A Salmon Ladder is one of those things I'd almost forgotten about until I saw the ads for the television series Arrow, where he's putting one to work. I'd love to build one for the home gym here (or more likely, the backyard) - but how? There are a couple of basic approaches.
I'll detail those in a minute, but first, a spot of history :
Think of a Salmon Ladder as an extra challenging pull-up variation, with a little kipping and plyometrics thrown in. The video below will show you exactly what it is.
As for the origin : as far as I can tell, the first time a Salmon Ladder was shown to the world was in competition 18 of Sasuke (shown in many countries as 'Ninja Warrior'); held in Spring 2007. The course was greatly modified following competition 17 (which was considered 'too easy' by some), and a number of new obstacles - notably the Salmon Ladder - were introduced.
To give you a taste, here's the Salmon Ladder being tackled admirably in a later Sasuke competition (Sasuke 27) :
As you can see, it's a fairly simple idea; though certainly a challenging obstacle. In fact, the first time it appeared in a Sasuke competition, only 50% of the entrants succeeded in negotiating it.
But if you're finding it tough to get time to work out or you're frustrated that every time you go to use something it's taken, then maybe a home gym is in the cards for you. I really couldn't stand it when guys would be using a piece of equipment and would take 5 minute breaks between each set to talk to their buddies. I'm knowledgeable enough to find something else similar to do when that happens but not everyone is.
So I finally got tired enough of paying gym memberships and always having to wait to use certain equipment and started collecting equipment that I could use at home. The gym I have now, in my opinion, is perfect but it didn't come all together right away. Unless you have a bundle of cash to burn it takes a bit of time to build up a collection of all the equipment you need.
Here's how I started: I bought dumbbells and a bench.
Another brilliantly simple dose of DIY goodness from 'Mighty Joe' Musselwhite. Love it.
I think I've discovered a new word for Webster's Dictionary: GripWalking. My word processor doesn't like it. Well for a number of years carrying small (or large) weights for distance has been used by strength enthusiasts. The "Farmers Walk" is a familiar strongman (300+ lbs) exercise, although I have heard of carrying a "Fat Man" Blob (end of a 100 lb Roundhead 50+ lbs) about 91 feet. As hunter-gatherers 50,000 yrs ago we certainly carried spears and rocks as weapons, so we're made to do this.
That's a bit much for my term GripWalking. I'm talking about < 15 lbs in one hand at a time, switching hands, and walking a couple of miles. Small dumbbells <5 lbs have been used to walk with, although they are held in the usual fashion not requiring a persistent grip effort.
The most common form is to carry 1 or 2 lbs in each hand, not much for gripping. If you bump up the weight (5 to 10 lbs), use a round object that requires grip effort, now you're talking about GripWalking. I've started this after training with many grip tools: hand crushers up to 250#, Blobs, plates sideways, and balls 3" to 5". Various GripWalking objects are seen in this photo:
The steel ball bearings are what I use but are somewhat pricey. They are also used for massage of sore muscles. I started with a 3.5" ball bearing @ 6.4 lbs and have worked up to a 4" @ 9.5 lbs. I have a 5" @ 18.5 lbs, but can't hold it long enough, establishing my limits for GripWalking. Here's what I do normally:
To build this sled, you will need to a few items that you may even have lying around your garage or hanging out in your basement under some laundry!
You will need:
This is all you need to make this functional piece of equipment!
In this half of a two-part series, I'm going to look at some simple ways to build yourself a sandbag using cheap supplies and an afternoon of labor. Part two of the series will discuss training philosophy, technique and program design.
Sand is still the classic option for filling a bag, and it is easy to find when you need more. The trade off is clean up, which can be a hassle if the bag breaks. You will need a large volume of sand to make a very heavy bag, but that's not a big deal. When I built my home-made sandbag, all I did was go down to the beach and swipe some. Didn't spend a dime.
We've seen a number of new items since last year's roundup, and here are just a few of my favourites :
An early home-made version of the squatting circle (referred to as the 'Hula Hoop' by Joseph Hise) later marketed by Peary Rader as the 'Magic Circle'.
MMA strength coach Kevin Wikse demonstrating a modified 70lb Mace. Nice one.
More DIY squat goodness - this time using a few home-made plates. Nice one.
Love a spot of outdoor training? How's this for a low budget home-made climbing course. Love it.
Demonstrating the incredible versatility of a couple of steel drums, The Pound. Nice one.
Another DIY project joins the queue - this time it'll be a pair of handles like this. Good stuff.
Continuing the DIY theme - how about a couple of home-made prowlers?
Looking for a DIY project for the weekend? This is a great idea.
Rob puts up some great DIY videos, and this is no exception. Good stuff.
Bill Long's home-made Viking Press. Looks great.
IronMind.com sells an excellent hub lifting device called the Hub-Style Pinch Gripper. With a 2 and 7/8 inch gripping surface that is as slick as greased cow snot, this is one challenging grip training device. I have one of these implements and train on it from time to time. My best lift on it in pounds is only in the 50's. According to the IronMind page, with a lift in the 50's I'm "doing great," but if I hit 75 pounds, I should give them a call. I am in agreement. Big lifts on this device are earned, for sure. The standard way of lifting with the IronMind Hub, as I call it, is just simply attaching the V-shaped connection on the bottom of an implement to a carabiner, attached to a weighted loading pin or JumpStretch band. The IronMind Hub is a widely recognized standard for hub pinching implements, but other companies also sell them, including John Beatty at FatBastardBarbellCo.com.
