Get a Grip: DIY Grip Tools

Here comes another simple, yet effective, DIY. Today’s items will help you build a stronger grip, which is useful for everything from deadlifting in the gym to shaking hands in an office introduction. I’m going to show you how to make cannonball/grenade ball grips and a pinch gripper.

Let’s start with the cannonball grips. I got some softballs for $3 each, eye bolts for less than a dollar each, and I had some left over tee nuts from fixing up my flat bench.

Materials

Materials

Begin by drilling a hole through the softball. Be careful to drill straight through the center of the ball. I used a 3/8″ bit to match up with my 5/16″ hardware. Now, with a flat washer near the eye, push the eye bolt through the hole in the ball. Put a tee nut on the other end to receive the bolt. Tighten it up, and you’re good to go!

Cannonball / Grenade Ball Construction

Cannonball / Grenade Ball Construction

For the pinch gripper, I used a hockey puck I had lying around. Same story here: 3/8″ hole through the middle, but this time the eye bolt had a nut and washer on the eye-end. I used a tee nut on the top side, threaded the eye bolt into it, then tightened the nut on the other end to cinch everything together.

Pinch Grip Construction

Pinch Grip Construction

I made a pair of cannonballs for doing pull ups, and either tool can be used with the loading pin for single-arm work.

Grip it and rip it!

Grip it and rip it!

Give these tools a shot and let me know how it worked in the comments or over on the Facebook page!

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DIY: Reinforcing the Bench

In an earlier post, I showed you how to reupholster a bench. That method is great for taking a structurally sound bench, and dressing it up or making it into your own personalized piece of equipment. If you happen to have a bench that is not structurally sound, this post should help sort that out.

My first bench began its life as a typical adjustable bench press unit. As is typical with these types of benches, the uprights were in the wrong location for a guy my size. I used an angle grinder to quickly remedy that (I chopped them off). I dealt, similarly, with the upholstered portion of the bench.  What I had left was a solid frame with no actual bench and no more ill-spaced uprights.

Flat Bench, Version 1

Flat Bench, Version 1

My next step was to add back a flat bench. For this first iteration, I went with a couple pieces of 1/2″ angle iron screwed to a 1″x8″ board. I then added some carpet padding and wrapped it in a durable fabric. I rarely do incline or decline pressing, instead opting for overhead pressing and dips, so this worked well for a while as a basic flat bench. My bench press has increased steadily over the past few years to the point where I was no longer comfortable on this bench.

The basic structure was still adequate, but the angle iron and 1×8 board weren’t going to cut it any longer. On heavy attempts, I could feel the bench sagging under the weight and the narrow base left me feeling a bit unstable. I decided to upgrade to 1″ square steel tubing and a 2×12.

Square Steel Tube Frame

Square Steel Tube Frame

First, I drilled holes in the steel tubing so it would mount to the rest of the frame. Second, I added holes for bolting the steel to the wood. I then used the drilled steel to stencil the bolt pattern onto the 2×12. I drilled through the 2×12, and added T-nuts on the upper side of the board. From there, it was as simple as sliding the bolts through the steel tubing and the wood, and tightening them into the T-nuts.

Tee Nuts

Tee Nuts

I topped it all off with four layers of carpet padding, and wrapped it in the same durable orange fabric as before. The result is a much sturdier piece of equipment that I doubt I’ll ever out-grow.

Bench with Carpet PaddingBench with Carpet Padding

Bench with Carpet Padding

And here’s the finished product.

The Reinforced Bench

The Reinforced Bench

Got a bench that’s not keeping up with your training? Give this a shot and let us know how it turns out in the comments or over on the Facebook page!

Powerlifting Meet Write-Up

I know it’s way over-due, but better late than never! This past March I lifted in the UPA Michigan Powerlifting Championships hosted by Detroit Barbell.

First things first, the meet was very well run. Detroit Barbell’s staff was top-notch and did a great job with everything from loading bars to spotting the lifts to running the scoreboard. I look forward to my next Detroit Barbell hosted meet!

OK, now for the details…

Making Weight

I did a water cut to lift in the 181 lbs class. I’m normally up between 185 and 190, so it was a fairly easy cut. I lifted in the CrossFit division since I follow CrossFit Football as my primary mode of training.

