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.
Whether you're just starting out, on-the-road or simply don't have the finances available; there's not much you can do in the way of effective strength-training without some decent equipment. Or is there?
This week we're taking a look at the many ways to get a solid workout in, using the things that are around you. A little bit of bodyweight work, a heavy object or two and a whole lot more. Helping us explore this fascinating topic is none other than combat athlete Andrew Nalepa. Fantastic.
Over the past week or so I have gotten into a groove of watching youtube videos of strength and conditioning coaches training their athletes. One thing that has come to my attention is that in this day and age of training with all the "innovative training" and "functional training" methods out on the market today, it has really taken away from the fundamental development of athletes. What I mean by this is that trainers have outfitted their gyms with all these new training tools/fancy toys that supposedly give them an advantage over the competitors.
However, I see these tools becoming the standard to training which is extremely concerning for me considering that the use of these tools takes away from building a solid foundation of movement and strength.
If you are unsure about what I am writing about I will give you an example; the use of sleds, parachutes and other resistance running or even accelerated running tools on the market today should NOT be used on athletes that still need to learn how to run! You do not need anything but space to teach an athlete how to run properly, and even run an effective training session that will have excellent results. The truth is, only a very small percentage of people become 'experts' in movement (running, lateral movement, etc) and until someone becomes an expert the growth, development, and improvement of an athlete's running mechanics can and will improve immensely with just the training without the use of any tools.
See you there.
When do you need to use a bit of protection/assistance in the form of a lifting or chinning belt, a pair of wraps or straps? How do you use them, and do you need to?
When I bought my first set of bars & plates, it was assumed by the barrel-chested salesman that I'd be wanting the abovementioned assistance devices. Perhaps it was because I sounded keen to experiment; perhaps it was because he was on commission. Either way, I ended up with a few of the standard 'extras'.
This week I'd like to look at when and how to use these items - if they're essentials for everyone who lifts, or if they're only suited to particular types of training. Helping us explore this fascinating topic is none other than Olympic athlete, personal trainer and nutritionist Maik Wiedenbach. Fantastic.
NB : As a bonus, five random questioners (from this Gymchat in particular) will receive several small gifts. I'll announce details a little closer to the discussion itself, but suffice to say that they're probably already on your wishlist. It's good stuff.
And if you've just joined us on Google+, welcome. Join us on Mar 21, and add a comment/ask a question or three. Dive in.
NB : to see all of these as they appear (and to share your own thoughts on things), the simplest way is to follow me on Google+. You'll see these, and a whole lot more.
Near the end of the latest episode of This Week in Google (video below, about 1h15m in), Jeff Jarvis discusses the recently released Nike Fuelband and some of the upcoming Nike footwear products. These shoes* will incorporate the same shared fitness data ideas as the Fuelband, or something like the FitBit.
Will be very interesting to see how products like this are used (by athletes of all types, professional and amateur) over the next few years.
* We'll certainly be testing these shoes once they become available. In the meantime, there's a great summary of the shoes' stated capabilities over at All Things D.
I eased into them by first running 3 miles the first day in them. Felt a little stiff, but not to bad. Then as the days continued I ran further with 5, 7, 10 miles on them I began to feel them break in nicely after about 2 weeks of running in them. I then picked up the amount of miles I ran in them to 30 and 40 miles a week. I mostly ran on hard ball roads (concrete) but did manage to venture off the beaten path and run some trails in them. My first thought was the amount of cushioning may cause me to roll an ankle on the uneven terrain, but things went just fine and felt great!
The science behind the shoe is that it is for the neutral gait runner and is able to go high mileage without losing support. The Enigmas have a full length Parallel Wave Plate, AP+ and a blown rubber forefoot. The upper part of the shoe wrapping around the foot and ankle area is soft and has breathable mesh to allow your feet to stay dry on those high mileage hot runs! With the flexible rubber and breathable mesh the shoe flexes and moves the way your foot moves. So you don't have to worry about the Wave Enigma causing you to run like you have bricks on your feet!
In the meantime, here's a brief look at 7 Health & Fitness Monitoring Devices.
The original Nike+ was essentially a wireless pedometer, specifically designed for running enthusiasts. Embedded in the shoes, it passed information to an iPod or iPhone which was worn by the runner.
The Nike+ GPS uses the phone's GPS to provide similar information - quite accurately - with your own choice of footwear.
Note that if you're not using an iPhone, you're limited to the original Nike+ system (using an iPod as your display), with much the same information being tracked - running duration, distance, calorific expenditure and so on.
What's more, it's deeply integrated with some of the other products listed here; particularly RunKeeper. And a freely available API will doubtless see many others following shortly.
But most commercial gyms look down on chalk and have rules against its use on the training floor. The dust, they say, is too messy and gets everywhere, destroying the knurling on the equipment.
Management wants to keep their facility clean, and I can respect that. But what do we do then if we're not allowed to use chalk? The solution, it turns out, can be found in a simple product rock climbers have know about for years.
Following years of shoulder abuse and injury (particularly whilst experimenting during training for the OAC), I was more than a little keen to try out The Rotater. And I have to say, it easily exceeded expectations.
Rather than relive my own shoulder-training trials however, here are a couple of thoughts from my father, who has been using The Rotater for a few days now. As you'll see, it really is an incredible piece of equipment.
When Scott asked me to test the Rotater my response was keen but somewhat apprehensive. Following years of bodily abuse in various sporting activities (several breaks, dislocations & tears) I am now, at age 67, suffering early stages of arthritis. One area of concern is my shoulders - not so much because of pain and stiffness but the limitations this places on my ability to exercise on a regular basis.
When I first used The Rotater for a few minutes my feelings were confused. How could such a simple device create the feeling of freedom I was now experiencing? Having now used The Rotater for several days I have come to the following conclusions :
The results of my test of the Rotater are surprising, amazing, & in my case stimulating.
Here's a brief look at The Rotater in action. As you can see, it's an incredibly simple device; yet you can feel a difference almost immediately. If years of squatting have robbed you of a bit of shoulder mobility, you'll be amazed at just how great this feels.
If you've ever experienced shoulder pain, you'll understand just how frustrating it can be. Apart from the pain itself, it's perhaps the fact that it prevents you from doing your normal exercise routine that's the biggest source of aggravation.
In my case - and in my dad's - The Rotater ended that frustration. An incredible feeling.
Man, I want one of these. Ryan shows off the new loadable sledge (up to 50lb). Excellent.
A Blob50 and a York Legacy head (from a 45kg bell) side-by-side. Photo courtesy grip aficionado Alfie Page.
This is the funniest thing I've seen all day - the Bugs Bunny Dumbbell from Swager Strength. Love it.
Ryan pointed me to this post on Oldtime Strongman which show's Bruce White's superb grip tool, essentially a holed cricket ball on a dumbbell handle. For a modern-day version, check out the Strongergrip Grip Bells. Brilliant things.
Ryan demonstrates the Gut Wrench Bullhorns. Looks great.
This is a very interesting idea - a curved, non-motorised treadmill.
Want to see a great collection of grip toys? Just take a look at the Unbreakable Fitness gym. Nice one.
The Bulava in action. Good stuff.
Thick-handled, plate-loadable shovel from StrongerGrip. Brilliant.
SandBells are available in a range of sizes, from 2lb right up to 50lb. Although there are a number of ways to use them (see the video below), the smaller ones are ideal for my favourite use - grip work.
