It’s been a while

…Allow me to explain.

At the end of last summer, my wife and I decided to finish our basement. We’d planned on doing so since we bought our house three years ago, and we thought this past Winter would be a good time to tackle the project.

former gym

The space formerly known as the gym

Shortly after that decision was made, I was recruited for a position at a new employer. It was a good opportunity, and I accepted an offer in the Fall. The only down side was that this new employer was located an hour and a half’s drive from our house.

Since it was Fall, we decided to carry on with the basement project, as doing so would increase the value of the house in time for the local real estate market to heat up in the Spring. We’d deal with the long commute, and move as soon as we could sell the house.

For the first few months, I continued to train, but cut back on volume and treated the remodeling project as accessory work. After all, hanging drywall isn’t exactly a cake walk. By time January rolled around, I realized the schedule was getting tighter and cut back even further on lifting in order to get further on the basement.

…And then it happened. I was wrapping up an evening of successful drywall work. With one last piece to hang, I had two cuts and few screws between me and dinner. Sure enough, I slipped on the second cut and caught my thumb to the tune of four stitches.

stitches

Stitches

Lifting stopped. Drywall stopped. I couldn’t grip anything for three weeks.

By time the cut had healed, the schedule was blown, and the priority list no longer included lifting. From February through April, it’s been a mad dash to get the basement finished, get the house listed and sold, and find a new house closer to the new job.

We finished the basement in March, but since that’s where the gym was, I couldn’t exactly jump back into lifting. Further, it’s been until last week that we’ve been wrapping up the details for selling and buying the homes. Now that life has calmed back down, the urge to reclaim my physical capacity has inspired me!

I cleared out a space in my garage. It’s only about 50 square feet, but its room enough for the old squat stands, a barbell and a few plates.

The simple bare necessities!

The simple bare necessities!

Since we haven’t moved yet, time is still limited. And, with the four month hiatus, I’m not exactly in peak condition. The plan, then, is simply to start where I am: lift a few times per week, hit the major lifts, and slowly progress. For the next few weeks, I won’t be on any particular program. I’ll just be trying to do a little more each time in order to re-acclimate to lifting.

It’s a long road… but it’s worth the effort! Here’s to new beginnings!

Thanksgiving

It’s the Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA, a time when we should all take a moment to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. There are many things for which I’m thankful, but I’ll stay on point for this forum. I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge with like-minded Garage Gym Guys and Girls!

Ryan's Garage Gym

Ryan’s Garage Gym

I sincerely appreciate all of the interactions I’ve been able to have through this blog, and I hope that you all get as much out of it as I do. Indulge me for a moment, as I share one of these recent interactions.

Ryan is a CrossFitter and Olympic Weightlifter who has been building a gym in his garage. Here are his words, and a couple pictures of his gym.

“I just recently moved and sold my CrossFit Business. I wanted a place to work out but wasn’t sure if I would fit into another CrossFit box. Therefore, I reached out to Eric the Garage Gym Guy. I came across his blog several months ago and I was impressed with his work. My plan was to build a Garage Box and I didn’t quite know what pieces of equipment I wanted. When I emailed Eric, he messaged me back very quickly and took the time to help me with no strings attached. He didn’t hesitate to give me his advice and I am so glad he did. I don’t recommend anyone setting up their Garage box on their own without Eric’s insight. Eric is the source I am going to continue to use in regards to setting up my Garage Gym needs in the future.”

So, to Ryan and all you other Garage Gym-ers out there, THANK YOU, and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Bruce Lee Graphic on Ryan's Lifting Platform

Bruce Lee Graphic on Ryan’s Lifting Platform

DIY BBQ Smoker

You know what one of my favorite things about lifting heavy weights is? You get to eat a lot of tasty food afterwards. One of the tastiest types of food is bbq. Let’s get something straight right away: grilling and bbq are two different things. I like both, and am decently practiced on the grill. I’m always up for new challenges and new adventures, so with a couple grills to start with, I set out on a new meat-preparing quest: a smoker.

I have a standard charcoal grill that I use regularly, and I stumbled across my old tailgating grill while cleaning up the garage. I didn’t want to modify the standard grill since I use it all the time, but I had no problem making modifications to the tailgating grill.

DIY Smoker Sketch

DIY Smoker Sketch

The basics of a smoker are simply that there’s a fire, where the smoke gets contained and channeled to a somewhat isolated location where the meat is. The meat is then engulfed in smoke, and in some cases, exposed to a low-to-medium cooking temperature. As such, my plan was to use the tailgate grill as my fire chamber, and the standard grill as the smoke chamber. I’d use simple ducting in between to transfer the smoke and a small amount of heat.

I sketched out my plan, took some measurements and headed off to the hardware store for the pieces I’d need. I got a 4″ duct starter to come out of the top of the tailgate grill. I used an adjustable dryer vent duct to move the smoke from the fire chamber to the smoke chamber, and I got a 5″ to 4″ adapter to connect the dryer vent to the standard grill. All told: $26.

DIY Smoker Materials

DIY Smoker Materials

Back home I set out to assemble it. I started by marking and cutting a hole in the top of the tailgate grill. I used a cut-off wheel, but you could get away with a drill and a pair of metal shears if you don’t have a cut-off wheel. I inserted the 4″ duct starter and bent the tabs over to hold it in place. Next, I cut tabs into the adapter, bent them over, and inserted that in place of the ash bin in the standard grill.

DIY Smoker Tailgate Grill

DIY Smoker Tailgate Grill

I wanted to be able to remove the tailgate grill in order to tend the fire, but wanted the ducting to stay in place. I also wanted to be able to fully disassemble the smoker when not in use. To do this, I drilled through the adapter and the duct so, and straightened some wire to make a pin. While in use, the pin holds the duct in place, and is easily removed for dis-assembly.

DIY Smoker

DIY Smoker

On it’s first use, the smoker proved functional. The setup easily channeled smoke, and in adequate quantity. I was able to reach temperatures from 130-200 degrees F. In some cases, that temperature might be a little on the low side. To make it easier to elevate and otherwise control the temperature, I plan to add some intake holes to the tailgate grill. This should allow the fire to breathe a little better, resulting in higher temperatures and a more consistent burn.

Smoked Round Steak

Smoked Round Steak

If you’ve been considering an adventure into the realm of true bbq, hopefully this gives you some ideas that are functional and cost-effective! Be sure to let us know how your setup works in the comments or over on the Facebook page!

DIY Smoker: Concept to Completion

DIY Smoker: Concept to Completion

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!