DIY PVC Weight Plate Storage Rack

After the basic Elements, the single most-used accessory in my gym is the plate rack. Four days a week, the plates come out of the rack, get loaded on the bar, and get returned to the rack; sometimes multiple times in a single session.

PVC Plate Rack

PVC Plate Rack

I’d seen a few examples of DIY plate racks online, and decided I liked PVC the best. PVC is one of the most versatile and easy to work with materials, and it’s widely available at very low prices.

The design is quite simple, but requires a lot of cutting. I used a hand saw the first time I built a set of plate racks, and a miter saw the second time. Obviously the miter saw is faster, but I want you to know that it can be done with just hand tools. Remember to use all of the appropriate protective gear.

I used ¾” Schedule 40 PVC pipe and fittings. When I first built the plate racks, I was fairly certain I’d end up with broken pieces of PVC, or at least cracks over time. I’ve been using these racks for nearly two years, and there are still no cracks or breaks.

PVC Plate Rack Version 1

PVC Plate Rack Version 1

There are only two basic components in the plate rack: ends and dividers. The ends, two per plate rack, should be 8 ½” pieces of pipe with an elbow (90 degree fitting) on each side. On both sides, like book-ends, and in between each plate will be a divider. Each divider should be two 5 ¾” pieces of pipe with an elbow in between, and a Tee on each end. The ends join the dividers at the Tees, and each divider joins the next at the Tees. Each of those connections is performed by cutting a joint of pipe to mate with the Tees (for the dividers) and the elbows (for the ends).

Ends and Dividers

End and Dividers

The first time I built the PVC Plate Racks, I only added space where the wider plates would go. In my case, that meant the 25 lbs and 45 lbs bumper plates. All of the others were left loose, as the gap between two Tees is 1 ¾”, which is wider than my 10 lbs bumper and all of my iron plates. There was a bit of wiggle room, but no real drawback to leaving the looser spacing.

The second time around, I cut the Tees down to make a tighter fit. I did this mainly for cosmetic reasons, but I find it to be a little nicer when retrieving the iron plates. Less wiggle room correlates with a reduced risk of pinching my fingers when retrieving or replacing the plates.

If you decide to go with the tighter fit, measure the thickness of the plate, then compare that to the 1 ¾” gap of two joining Tees. To maximize the strength of the joint, I removed equal amounts of material from both Tees, rather than simply cutting the extra material from one Tee and leaving the other alone. The bumper plates required a bit of test-fitting and adjusting, while the iron plates were fairly direct.

As an added touch, I primed and painted my racks to match the rest of the gear in my gym. Be sure to select primer and paint that’s intended for use on plastics.

Take a minute to count up how many plates you need to store, and factor that out into the appropriate length of PVC pipe and the correct number of elbows and Tees. Head out to your local hardware store and get to work!

I’d love to see how these turn out for you, so post pictures to the comments, or email them to be posted on the Facebook page.

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Apps

While most of my training is fairly low-tech, I do make use of some high-tech tools in the gym. I use my iPad and/or iPhone as a timer, video recorder and jukebox. Below are a list of the apps I use for each of those items.

Timers

Tabata Pro from SimpleTouch

Tabata intervals are a proven conditioning method. I highly recommend working them into your routine.

Timers Pro

This app works well for CrossFit style workouts, and includes a built-in rep counter. This is the app that was featured in all of the 2012 CrossFit Open videos.

Chronolite from Treeness, LLC

I use this app as my primary stopwatch. Any time I see an AMRAP or For Time workout, this is the app I use.

Seconds

This app is nice for its ability to create custom HIIT timers. I used it recently for an every-30-seconds workout, and it gave a nice three-second beep cue for every rep.

Video

Ubersense

Coach’s Eye (not free) gets a lot of publicity, but I’m not sure it provides anything that Ubersense (free) does not. I use Ubersense to record video so I can confirm proper form on my lifts. It has the ability to tag videos by movement, play back in slow motion, and draw directly onto the video. And it’s free.