Before I get into the many ways of exploring grip training with the SandBells, this video will give you a good idea of exactly what they are :
The SandBells increase the grip component of a number of exercises, by providing a shifting weight and a slightly more challenging target to grip. As shown in the above video, these exercises can occasionally take the place of your regular dumbbell, kettlebell and medicine ball work.
In addition to that, there are also several ways to use them specifically as part of your grip training. Here are just a few ideas :
For the gym that has everything - The Velocity Machine.
Pros: The sky is the limit with this piece and while not everything that can be done with this is difficult you can make up your own exercises or opt to intertwine the straps together and go from two grips to just one. The difference can be huge. I will say that bulgarian split squats, leg curls, flys, power pulls, and t's are personal favorites that can be made more or less challenging depending on the angle you are standing or leaning.
Cons: The price is a bit high for a piece of webbing and all the claims about it being created by a Navy Seal are extremely annoying. If you need ideas you can purchase DVDs, posters, or a virtual trainer, but again you are paying way more than you should be.EXF Rings- this brings us to the next nifty piece and that is a set of gymnastic rings. Simple and effective, they come in two colors, red and black, and can be hung in similar nature as the TRX although I recommend using something like a truss, pull up bar, power rack, or cable crossover station.
Pros: if you think bodyweight training isn't difficult try holding an iron cross or doing a one arm chin (OAC). The rings add an element of instability that just can't be replicated with free weights. Looking to shore on some size to your shoulders, chest, and back, then flys, push ups, dips, chin ups, and even levers can do just that.
Cons- while not as expensive as the TRX these are not cheap given their simple nature, they are also a bit harder to set up if you're indoors and do not have a sturdy object to attach them too.
Pros- its almost half the price and is even lighter and more portable.
Cons- with price reflects quality, these things aren't as sturdy or as comfortable, but hey, who said exercising had to be comfortable.
Pros- They feel great, they loosen up sore areas, can help with thoracic mobility and they can be used for additional balance training.
Cons- For a piece of foam they aren't that cheap, but unless you want to buy a 6 inch PVC pipe which can be much less forgiving, or go the tennis ball route this is not a bad choice at all.
Myo Ball- essentially a mini, foam, gel, or air ball that may or may not have spikes that does essentially the same job as a foam roller. I like Perform Better's Spikey Ball.
Pros- the spikes get you even deeper, and feel amazing on tired feet.
Cons- the small ball takes longer to get your whole body.
Pros- the stick is much more portable than the previous tools, and can hit places that the ball and roller just plain can't.
Cons- couldn't really think of any, this isn't really necessary, if money is an issue stick with the foam roller.
Ever tried training with the Nicros H.I.T. Strips? Here's a quick demonstration - looks great.
When it comes to push-up work without shoulder or elbow stress, things like the Perfect Push-up are great. Taking up a similar idea - the Uber.
Via Uncooped : this looks great (in a particularly geeky way) - a Home Ski Simulator. Nice one.
I'm not sure what to say. It's the Vibraboard.
Adam gets his hand on the real thing. Nice one.
I'm a self-professed fitness junkie and I have managed to achieve some pretty significant muscle gains (& fat losses) working out only in my tiny city apartment with just some basic equipment and utilizing things already in my home as sub-ins for actual equipment.
With a well thought-out but small selection of equipment you can have a well-rounded and complete workout at home, too. Invest in a few fitness bands of differing tensions, a jump rope, and some dumbbells of varying weights and you are all set! And, if you want to get as serious as I am, install a pull up bar too! Its pretty simple to do and is removable any time.
Personally, because I enjoy doing supersets and supercircuits and find constantly making adjustments to be detrimental to a good, hard workout I prefer to use different sizes of dumbbells that don't require adjustments, just grab and start pumping. But, if space is a big issue for you, instead of getting a full set of dumbbells like I have, get yourself a pair of adjustable dumbbells. They take up almost no space and you can adjust them to any weight you want.
Make sure you have something you can use as a flat bench (I use my coffee table because it's sturdy), use a kitchen chair and find or create a ledge and GO FOR IT!!!
You CAN feel the burn at home. Trust me. Just check out the photos.
*please note the pictures contained herein do not reflect equipment I actually use for working out. Any equipment you see is only for propping purposes set up for these photographs only.
The Tred Sled is a very interesting piece of equipment - anyone tried one?
Via Wend Blog : now that's a longboard.
There have been some unusual treadmill designs on here over the years, but Fight Geek just pointed me to one of the strangest : The TreadMobil.
Deep camber, nice and unstable. The Spider Bar.
The guys at Riot Training demonstrate some of the many ways to use a Viking Press machine. Nice one.
The Tendo PlyoWeight - interesting idea.
SandBells - small sandbags of varying weights. Interesting idea.
Ryan's just created a limited edition of this superb tool, which will be available in a couple of days' time. Fantastic.
Somewhere between an elliptical and a bicycle : the Randy Ross Stepper Bike. Unusual idea.
Whilst I'm yet to try out the Core Bar myself, I like the progression shown here. Nice one.
What do you get when you cross an umbrella with a knuckle duster? The Umbuster.
This is an unusual idea - a seated elliptical (the xRide from Octane Fitness). Anyone tried one?
Here's a look at the Chain Exerciser in action. Interesting idea.
I've just updated my StrongerGrip shopping list. Once you see these in action, you'll understand why. Superb.
This looks superb. Ryan demonstrates the 2 Handed Leverage Wrist Block.
Despite the name, this'll churn out any sort of nut butter you like. Nuts in the top, jar below; perfect.
Now this is my idea of a gym. Soviet Force kettlebell training.
Think there's no reason to ever use push-up bars? Think again. Paul Zaichik takes a look.
NB : this version is US-only. Other countries on the way.
However, ropes don't last forever and this one's enjoying its final days in the sun. Time to go shopping.
This is where the fun begins. As the original supplier no longer exists, I'm on the lookout for a replacement (preferably fairly local - rope isn't exactly light). Is anyone here aware of a rope supplier - able to provide larger (2" or so) manila rope - based in Australia?
Updated : Bob's uploaded a higher quality version of the video on YouTube (below). Enjoy.
Over at Brothers in Grip there's a fascinating training idea being put to use - incorporating a mini-trampoline in Inch training.
NB : although there's a replica Inch dumbbell in use here, this approach would work with any number of heavy objects. Brilliant.
How do you exercise if you're in a wheelchair, lacking mobility or undergoing rehab? Here's one solution - The Fitness Arch.
A respirocyte is basically an artificial red blood cell a micron in diameter, a spherical nanorobot consisting of a pressure tank that can be filled with oxygen and carbon dioxide and emulate the functions of a natural haemoglobin containing red blood cell, only with approximately 200 times the efficiency. It only takes someone with a vague background knowledge of biology to imagine what this can do. With such efficient oxygen delivery to tissues, theoretically one could hold one's breath under water for hours, or run at top speed for incredible distances without becoming breathless. Such technology has the potential to expand an ordinary human's abilities considerably beyond normal limits.
The 2020 Olympics are going to be very interesting indeed.
Another look at training with the Myosource bands - this time on the court.
Steve Maxwell demonstrates the Hindu Push-up (Dand) using a Taekhte, or push-up board.
Over on the Diesel Crew site, Jedd outlines a great way to work with a tire (tyre) that's just slightly too heavy to flip - the above video shows the technique in action. Brilliantly simple.
Via Eric Cressey's blog : if you've ever wondered exactly how to use a foam roller, here's a bit of video. Nice one.
