DIY adjustable kettlebell!
3 Easy Steps To Build Your Own Adjustable Kettlebell Handle For Heavy Swinging
Alec Enkiri | 6/1/20
Alright! People have been asking for this one for a while now so here we go! As many of you know, I love my heavy swings! Swinging is an absolutely fantastic exercise for building posterior chain strength & resilience, as well as for building MASSIVE hip extension power that is directly transferable to sport and athletics. I've talked about the benefits of swinging extensively on my YouTube channel in the past few years, as well as in this in-depth article right here on my web site.
Since I've already covered the myriad of benefits of this exercise I won't go over them again here today. What I do want to do though is show you how to build the exact same T-handle that I use for my own swinging workouts.
Traditional kettlebells are great. They allow you to perform a whole host of highly effective exercises that you can't necessarily replicate with a barbell or dumbbells. The problem is that they are not adjustable and they are not cheap. To accrue an arsenal of kettlebells required to progressively overload a specific exercise would not only be very expensive, but it would also take up a lot of space. Lastly, even if you did buy up the entire set of kettlebells it still would not necessarily provide for ideal weight jumps from one week of training to the next. My solution to this conundrum is to build yourself a T-handle.
I'll preface this by saying that the T-handle is by no means a perfect replacement for traditional kettlebells or anything like that. In fact, unlike with normal kettlebells, the only exercise you can really do with it is heavy swings. Fortunately, however, heavy swings are probably the most beneficial thing you can do with a kettlebell anyway and most people are still sleeping on this exercise altogether! Plus, with the T-handle you can load the implement with whatever weight is most appropriate for you to start with based on your strength levels, and from there you can progressively overload and even make micro-adjustments to the implement as low as just one pound! This effectively solves the adjustability issue present with normal kettlebells and turns the swing into a super effective exercise that can be used to build strength, muscle, and power in the oft neglected muscles of the posterior chain.
And all it takes to build this T-handle is a couple pieces of cheap plumbing pipe that can be purchased from any hardware store for less than $15 in total.
None! (Channel Lock pliers can be helpful though)
A. (1) 3/4 in. x 12 in. steel nipple (to be the loading sleeve)
B. (2) 3/4 in. x 3 in. steel nipples (to be the handles)
C. (1) 3/4 in. black iron tee (to connect the handles to the loading sleeve)
D. (1) 3/4 black iron cap (to act as a collar and prevent the weights from falling off the bottom of the implement)
As a quick note, I built my original T-handle using 3/4 inch materials because I had plenty of standard 1 inch hole plates lying around my garage to load it with. The 3/4 piping fits most 1 inch hole plates perfectly (I say most because, unfortunately, I have a pair of 25lbs plates that just don't fit the damn thing). If you want to build your T-handle to be able to hold exclusively 2 inch plates then you will need to use 1.5 inch piping, as the outside diameter of 1.5 inch piping fits most 2 inch plates pretty well, in my experience (this is the size pipe I used to build my dragging sled). Either way, I recommend bringing a 2.5lbs plate to the store with you when you go to make your purchases as that way you can check to make the sure that the pipe you are going to buy will work with the brand of plates you have.
Secure (2) Piece B to the left and right side of Piece C.
Secure each Piece B (the 3 inch nipples) to the left and right side of Piece C (the iron tee). Give them a good tighten by hand and if you aren't confident that they are tight enough then grab a pair of channel lock pliers and give them another half a turn or so. The last thing you want is for your implement to come undone while you are swinging a heavy weight around, so make sure all the pieces are secure before every use!
Secure Piece D (the iron cap) to the bottom side of Piece A (the 12 inch nipple). Again, be sure to give it a good tighten and use a pair of pliers if you think it needs to be tightened further.
Secure Piece D to the bottom of Piece A.
This piece is the loading sleeve that you will slide the weights onto. The cap on the bottom acts as the collar and prevents the weights from slipping off the underside of the pipe as you swing. Personally, I never loosen this piece. Before every set I check it to make sure it is still snug, but I never loosen it. The only piece I ever remove is the iron tee where it connects to the top of the loading handle (the 12 inch nipple) so that I can add/remove weight from the implement.
Secure Piece C to Piece A.
And finally, secure the underside of Piece C (the iron tee) to the topside of Piece A (the 12 inch nipple). Give it a good twist and your T-handle is now ready to rock!
Pretty darn straightforward if you ask me. Like I mentioned in Step 2, from here on out the only piece that ever needs to be loosened is the underside of Piece C from the topside of Piece A (literally the reverse of Step 3). All other connections should be checked prior to EVERY set to make sure they are snug and there is no risk of the implement coming apart during use. The Piece C to Piece A junction should be tightly secured after the desired weight has been loaded onto the implement.
Once you have assembled your implement it is helpful to wrap the handles (Piece B) with athletic tape. Obviously these pipes have no knurling so the tape can provide a little bit of tack for your hands to make the implement easier to grip during this ballistic activity, as well it can serve to cushion some of the edges of the pipe which can potentially cause discomfort to the hands.
Personally, I have found wrapping the handles with tape to be a bit of a game changer here in both aforementioned respects. Don't be shy when wrapping the thing up.
Here it is in action! 275lbs on the implement here and still going strong.
So there ya go! All told, this thing will take you probably two minutes to assemble and it will cost you less than $15 in materials. I originally built mine in 2015 and the damn thing is still going strong even though this past year I have started loading it up heavier than ever. Soon I'll be eclipsing the 300lbs mark! My hamstrings are bigger, stronger, and more powerful than ever before, I'm poised to hit another short sprint PR in the near future, and with just 3 weeks of training on it so far my stiff legged deadlift numbers have DRAMATICALLY eclipsed my old bests on the exercise even though I haven't done any deadlifting in almost 2 years. All coincidences? Perhaps....but I highly, highly doubt it. So if you're still sleeping on this exercise after this then I give up!
And hey, if you enjoy little tidbits like how to easily and economically build this piece of homemade equipment or my blog post detailing how to build your own weight sled for dragging and sprinting, then please support the production of more of this free content by grabbing up one of my training templates. The templates range from novice to late intermediate and are designed to be re-used over and over again. They aren't just cookie cutter training programs, but rather frameworks for how to assemble a proper training program to build strength, muscle mass, and power. The possible number of program permutations that can be created out of each template are pretty much endless. The positive feedback that I've received on them up to this point has been immense!
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