Straight to the Bar

All Things Strength


DIY Equipment Ideas
Posted By Scott Bird

Home-made Dumbbell rack by Clay JohnsonIf 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.
Bar thickeners
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.
Sliding bench
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.

Ab roller
This is a quick one – it’s essentially just a free-spinning wheel and an axle with a bit of grip on each end. An Olympic dumbbell with a rotating handle works reasonably well; however setups with a single wheel are also great to use.
Pull-up helper
There are a number of devices related to the humble pull-up that I’d love to see. These include :

  • a counterbalanced rope or pulley to aid the completion of a pull-up
  • adjustable boxes for gradually increasing the starting distance from the bar (they’d also be great for squats)
  • a portable set-up for completing pull-ups whilst away from home (whether in your lunch break at work, or whilst travelling)

Once standard pull-ups become comfortable, variations such as the Climbers’ Pull-up (two fingers from each hand) rapidly move up the list. The many versions of fingerboards are great for this type of training, and can be simple as a smooth piece of wood affixed to the wall above a doorframe.
Punching bag
Whether you’re training your punches or kicks, a bag is a great thing to have. The filling is the key here – rags, sand or other materials?
Weighted vest
As cool as the X-Vest is, weight is weight. Plates are a little cumbersome for that sort of thing; sand perhaps?
Rowing machine
Although this sounds ambitious, the basic idea is fairly straightforward. Construct a padded seat on rails, and a cable on a weighted wheel to drag you along.
Grip training
Many exercises can be made more difficult simply by making the object harder to grip. This provides a limitless pool of ideas, and changes the way you look at everyday objects.
A couple of examples :

  • Cut a length of dowel into 1.5″ – 2″ pieces and hammer them into a board. Pull them out with your fingers.
  • Knock up a couple of heavy sandbags (Mike has a great article on doing just that), grab them around the top of the bag (hands in a hammer grip) and perform farmers walks.

Incidentally, if this has got you thinking about grabbing one for yourself, swing by the SttB Strength Store. Massive range.

Over to you. Drop us a line on Twitter ( @scottbird ), or add a comment below.



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And if you'd like to check out any of the stuff mentioned above (or in the comments), swing by Amazon. Huge assortment of fitness gear.


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Written By Scott Bird
Scott is a long-time fitness enthusiast (Jan 2004!), writer and photographer living in Sydney, Australia. If you share the passion for spending a bit of time under a bar, welcome. Love hearing how everyone else trains. You can connect via X (Formerly Twitter), Facebook and the various networks listed in the sidebar.
Drawing of Scott Andrew Bird performing a deadlift. Artwork by Vince Palko.