The USA is a deceptively simple bit of gear. Nice one.
A slight tweak to the existing fitness band idea - HalfHourPower.
Last night's 'Re-inventing the Body' episode of The New Inventors took a look at the fascinating Epoc Headset. Essentially it identifies the type of thing you're likely to be thinking about (based on the amount of electricity being produced by various parts of the brain), and translates it into a virtual action.
Many, many uses; though initially it will be used as a gaming control (gamers may have already seen an early version at the last GDC). Personally, I'm looking forward to see the plethora of Wii Fit-type games which will undoubtedly appear.
How long do you have to wait? It should be out later this year.
I like the look of this - especially in that size. What do you think?
Logan enjoys a little odd-object lifting - with 'Big Red'.
Rae Crowther has some very creative training gear, including this : the Ground Battle Chute. A great way to keep players low during drills.
Ever tried a Macebell? Superb things.
An unusual use for the Indo Board - Double Bag work.
I've added weight to a number of things before, but never gloves. Anyone tried these?
This is a sample image from the TSA's Millimeter Wave Scanning system. Currently it's only being trialled for security functions; but it's a very interesting idea for bodyfat testing.
Ever used a Fingerboard? Great things.
I realise that these machines are intended for arcade use, but I'd love something like the Knockout Boxer in the home gym. Great idea.
I like the idea of the Myosource Kinetic Bands (anyone tried them?). Here are several ways to use them in your training.
Although they've got quite a different intended use, these bags would be great for vacation workouts. Sandbags without sand.
What's the weather like there? Time to get out The Prowler. Great thing.
The Shuttle MVP. Anyone tried it?
Great name; interesting piece of equipment. The OmGym.
It's amazing how much fun this is.
Kat's been upgrading her gym once again - this time with rubber horse stall mats (the mats are made of rubber, not the horses). Good stuff.
Interesting idea - a door-mounted Trapeze Bar. Anyone tried one?
Danny O'Dell takes a look at the three most common varieties of lifting belts - what the differences are, and how they are used. Good stuff.
A centrifugal running track. Very interesting idea.
This looks like a superb piece of equipment - anyone used one?
Designing your own outdoor gym? Make sure you put some of these 'plates' on the shopping list.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Is this any different to other sports, where equipment can play a major role?
Laree Draper takes a brief look at the incredible power of a simple foam roller. A good read.
Via FitSugar : it's beginning to cool down a little here, which means more outdoor training - both for me, and the dogs. Might just have to grab a couple of these.
Actually, it's a bike. An interesting idea.
Via FitSugar : If indoor cycling's your thing, take a look at the X-dream (shown in the video above) and the X-Bike. Unlike other similar indoor cycles, the X-dream accurately mimics what you're seeing on the screen. Find a good trail and experience the usual braking, gear changes and so on.
Wherever possible, I use the various products that are advertised on this site. Case in point : the wraps I purchased from Adam Glass.
These are the business. After using them once, the old scraps of leather I'd been using (a disused car-washing cloth from the look of it), were relegated to the big round filing tray. A few weeks later, they're like old friends. Perfect.
If you're just thinking about trying your hands (quite literally) at a little short-steel bending, grab a pair of Adam's wraps; and a copy of Jedd's Bending eBook. It really is a superb combination.
Although there are plenty of DIY alternatives, this is the real thing in action. Good stuff.
Tried the Front Squat Harness? Great thing.
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.
Interesting piece of equipment - the Ultimate Body Press.
Over the past couple of weeks there have been a number of strength feats involving replicas of the Inch Dumbbell. What was the original, and why is it held in such high regard?
Let's take a look at the history of this incredible piece of equipment.
Thomas Inch (1881 - 1963) was a Strongman, Bodybuilder and Circus Performer in the early 20th century. In addition to his time with the iron, he wrote a number of superb books and articles; and is often credited with the introduction of plate-loading barbells and dumbbells to the general public.
For one of his circus shows (around 1897), he had a local ironworks produce four dumbbells for him - weighing 75, 140, 153 and 172 lb. These bells were all manufactured - at Inch's request - with handles somewhat thicker than normal; making them extremely difficult to lift. The lighter bells were given a 2" handle, whilst the 172 (the one that's usually replicated) had a handle almost 2.5" (2.38", to be precise) in diameter.
This exceptionally thick handle is a large part of the bells' enduring appeal.
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.
GoKid Quadcoasters. Yes, they're for kids. Yes, I want one.
Is your local park like this? Actually, I wouldn't mind some of this stuff in my own backyard. There're some great ideas there.
If you caught the Diesel Crew's 'Coach 48 Highlights IV' video last year, you may have noticed a very unusual approach to Stone lifting. So good, in fact, that EliteFTS is now offering the Elite Stone Trainer. Superb.
Although it's intended for use in Softball training, I can't help thinking of grip work when I look at this. The Tight Spin Trainer.
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.
I'm not sure why, but good bending wraps are often difficult to track down. This afternoon I noticed that Adam Glass is now selling a couple of varieties of leather wraps, at only $10 a set (plus shipping).
Definitely worth a look.
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.
The ideas are flooding in already.
Ready for the next time I drop a plate on my foot.
A friend of mine is about to do a little travelling, and has decided to sell a few things before he leaves. Top of the list (from my point of view, anyway) is a superb collection of home gym gear : comprising rack, bench, bars and a healthy dose of iron.
If you're in Sydney, Australia and looking to get started on the strength-training path, let me know and I'll get you some details. It's a great setup.
NB : That's actually a photo of my own home gym, but it's a very similar arrangement.
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.
This is a very interesting idea - the E-Flex Forearm Bar. Anyone here used one?
Via Powerlifting Watch : Brazilian powerlifter Marília Coutinho takes an extremely comprehensive look at the history of the humble Wrist Wrap [272kb, .pdf], and its role in Powerlifting. A great read.
Nice and simple. Head over to Nia Kelley's blog for the details.
Here's hoping I can connect this to the Ermenegildo Zegna solar-powered jacket and keep things constantly charged. Beautiful.
What would you have in your perfect home gym - if there were no financial or space constraints at all? Free weights, machines, kettlebells; a mix of all three perhaps? Just a large lifting platform, a bar and a pile of bumper plates?
While you think about your own idyllic workout environment, here's a look at some of the gear I'd have in mine.
The Power Squat is definitely one of the pieces of gym equipment I'd love to have. Why? Well apart from making life easier when it comes to attaching bands and chains, it helps take some of the load off the shoulders - leaving it on the quads and hams, where it belongs.
Here's Jim Wendler showing it in action. Love it.
Via Get Outdoors : If the Walk to Work Day has you thinking - but cycling's more your style - try the "11th hour" contest over at ThisNext. There's a superb Globe City commuter bike up for grabs. Beautiful.
Man, I want one.
As things gradually heat up around here, the backyard pool looks increasingly inviting as a potential gym. Once it does, these are definitely up for consideration. Very interesting idea - Aqualogix.
The Squat Strap - an interesting piece of equipment.
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.
Via Napalm's Corner : When I came across the great collection of Dick Hartzell videos the other day I somehow managed to miss this one. As I'm still working on the OAC, this is definitely a keeper : alleviating wrist and elbow pain using bands. Excellent.
This is an extremely comprehensive video on constructing your own Nunchaku (also Nunchuku or Nunchucks). Superb.
Via Napalm's Corner : Jedd points to an extremely comprehensive guide on the various types of speedbag swivels. Superb.
