How to Convert Hand Weights to Kettlebells


No matter what sort of equipment you're using, regular strength training burns calories, boosts bone density, increases muscle mass and decreases your risk of heart disease. Kettlebells are a particularly effective means of strengthening your muscles and your heart at the same time -- but these dense, heavy weights can cost a bit, especially for shipping. Before you run out and buy one or more, consider whether you can save a few bucks by transforming the dumbbells you already own into kettlebells -- or at least kettlebell facsimiles.

Things You'll Need

  • 3, 3- to 4-inch lengths of 1.5-inch diameter PVC
  • 2 PVC elbows, 90-degree bends
  • PVC primer
  • PVC cement
  • 2, 6-foot lengths of climbing cordage

DIY Handle

  • Tie a knot on a bight -- preferably a figure eight knot -- in one end of the piece of cordage.

  • Put the free end of the cordage through the bight you just tied, creating a loop. Place this loop around one side of the dumbbell handle -- inside the weight plate -- and snug it down. One side of the cordage is now secured to one side of the dumbbell handle.

  • Apply PVC primer to both ends of one straight PVC length, one end of each of the other two straight lengths, and both interiors of the PVC elbows. Dry fit the PVC lengths and elbows into a "U" shape, with the double-primed piece in the middle of the "U," to test the arrangement. Then apply cement to one joint at a time, holding each joint in place for 60 seconds to cure.

  • Thread the free end of the cord through the PVC "U" you created and snug the "U"-shaped handle down against your dumbbell. Pull the cordage tight and duplicate the figure-eight-on-a-bight knot at this end of the handle, using the first figure eight you tied as a template. This secures the free end of the cordage to the other side of the dumbbell, ultimately securing the handle to the dumbbell as well.

    If retracing a figure eight knot to secure the free end of the cordage is too challenging, you can use a triple fisherman's bend to secure the free end of the cordage. In either case, leave a tail of 3 to 4 inches and frequently check the knots to verify that they are secure.

Alternative Methods

  • Grip the hand weight securely by one end. Sometimes this is all you have to do to turn a perfectly balanced dumbbell into the same sort of deliberately off-balance weight you'll get from a kettlebell. Holding a dumbbell this way isn't quite as comfortable as holding the handle of a purpose-built kettlebell, but it's more than adequate for common kettlebell exercises like swings and windmills.

  • Attach a clamp-on kettlebell handle to your dumbbell. These metal handles fasten securely to the dumbbell's bar, allowing you to swing it around like a kettlebell. A purpose-built handle is sturdier than a homemade handle, but you should still inspect it closely before every use.

  • Convert an adjustable dumbbell set that uses weight plates -- essentially, miniature barbells -- into a kettlebell by purchasing a stand-alone, adjustable kettlebell handle that accepts the same weight plates. Just take the plates off your adjustable dumbbell, attach them to the kettlebell handle, clamp them securely into place, and away you go.

  • Use the dumbbell just as it is, gripping it by the handle as usual. This works for a few kettlebell exercises including high pulls, Turkish get-ups, farmer carries and snatches. Although the dumbbell's balanced weight will provide a slightly different feel than working with a deliberately imbalanced kettlebell, it still provides effective resistance for these exercises.

Tips & Warnings

  • Double-check your knots and cordage before every use. Using kettlebells requires you to be alert to the risk of dropping the weight or letting it slip out of your hand; using a dumbbell that's been adapted into a kettlebell, even more so. Safety is ultimately your responsibility. The heavier the dumbbell you're adapting, the thicker the cordage and the stouter the pipe handle you will need.
  • If you're unsure of your knot-tying capability or your materials' ability to safely support the dumbbell, consider using one of the alternative methods instead.

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