Circus Dumbbells for the Home Gym Made Cheap and Easy

About 22″ long and 15 pounds as shown.

The circus dumbbell. A challenge modern strength trainees have rediscovered in recent years, and one the old time strongmen implemented regularly in their workouts.

If you aren’t familiar with the circus dumbbell, this is a long, thick (and thin) -handled dumbbell with large balls on either end. The balls have removable plugs covering holes which were used to fill them with lead shot. Resistance could be increased fractionally, and fully loaded they were serious weights. The circus dumbbell was often longer than today’s dumbbells, but shorter than a barbell.

With any luck we’ll soon have a commercial version or two to choose from, but for now one usually has to create a design and fabricate some parts. This can be costly, especially if you want an exact historical replica, so I came up with a simple, no-brainer homemade circus dumbbell anyone can make-as long as they have the parts.

You will need:

-Standard sized weight plates
-1″ x 10-12″ galvanized steel nipple
-Two 1″-3/4″ coupling reducers
-Two 3/4″x 4″galvanized steel nipples
-Two 3/4″ end caps.

(About $23 dollars without the weight plates.)

-Assemble the reducers to either end of the 10″ steel nipple.
-Screw the 3/4″ nipples to the reducer ends
-Slide on the desired amount of weight, followed by a 3/4″ end cap. Do one side at a time to prevent slippage.

A couple of notes:

-Be sure to wipe these parts down before you use them, unless you like having dirty hands.
-Adjust the size of the bars to your preference. I wanted to go thicker, but my Home Depot didn’t have the parts at the  time.

So for example, for a circus dumbbell with a 2″ handle:

-Olympic sized weight plates
-2″ x 10-12″ galvanized steel nipple
-Two 2″x 1 1/2″ coupling reducers
-Two 1 1/2″ x 6″ galvanized steel nipples
-Two 1 1/2″ end caps.
This would make for a more substantial weight, both in terms of the weight it can hold, the length and the increased grip challenge. It would also cost a few bucks more. But then again, you can put it together and be lifting within 2 or 3 minutes.
Keep in mind that if the plates don’t fill up the exposed steel nipple space, there will be some shifting. Be sure to tighten all parts down well, just to be safe. If the slipping gets annoying, try putting a short piece of pvc pipe over the steel nipple (leaving room for the plates of course.) 
So there it is. If you can buy the parts, you can make a circus dumbbell as fast as you please. Is it worth it? Consider the exercises you can do with it:
-Bent Press
-One arm snatch, clean and jerk
-One arm overhead press
-Turkish Get-Up
…and so on.
Go ahead, make yourself a circus dumbbell. This is going to be fun. 

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