Many grip strength enthusiasts also enjoy building their own grip strength implements from scratch. Recently, my good friend, Brad Martin, whom you have seen in many great video clips on the DieselCrew.com site, took the time to devise his own hub lifting implement. The list of items you'll need to make your own set-up is very short:
A coffee can, concrete and a steel pole. Perfect.
Since you may not want to cut up your good dumbbells, you can go to a garage sale and pick up someone's old rusted or banged up weights. To make a block weight, simply use a hacksaw to cut off the end of your chosen dumbbell. Make sure to place the hacksaw blade as close to the head of the weight as you can. Ensuring the proper blade placement will prevent excess grinding of any possible raw ends. Be patient because it will take you awhile to get through the handle. At least this will give you a good workout!
When training with the block weight, you will be using one hand at a time. Your thumb will be the main support while lifting the weight. Your index and middle finger will be the opposing force. Even though your ring finger and pinky can wrap around the weight, they will provide little force for the pinch on this type of weight. Still you will need to use them while you lift the weight. To help prevent slippage, put some chalk on the sides and top of the weight. Remember to chalk your hands up good too. Bend down and pinch the weight, putting the weight deep into the crook of your thumb and index finger. Wrap the rest of your fingers on the other side of the weight and pinch down hard. Stand erect with the weight once you are upright set the weight back down.
More DIY goodness from Ross Enamait - here he demonstrates a home-made T-Handle. Good stuff.
This is high on my list of DIY gym projects for 2009 - a Climbing Cave. Looks great.
In the last few years the 'mounted' wrist-roller has appeared and offers a solution. Usually consisting of a bar which can slide over a barbell or a pin in a power-rack, it takes out the supporting element of wrist-rolling and lets you really hammer your lower arms.
The downside? Cost.
This doesn't have to be a problem though - here's a guide to making your very own power-rack mounted wrist-roller:
Via Jason : inexpensive, quick and effective. DIY JumpSoles.
Don't have a cable setup in your home gym? Scooby shows how to make one. Love it.
I love speed deadlifts (or any deadlift variation for that matter), and this is a simple way to set them up. Good stuff.
Steve Maxwell and a freshly-made gada (mace). Nice one.
I love building all kinds of training equipment (and things in general, for that matter). Here's a brief look at just some of the DIY gym gear we've noted over the years :
Kat knocks up a DIY rack for JS&R. Nice one.
Heavy bag not quite hard enough? Try using a fridge.
Ready to construct your own Olympic lifting platform? Here's how.
Still on the blob theme; here's a very interesting training tool. Great idea.
Steve Maxwell with a great solution for building your own clubs - a plastic Wiffle Bat with a screw-top lid. Perfect.
Most of you have probably heard of the fat bar (or thick bar). It can be anywhere from 2"-3" in diameter and it will break you. There are many advantages to the fat bar:
Lifting a DIY Basque Stone. Nice one.
This is great - a fat bar with a couple of RT-style rotating collars. Love it.
Via Gymnastics Coaching : home-made P.Boards, or Flat Parallel Bars.
A very interesting pell (sparring dummy) setup.
When it comes to grip training, there's a seemingly endless list (a few suggestions here) of tools you can easily make yourself. This tutorial shows just how simple they can be - a DIY Hub Pinch Block. Love it.
Looking for a quick way to make your own Strongman yoke? Take a look at this.
Wrist-rolling at CrossFit Eastside.
Not quite sure how I missed this one - it's a superbly simple idea. Adam Glass' Backpressure Device. Love it.
Clubs are wonderful things. If you've ever tried sledgehammer levering, you'll be familiar with the concept - a heavy, unstable weight held at a distance; and moved under control. Different tool, similar feeling.
Of course, clubs are used for much more than that. For a peek into their history, and to get an idea of how they are used, take a look at these sites :
The fun - from my point of view, anyway - also comes from the creation of the equipment. I love being able to use gym gear that I've made; it's a particularly satisfying feeling. When it comes to clubs, the thinking's no different. Here's how to make your own clubs.
Before you head down to the nearest hardware store, consider this : there are two basic techniques for making your own clubs - each with their own parts list. Here are the details.
Remember to plug the hole you've just made (using a plastic-friendly glue).
To make the handle a little less slippery, add some duct tape or the wrap used on cricket bats and tennis rackets. If you made the nunchaku, it's the same stuff.
The final weight of the club can be easily adjusted using ankle weights. Just slip them over the handle and push them up as far as they'll go.
What does it take to make your kettlebells a little heavier? Quite a bit of work, actually. Much easier just to go and buy them; where possible.
If you're intent on taking the DIY approach, Charlie Allen discusses the way he did his. Very interesting indeed.
If you've been reading this site for a while, you've probably noticed that there's a fair bit of home-made equipment on here. To make life easier, I've moved it all into a new 'DIY' category.
Here are a few of my favourites :
As you can see, there's no need to let finances get in the way of a good workout.
This month, Run To Win and Straight to the Bar will be looking at the many possibilities when it comes to home-made training equipment. This week, I'll be taking a look at several great conditioning tools - DIY Balls.
Ever tried making your own medicine balls? Stress balls? Juggling balls? Here are a few of my favourites.
These have been made many, many times; the first one I saw was Jim's over at Lean and Hungry Fitness. Jim has the details on the technique, but here's the short version :
There are other combinations of filling that are sometimes used, but this one works well.
A while ago Paul Chek and Bryan Walsh wrote about the idea of a Tornado Ball, which is really just a Medicine Ball and a short cord. Once you've made the Medicine Ball above, grab an old bag or hessian sack and try this (video via the Diesel Crew).
