How to Use Water Jugs as Weights

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Dumbbells and kettlebells may still be hard to come by, but containers of water are widely available and nearly free. The trick is finding something that’s the right weight, without being too awkward. In this week’s instalment of our improvised equipment challenge, we’ll be working out with water jugs.

If you’ve heard the suggestion to use water bottles as weights, it probably only took you a few minutes to realise water bottles are ludicrously light. If you’re a small person, and doing hundreds of reps, then maybe. But most of us, for most purposes, will have to go heavier.

Here are two handy conversion factors that will help you select the right weight:

  • One gallon of water weighs a smidge over 8 pounds (8.34, to be more exact).
  • One litre of water (1000 mL) weighs one kilogram (2.2 pounds).

From these numbers, you can get a pretty good idea of what a given container will weigh when full:

  • A water bottle (500 mL, or half a litre) weighs about a pound.
  • A wine bottle (750 mL) carries 1 kg’ worth of water, plus a bit of weight from the bottle itself.
  • A two-litre soda bottle weighs 2 kg.
  • A gallon jug weighs 4 kg.
  • A five-gallon jug or bucket will hold 19 kg of water — let’s call it 42.

To make the perfect weights, though, you don’t just need the right amount of water. You also need a container that isn’t awkward as hell to lift. It’s worth reconsidering specific exercises to find ones that work with whatever containers you have on hand. A five-gallon jug isn’t going to be easy to lift by its handle (if it even has one) but you could hug it to your chest and do squats or lunges.

Another handy way to use water as a weight is to fill a backpack or duffel bag with bottles of water. The bag provides the handles, and the water provides the weight.

Ready for an upgrade? Fill your bottles with playground sand instead. That half-litre water bottle will weigh 2 kg when full of sand, perfect for a Jane Fonda video.

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