Music

Spotify

You can hear anything form Amon Amarth to Skrillex and almost anything in between in my garage, all thanks to Spotify.

Pandora

Pandora radio is another great alternative, and is free if you don’t mind the advertisements.

Training Log

Evernote

Jerred Moon did a full write-up on using Evernote for your training log. While I prefer the narrow scope of my handful of charts and spreadsheets, those who want to be able to recall and analyze a wider selection of metrics may find Evernote to be very helpful.

What apps do you use in your home/garage gym? Post in the comments or tell us on Facebook!

 

Recommended Reading

Your journey to strength and fitness should not be one of blind faith. There is an incredible wealth of knowledge available to you on the topics of strength, fitness, athletics and nutrition. I’ll list a few that I think are particularly helpful, and that will hopefully set you off on a course to knowledge.

On Nutrition:

The Paleo Manifesto by John Durant

I had the pleasure of meeting John at a CrossFit event a few years ago. He’s a witty and engaging conversationalist, which shows through in his writing. His book presents a compelling case for a diet based in real, whole foods to accompany an active lifestyle. While it has plenty of substance, the concepts are presented in such a way that any reader can understand them.

Paleo for Lifters by Justin Lascek

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time at all, you’ll notice I’m a big fan of Justin’s work. This book takes the principles from Loren Cordain’s “The Paleo Diet” and applies it directly to strength trainees. The framework is nearly identical to the recommendations Power Athlete HQ and CrossFit Football have for their athletes.

The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf

Along with Mark Sisson and Mat Lalonde, Robb Wolf is a torch-bearer of the paleo movement. His book is a little less geared toward athletic development and more toward the simple healthy lifestyle. It’s an easy read that provides plenty of information to anyone interested in cleaning up their diet.

On Exercise:

These are a handful of strength, fitness and athletic training books that I would immediately recommend to anyone seeking to learn more about those topics:

Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe

Fit by Lon Kilgore, Michael Hartman, Justin Lascek

Periodization Training for Sports by Tudor Bompa

Science and Practice of Strength Training by Vladimir Zatsiorsky

Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes and Coaches by Greg Everett

Advances in Functional Training by Mike Boyle

There’s no shortage of training, coaching and nutrition literature available. What books have made an impact on your training? Leave a note in the comments, or on our Facebook page.

Charts and Spreadsheets

As you progress on your journey to improve your fitness, it’s good to have and keep metrics. A rule of thumb from business school: if it can’t be measured, it can’t be improved.

training log

Gym Metrics

I like keeping metrics for a few reasons. First, certain metrics are a good indicator of how well I stack up against the competition and/or my peers. Second, having the right metrics lets me know if there’s a particular gap in my training. Finally, there are metrics that indicate whether I’m ready for more advanced training methods, or whether I should stick to the basics.

Here are a handful of charts and spreadsheets I keep handy:

Basic Strength StandardsRippetoe, et al.

This chart is great for keeping a handle on my overall strength progress, as well as identifying whether I have a strength imbalance. For example, if I’m near the Advanced level for all lifts except Power Cleans where I’m at a Novice level, I know there’s something about the Power Clean that needs attention.

Olympic Lifting Strength ChartGreg Everett of Catalyst Athletics.

This is similar to the Rippetoe chart, but has a focus on the olympic weightlifting movements.

Linear Progression Spreadsheet – Garage Gym Guy

LP Chart (pdf) LP Chart (xlsx)

I put this spreadsheet together to keep track of both progress, and to know when it was finally time to graduate from the LP. (The general consensus is that you stay with the LP until you stall on all major lifts at the same time. Individual stalls and resets do not indicate a need for more complex training.)