One of the latest EliteFTS videos shows Dave Tate demonstrating the Back Attack - a superb piece of equipment. If you've ever seen the Westside Dead Lift Secrets video, you'll understand just how useful this machine can be.
An incredibly generous act.
At least in the ability-to-climb-walls department.
A team of Italian scientists is currently looking at ways to use carbon nanotubes (just think of really, really small drinking straws made of carbon) to create a suit which will allow the wearer to climb vertical walls. The nanotubes are bent into hooks, much like a microscopic version of velcro.
Very cool indeed. Especially the red ones.
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.
As much as I enjoy making my own gym equipment, sometimes it's great to purchase a few pre-loved items. If you're in Kansas, you may be interested in this sale noted over on Chasing Kaz. It's a fantastic setup.
Just when I thought there were no more twists possible to the humble treadmill, I came across this - an underwater treadmill [streaming, 11.4mb .flv download]. Currently it's being used to assist those with Cerebral Palsy; though no doubt it there be a wide range of rehab uses in the near future.
Looks perfect for very light recovery sessions.
Via Gizmodo : There have been some very creative treadmill designs recently, including Happy Runner, the Rollator and the split-belt treadmill CNN pointed to recently. And my personal favourite - the Treadwall.
Protecting the gym floor's something I've been considering a bit lately; particularly as it's winter here and several of the usual outdoor items are currently indoors. I'm still trying to track down a waterproof mat that's occasionally used on rainforest paths here (not as common as you might think); but this suggestion from Anthony DiLuglio is definitely one to think about.
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 separate belts can be moved at different speeds to one another - even in different directions - in order to force the brain to adjust the way you walk. Although it was originally designed to aid stroke victims, I suspect it has a far greater range of potential uses.
I've never been a big fan of gloves, but these are intriguing. Anyone tried them?
This year's Planet X Winter Games - held this weekend at Perisher - introduced a new technique with a commonly-seen piece of equipment. A winch is traditionally used to haul skiers up the slope; a carefully selected field of professional athletes tested its use in the opposite direction.
With a boost of up to 60km/h, there was certainly some interesting action. Not to mention a few extremely large grins.
Via SCAQ : the iCool Plunge Pool - the 'secret weapon' of Aussie swimmers at the 2004 Olympics - is an interesting-looking recovery aid. With no ice involved, it's essentially a well-crafted, temperature controlled, portable bathtub.
Looks - dare I say it - cool.
Tired of re-tearing callouses during your kettlebell workouts? Try the Tracy Rif Sock Sleeve. Put some of those lone socks to good use.
Via Napalm's Corner : in another bit of superb timing, Jedd mentions a couple of new wraps noted recently on the Gripboard. Will definitely be grabbing a pair (as for the chamois leather I've been using, well, it's time for an early retirement).
Via Get Outdoors : if you're like me, you often find yourself lifting weights in time with the music that's blasting away (just think speed deadlifts and Motörhead's Ace of Spades). BODiBEAT lets you switch this around; with the tempo of the tunes automatically synced with your current movements. Excellent.
Take a look at the video [1.5mb, .avi].
One of the many ideas behind the Sustainable Gym (notably developed and supported by renowned inventor Lucien Gambarota) is to re-use some of the energy expended by the gym's patrons to power these devices. Whilst this wouldn't necessarily eliminate the electricity bills overnight, it'd cut them down considerably.
Another option is to construct your own. As a noted supporter of the 'DIY Gym Equipment' concept, I'm very much in favour of this idea.
Although the obvious equipment to benefit from this treatment sits firmly in the cardio area, there's no reason to avoid the heavier resistance machines. Rowers lie somewhere in the middle ground, and are ripe for a bit of energy-saving DIY.
Has anyone here played around with the equipment in their own home gyms (cardio gear or otherwise), with an idea to re-using some of the energy put into them?
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 love browsing through eBay, second-hand shops and the local markets; so, apparently, do the guys over at Swapatorium. Their latest discovery : a $20,000 (original price) exercise bike + video setup, that looks uncannily similar to my Reebok Cyberrider.
Apart from the price that is.
What will fitness gadgets look like in another 25 years?
Via Rock Climbing for Life : The pleasure of training outdoors knows no bounds. If you're planning to keep your conditioning up this summer with a bit of hiking, climbing or mountain biking; head over to Gear Trade. They've got some great stuff (pre-loved, of course).
If you're planning on doing any overhead work (Military Press, Overhead Squats etc), you'll need a bit of headroom. This will require both a high ceiling and a tall rack (mine is about 7' tall - high enough to stand in, but I'm forced to do seated versions of the above exercises).
For chin-ups, make sure there's enough room above the rack for your head to clear it comfortably (particularly if kipping's your thing). Also check that there aren't any light fittings overhead (sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised).
Nearly every rack on the market these days will comfortably take several hundred kilos. This is fine for most people, and the small percentage of the population who demand heavier weights (and I really can't blame them) will probably already have their favourite rack picked out. If not, take a look at these over a EliteFTS.
On a side note, it can be extremely handy to have a few bars on the rack itself to hang plates on. Especially once you get into your work sets.
Whilst you can always loop bands over heavy dumbbells, hooking them directly onto the rack is much, much simpler. If you regularly use bands in your training, a rack with a selection of dedicated hooks or pins is definitely worth looking at.
One of the things that delineates the cheaper racks from the ones that people are seen drooling over in garages everywhere is the spacing of the pin holes (the holes down the side of the rack that the pins are placed in). Within reason, a smaller gap between the holes allows for a greater degree of flexibility. Anything down to about 1" is fine (the cheaper racks have a gap of 2" or more).
Want to work on your sticking point from just there? Now you can.
NB : the spacing sometimes varies within the one rack. If it does, the finer spacing will most likely be in the middle of the working range; where it can be used to your advantage.
By default, many racks only come with a single pair of J-hooks (the hooks the bar sits in just prior to the lift). A second set can be extremely handy - for the other side of the rack (either internal or external).
Extra pins are also extremely handy for restricting the range of motion. For several great ideas on this see the Altering Barbell Kinetics ebook (free) I mentioned a while ago.
Although the width of a barbell never changes (within one type, that is - standard bars are about a foot shorter than their Olympic counterparts), the width of racks vary from brand to brand. The rack's minimum width will depend largely on what you're going to do with it.
Sumo squats and rack pulls will take the most room; somewhere around 40" would be an absolute minimum, but your best bet is to measure your own squat (outside one foot to outside the other).
If you intend to bench press in the rack, or use the bench as a seat for other exercises (such as the overhead work I mentioned earlier), make sure the bench fits. If you're buying them both at the same time, great. Test them out.
One more thing to note with the bench inside the rack - if you plan to use dumbbells from the bench, make sure there's plenty of room to drop the dumbbells once they get heavy. Oh, and something to protect the floor (in the drop zone) is always a good idea - a couple of rubber mats will do nicely.
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.
It's been a couple of years since I took a good look at my home gym. I use it all the time, of course; but I don't often stop to think of the things that should be in there. As a starting point, here's a look at the current setup.
Power rack, bar and weights
This is the core of the gym, and features heavily in my workouts. Rack pulls (it's a fairly small room, so I usually do these instead of full-range deads), pull-ups and even kettlebell swings take place in and on the rack. It's very much a major player.
Bench (with preacher and leg curl attachments)
Although I rarely use the attachments, the basic bench comes in handy for a number of things - not least of which is the bench press. As the ceiling doesn't allow for standing overhead press work, I generally use the bench for seated versions of the same movements. Once again, this is usually done inside the rack.
