. This is an ingenious idea (here is the original design). One small addition that I made was a small hose clamp to secure the weights in place. These clamps are available at any hardware store for less than a dollar.

In the image below, the arrow points to the hose clamp, which can be quickly tightened with a screw driver.

If you prefer to use standard Olympic size plates, take a look at this design.

Video Demonstration

Why Bother?

I’ve always enjoyed one arm dumbbell swings, but do not like the feel of two hands on a single dumbbell. And while a one arm swing is a great exercise, limiting yourself to one hand limits the amount of weight that can be handled. A kettlebell offers an advantage over the dumbbell if you are interested in a two hand swing. This T-handle offers a great alternative however. It also allows you to go fairly heavy if you wish. I’ve loaded over 150 pounds on the handle without any problems. The tool can be used for conditioning (higher reps) or strength. It is truly a full body movement, with particular attention to the posterior chain.

If you already have weights, the investment will be only a few dollars. I highly recommend it.


PS – If the creator of this tool stumbles upon this thread, thank you for sharing such a great idea!

PPS (Updated on May 13th) – For those looking to use standard Olympic plates, you can still use 3/4″ pipe. Simply use a stopper plate at the top and bottom of your standard Olympic sized plates (ex. 2.5 lb plates are inexpensive and will do the trick). These stopper plates should fit a 1″ dumbbell handle. They will keep the Olympic plates in place as you swing the standard size T-handle.


  1. I’ll have to try the hose clamp. I made mine a while ago and it is great, I use a plastic spacer to keep the plates from moving around, but the clamp looks a lot better, thanks for the video

  2. Hey great post Ross,

    there is a similar equipment or training style to the t-handle. I think you have seen the “SWINGBELL” at the sandow site. When you click on Hoffman you find the swingbell course or book. If you could make a blog post for it or if you could try to train with it that would be great.

    Anyway thanks for this post and so many ideas

    Best Regards


  3. This looks very good to use. I was wodnering if you could make this with olympic plates.I can make the tool but I don’t want to buy plates. I aslo feel that using this tool helps stregthen the lower back and hips for deadlifts.

  4. for those asking (chuck/asher), the song is “step up” by drowning pool.

    as for the t-handle – great tool! ive got 3 at my facility. they are used daily by my athletes.

  5. That looks really cool! Make two, and they can be used as pushup bars. Or with enough weight on them, you can use them to hold your feet down for glute ham raises.

  6. Yeah, Ross – There are certain things that aren’t going to be sold in stores – And and you can tell that things like that T – handle and a lot of the grip stuff that you see on Zach E’s blog is custom made –

    I checked out that homemade sticky link – Lots of cool stuff!!!

  7. Just when I think your blog can’t get any better Ross, you come up with this. Considering the cost of kettlebells in Australia (outrageous!), this is a great idea.

  8. Thanks again Ross. I’ve built many home-made weights and base my training regimes on your advice. This is another good one I’ll look into as I’ve been doing it with dumbells.

    For what’s worth you’ve got another Aussie fan here.


  9. You know, homemade is great, but a lot of us don’t have the time/ability/space to make our own tools. Or for that matter, the inclination too. To insist that we have to take pride of work in handmade workout equipment is like saying the person who eats yogurt from the store rather than making their own is somehow taking less care or pride in eating well. I live in a townhouse. I don’t have a lot of tools available, and quite frankly I don’t have the time to chase down to Home Depot to buy bits and pieces of pipe and fittings and flanges and so forth. For me, spending $35 on a kettlebell is worth the 2 hours I’d put into driving across town to a hardware store and tracking someone down to help me find the pieces and parts (because I’ll be the first to admit that I’m very hardware ignorant).

    Cut us some slack here. Not everyone is the “do it yourself” type. And when someone asks for advice, it would be nice to be given an alternative to being Tim the Toolman.

  10. For olympic plates you could use 1.5″ inside diameter pipe. A pipe flange and a 1″ by 1″ by 1.5″ tee and 1″ nipples for the handle. 3/4 x 3/4 x 1.5″ might be hard too find and the slightly larger pipe diameter will give an extra grip session. O go nuts and use 1.5″ pipe throughout.

  11. Kara,

    You mention that you are hardware ignorant, but that doesn’t mean your comments should follow with such a negative and sarcastic tone. Perhaps you should take more time to read up on the site before making such generalizations. No one is suggesting that we all go and build. I am however giving the OPTION to those who WANT to do so. And based on the fact that the homemade thread on my message board has received thousands of visits from IP addresses all around the world, it appears that there are many who find the information quite useful.

