How I Scored Brand New Crossfit Equipment for $8

Hint: The $8 was for duct tape.

I’m chubby. The gurus say good health, energy, and longevity depend (in large part) on the Picking Up and Putting Back Down of Heavy Things. Apparently lifting heavy objects has all kinds of fat burning, nervous-system stimulating, joint healing, mind-bending, joy-creating benefits.

Because I loathe gyms and I’m on a budget, I decided to build my own heavy-lifting equipment. Naturally, I turned to man’s greatest creation: duct tape.

Stolen Sand + Old Sheet + Duct Tape = Mark, Buff

Pay close attention – this gets complicated:

1. Steal 35 to 75 pounds of sand from your kids’ (or the neighbor kids’) sandbox.* Combine three or four trash bags (one inside the other), then dump the stolen sand into the bags. Use a bathroom scale to get the weight of the bag approximately where you want it.

*Be stealthy. These two caught me in the act, and I had to promise them room and board  until age 18 in exchange for materials and labor. I’ve never been much of a negotiator.


2. Seal the trash bags’ openings with duct tape.

3. Put the trash bags in an old pillow case, towel, or sheet, and encase the whole mess in duct tape. Tightly wrapping the tape produces something along the lines of a sand kettlebell:


…while a loose covering creates a more traditional sandbag:


Both are useful; they weigh the same.

And finally, the hero shot – in which I make a dumb looking face and my wife takes a picture of my elbow (but you get a sense of the final product):


Voila. You’re now ready to perform the key lifting exercises that Crossfit nuts are so gaga about:

  • Squats – keep a straight back, knees behind toes!
  • Dead lifts – again, keep a straight back!
  • Shoulder Press – watch your head.
  • “Get ups” – throw the bag over your shoulder, lay on the ground, then get up. It’s ridiculously hard.

I tried out the new equipment this morning, and after about five minutes I was completely gassed. My hands were especially fatigued (one of the main benefits of sandbag work, it turns out).

*Make sure you use your new fitness power tool safely and effectively! I’ve found the forums at Mark’s Daily Apple very helpful for workouts and best practices.

Mixed in with some pushups, pull-ups, sit-ups, walking, and running – I’m told you have all you need to be extremely fit.

Who’s up for a budgeters’ fitness challenge?

18 Responses to “How I Scored Brand New Crossfit Equipment for $8”

    • mark

      Happy to help! If you actually take the time to put a couple of these bags together, I think you’ll surprised at how effective they are.

  1. saveourskills

    If you want a great “Zero equipment” fitness regime google search “Max Capacity Training” Like crossfit it is a HIIT workout (High intensity interval training)

    The other big player in the “Free workout” game is bodyrock.tv and zuzka light

    Thanks for sharing the homemade sandbags.. I might try that out. Also Mark’s Daily Apple is one of my favorites.

    • mark

      There were fun to make! Thanks for the zero equipment recommendations.

  2. Phyl

    Meh… I guess it’s good but I personaly bought “power blocks” cause I’m doing more than just crossfit… and I think it would be pretty hard to do curls and over head shoulder press with those sand bags. Anyways… Power blocks aren’t cheap (like the U-90 can go for around 300$ for both) and the straight bar can for for about 120$… but whats fun is that you get from 1 to 50lbs in incrementation of 2.5lbs. So instead of wasting 800$+ on dumbells and 500$+ on bar weight… you get everything for about 450$. Not cheap but still better! :D

    • mark

      Yeah, it would be very hard to do curls with a sandbag, but we’re talking about a totally different exercise philosophy. I’m not really going for a physique that would require curls. I’m looking for my belly to press less urgently against my pants. I’m told big movements (squats, etc) are better for fat burning and overall fitness.

      • Phyl

        Sorry for my bad English, since English isn’t my main =X

        I’m almost a nutritionist (haven’t completed school yet, but still have good results with friends, family and myself) that has a major in kinesio (personal trainer) and let me tell you something… if you want to lose fat you want to change or revist your cookbook, not necessarly your lifestyle.