Exercise bike (stationary cycle)
Until recently, this lived in the garage and was seldom touched. It occasionally gets dusted off for warmups (although kettlebell swings are the norm).
I'm still impressed by what first seemed to be another piece of equipment that would soon end up in a garage sale (the infomercials don't help). As versatile as any variety of cable machine, it gets regular use as part of a warmup.
Assorted dumbbells (and kettlebell)
Although there are several pairs of dumbbells lying around (one of which has been fattened ready for farmers walks); they seldom get used. I suspect they should, but the barbells and kettlebell are enough for most things.
This is definitely one for outdoor training; which will resume in a few months (when the weather gets a bit warmer - it's the cold part of the year here). There are other outdoor items which seem to magically appear when things start to heat up; anvils, sledgehammers, ropes, bricks - a seemingly endless list of fun stuff.
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.
I'm in two minds about this. On one hand, any form of bicycle is a good alternative to a car in many cases (I'm not talking about family vacations here, just the occasional trip to work). On the other, part of the fun of riding a bike is powering it yourself.
Still, this is an interesting compromise. If you're looking to beef up the capability of your pushbike a little, Slofly can help.
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.
This has got me seriously thinking about my home gym. And it's all good.
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.
A recent piece by Mike Demeter has me thinking about the Nike Free line of shoes that are designed to mimic the behaviour of bare feet as closely as possible. I can certainly see their appeal for runners; has anyone tried them whilst lifting weights?
There's something about barefoot deadlifting that never feels quite safe. Not that a running shoe would make much difference if I were to drop a plate on my foot (once was quite enough, thank you), but it's a psychological edge.
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.
I've always lived in cities where horizontal sections of road are few and far between, so I remain somewhat skeptical. Still, it's an interesting idea. The Rowbike.
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.
Or a couple of kettlebells. Preferably outdoors.
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.
This is the fourth part [see parts 1,2 and 3] of this month's collaboration with Run to Win's Blaine Moore on workout audio; looking at just a few of the options available for listening to music whilst working out.
Whether you're lifting weights, dragging a sled or simply going for a run; working out in silence just doesn't seem right. Here's a look at some of the gear that will help you avoid those peaceful times.
Sport or in-ear headphones
When you're moving around the last thing you want to think about is constantly readjusting your headphones. There are a few varieties of earbuds on the market that are designed for sports or workout use; snug fitting, water resistant and tough enough to take a bit of abuse.
I tend to use the earbuds that came with the iPod, but I've been gazing longly at the Sennheiser PMX 70s. Very nice.
A little over a year ago I tested out the a Rave headband mp3 player (the Rave19, a 256mb model). Since then there have been many improvements in sporting headphone technology (including the storage capacity, which almost seems laughable now) which have nearly rendered this obsolete. In my case, the Rave headband sits quietly in the corner whilst an iPod Shuffle gets all of the attention during workouts. Larger capacity, better sound. Case closed.
I am, however, interested to hear from anyone who's tried the later models of these headbands. The idea itself is fine.
I can remember the first time I saw someone out running whilst carrying a Walkman in one hand. My first thought was 'Why don't you put that thing in your pocket?', and as mp3 players took over the role I found myself asking the same question.
An armband fulfils that role nicely. Not only does it give you somewhere to put your mp3 player / mobile phone whilst out running / working out, it provides basic controls (or gives you easy access to the player's own) allowing you to switch between songs and adjust the volume. Very nice.
I'm yet to be convinced by this one. The underlying idea is good - moving the music source to a private, unobtrusive location - but it does have 'Nike marketing exercise' written all over it. Once the technology is used by a few other vendors I may be a little more enthusiastic.
As I mentioned above, I use an iPod Shuffle for my workout music. This isn't due to any great benefits of this particular player; I just happen to have one.
Its role is simple. A playlist of appropriate, aggressive music is copied onto it prior to working out (I don't leave it on there as its a bit of a shock to hear Motörhead in between two TWiT podcasts) and the player put into random mode.
If I'm doing exercises which have the bar at or below waist height (most rowing, shrugs, pulls etc), then I wear the Shuffle. The player itself hangs from its lanyard at about chest height (it's a 1st gen, so there's no clip).
If the bar is going to be above waist height, I plug the player into a stereo and fill the house with noise. Good fun.
Incidentally, if you haven't tried hooking your mp3 player up to a hi-fi, there really isn't much to it. Although there are a few dedicated connectors on the market, these are incredibly expensive (the first one I looked at was £80). All you need, however, is a cable which has two RCA plugs on one end (for the line-out on your amp) and a 3.5mm / 1/8" plug on the other (for the headphone jack of the mp3 player). That's it - you're now looking at only a few dollars.
Can't decide between blading and skiing? Try Skateslider.
'Hey hey, we're the Monkeys, and people say we monkey around'
- Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart
A few weeks ago I visited Sofala, an old mining town near Bathurst, NSW. Russell Drysdale depicted the main street in his 1947 painting Sofala, and it hasn't changed much in the 60 years since. It's a dry, desolate, dusty place - and quite beautiful. I love it.
Whilst walking along this same street I noticed something that I haven't seen for a number of years - monkey bars. There they were, in a childrens' playground neatly slotted between a pub and a toilet block (perhaps not the best location, but it was relatively well protected from the sun). It was a very unusual sight.
If you're not quite sure what monkey bars are, picture a smooth-runged steel ladder placed on its side. The whole thing is supported on poles, keeping it 7' or 8' off the ground. A chinning bar on steroids, if you will.
A few decades ago - when I would have first played around on monkey bars - they seemed to be everywhere. In their original, simple form or as part of more elaborate constructions such as rockets and aeroplanes. To a young boy with a big imagination, they were magical.
Rocannon takes a look at a simple, efficient equipment list for an outdoor home gym. Sounds like a great way to start.
|Nail shank gauges (diametres)
|Nail Penny sizes||In fractions of inches||In millimetres|
|8d||2 3/8 or 2 ½||60.3 or 63.5|
For those that like to make their own gym gear (and I definitely include myself in that group), Fightraining points to an interesting thread on the Crossfit forums. The topic of discussion this time - attaching a climbing rope to a rack. Very interesting.
Anvil or Hammer and the Art of Strength are holding a joint kettlebell painting contest. This is perfectly timed, as the only thing holding me back from adding a bit of colour to my own bell is the current weather (it's been raining for a few days now, and after 7 years of drought conditions that's great).
If you're new to the realm of kettlebell painting, don't panic - it's a fairly simple process. Just treat the bells the same as any heavy outdoor metallic objects. And avoid painting the handles.
For more information on the contest itself, head over to Anvil or Hammer. Should be fun.
As for the painting, the following articles may come in handy :
How to spraypaint a kettlebell
Finish Facts and Recommended Maintenance
Iron Horse Kettlebells
There are several obvious advantages to this. It's cheaper, the music is under your control, and nobody's going to look at you strangely when you try out that new thing with bands you read about last night. You're in charge.
When setting up your home gym, there are a few things to keep in mind. This article should be enough to get you started along what can be a very rewarding road.
What do you really need? The answer to that lies in a combination of your goals, finances and available space. To begin with, the following can take you a long, long way :
These items will afford you numerous exercise combinations, are fairly inexpensive to purchase (or can be constructed / bought second hand) and don't take up too much space. A single-car garage is usually large enough.