Rep Max Spreadsheet – Garage Gym Guy

RM Chart (pdf) RM Chart (xlsx)

I put this sheet together as a way to keep track of 1RM, 3RM, 5RM, etc. for the CrossFit Football Collegiate program. It’s faster than digging through my training log to find the right number for a given lift.

Percentage Chart – Garage Gym Guy

Percentage Chart (pdf) Percentage Chart (xlsx)

When your training progression requires it, I’ve also put together a spreadsheet for working with percentages.

CrossFit LevelsCrossFit Seattle

This is a handy chart to help track and monitor progress in the sport of fitness. Some of the biggest critiques of CrossFit relate to pushing too hard, too soon. Having charts like this to help tailor training to individuals can help limit the risks associated with pushing inexperienced athletes in over their heads.

If you found any of these materials to be helpful, please share them! Leave a message in the comments of head over to Garage Gym Guy on Facebook, and let us know what reference materials you keep with you in the gym!

Gestalt

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

The Elements of a basic gym: barbell, plates, platform, rack, bench and chin up bar. A basic plan built on solid Principles: Adaptation by way of compound movements, an emphasis on building and maintaining strength with proper loading and rep ranges.

Garage Gym

Garage Gym Elements

It’s not complicated – and it doesn’t need to be. It’s just exercise.

In the last few posts I’ve given you the tools to select a solid program that fits your fitness goal. I’m going to take it one step further and flat-out hand you a few programs that have brought me great results, or that come strongly recommended by trusted sources.

Based on the Principles we covered, a good program will do two things. First, it will align with your training goals, and second, it will fall in line with the principles of adaptation from an anatomy/physiology perspective.

That means, if you’re a powerlifter, your program better make you stronger in the squat, bench and deadlift. If you’re a triathlete, the program needs to make you a faster swimmer, bicyclist and runner. If you’re a football player, your program needs to make you a better football player. Whatever your sport, your training program is a good one when it results in your improvement at your sport.

The second part is just as crucial – the program needs to fall in line with the general rules of anatomy and physiology. It must provide adequate stimulus for the desired response. It must provide adequate rest and recovery for consistent adaptation. And it must be safe for you, the trainee.

A program that doesn’t sufficiently challenge you, doesn’t allow you to rest enough, or puts you at risk of injury or overtraining is a bad program. Choose wisely!

If you are relatively new to the Iron Game, then it is my sincerest opinion that you should begin with a Linear Progression. You don’t have to stay there, but you need to start there. As your training age matures, you can move on to more complicated programs, but for the “young”, there’s no better place to start.

Starting Strength, Madcow/Bill Starr, Stronglifts, and Greyskull LP are all good choices here. I went with CrossFit Football’s Amateur program (also an LP), and was very happy with the results.

I have since moved on to CrossFit Football’s Collegiate program. This program utilizes a mix of rep max work with some percentage-based work. Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 and Justin Lascek’s Texas Method Part 1 use similar percentage tools, and work well for intermediates. While the Texas Method is suited mainly to brute strength/powerlifting, Jim Wendler has spun off a number of variations to his 5/3/1 program to suit the needs of everyone from powerlifters to football players to CrossFitters.

Speaking of CrossFit, if you fancy yourself the next winner of the World Series of Exercise, Rudy Nielsen has a selection of programs to choose from, based on your level of experience and/or your area of weakness.

If you’re more inclined toward Olympic Lifting, Catalyst Athletics publishes both a beginner program and a running daily program.

For the fitness generalist who is interested in exercise simply for a healthy and fit lifestyle, Everyday Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness also runs a program. For Tactical Athletes (Military, Law Enforcement and First Responders), Military Athlete publishes a variety of programs for both Fitness Test preparation, and active duty applications.

Like we discussed last time, there are plenty of methods out there – these a just a few that I’ve had close contact with, and which fall in line with the Principles we discussed. What programs have you had success with? How well did the goals of the program align with your training goals and how much do you think it contributed to your overall goals? Let us know in the comments or over on Facebook!