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!

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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!

Elements

The five Elements posts I’ve written were created together and in the order they were presented for a reason: they represent the common core pieces of any/all solid training systems. Whether you are training for strength, size, speed or athleticism, your program will call for heavy, compound barbell movements and bodyweight/calisthenic movements. These five Elements will allow you to perform these core exercises, and establish a foundation from which your gym can grow to meet your specialized equipment needs. Additionally, they lay out a plan for building a garage or home gym literally from the ground up.

The Barbell

The barbell and weights are one of the most tried-and-true methods for building strength and athleticism. Countless athletes have utilized these tools to build strength and size. The ability to progressively and precisely load the barbell means that it can be used for a variety of movements and resistances. Squats, deadlifts, presses, cleans, jerks and snatches develop strength, size and speed, all with a single tool that can be used over the entire lifespan of an athlete.

barbell

The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. – Henry Rollins

The Platform

A platform is vital for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the platform will protect your floor from the impact of falling weights. Second, it provides a foundation to attach a rack or stands to.  It also helps to define your gym space, which is nice for those of us who have a tendency to sprawl.

Firm Foundation

Firm Foundation

The Rack/Stands

Put simply, it’s hard to Squat or Bench Press without a rack or at least stands. For a garage gym, I recommend a rack because it adds a margin of safety that only a highly-competent set of spotters could rival.

11 Guage Steel - Garage Gym Dog Approved!

Everybody chill – I got this!

The Pull Up Bar

Pull ups and chin ups are an important ingredient in training the upper body. Many racks include such a bar, but this post is for those that chose not to use a rack or who want an additional pull up bar outside the rack.

The Bench

While some recent fitness trends have tried to downplay how essential it is to bench press, it remains an important part of a solid strength-based program. A flat bench, therefore, must be part of the garage gym.

bench after

How Much Ya Bench?

With the items above, you’re free to begin pursuit of the training path of your choice: Powerlifting, Strongman, Strength & Conditioning for Sports Performance, Weightlifting, Bodybuilding, CrossFit, Military/Law Enforcement Fitness Tests, etc.

Post in the comments to let me know what training path you’re on, and what equipment you’d like to build for your garage gym!