Improve Strength, Tone Muscle, and Increase Flexibility + Explosiveness: Dual-Handle Weight Bag




When shaping up, people usually take a three-headed approach: increasing strength, raising basal metabolic rate (BMR), and changing diet.
Increasing strength can be accomplished through resistance training with free weights; raising BMR through cardio.
But equally important 
This Instructable will outline the steps to make an easy, low-cost means to resistance train with high repetition to increase muscle fatigue and keep the heart rate elevated.

We call it what it is: Dual-Handle Weight Bag (for lack of a catchier name... any suggestions?)

It's part dumbbell, part medicine ball, part yoga sand bag, and part kettlebell.
Allowing you strength train, stability train, improve flexibility and explosiveness, simply and fluidly.

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Step 1: Materials

For this weighted bag we used the following:
- thick, durable canvas fabric
- synthetic straps (we removed ours from a cheap give-away bag from a conference)
- zipper (also from the conference bag)
- a zip-top bag full of grain (buckwheat is the best as it's hypoallergenic; we used 5 lb. of rice)

note: we also have cord in the photo, which we were going to use in the handles for added comfort but opted against it... they're comfortable enough.

Step 2: Cut Out a Circle

First, fold the piece of fabric over in half. Next, we outlined a circle on the fabric using a pot cover. Our circle ended up having a diameter of 12 in. We found this fit our 5 lb. bag of rice quite well, though there was some extra space. We speculate that a 10 lb. bag could be stuffed in here.

Pin both halves of fabric together and cut out along the line.

Step 3: Decide Where the Zipper Will Go; Attach the Handles

Next up is to decide where the zipper will be attached. Lay the zipper around the circumference where you want and mark off with a pen the edges of the zipper. This will indicate where to sew the bag together.

After this we attached the straps which will become the handles. Keep in mind that these will be attached to the outside so flip the fabric inside-out and pin the straps; first on one side, then the other.
Sew the straps to the fabric. We used a V-stitch for extra durability. Clean up any long threads if you wish.

Step 4: Sew the Halves Together

Next we sewed the two halves together. Flip the two halves inside out again and tuck the straps away from the edge. 
Sew around the circumference about 1/2 in. from the edge of the fabric. Sew the areas outside of the area that you designated for the zipper. Again we used a V-stitch for extra durability. We also double stitched the seem again to add extra strength.

Step 5: Zipper Time

Attaching the zipper is a little complex and difficult for us to describe well. We'll try our best.
First, pin one side to one half of fabric (along the inside). Then pin the other side. We also rolled the fabric over before pinning it to make a nice clean edge. Next, 

Step 6: Making the Handles

Next we made the handles by attaching the two straps together. 
Place one strap over the other so that they overlap and sew them together along all edges.
Repeat with the other side to make the other handle.

Step 7: Add the Weight

We used 5 lb. of rice but feel free to use any other dry good. Buckwheat is a good hypoallergenic option.
The bag is suitable to hold up to 10 lb.

Step 8: And Done...

Zip up the cover and now the bag is complete for a workout.

Use it as a dumbbell to work your biceps and triceps. Toss it like a medicine ball to work your core. Swing it like a kettlebell to  improve your explosiveness. Attach it to a belt for added weight. Use it as a sand bag to help stretch.

It's lighter weight for lots of reps.
It's versatile so you can circuit train and perform one exercise after another to get your heart rate up.
It's soft so you can feel safe using it around kids or pets or to lie on like a pillow after your workout.

Step 9: Exercises

Since the bag is not necessarily beautiful to look at, we recruited an (80's style) model to show it off.

Bicep curls, Skull crushers (triceps), Flys (chest), Bent over row (back), raises (shoulders, squats and leg raise (quads), leg curls (hamstring, glutes), seated oblique twist (core), looking jacked!

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    16 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    My trainer recommended a golf ball massage roller and biosteel supplements for recovery. The roller really is awesome if you want to increase flexibility, really helped me. Check it out!


    5 years ago

    this may not all be an active thread since everything I'm seeing was 2011 but couldn't you just fill it before closing and eliminate the zipper altogether?


    8 years ago on Step 7

    The idea of the bag is a good one, as far as it goes, however five to ten pounds of stuff in the bag is insufficient for strengthening any major muscle group. This could work if you added more weight to it so greater benefits would result in using it at home.

    If you made a simple change to the bag by adding a longer, sturdier handle it could be swung around over the top of your head in large circles. You would then have a great center torso trainer.

    A shorter handle will make it into a kettle bell.

    Handles on the side would turn it into a nice outfit to use on your planks, or Russian twist exercises.

    Nice idea, keep up the good work.


    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    thanks for the comment and suggestions.

    the light weight is good for high reps and moving from one exercise to another i.e. getting the heart rate up.

    but i agree 5 - 10lbs is light for strengthening major groups. i suppose it's just a limitation of the materials i had on hand. 5-10lbs are still good for some core exercises, anterior/later raises, forearm work, etc...

    i have been working on a 25 - 30 lb model. which i will append to this 'ible once complete.

    Cdn Sapperbutterbeans

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Love the idea and I'm gonna do one.
    I dunno about light weight not strengthening major muscle groups, I work in heavy construction and swinging a ten pound sledge for hours to demolish concrete, or lifting sheetrock repetetively sure is a huge don't get "big" though like bodybuilders. And no disrespect to the athletes who participate in powerlifting and bodybuilding (an endurance sport in its own right) but few people benefit from the ability to lift engineblocks 8-10times, but everyone can benefit from working with lighter weights regularily.
    Strength has so many facets.


    8 years ago on Step 9

    I'm only thinking this through in my head, but wouldn't it be easier to install the zipper as you would in a clothing item, by closing the seam, laying the zipper on the closed seam and stitching it in, then opening the seam to reveal the zipper? This would be done, of course, before stitching the other half of the circle closed. You'd be working with a semi-flat seam area this way. Might this work better? Otherwise, excellent sturdy construction! I like this idea. And it's washable!

    4 replies

    i'm an amateur in stitchery so I've never heard of this trick before.
    Thanks for the tip! I'll definitely try this next time!!

    I'm utterly challenged sewingly, and have to say it's not immediately obvious to me how to apply that tutorial to sewing a zipper to the side of a ball!


    8 years ago on Step 9

    brilliant idea, however muscular tone cannot be changed by exercise.


    8 years ago on Step 9

    Brilliant multi use of a riced-filled bag. even if one accidentally drops it on their toes, it would not hurt too much. I love the triceps workout, it's always so hard trying got concentrate on the work out when my hards are gripping on the weights so hard, that I loose feeling on my fingers. Thank you for a wonderful idea.

    ~ Sharon


    8 years ago on Introduction

    That is an absolute beauty and an amazingly versatile weight! I applaud your creative combination of systems out there. I have very nice pebbles on the beach at my house which are just begging to be put to a good use like that.

    That's awesome! Good use for all the leftover white rice in the house if your new diet calls for brown rice instead!