The weekend is definitely construction time around here - particularly where the home gym is concerned. This is my project for the afternoon; Laree Draper's Home-made Agility Ladder. Perfect.
Strength coach Amanda Haren demonstrates that home-made gym equipment doesn't have to be expensive or complex to be effective; knocking up her own suspension trainer. Here's how it's done. Good stuff.
As you may have gathered, I love home-made exercise equipment. This is perhaps most evident when it comes to grip training - definitely a passion. Here, then, are instructions for making your own hand, wrist and grip tools.
If you've ever watched a rock climber at work - or performed a bit of climbing yourself - you'll appreciate just how strong the hands and fingers need to be. Accordingly, several items from climbers' training routines are featured here. Enjoy.
Invented by Wolfgang Güllich, the Campus board is a superb piece of training equipment. The video shows it in action; Metolius is definitely the place to go when it comes to making one. Full instructions on construction and use - and they'll even sell you the stuff if needed.
This is about as simple as it gets. Rice digs are a great way to toughen up your fingers and hands, and make use of equipment you've already got in the kitchen. Grab a large bowl, half fill it with rice; plunge your hands in. Repeat.
Note : if the rice doesn't present enough of a challenge, try using sand, lead shot or any other cheap, granular material. Oh, and don't be tempted to eat the stuff afterwards.
Ever tried holding a pile of bricks by pinch-gripping the bottom one? Ironmind's Stacker performs the same task; letting you adjust the weight easily in small increments. If your welding skills are OK, knock up your own. This video shows a home-made version in action.
One end of the chain is looped through a plate, and 'tied off' using one of the nut+bolt pairs. The other end of the chain is passed through another plate, and held there using the second nut+bolt. The picture at the top of this article show it in use.
Using a DIY version of IronMind's Stacker.
The first device I'd like to introduce is excellent for training open-hand strength. All you need is a ball (preferably a baseball or softball - I use a softball because it is bigger; and the larger the ball, the tougher the lifts will be), duct tape or electrical tape, a threaded eye bolt, and a carabiner or an S-hook.
First, take the ball and wrap the tape around it (as in the picture above). Be careful when you apply the tape. If you take your time, you can make the tape very smooth and it will feel almost like lifting a steel object. If you haphazardly wrap the tape around the ball, there will be a texture on the ball that will make lifts easier.
Got $20 and an hour? Knock up a slosh pipe. Here's one in action.
If you haven't seen one before, the above video shows a couple of the many excellent ways to put it to use. Great thing.
When these exercises are performed correctly in unstable environments, the benefits are exponential. The direct demand and load are increased, plus the instability introduces new angles of force and makes new demands on both large and very small muscle groups. By nature, core strength must develop in order to perform, and overall muscular coordination must develop as well.
Enter handles hung on chains. These are more versatile than their more glamorous cousin - the rings - because they can easily be adjusted into every possibly degree of proximity to one another, and their level of suspension from the floor can easily be manipulated as well. They're not just fixed into a ceiling beam for time immemorial. You can move them as often as you like, even during a work out.
You'll need either one 6' length of chain or two 3' lengths of chain just heavy enough to support your bodyweight (which means they can be surprisingly thin, thanks to modern chain technology), four to six carabiners, and two handles.
You have some selection to decide on with handles. While they'll likely be flat rods across your palm, you can choose whether to have square, round or strap tops. I prefer the kind in which the handle rolls freely over a strap loop; they're the most unstable, lightweight, and inexpensive.
Ready for the next time I drop a plate on my foot.
Has anyone here tried the PVC versions? What were your thoughts?
In part one of this series, I introduced you to the Inch Replica Dumbbell, a 172-pound cast iron dumbbell with a 2.38-inch diameter handle that literally tries to rip your fingers out of their sockets when you try to pick it up.
These Inch Dumbbells are lurking around the countryside, so you must begin preparing now so that when you are confronted with the challenge of lifting the Inch, you will be ready. Here are some of the ways I have prepared to lift the Inch in the past.
THICK BAR TRAINING
The SAID principle (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands) states that the body will respond specifically to how it is trained. With that in mind, in order to train specifically to lift the Inch, I knew I would have to try to replicate the conditions of the Inch dumbbell in my training. Since the handle of the Inch is so large, I knew I needed to include thick-handled implements in my training.
Home Made Inch Loader
When I began training for the Inch, I was on a very limited budget. There were many companies making thick handled loadable dumbbells at the time, but I just didn't have the money lying around to get one. I also did not have the skills to weld myself one, so I made one out of PVC pipe and duct tape.
I took a piece of 2-inch outside diameter PVC pipe about 18 inches long and found the center. There, I began wrapping duct tape around it until it was about 2.5 inches thick. I wrapped 3 of these coils, side-by-side, to make the handle surface. I worked slowly and was very deliberate when I applied the duct tape, and made sure the layers were very smooth - just like the Inch Dumbbell handle itself. These days, I no longer use my original PVC Inch Loader. One day in training I dropped it with about 150 pounds on it and the pipe cracked the sleeves where I load the plates.
As you can see in the picture, the duct tape gripping surface ended up being longer than the inch replica's handle. A longer handle can make a dumbbell much easier to lift, especially if you grip the dumbbell off center, allow it to tilt, and brace the edge of the inside plate against your arm. I always tried to grab it right in the center and keep it as level as possible.
