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Homemade Exercise Equipment
Should you workout with weights you make at home?

Fitness Over 50

When times get tough, it's natural to start cutting back and looking for ways to save a little money. Instead of going out to dinner, you might cook a few more meals at home. Rather than driving alone, you could start carpooling or taking mass transportation. Even fashion is affected as people buy fewer labels and pick up more store brands. The key is making smart cuts.

One of the more creative ways I've seen people try to save is by building their own weights. The intentions are good, but there are a few things you should avoid.

Homemade Barebells

Attaching paint cans or buckets to the ends of a broomstick is a bad idea. It may seem like a cheap replacement for barbells, but in fact, it's a recipe for disaster. The problem is broom handles aren't designed to hold a lot of weight. Wooden handles can splinter and snap, bringing the weight plunging to the floor or on top of you. Aluminum ones aren't much better, and when they fail the collapsing metal may pinch your hands.

Buckets are a problem too. The handles aren't designed to be held and moved like a weight, so they cut off circulation and dig into your fingers. Move them too fast and you risk having the handles come off, sending a heavy bucket crashing down.

Not a great idea for workout equipment!

Some people suggest using plastic milk cartons or juice containers because the handles are bigger. Don't bother. The handles are at an angle to help you pour, they're not square across the top. When you grab them, all the weight ends up pressing down on top of one finger, cutting off circulation. That's fine if you're just pouring a bowl of cereal, but not so good doing dozens of exercise reps.

If you want a set of barbells, start by looking secondhand. Read through your local newspaper classifieds, visit secondhand stores or check online sites like eBay or Craigslist. Chain stores like Kmart, Wal-mart, Target and Sears all carry new sets that you fill with sand or water for under $100.

Instead of weights, you may want to think about resistance bands. They're extremely inexpensive, easy to store and light enough to carry along if you travel. Many come with exercise routines that show you how to use the bands in place of dumbbells or barbells.

Homemade ankle or wrist weights are another popular trend. Grab an old pair of socks and fill them with seeds, beans, rice or bags of sand. Then just sew the ends together and you've got an ankle weight. It sounds like a good idea until you actually use them. Unless they're filled tight, the contents tend to shift, making them harder to hold onto. Wrapped around your ankles, they bounce up and down when you're running and can quickly cause blisters.

Skip the tube sock weights. To increase the intensity of your aerobic workout, run at a faster pace, add a little stair climbing or jog a few minutes longer. If you're determined to add some weight, save up for a weighted vest. They're designed to strap securely to your body and prevent chaffing while allowing your arms and legs to move freely.

Chin-up or pull-up bars seem like another easy home project. In fact, there are several plans offered online describing how to make a pull-up bar that can be used without drilling any holes in the wall. It's a great idea, but homemade doesn't mean it's cheap. After adding together all the pieces, the cost comes to $40 and that's before considering your time.

You can purchase a brand new professionally built pull-up bar for less than $40 and the same bars sell for under $20 used. Look for companies like Altus, Creative Fitness, Everlast, Iron Gym and Valeo. They all make adjustable pull-up bars that can be used in doorways without drilling, screwing or nailing anything.

If you're having a tough time, there are plenty of ways to save a few dollars, but homemade weights aren't one of them. Putting your personal safety at risk isn't worth the little bit of money you may save.

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beginning any diet or exercise program.