When the weather isn't too bad, training outdoors can be both fun and very rewarding. There are several exercises that can be done in the gym, but are usually performed in locations with a little more free space and a lack of breakable objects. Personal favourites include :
If your finances allow it, add a kettlebell to your gym's equipment list (one of the solid varieties - forget the adjustable type). They're extremely versatile things (and no, a dumbbell isn't just as good). A sandbag is easily - and inexpensively - constructed.
Bands and chains
Once you've been working out for a while you start considering two of the items famed for affording variable resistance - bands and chains. Whilst you'll occasionally see bands being used in a commercial gym, chains are definitely in home gym territory.
For the home gym, both bands and chains have the benefit of being fairly space-conscious. If you've already got room for a rack and bench, plus a couple of hooks on the wall, you've got enough room for both storing and using the bands and chains. Once again, if the finances allow it - and they align with your goals - bands and chains can both make great additions to your home gym.
One of the things that often gets overlooked in the planning of a home gym is the power of music. Although I occasionally put on something quite soothing, my usual fare is a little more raucous. If your mum would've shouted 'turn that racket down' through the door when you were a teenager, that's a good start.
There are essentially two ways to do this. One is to share your musical tastes with the world, and pop your referred CD into any player within reach. The other is to load up your favourite mp3 player, put the headphones on and get to work.
Personally I use the under/over rule for this one. If I'm performing lifts where my chest is above the bar (rack pulls, bent rows, shrugs etc) I'll fill the iPod with random metal goodness and pop in the headphones. If the bar is above my chest (bench, overhead pressing, Olympic lifts), I'll switch over to the CD player and fill the room with noise. Getting the bar caught in a headphone cord is a great way to lose concentration (not to mention rapidly reshaping your ears).
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.
Saw this mentioned in several places, the first of which was The Mighty Mix : a bungee-powered backpack. The backpack - developed by biologists at the University of Pennsylvania - reportedly reduces the force felt by the wearer by up to an astonishing 86%. If you like to carry a few things with you when you go running, this looks like a great addition to your arsenal.
If you'd like to suggest an addition or change to this list, either leave a note in the comments or drop me a line.
bands : along with chains, bands are the usual method of employing 'accommodating resistance'. This simply means that the weight gradually increases throughout the concentric part of the lift; as well as making the eccentric part a little more difficult.
If you haven't seen them before, picture a normal elastic band blown up until it's about 6' in diameter (and extremely strong, of course). Fantastic things.
belt : a weight belt serves two main purposes . The first is to reduce stress on the lower back whilst the lifter is working in an upright position, the second is to prevent hyperextension of the back during overhead lifts.
As with weightlifting gloves, the belt is often used - if at all - for the heavier sets only.
bench : along with the power rack, the bench forms the hub of many a home gym. If you're wondering why you can't simply lie on the floor for your pressing work, you can; the bench, however, affords a greater range of motion and allows for the benefit of leg drive.
bench shirt : this is an item used by some powerlifters (it's why you'll hear things such as a 'shirted bench'). The bench shirt is a tight, dedicated garment which acts much like a rubber band - making it a little more difficult to pull the bar down to your chest, but easier to press the bar back up again. A shirted bench is typically 100lb or more above a raw (or unshirted) bench.
boards : boards are used for board pressing, a bench press variation which allows the training of specific ranges of motion. Wooden boards of the desired thickness (usually between 4 and 14 inches) are held over the chest during a bench press, and the bar is brought down until it touches the board.
bumper plates : these are used (usually in conjunction with a lifting platform) for Olympic lifting. They can either be rubber coated or completely made from rubber, and are calibrated, quality plates that are made to take a little more abuse (from dropping) than regular plates. Note that this dropping is generally from knee height or below.
chains : like bands, chains offer accommodating resistance. A common use is with the bench press, where they are draped over the ends of the bar so that only a small portion rests on the floor. As the bar is lowered, this amount increases (gradually increasing the weight being lifted); lowering again as the bar is pressed.
Unlike bands, the resistance changes gradually through both eccentric and concentric parts of the exercise.
chalk : a grip aid. This works largely by keeping the palms dry and is usually used (in strength training) on exercises such as the deadlift, and the Olympic lifts.
dumbbells : whilst various hand-held weights have been around for a long time, dumb-bells as we now know them are a reasonably recent invention (only a few hundred years or so). Initially, many of these were made by taking two small bells, removing the clappers and affixing the bells to the ends of a bar. They were quite literally dumb bells.
farmer's walk implements : one of the exercises often associated with Strongman training (although it is now used reasonably widely) is the Farmer's Walk; walking a set distance with a heavy object in each hand. Whilst many things are used for this exercise - including the humble dumbbell - it is usually performed in Strongman competitions using a pair of Farmer's Walk implements (pictured). If you've never used them before, think dumbbells on steroids.
fat bar : nothing terribly complicated here. A fat bar is no more than a thicker version of a standard bar (2 or 3 inches rather than the usual 1 or so). The extra diameter makes it slightly more difficult to hold; providing an additional grip requirement for each exercise.
gloves : weightlifting gloves (usually fingerless) simply work to increase your grip. As with belts, these are often used - if at all - only for the heaviest set or two.
groove briefs : think of them as underwear for your squat suit. Briefs increase hip drive, reduce groin pain (helping you to train through minor injuries) and add to overall stability. Not to mention making putting on your squat suit a little easier.
kettlebells : offering an incredible variety of exercises (similar to dumbbells in many ways, with a few bonus features), kettlebells are the ultimate in simplicity. A chunk of iron was never so much fun.
monolift : most notably used by competitive powerlifters, a monolift is a simple mechanical device which takes the walkout away from the squat. The lifter is able to establish their favoured stance beneath the bar (without supporting its weight), before the machine removes its support leaving the lifter to squat as usual.
power pants : think of these as the bottom half of a squat suit, with many of the same benefits.
power rack / power cage : a power rack provides a great environment for training numerous exercises in comparative safety. The pins (horizontal bars in the sides of the rack) can be easily moved to several heights, enabling the training of a given exercise through a specific range of motion.
This is one of the first items to consider for a home or garage gym (for serious strength training).
rings : when it comes to upper body strength, ring training delivers in spades. The setup is simple - two rings, each a little larger than a hand, are suspended via long straps. Much more difficult than they look.
sandbag : exactly what it says - a bag of sand. Large, heavy and difficult to grab hold of - perfect.
sled : a platform designed to carry various heavy objects, towed by a rope or equally strong strap. Most commonly tied to the waist when running, it can also be dragged in truck pulling style.
sledgehammer : used for levering (pictured), holds and conditioning work. Excellent for building wrist strength.
squat box : a box squat (which is actually the search term that initially brought me to tsampa.org) is a squat which is performed by sitting back onto a box before standing once again. The box used for this is usually below the lifter's knee height, and often used for other exercises such as several varieties of jumps.
squat suit : functioning in much the same way as a bench shirt, a squat suit essentially makes squatting a little more difficult on the way down and assists on the way up.
stones : if you've ever watched a Strongman competition, chances are you've seen people pick up a series of heavy stones. Whilst these go by several names, they share the simplicity of being a large, heavy, difficult object to lift. Great to watch.
straps : these reduce the need for grip strength in a number of exercises (most things involving a bar) by shifting the supporting role up to the wrists. They're most commonly seen in use with exercises such as shrugs, deadlifts and rows.
weight releasers : these perform a simple function; most commonly used with the bench press, they add weight at the start of the lift and fall off (under control, of course) when the bar is near enough to the floor. This 'drop off' height is adjustable, enabling targeting of sticking points.