Squat

I opened at 365 lbs, which was roughly my 3RM in the weeks leading up to the meet. I used this method to choose my openers for all three lifts, and it seems to have been a good strategy. That first squat was an easy one, so I felt good moving up to 405 for the second attempt. This one felt decent, and came up with another three white lights. I called for 415 on my third attempt and got stuck in the hole. As mentioned earlier, the spotters did a fantastic job! I’d hit 411 once in the gym a few weeks prior, so hitting 405 and missing 415 seemed a fair assessment.

Bench Press

I opened at 235, and like the squat, put an easy first attempt on the board. I had a minor hiccup on my second attempt due to benching with a supine grip and having a spotter who wasn’t used to seeing it. No harm, no foul, and 255 went up for three white lights. I called for a PR of 270 for my third attempt. Driving off the chest, my back cramped hard, which I think helped my arch and gave me just enough help to drive through to lockout.

Deadlift

I train with the Rogue barbell, so using a legit deadlift bar was a bit of a treat, and it showed in my score! I once again called for the easy opener of 405, which came off the floor surprisingly easy. A jump to 435 on the second attempt had similar results, so I called for another PR of 455 for my third attempt. It felt heavy, but good as I locked it out.

Total

I had calculated a projected total around 1,130 prior to the meet, albeit with a little different mix through the lifts. As it turned out, none of the lifts was exactly as I had projected it, but the total was spot-on.

Conclusions

I was primarily looking for an honest, meet-verified assessment of my strength progress. Being able to lift with such a knowledgeable and helpful staff also made for a nice opportunity to determine any lagging areas and possible means to fix them. I accomplished both things, and have already set out to prepare for what comes next.

If you’ve ever contemplated lifting at a meet, just do it! Also, if you happen to be in the Midwest, try to find a meet hosted by Detroit Barbell!

If you have done a meet, or have one coming up soon, tell us about it in the comments or on the Facebook page!

Independence

I’m a fourth-generation American who can trace his roots to ancestors who fought alongside Sir William Wallace. This family has never shied away from the call of duty to fight for the freedoms we embrace. We know the value of Liberty and Independence.

Here at Garage Gym Guy, we like to celebrate Independence! While most in America celebrate socio-political independence today, I also like to celebrate physical independence and financial independence.

One of the biggest motivations for my training is to be physically independent – that is, I can take myself to the places I want to go and do the things that I want to do. Sometimes that means picking up something heavy, sometimes it means hiking up a mountain, and sometimes it’s as simple as stretching the sleeves on my favorite work shirt when some skinny hipster walks into my cubicle.

Another key element in my life is being wise with my money. That means not over-paying for training or equipment, so I like to celebrate freedom from gym dues and Smith-machine retailers.

Our tagline is Liberate, Innovate, Dominate. You’ve seen some Garage Gym Innovations, and the Domination part is truly up to you and your definition. This Independence Day, we can celebrate our decision to Liberate from sub-par gyms, and what better way than raising the Star Spangled Banner in our training space.

Begin by obtaining your flag of choice. Then select both the location and orientation (landscape or portrait) that suits you. Finally, be aware of proper flag etiquette. Since the vast majority of my readership is from the USA, that means that regardless of orientation, the blue field should always be on its own right (viewer’s left). If you’re putting up multiple flags (check out the history on The Saltire, Gadsden Flag, and Jolly Roger), be aware that there may be dictates on the relative placement of your flags of choice.

I’ll be hanging my flag in the landscape orientation, and as such, it needs an extra grommet in the upper-right corner. I got a grommet kit, which can be picked up at either your local hardware store (check near the tarps) or fabric shop. I folded the right edge over approximately an inch, to make room for the grommet to catch two layers of fabric. I then ironed the fold flat. Following the instructions on the grommet kit, I added a grommet in both the upper- and lower-right corners. The flag is now ready to be hung using nails, screws or hooks.

Fold and Iron a Double Layer for the Grommet

Fold and Iron a Double Layer for the Grommet

Install the Grommet

Install the Grommet

So celebrate Independence Day and Liberty in all their forms! Feel free to share what it looks like or what it means to you in the comments or over on the Facebook page!

The Garage Gym

The Garage Gym