To qualify for the Inch Dumbbell Lift on the Gripboard Records List, you must lift the Inch Dumbbell without excessive tilt. The reason behind this is when the Inch tilts, the globe bell can be braced against the heel of the hand, or even the wrist. By initiating this contact, the athlete can reduce how much the Inch rotates, making the lift easier. To preserve the genuineness of the feat, the rules were modified so that the athlete had to lift it as level as possible. The picture at the left shows the inch being tilted too much to count for an official lift.
You can also make a lift with the duct tape handle easier by placing your thumb or fingertips on the edge of the duct tape, especially if the ends of the tape become rolled. This is not going to do anything for you in the long run, so I suggest being careful when placing your hand on the handle, and making sure you are not getting any assistance from the end of the tape coil.
This inch trainer proved to be a pretty accurate training aid. In fact, the slick duct tape handle, combined with the fact that I wrapped it a bit thicker than the actual Inch handle, has led me to believe that lifting 172 on the loadable would have been tougher than lifting the actual Inch Dumbbell. The beauty of this home-made device was that I could train specifically for the feat at a fraction of the cost.
Steel Thick Loadable Dumbbell
Once I dropped and cracked the PVC inch-loader, I decided it was time to get myself one made out of steel that would hold up to the beatings I would be putting it through.
I recommend getting your Inch-trainer loadable handles from John Beatty at Fat Bastard Barbell Company. His equipment is excellent, his turn-round time is fantastic and he supports and sponsors just about every Grip Contest in the United States and abroad. You can get them right from his website, or you can get them from APT Pro Wrist Straps. The loadables APT sells are made by John Beatty and by getting them from APT, you can support two perennial sponsors of the Diesel Crew's Global Grip Challenge.
And if you want to have a go at making the medicine ball itself, head over to All Around Strength.
Nice and simple. Head over to Nia Kelley's blog for the details.
Well you could buy a set of bumper plates. But this will cost you money. And you end up with twice the amount of plates.
Better is to use 2 old tyres & wheels as bumper plates. Easy & cheap. Here's how to make your own bumper plates.
This is an extremely comprehensive video on constructing your own Nunchaku (also Nunchuku or Nunchucks). Superb.
All Around Strength and Conditioning runs through the process of making your own Paralettes (or should that be Parallettes?). As you can see from the picture, they're certainly nice and sturdy.
Definitely on the list.
Getting hot there yet? Perhaps it's time to knock up a skimboard and cool off.
eHow has the details. Incidentally, a couple of the suggestions made in the comments sound great. If anyone tries them, let me know.
The indoor home gym gets plenty of use at this time of year - especially with the rapid onset of winter here. The old familiars definitely come out to play.
One of these is the overhead press, in its many forms. As there isn't much in the way of headroom (just enough to squeeze in chin-ups, but muscle-ups on the same bar are out of the question) I perform the overhead stuff seated on the bench; usually within the rack.
With any press work like this, the lower back takes a lot of the strain and there's a definite tendency to lean back. To reduce the back work a little and shift the emphasis to the shoulders and upper arms, I use a piece of old kitchen bench-top as a back support. This is heavy, stable and does the job extremely well.
Perhaps not the most complicated piece of DIY gym equipment I use, but certainly one that gets a lot of attention. Now on to the fun part - building up a bit of decent shoulder strength.
I am amazed at the scope and inventiveness of the entries for the DIY Equipment Contest. If you haven't already done so, check them out and comment on any you like. Although the contest itself is over, construction is an ongoing project.
The votes are now in, however, and it's time to announce the winner. They'll be receiving a few things from both the Diesel Crew (and I'm very grateful to them for getting behind this) and Straight to the Bar. Expect an email shortly.
The entry with the most votes was :
Bryan Bramhill's Dip Station
I have to admit, the video for this was superb; showing both the making and use of this heavyweight piece. Fantastic.
Make sure you head over to Saint Wilhelm's and show him your appreciation. It's well deserved.
The DIY Equipment competition has closed, and now it's your chance to help pick a winner. Before making your selection, however, a quick recap of the entries :
Tim McFarland : Tim's also constructed a couple of farmers walk bars.
Rad Man : a power rack.
Chris Rice : Horizontal Pinch Device.
Jason Kirby : Home-made Medicine Ball (soon to be a Tornado Ball).
Tom Moe : an 'Off Helper' for the bench press.
There's some incredibly inventive stuff in there. Which is your favourite? To cast your vote, simply leave a comment below*. Whichever entrant has the largest number of votes by the end of next Friday (June 8th) will be declared the winner - and will receive the prizes shortly afterward. In the case of a tie, I'll cast the deciding vote.
Time to decide the winner - let the voting begin!
* if you're not comfortable leaving your email address, or don't have a website, just put your first name. The vote will still count.
This is part two of two of an article on Heavy sandbag training. In part one I covered specifics of building sandbags but did not talk about training. That is what this, the second part, is for. This article is based on my personal experience with sandbags and I will share with you any mistakes I made in the hope you can avoid the same. This article is geared toward someone who is new to sandbag training and who wants to work with weights from 100lbs and up. For people working with lighter weights, the tips on building sandbags may be helpful but you will find more at any of the online sandbag retailers.
Now you have sandbags. But they don't do you any good until you train:
The basic concept of a sandbag is to pick it up, so that is where you start. Lay the bag on the ground and pick it up. You will find this an interesting challenge as your first time lifting a sandbag. In this simple lift there are unending variations. First, how you chose to build your bag is a major factor, the looseness of the sand plays a major role. You also have a variety of ways to set the sandbag on the ground. If it is on its end, it is an easier lift, more like a stone. You get your hands under it and lift. To make it more challenging, lay it on its side, running between your legs, lengthwise. Add further to the challenge by turning the bag so it runs lengthwise in front of you. The last one is typically the most challenging and the way that you will do most of your stationary lifts. These lifts also serve as a good introduction to roundback deadlifting. It's not a topic I will go into but you will find with sandbags and other odd object lifts, that your back has to round some, you cannot maintain the flat olympic back.