As you have no doubt guessed, the pressing part of the exercise suddenly feels a whole lot easier.
wraps : wraps are usually used to support the knees when squatting, and sometimes the elbows or wrists during exercises such as the bench press. They provide support (whilst allowing sufficient flexibility to perform the exercise) and - in some cases - heat.
yoke : Norwegian Strongman Roy Holte demonstrates the yoke, which is a simple (but challenging) piece of kit. Stand up so that the bar sits across your upper back, take the weight and walk as fast as you can. Strongman contests involving the yoke are usually timed events performed over set distances with set weights.
1. The Proper Use of Belts During Weight Training
UPDATE Jan 10, 2007 : Mike suggested a few items from Strongman training and Olympic lifting which have been added.
For an equally controversial habit see this video [streaming, 609kb .flv via KeepVid], which demonstrates a bit of gripper heating. Personally, I don't see the point in trying to make a gripper easier to use - the fun's in the challenge.
Via Jamie : I just grabbed a copy of Dan John's free ebook on Olympic Lifting, From the Ground Up [.pdf, 694kb]. It's a companion to the video (of the same name), and looks like a great read. Well worth getting.
Whilst I'm the current owner of a Reebok CyberRider, I'm not sure that partnering exercise with video gaming is a great solution to anything. The latest offering to hit the market - this time targeted at children (or their unsuspecting parents) - is from Gymkids.
Gymkids produces a range of devices for the burgeoning market of young obese video gamers; including a miniature treadmill, stepper and stationary cycle. Unlike similar devices these function by controlling the video game controllers rather than the video games themselves; and so are compatible with a number of games and devices.
Of course, a much more effective way to keep your child in shape (not to mention spending time with them) is to teach them how to play basketball. Or ride a bike. Or run.
It started more than 40 years ago at the University of Texas in Austin. Terry Todd and his weightlifting coach Professor Roy J. McLean shared a love of strength training history, and between them amassed a sizeable collection of books and magazines.
In 1975 Terry Todd - together with his wife Jan - purchased the strength training collection of the recently deceased Ottley Coulter (who himself had been collecting since the beginning of the century). This combined gathering has widened over the past 20 years to include items from competitive sports, hygiene, nutrition, the Olympic movement, ergogenic aids, naturopathy, vaudeville, anthropometry, and the academic discipline of physical education. It's now an enormous - and exceedingly rare - collection.
Via Engadget: the Bio-Shirt. With built-in temperature and heartrate monitoring, it has an immediate market. Looks great.
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.
Ready for some new Chucks? Just came across an add for the new Jackass Chuck Taylor All Stars - featuring the Skull and Crutches logo.
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.
One of the great things about having a rack handy is the regular temptation to stop by and do a few chin-ups. Over the past few days these have been mostly the standard variety - with the only changes being to the grip width - however, there are a few versions I wouldn't mind trying.
This afternoon I came across this amongst a pile of near-vintage gym gear: an ab wheel. Unlike a lot of fitness equipment for the abs, this one has survived - because it's simple and it works. In fact it's so simple that any sort of rotating bar and a round plate can be used.
Although Ross Enamait makes them look easy (he does a few on the Low Tech, High Effect video [.wmv, 5.1mb] amongst others), the standing version is incredibly hard. In fact, starting with the kneeling version was more than enough to feel it working.
Ab rollout (often called a 'barbell rollout')
Beginning from a standing start will obviously make the exercise a lot more difficult than the kneeling version. To adjust the intensity between these two stages, try using various inclines (a piece of wood and a staircase are your friends here); and on different surfaces (carpet vs concrete for example).
To make the entire movement more difficult, use only one arm; or attach a light band to make it that much more interesting.
This exercise places quite a lot of stress on the lower back and shoulders (if arms are near horizontal at end of movement). These certainly aren't reasons to avoid it, simply points to be aware of.
For the unusally clumsy, lazy, or those in various institutions where rope is considered a risky item. A skipping rope without the rope.
This book is an excellent resource for anyone new to weight training - regardless of their reasons for doing this training. It contains simple program outlines for beginner, intermediate and advanced lifters; and details each exercise showing techniques and benefits.
Columbu's credentials - even if you don't remember him in his bodybuilding heyday (and his career was certainly nothing to sneeze at) - are found in a line near the end of the book :
To me, the most important thing is to be as strong as you look.
As the book is filled with photos showing Columbu bending iron bars, lifting a car, pulling over 700lb, benching 475lb etc it is clear that he stands behind this statement.
The book also features a brief look into Columbu's thinking on nutrition (see something like The Bodybuilder's Nutrition Book for a more complete view), as well as various stories covering everything from old-time strongmen to contemporary arm-wrestling competitions. For those leaning toward bodybuilding, a few thoughts on posing are offered.
Overall it's a great read - and worth looking at for the numerous photos alone; as well as the beautifully simple advice from someone who has certainly 'walked the walk'.
For anyone considering adding a kettlebell or two to their home gym, here are a couple of points to keep in mind :
Finding myself without the weights for a while was more than enough reason to track down a local supplier of Kettlebells. I'm not quite sure why, but everything to do with them - from the bells themselves to training manuals and DVDs - seems to be tucked away in various online stores and auction sites.
If you're looking for them, here are a couple of sources to investigate :
Octogen Fitness (Australia)
Although the shipping is a sizeable part of the cost (I was fortunate here as I live close to part of the team and was able to call and pick it up), this is a great source for the Kettlebells themselves in Australia.
Octogen also offer regular workshops to learn the finer points of Kettlebell training.
The only difference between these and their russian counterparts is the name which has been stamped on them. The starter sets are well worth considering, combining bells with a Pavel Tsatsouline DVD to get things moving in the right direction.
Mike Mahler (US)
The above manual describes - and has photographs for each - over 40 exercises; covering both single and double kettlebell use. I tried a few of them this afternoon, and once I've been through the book I should have a pretty solid routine worked out. The book also has a couple of routines for those just starting out.
I'm keen to read some of Pavel Tsatsouline's writings on kettlebell training, and am most interested to hear from anyone who's already added a book or DVD to their own fitness library. For now though, Mike Mahler has ensured that I'll be enjoying a bit of pain.
The home gym just got a lot more interesting.
If you've somehow managed to avoid the Total Gym infomercials featuring the well-known faces of Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley, the photo at left should give you an idea of the basic arrangement. It's essentially an inclined bench (with a sliding pad), and a cable at each side to lift/lower the user along the bench. A very simple setup.
The company was founded in 1974 by Tom Campanaro, Larry Westfall, and Dale Mc Murray - with the product changing little since then. As the height of the incline was soon changeable (with 6 heights available on the 1000 model I'm currently using), adjusting the resistance of various bodyweight exercises became a simple matter and the Total Gym products were taken up largely for rehab use. In that respect they're still ideal.
In the mid-90s the Total Gym was brought to a home-user market, with an advertising campaign featuring the Norris/Brinkley combination in 1996 and a website (totalgym.com) the same year. Several advertising campaigns later, the Total Gym range still boasts large numbers of both home and medical centre users.
I am still surprised at how effective the setup (at least on the 1000) feels; whilst I'm not expecting to build large slabs of muscle with it, I'm experiencing far more muscle soreness than following typical bodyweight workouts. All of the exercises I've tried so far (and there are far more than you might imagine - it's a very versatile setup) have been using the steepest incline, which averages out at around 44% of bodyweight. That may sound quite light, but keep in mind that everything on the Total Gym is a compound exercise, and there's more balance and control involved than in many bodyweight movements.