        There is only 3 ways to lose fat:

        1. Add muscles. By adding muscles you lose more calories per hour doing notting but living,…. but you have to get at least 1g of protein per lean muscle mass in your diet, cause you’ll lose your lean muscle mass and than you will stop loosing weight and also, the more you add muscle, the more you’ll want to eat since you’ll need energy to fuel those guns!

        2. Do 60~70% HR/MAX cardio (not resistance training) at least 45mins a day, EVERYDAY!!! In which you should burn around 600~800 calories… but again… in order to complete those trainings, you’ll probably need to eat a bit more carbs than what you ant to eat.

        3. Calculate your Maintenance calories and start weighting and logging your calories intake (thats the fastest and easiest way to lose weight and it works 100% of the time). Doesn’t require anything besides a brain, http://www.myfitnesspal.com (or any loggers, or even a handbook would do) and about 20~30mins per day.

        That being said, to each their own… and i’m not saying sports, workouts, crossfit, etc, isn’t good for you. I’m just saying you’re not making it easy on you if you want to lose fat.

        Here is a quote I like: Think of the bicycle analogy. The two wheels on a bicycle represent exercise training and nutrition. If one is faulty or inadequate, then you will end up with a dysfunctional bicycle. Sports nutrition and exercise training are intimately related. You can not provide good information on one aspect without knowing the other. Furthermore, sports nutrition is NOT the sole purview of exercise physiologists or dietitians. Sports nutrition is its own unique field that requires academic and real-world specialization and training.

        So… I’ll finish by saying: I wish you success and I hope you live an healthy life for many years to come! :)

      • mark

        Thanks for the tips! I hear you on the diet issue. They tell me 80% of fitness is nutrition, so I’ll have to eat better if I want to feel better.

      • Phyl

        Just stick with Tuna, Sockeye, Turkey, Chicken Breast, Eggs, Greek Yogurt, Almond, Skim or Soy Milk, Green veggies (asparagus, celery, brocoli, etc), yams/sweet potato, brown (or basmati) rice, berries, banana and WATER! :)

        Stay as far as you can from pop, fruit juice and all the trans/sat fat :)

  3. Debt RoundUp

    There is thinking outside the box. You don’t need a gym to get fit, you don’t even need expensive equipment. Nice work Mark!

    • mark

      Thanks Grayson! I’ll have to post an update about whether these things a) get used and b) give me the desired result.

  4. JM

    Awesome! I love DIY at-home gym projects. My two cents for a more “indestructible” bag:
    – if you’re concerned about a mess, then use two contractor bags (which are usually at least 3mm thick); they’ll last longer than a regular trash bag and won’t require as much duct tape (although duct taping all of it is half of the awesomeness…)
    – if you want to “splurge”, then use rubber mulch instead of sand. don’t make the mistake of using a sandbag that spills sand in your garage…been there done that haha and I learned an invaluable lesson! I think the rubber mulch I bought was roughly $3-5 for a 20 pound bag. It’s a little bigger than sand at less weight, so a few together in a canvas duffel bag is awesome for carries (bear hugs, farmers carries, etc.)

    • Absotively

      I think contractor bags are 3 mil thick, not 3 mm.

      (3 mil = 3 thousandths of an inch; 3 mm ~= 1/8 in)

      • mark

        I’m already anticipating the day when the thing explodes all over my basement floor! Hopefully encasing it in plastic bags and the old sheet will protect me – and I also plan to add a layer of duct tape every month or so, as I see the original layer show wear or weak spots.

  5. Malisa

    If you don’t want to ‘borrow’ sand, it’s pretty budget-friendly to buy too. I just bought some for an outdoor project. I think it was $3.68 for 50#. I was told to buy 5 or 6 bags. Of course, I bought 6. I ended up only needing 2. A family member who’s also going to be doing a sand-needing project offered to buy the extras off of me. Maybe I should keep one?

    • mark

      I didn’t realize it was so cheap to buy by the bag like that. I called the local quarry (about 10 minutes from my house) and was told that I could have a whole pickup truck load of masonry sand for $40 (which I’ll use to replenish what I stole from my kids).

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