The sandbag deadlift naturally progresses into the clean and jerk, which I think is the favored sandbag exercises. It seems to be one of the major sources of hits to my website. A sandbag clean and jerk is more like lifting a log or Atlas stone than a clean and jerk. Typically you start by deadlifting it to your lap. Few people can or will clean a sandbag to something representing the rack position. From the lap, you typically have to change hand position. Most individuals deadlift overhand or will go wide to the ends of the bag, to clean you need to hook your arms under the bag like a Zerher squat. From there you stand up with the bag to a front squat type position. At this point you are almost ready to press or jerk. If you want to go with a real olympic jerk go ahead and do but you'll find the catch very difficult. You almost always have to half jerk it and get your hands under it then move the weight to the lock-out position. It sounds simple but confusing because there are no rules. You do what you need to do to move the weight each time you lift it, thus it is hard to make sandbag lifting purely technical. A person could work the clean until it was a well-rehearsed movement but it seems like a waste of the unpredictability of the lift. Your further clarification, watch the video:
Tom Moe has come up with an ingenious solution to a problem many solo at-home lifters (myself included) encounter every time they hit heavier weights on the bench :
Q : What do you do when you need a hand lifting the bar off the hooks?
A : grab some chain, storm door safety springs, dog chain clips, a length of metal pipe, a couple of eye bolts, some metal flat stock and a harmonic balancer (or a spring loaded retractor cable; even a bungee cord in a pinch) and build this.
Notes from Tom :
You have to fine tune the length of chain and the amount of eye bolt threads used until you get the desired result. When set right the unit will help lift the bar up and out over your chest or belly. The way my unit is set - up , when I get to 225 lbs I use 4 storm door springs (anything less than 225 lbs the unit will pick the bar up right off the rack). 425 lbs - 8 storm door springs. 525 lbs and up - 8 storm door springs and 2 heavy duty fence springs. This system has worked for me.
A few photos will help show just how great this device is. Superb.
Via Royce's Rants : Outdoor training in Ghana. The heat certainly isn't an excuse.
Gary Chandler is very much part of the growing network of DIY equipment enthusiasts. His latest creation, a home-made T-bar row machine, is superb.
Over to Gary for a few details about its construction :
I used an old spin-on bar with an electrical cable hangar as my swiveling attachment point. The bar goes into a 4x4 with a 1-1/2" hole drilled into it for a pivot point. The box at the end allows some quarters to counterbalance the weight and keep the back end of the bar from coming up when the thing is loaded. The foam pad at the top is from a stereo box. The weight rest is an odd bracket from a garage door opener. The nicest thing about this rig is that a simple shrug of the shoulders is all that is needed to lift the weight from the rest, and it's only a couple of inches to the side (and a shrug) to park it, rather than waaaay off to the side, like some gym equipment. I have since added a footrest, between the back box and uprights, using a piece of pipe and conduit clamps. The bar comes out for other uses if needed. I'm pulling around 300 on this thing lately. Takes two quarters for the back balance when over 260.
A few of Gary's other works (which are equally brilliant) :
Wooden Weight Tree
This is made from just 2x4's and a piece of wooden closet rod, hammered into holes. You could use pipe if you don't have a rod to cut up. With weights set on top where those nickels are, you can put your chain through them and walk up to it and hook them to your belt at waist height. Very convenient.
W-Bar Chin Rig
This is for guys who get wrist pains from a straight bar. A piece of innertube for bar protection, a springclip and S-hook.
This one speaks for itself, using a piece of chain or two. Bolts, or spring clips.
Using 5" pieces of pipe, or as in my case, stainless steel curtain rod (1") set 2-1/2" deep into the 4x4's. 6' tall and 42" at the base. Yes, that is a drink holder (from a bicycle) and a window fan mounted over the stabilizer board. This will be used to hold attachments, as the weight collars you see there. Maybe some speakers?
If you have a cased opening you can spare, you can use an old weight bar or pipe, and simply drill into both sides of the jambs, and slip the bar into one side, then the other, and use bar collars to keep it centered. My old bar was rusted, so I used metal duct tape to cover it.
Pat Hodgson does it again. This time it's a forearm exerciser that puts a disused bike to good use.
Click the image for a larger photo to see how it all hangs together.
When it comes to home-made gym equipment, Clay Johnson never stops. Here's a look at his latest project - a DIY Strongman log.Here's how it was done :
I started just under 11 inch in diameter, 8 foot long log.
I cut the log in half (my neighbor wanted a throwing log). I used an old
standard bar from a garage sale (it was one of those three piece ones). I cut the standard bar to use for the handles and also for the weight loading pins.
I found the center of gravity and marked out two 8 inch by 8 inch boxes. To smooth down the bark, I ran my belt sander over the log.
Now this was the hardest part. Since I did not want to cut through the
entire log, I tried to find the easiest way to dig the boxes out. I tried an axe, reciprocating saw, and an air hammer. I finally resorted to using my small chain saw to cut out small blocks and then used a hammer and chisel to cut them out. This took awhile.
I dug down just under eight inches and then used my belt sander to dig out some more room for my hands. Although I drilled the handle holes small and had to pound them in, I used some waterproof, 2-ton epoxy to be sure down the road. I drilled the handles at half the diameter of the log. They are resting in over two inches of wood on each side. They feel very secure.