In addition to its common rehab uses, the Total Gym is also a good intermediate point for a few of the more difficult bodyweight+free-weight exercises; such as chin-ups and handstand push-ups. Neither of these are easy, but using 44% of bodyweight brings them a little closer to attainability.
Overall, think of the Total Gym as another tool that can be used. It certainly isn't better (or worse) than any other form of resistance exercise, but very good at what it does. The only point I'd make on the range available is that many of the optional extras seem quite pointless to me; such as the extra hooks, cables, pins and plates (yes, you can add weight plates to them - but if you really want to lift weights, why start with a Total Gym?). Grab one of the simpler models (usually the lower numbers - which are changing all the time). You'll be surprised.
With the jetlag associated with moving through a dozen timezones in less than two days comes a strong desire to do any sort of strength training available - even at odd times. As it'll be a few weeks before I again find myself with a rack at my disposal, I'm giving my dad's Total Gym 1000 a bit of a test.
If you haven't seen the Total Gym (usually on TV as an infomercial squeezed between various ab machines), it looks similar to an incline bench with a sliding pad, and cables + pulleys to move the pad up and down the guides. Although plates can be added via an optional accessory, the standard for most of the Total Gym machines is body weight.
This machine blends the cardio and strength training components, and seems like a great way of maintaining (or developing in my case) a good level of GPP. As the angle of the slide is adjustable, it's also an excellent way of building up to handstand pushups. Fun stuff.
Finally got a chance to catch up on sleep (7.5 hours, which is great compared with the 4-5 I usually get) and it certainly made a difference this morning. Looking over Rob's recent squat/rack pull workout inspired me to do the same - including the PRs.
The squats were once again of the bottom-up variety, with a few sets of regular free squats beforehand to warm up a bit. Worked up to a new 10RM for these before realising I was dangerously close to vomit terrritory.
For the rack pulls I decided to try out John's suggestion and use chalk - hoping that my back would call Time before my grip did. This seemed to make a bit of a difference (at least the white handprints on everything looked cool), and I took it 20kg up from last time before calling it a day. As tempting as it was to max out, I'll try to stick to 10RMs during this phase.
Rack pull (above knee, 6 holes, conventional)
Just noticed a new (well, new to me) gripper over on the Ironmind site - the unusual-sounding IMTUG. This is designed to train not only crushing grip (ala the CoC) but also pinch grip. A chart on the site compares the strengths of the two ranges.
Anyone tried one?
Tuesday's Cuban presses were enough to show me that a 24hr break from lifting was not quite enough; with the cold frustratingly still in force.
Trying hard to avoid making eye contact with the weights (that's really all it takes) I decided instead to do a bit of walking - there's a national park around the corner, with a variety of hills to make things more interesting. I've long been curious about just how much walking I do in everyday life (I don't have a car, and tend to walk everywhere), and ended up getting a pedometer.
With several experts seemingly agreeing on the target of 10,000 steps (approx 13km/8m) per day, the results will be interesting indeed.
I love working out at home. On a few occasions over the years I've been drawn into the world of commercial gyms with shiny machines - only to lose interest a few weeks or months later. Weight training in a home gym, using mostly free weights, has never felt like a short term thing. Unlike going to a commercial gym, training never feels like a chore; in fact I look forward to it.
One of the reasons for this feeling is undoubtedly the fact that my home gym has been designed with one person in mind - me. Everything that's there (and it's a pretty simple setup) is there only to enable me to increase my own strength; there are no mirrors, banks of televisions or anything else to act as a distraction. The music is always loud, fast and exactly my taste. Perfect.
A second factor in my love of training at home is the presence of a training partner who shares the enthusiasm for the rugged simplicity of the setup, and doesn't bat an eyelid when I introduce somewhat unusual exercises into my training. It's all part of the fun.
So what do I have in this simple setup? The gym revolves around the presence of a power rack, bench, bars and weights. The other items are somewhat periferal - a few toys for grip training, a bike to warm up on and a good assortment of resistance bands. These items afford a vast array of exercises, and I add new ones every few weeks. After a year of regular training in many things I'd feel reasonably well-versed; powerlifting is constantly giving me new opportunities to learn. A wonderful feeling.
If starting again I'd make only minor modifications to the setup, such as purchasing a larger number of weight plates at the outset (fears of the training becoming a phase); and equipping myself with a simpler bench - I began without a power rack, and getting a bench with side stands seemed like a good idea at the time. Now they are unused.
For anyone currently considering the setup of their own home gym, I'd suggest the following:
Everthing else depends on available space, finances and intended use. If you're interested in Olympic Weightlifting, a few bumper plates and a lifting platform will be handy (you're probably best advised to build your own platform - much, much cheaper).
Other items you might like to consider include some of the variety of grip tools (Ironmind's Rolling Thunder ranks highly on my own wishlist), a sandbag (once again, these are often best when home-made), medicine balls, or your favourite piece of cardio equipment.
Oh, two things that will prove indispensable - a CD player and plenty of hard-hitting tunes. Now you're set to go.
The 'Masters Package' of Iron Woody bands I use includes the following:
2 x Mini-band #1 (5-35lb resistance)
2 x Super Mini-band #2 (10-50lb) - red
2 x Small band #3 (25-80lb) - blue
2 x Medium band #4 (50-120lb) - green
2 x Large band #5 (60-150lb) - black
In the UK, you can order them from London Kettlebells.
Currently I use a Marcy Pro bench, which I purchased at the same time as a standard bar and a few plates when I started lifting. It's served its time well, however there are a few things I'd change if I was shopping for a replacement.
These are :
Not time to start shopping for a new bench just yet, but when I do...
This afternoon's scheduled workout was postponed at the last minute due to the arrival of a rather large package; the Power Cage I ordered last week from Bodypower. This opens up a wealth of possible exercises, including a number of squat variations that are all but impossible to do with any degree of safety without so much as a standard squat rack. Looking forward to giving it a solid test.
Unfortunately the testing will have to wait until tomorrow, as assembling the new toy too quite a bit longer than expected (long enough to enjoy no fewer than 3 old Soundgarden CDs); and assembly is almost a workout in its own right. (At around 80kg it's just a little heavier than your typical Ikea bookcase - and me for that matter).
Well, they're not suede but they're certainly blue. The old faithful New Balance cross trainers (which I've probably had for several years too long) finally died, and the Converse replacements seemed appropriate for weight work. Not sure about the colour though (the alternatives were much worse I can assure you).
As for the workout itself - which marked the end of the first 12 weeks - it was a good one, partly assisted by the guilt of tuesday's meagre offering and partly by the AC/DC blaring in the background. I decided to keep the sets short, the weight a little lighter than usual and focussed on speed with good form.
Slightly longer session than I hoped, but it felt pretty good. Now to work out what I'm going to do over the next 12 weeks...
One of the more useful tools I've been using in the past few months is the wrist roller I knocked up a while ago. This consists of an axe-handle, and a length of heavy-duty chain pinned to the centre of it. Weight plates are connected to the other end of the chain, which is looped through the hole of each plate and attached to itself with a short bolt + nut. Simple, effective and handy.
Recently I've been using the roller for Good Mornings, with the aim of keeping the weight in front of my chest rather than behind my neck. This seems to be doing the job nicely.