    Furthermore (as mentioned), those who do build their own equipment often will take pride in their work. This is a fact, but it is not as if I am insisting that all readers of this site go out and build. This site is here to give OPTIONS to those who want OPTIONS. Please don’t suggest otherwise (which is essentially what you’ve done with your comments above).

    As for your $35 kettlebell, it’s apples to oranges based on this discussion. I PREFER the t-handle for swings. Weight can be adjusted and it can be loaded with over 150 pounds (with weights that many already have on hand). For a few dollars at the hardware store, you can build a tool for swings that can handle 150+ pounds of weight. To purchase a 150+ pound kettlebell would be a SIGNIFICANT investment.

    Many readers of this site can handle significant loads. They want to perform swings with well over 100 pounds but don’t wish to spend a few hundred dollars on a kettlebell. For a few dollars, they can do the same with pipe. They also will have the ability to make incremental adjustments. You can add a few pounds at a time, without the need to purchase a brand new kettlebell.

    And once again, this isn’t a knock against kettlebells or any other piece of equipment. Almost any piece of exercise equipment can be useful. This thread simply gives OPTIONS to those who want OPTIONS.


  12. Ross,

    Thank you for the DIY ideas. I speak for many when I say that I am grateful for the tips. The economy sucks right now and I’m game for any tips on saving a buck.


  13. Go get get em Ross!!!! Hardcore, man. Well done! Nice tips on how to make your own KB…and putting it up for video was nice of you to do!

  14. Good stuff. Take this one step further- run a chain or heavy cable through the T and you’ve got a loading pin for one- handed deadlifts and all kinds of grip training. Try hooking on a softball with a screw-eye in it.

  15. Re: wesley and if this is dangerous. i am a 150lb weakling and always need to cut ross’ load by 2 or 3x. i have never hurt myself doing anything ross writes about with a bit of thought first.

    i just built this and put on 60lbs. good grief! this is enough for me; but it is damn’d fun!

  16. Once again, great post Ross. Thanks for these details.

    This tool looks like an excellent device to aid in explosive power development and all-round strength in the latissimus, arms, shoulders, low-back, glutes, hamstrings, behind the knees, the calves, and of course, the posterior chain as a whole.

    I too like traditional dumbell swings, but this device looks like an affordable means to really ramp-up the load when the desire takes.

  17. I used a curved jaw vise grip instead of the pipe clamp. Anyone with a half way decent hand grip can clamp that sucker on there so it won’t come off yet it is easy to release and reset if you want to change plates. No screwdriver required.

  18. Buddy you are incredible and your website and ideas are AWESOME!
    I’m going to the hardwarestore to looks for the materials to make my own Tbell. Thanks; Lou

  19. Hey, Ross. I just built the T-Handle swing machine! The parts cost me $17, and it took about 15 mins to assemble, counting making sure the essential sections were tight. Very cool, and I’m looking forward to it.

  20. Excellent stuff Ross (and kudos to the guy who came up with this).

    The swing is an excellent compound exercise that really gets you blowing (alternatively as you mention, it can be used for other strength qualities). What is particularly good about this idea is that you can adjust the weight, something you can’t ordinarily do with kettlebells. Additionally, I’d feel a lot more comfortable swinging this than swinging a dumbell – don’t fancy whacking my shins!

    The construction looks that simple even I could put it together.

  21. i just built this tool today in less than 5 minutes. this tool is awesome. by the way for a stopper i just used one of my standard safety barbell clamps on the 3/4 shaft works just as well. Ross you kick ass.

  22. I don’t know about this one. I made this thing and what a piece of junk. I hate it. It’s much better to just swing two heavy kettlebell (or even dumbbells) on the outside of the legs at the same time … much better.

  23. Different people will obviously have different opinions regarding equipment. In the words of Carl Jung,

    “The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.”

    With that said, I’ve used the T-handle for over a year now. The original entry was from December 2008. I’ve also had countless people email me regarding the tool. I didn’t invent it and have no financial interest in it. I do however (along with plenty of others) find it useful.

    To state that you “hate” the tool doesn’t tell us anything. What about it do you not like? There isn’t anything fancy or special about it. It’s used for swings. It’s easy to load and can handle a good deal of weight. That’s it.

  24. Pingback: Good info.
  25. @Camilo – I’m referring to a 2.5 pound plate that is sold for 1 inch diameter bars (as opposed to an Olympic plate for 2 inch bars)

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