I mounted the loading pins about six inches deep and used more waterproof epoxy. I drilled the hole 7/8 of an inch so I could pound the bars in. I did have a problem with a large knot when drilling but using the bubble level on my drill I was able to keep the hole pretty much straight.
The log weighs about 125 pounds. I plan on putting some sealer on it after the epoxy sets up. I added 50 pounds on it and it held up very well!
Total cost : a couple of bucks for the log (the bar was already lying around, but they're cheap enough). Superb.
This is definitely on my list of things to make for the home gym. Inexpensive, comparatively simple to put together and multi-purpose. The Home-made Medicine Ball.
The one here has been constructed by All Around Strength's Jason Kirby, involving a couple of modifications to the method employed by both Jim Biancolo and Pierre Auge (instructions available via Mike's Gym).
Nice and simple. The next step - turning it into a Tornado ball. Looking forward to it.
Many years ago my dad put a large punching bag in the garage, and filled it with coarse sand. It was like punching bricks, and bleeding knuckles were a regular thing.
John's softened the blow using various materials (although still using sand at the centre of it all) :
If you want to try building one of thse for yourself, I basically took two bags of tube sand and wrapped them in carpet and carpet padding. Then covered it in 3 mil plastic to resis moisture and finished it off with a layer of duct tape. The carpet is in two layers; the first layer has the soft pile facing the sand bags to minimize abrasion that might tear the bags, the second layer faces outward to give more cushioning to the hands when striking the bag. Between the two layers of carpet is where I wrapped the rope for hanging the bag. The rope is covered with duct tape to keep the carpet backing from fraying it. Tube sand was out of season at local stores when I finally got around to building this, so I made my own from heavy-duty 3 mil plastic garbage bags (box of 12 for about $8) and duct tape. In all, I used 120 yards of duct tape.
As the video shows, it moves just enough. No more wild swings.
Update : John now has detailed instructions for making the bag on his site.
They work well and are well balanced and all this for just a few dollars!
Another brilliant entry for the DIY Equipment competition - Chris Rice's Horizontal Pinch Device. A few words from the man himself will tell you exactly why I want one of these (and if you train grip, you're probably thinking the same thing) :
Before the build :
One of the problems I have encountered since I began to train grip is pinch training. This is primarily tested and trained isometricly and while I have had some success with it I feel that being able to train dynamically over a full ROM may have several benefits I would like to work with including greater hand health than isometric work only. The TTK, Squeezer, Pony clamp etc work the thumb, palm and fingers but in a way not quite like pinching plates, block weights, climbing or the Euro Pinch apparatus and have a weakness in the lack of use by the whole hand. My hope is to make an adjustable width pinch tool that works in a horizontal direction, has the ability to adjust from extremely wide to as close to zero as possible. I hope to make the face plates high enough for full hand length contact like plates or a Euro setup as well as angle adjustable from square to around the angle to match the sides of a York Blob. It will have adjustable stops for plate adjustment and prestretch on the resistance bands which will allow isometrics as well. It will use regular rubber bands for resistance. I have tried a back to back L configuration in the past but could never figure out how to keep the pinch plates parallel over a wide movement range or avoid the feeling of one side movement. This time I'm using a slide which will be constant over any distance.
and following construction (and use) :
OK - it's done now and I've used it several times now. First, it's very smooth - very smooth, no binding at all. Everything worked out about like I had hoped it would. The horizontal setup feels much more like a block weight or plates, Euro pinch or whatever. With proper tension on each side, both sides move unlike the feeling I have with other devices where one side feels locked and one moves, a couple less bands on the thumb side makes both move together. The angle adjustment is easy, quick, and works nicely. The width adjustment only takes a couple seconds. Changing to isometric mode also only takes a couple seconds. I can relax the tension on the bands easily to keep their strength longer. The movement feels good - better than always squeezing as hard as possible and no movement, hopefully this will be a good thing over time. It can be loaded with small changes in resistance giving a method of measuring progress and strength gains. All in all, I'm very happy with it - only time will tell what gains I will have with it.
Chris, that looks fantastic.
This is superb. Pat Hodgson (aka 'The Dark Master') has produced plans (complete with a few renderings) for an adjustable deadlift/shrug/row bar. As all three of these exercises rate highly on my list of 'fun things to do in the gym', I can definitely see this getting a lot of use.
The plans have been made freely available [.pdf, 1.1mb]; all that's requested is a photograph of any that are built. Any welders out there?
It's a stone ... it's a kettlebell ... it's a stonebell. Great idea.
If you'd like to enter the DIY Equipment Competition but are lacking inspiration, here are a few ideas that just may get things rolling :
A harness for towing a car
Thinking of the car as an enormous, heavy sled; how would you hold onto the straps to tow it? Especially if you're facing away from it.
A harness would spread the load over a lot more of the body than simply looping the straps around your waist.
Using a thick bar can be great fun, for just about any exercise. The problem comes when you go to fatten up an existing bar - usually the entire length of the bar is thickened. All that's needed, though, is for the bar to be thicker in the sections you're holding; not the bar's full length.
A pair of clamps would be great, each a little more than the width of your hand, to lock around a standard or Olympic bar and fatten it up to a more respectable 2.5" - 3". These could then be taken from bar to bar.
Board for step-ups (in rack), rows and back rest for shoulder work
This is a fairly simple one - a piece of wood about the size of an ironing board, smooth (you're going to be lying on it) and strong (you're going to be stepping up onto it with weight). Near each end would be a groove designed to fit around both the pins (for rows and step-ups) and the main vertical bars of the rack (for seated overhead presses, to act as a back support).
Lat pulldown attachment for rack
As much as I love performing chin-ups, the occasional use of a lat pulldown is great. A simple attachment for the rack would be a beautiful thing.
Cable attachment for rack
I tend to use bands for many traditional cable exercises, but of course this alters the strength curve quite a bit. A simple cable setup for the rack would be superb.
These come in handy for a range of exercises, including rows, deadlifts and chin-ups. The ability to add straps, ropes or chains is a bonus.
For throwing kettlebells, dumbbells or anything else that would make a nice dent in your lawn.
There are many cool things that can be made by simply filling unused toys with sand (such as the medicine ball Jim made a while ago), and clubs are no exception. For starters, grab a plastic baseball bat and a bag of sand.
Despite the advertising, the Total Gym (particularly the basic models) is a wonderful device. I tend to use it for warm-ups, but it's also great for rehab and endurance training workouts.
A similar setup would be a great addition to many a home gym. All you really need is a sliding platform on angled runners, and two cables with which to pull yourself along. Similar to a rowing machine.
If you're joining in the fun of the Home-made equipment competition you probably already know what it's like to look at every object around your house with a 'What if I...' thought running through your head.
Here's the official list (I'll keep this updated as new entries come in) of the participants so far :
Clay Johnson : Clay has built some superb stuff over the years, including :
Rad Man : a power rack. Wood, pipe - $80. Excellent.
Pat Hodgson : Detailed plans for an adjustable Deadlift, Shrug, Row bar. Love it.
Also the Quick and Easy Forearm Exerciser. Now that's a great use for an exercise bike.
John Fike :
Chris Rice : Horizontal Pinch Device. I definitely want one of these.
Jason Kirby : Home-made Medicine Ball (soon to be a Tornado Ball). Also on the way - a DIY Wobble Board.
Gary Chandler : several items, including a superb T-bar Row machine. Also :
Tom Moe : a superb device for the solo home lifter - an 'Off Helper' for the bench press. Love it.
Bryan Bramhill (aka 'bacon') : an extremely sturdy Dip Station. Watch the video to find out exactly how it was made and used.
I've come across some great home-made gym gear over the past few years (check out DIY : Home-made gym equipment I and II), as well as having a go at creating my own. However, I'm always on the lookout for more; and this is where you come in.
Construct something for use in your workouts. It doesn't matter whether it's a sandbag, a squat rack or a full-blown all-in-one machine. The only constraint is that is has to be constructed between now and May 30 2007. No old stuff, please.
To submit it, either :
The prize list includes some great stuff from the guys over at the Diesel Crew (including a t-shirt and their superb ebooks); as well as a couple of mystery items from Straight to the Bar. More details over the next few weeks.
The judging will be done by you, the reader (via a poll). In the case of a tie, I'll cast the deciding vote.
The most important part of this exercise is to enjoy the equipment you've just built. Have fun.
Want a pull-up bar but don't want to drill any holes? CelticKane has a great solution.
From the forums
The RossTraining Forum is always filled with great ideas, including : a home-made sled that rivals commercial offerings (Jason Kirby has a brilliantly simple alternative) and Make Your Own Gear. Superb.
Can't afford your own monolift? The guys at XXX Powerlifting have the next best thing.
Anvil or Hammer
Anvil or Hammer recently held a kettlebell painting contest, in conjunction with the Art of Strength. Even if you missed the contest, Mike has some great tips on kettlebell painting. One of the best ways to customise your home gym.
Being that it's your first year of sandbag, let me try to clear up a little confusion. Sandbags are a subset of what could be called odd object lifts, Dinosaur Training or Turbulence Training. Sandbag training isn't the whole of any of these things nor do any of these fully encompass sandbags. Sandbags are physical training tools that are malleable in your routine more so than most things and yet harder to train with as well. Sandbags represent strength training and weightlifting at their purest. There are no federations, clubs, suits, belts or even rules. Sandbags remind us that in the real world not every object comes with a perfectly balanced 1" handle, that things are awkward and sometimes even seem to be built to prevent their being lifted.
The outer bag is probably the one ingredient with the most options. Military duffle bags are a popular choice and for a good reason. They are the cheapest bag out there that is durable to take the punishment you're gonna dish out. If you go this route, cut off any buckles and probably the straps too. Depending on the duffle you get, there is a hook at the top to keep it closed. I would cut this off too and consider using rope with a knot in it or duct tape. The reason you are destroying your nice new bag is that your face and body is going to be up close and personal with this bag and there will be weight, sliding and dropping, those actions combined with the aforementioned hazards lead to wounds and lacerations. There are a couple commercially available options out there too. Ironmind makes a great bag that can be bought separately or as part of kit. I personally used this for my first attempts at sandbag training and was very satisfied. There are a couple other manufacturers of sandbags out there. So far, none of them have been designed to hold 150 pounds or more, for that reason, they are not an option for me.
The middle bag is not for everyone. The middle bag is your basic sandbag, the mesh kind that are used keep water at bay, on levees and such. You can order these online or buy them at your local hardware store, you can buy several for a dollar in most cases. I made use of these but you don't have to. These come in really handy if you are still experimenting with weights. I'll cover the difference more in a moment.
The inner bag is always a good idea. This is basically a plastic bag, usually a trash bag, often several of them. The basic idea is that no cloth bag is very good at keeping sand inside. It leaks, it gets in your hair, clothes and carpet. This won't kill you but it gets old. Your sandbags lose weight over time this way too. I actually did not use these in my first pass at sandbags and was just fine but I'm tired of sand in my car so you can bet I'll use them next time.
The last thing you need is some sand. It's as easy as going to the hardware store and buying some. I found it in the aisle with garden and landscape supplies. Ask around if you need help. I used play sand for about $5/50lbs. Some people choose to use pea gravel. It's not gonna be as dense or roll as easily but it works really well, leaks less and is less dusty if you didn't use an inner bag. Obviously you could go out and find sand on the ground too, that is up to you. Personally I like a clean source. Any stick or sharp rocks will wreck your bag and will wreck you, possibly.
You've got your equipment, it's time to get down to the business of building sandbags. There are two ways you can do this,as I eluded above, I'll talk about them both and you can pick:
Via the RossTraining forums : a great-looking home-made sled. Not bad at all.
Building your own gym gear is not only cost-effective, it's downright fun. If you've ever considered constructing your own Monolift, be sure to check out the work of the guys at XXX Powerlifting. Looks great.
When I began lifting weights - a little under 3 years ago now, although I gave them a few brief tests a decade or two ago - I started the home gym off with a bench, bar, dumbbells and plates. These bars were standard (rather than Olympic); as were all of the plates.
It was not until several months later I became aware of the differences, and began switching over to Olympic bars and plates. So what are the differences?
There are six key differences between Standard and Olympic plates. If you're aiming to compete in a powerlifting or Olympic lifting event, the Olympic bars and plates are an obvious choice. However, they may still be worth considering for their other differences. These are :
diameter (of hole, bar) : Standard bars are less than 1" in diameter, whilst Olympic bars are a more noticeable 2" or so. This instantly increases the grip component of many lifts.
length (of bar) : a Standard bar measures either 5', 6' or 7' (the 6' seems to be the most common); an Olympic one is always 7'. The extra length increases the stabilisation component of many exercises.
weight (of bars) : a Standard bar weighs in at around 10kg, an Olympic one a much heftier 20kg. The weight of an Olympic bar is easily included in calculations for total weight, as it equals the same as a large (20kg) plate. Whilst there are both heavier and lighter plates available, the 20kg (44lb) is common.
cost : the major factor in the favour of Standard bars and plates is the cost, which is generally considerably cheaper than the Olympic counterparts.
comparison : for both calibration and historical reasons it is usual to see Olympic bars and plates used in competition. However, even if you're not competing, it's great to be able to instantly compare your own lifts to those you've seen on the platform.
threading and knurling (of bars) : Standard bars often have threaded ends (for the collars), whilst Olympic bars are typically smooth throughout this section. Olympic bars also differ in the knurling on the bar, which is similar from bar to bar, unlike the knurling on Standard bars. This knurling is used not only for grip, but to line your body up in various exercises.
availability : another factor that should be considered when purchasing new bars or plates is their availability. Both new and second-hand bars and plates are more easily found in Standard sizes. When it comes to buying plates - particularly at this time of year - a great place to start is the nearest garage sale. Joe Skopec has a great article on cleaning up the rusty iron you often come across in such a sale.
DIY workout gear doesn't come much cheaper than this. If you've got 10 bucks in your pocket and an hour to spare, pop down to the nearest hardware store and grab the following :
Assembly is a straightforward process.
Half fill each of the freezer bags with sand (until you run out of sand - I used 6, but it's good to have spares).
Seal and tape each bag tightly - make sure you squeeze all the air out.
Place the garden sack inside the hessian one, and fill it with the small sandbags.
Tie up the sacks with twine.
That's it! Obviously there's a bit of trial-and-error involved, but you really can't go too far wrong.
Changes I would make
I'll use it a few times before I really start changing things, but a couple of likely culprits :
Equipment for Janda Sit-ups and other fun things.
Everything from bars to a belt squatting setup.
Building a Lifting Platform (Ironmind)
Randall J. Strossen
Now all you need is a set of bumper plates.
Building Your Own Set of Atlas Stones
Jason F. Keen
Making stones using an old - but effective - recipe of plaster, cement and water. And a couple of inflatable balls. A similar article appears at Body Results.
Some good discussion on the ins and outs of equipment, both store-bought and home-made.
Construction of a bouldering/traverse wall.
Plastic shopping bags, pipe, a tennis ball and of course lots and lots of duct tape.
A forum for DIY gymrats everywhere.
Building a spring loaded mat. Superb.
If you've ever considered the idea of having your own Glute-Ham Raise, take a look at this. While you're there, check out the home-made slammable medicine ball (based on instructions [.pdf, 1.21mb] from Pierre Augé).
Free instructions for building squat stands and plyometric boxes.
Some great articles here, including Make Your Own 200m Track [.pdf, 204kb]
Plans for a home-made squat rack
What more could you want?
Want to know the exact dimensions of that bar you're about to transform? They're all here.
Photos of various home-made equipment.
The chin-up bar that forms part of the rack - as much as I love it - was just too thin. At a diameter of around 2.5cm/1", it was one of the thinnest bars I use.
Fattening it up a little was a relatively simple (and cheap) process, involving nothing more complex than a length of pipe insulation (just rubber tubing), some super glue and a little cloth tape. If you've never used the tape, think of duct tape with fibres embedded to strengthen it a bit.
Leith Darkin (from Martial Arts and Sports Science) has written an excellent article on grip training (.pdf, 845kb), detailing a few easily constructed (and cheap) items that enable several new ways to train. Quite different to other articles I've seen on grip training - definitely worth a read.