DIY PVC Hurdle

DIY Adjustable PVC Hurdle

DIY Adjustable PVC Hurdle

Today we’re going to build an adjustable PVC hurdle. If you ever do plyometrics as part of your training routine, or if you’ve had the unpleasant experience of missing the landing on a box jump, a hurdle can be an excellent addition to your training gear.

Materials

  • 4 – ¾” PVC schedule 40 pipe @ 48”
  • 2 – ¾” PVC elbows
  • 3 – ¼” bolts, 3” long
  • 1 – ¼” bolt, 4” long
  • 4 – ¼” flat washers
  • 4 – ¼” nuts
  • 1 – ¼” clevis pin, 3” long
  • 1 – cotter pin

Tools

  • Drill
  • Drill guide, if available
  • Wrench
  • Saw
Materials and Tools

Materials and Tools

Begin by cutting a 6” long piece from one of the long pieces of PVC pipe. Cut the remaining (42”) piece in half. These pieces will be a furring strip and the legs, respectively.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Next, locate and mark the center, lengthwise, of a full piece of pipe. Using the ¼” drill bit, drill straight through the pipe at the center mark. The drill guide came in very handy for ensuring the hole was drilled as intended. Repeat this on a second piece. These are the cross-members of the hurdle.

Drilling with the Drill Guide

Drilling with the Drill Guide

Before you bolt them together, mark a distance ¾” from the end of each piece. Drill a hole at this mark, making sure that it is co-planar with the center hole in each piece. I used a bolt and a speed square to accomplish this. On one of those pieces, drill two more holes – one at 2”, the other at 5”. Again, make sure the holes are all co-planar.

Using a Speed Square and a Bolt to keep Holes Coplanar

Using a Speed Square and a Bolt to keep Holes Coplanar

Now you need to drill the same sequence of holes in the 6” piece of PVC pipe. Mark the locations ¾”, 2” and 5”. Drill all three holes, ensuring they are co-planar. Bolt the 6” piece of pipe to the long piece of pipe with the matching holes. Use 3” bolts to attach the two pieces at the 2” and 5” mark. The third hole will be used later.

Marking the Furring Strip

Marking the Furring Strip

Next, bolt the two long piece of pipe together at the center hole. When doing so, make sure the furring strip aligns with the second pipe. This will ensure that the upper piece of the hurdle runs straight across, rather than at an angle. On the ends of the pipes that do not have holes, install the 90-degree elbows. Then, install the two pieces of pipe that form the feet.

Cross Members with Center Bolt

Cross Members with Center Bolt

With the remaining long piece of pipe, mark and drill a hole at ¾” from one end. Using the 4” bolt, attach this piece to the end of the cross-member with the furring strip. The final step is to mark and drill the holes that correspond to the various heights you wish to achieve. The standard hurdle heights in track and field are 27”, 30”, 33”, 36”, 39” and 42”. Manipulate the hurdle to the corresponding height and mark the intersection of the cross-member and the top bar. Repeat for the remainder of the heights you want to have.

Marking for Various Heights

Marking for Various Heights

Once marked, remove the top bar and drill the holes for each position. Again, make sure these holes are coplanar with the very first one. Once all the holes are drilled, re-attach the top bar with the 4” bolt. Use the clevis pin and cotter pin to select the desired height.

Fully Assembled Adjustable Hurdles

Fully Assembled Adjustable Hurdle

Lift heavy, run fast and JUMP HIGH!

DIY PVC Hurdle

DIY PVC Hurdle

Should you prefer a simpler design, I mocked up a non-adjustable version. Give either a try and let me know how it works in the comments or over on facebook!

Simple PVC Hurdle

Simple PVC Hurdle

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DIY Slam Ball

Materials:

Rubber Basketball

Playground Sand

Funnel

Isopropyl Alcohol

Tire Patch Kit

 

Slam balls are a great tool for developing explosive power and working on conditioning with a functional, full-body movement. In addition, a slam ball can be used place of a medicine ball. While a commercially produced slam ball can be a bit expensive, you can make your own for a fraction of the price.

Mark the Cutting Area

Mark the Cutting Area

Start by laying a patch on the basketball. Mark the perimeter of it, so when you cut the hole, it doesn’t exceed the patch. Now, cut an X into the basketball. Insert the funnel, and fill the basketball with sand. A basketball can hold as much as 25 lbs. of sand. You may need to shake the ball as you fill it to help the sand settle out evenly.

Fill with Sand

Fill with Sand

Once the ball is filled to the desired weight, set the ball with hole right at the top. Shake the ball lightly to allow the sand to settle away from the hole. Reach into the hole and try to brush away any sand that might be stuck to the underside of the X. Wet a paper towel with the isopropyl alcohol. Use the paper towel to clean the inside surface of the basketball near the hole.

Clean the Patching Area

Clean the Patching Area

Follow the instructions on the tire patch kit to apply one half of the patch to the inside of one half of the X-hole in the basketball. Hold the patch in place until the rubber cement begins to set. I used a wooden shim to help keep the patch in place. Once it’s set, allow 12-24 hours for the cement to fully cure. Once fully cured, repeat the process for the other side. Apply rubber cement over the cuts of the X liberally to ensure a good seal.

Place the Inner Patch

Place the Inner Patch

After the inner patch is fully cured, prepare a second patch for the outside. Follow the instructions on the patch kit, and apply it over the X. Again, wait 12-24 hours for the cement to cure, while occasionally checking for full adhesion. If necessary, add a little more rubber cement to any areas that don’t appear to be adhering.

Place the Outer Patch

Place the Outer Patch

Once the cement for the outer seal has cured, press on the ball and listen for air leaks. If there is a leak, try to locate it and add rubber cement to close it. When there are no more leaks, test the slam. I did this by dropping the ball form a moderate height. I did this to avoid the eruption of sand that might occur form a full slam if the patch didn’t hold. If the drop test is successful, proceed to a full slam. If the slam is successful, keep calm and slam on!

DIY Slam Ball

DIY Slam Ball

As always, let us know how this project works for you in the comments below, or over on the Facebook page.

DIY Suspension Straps

Suspension training is a great way to spice up calisthenics. By adding a level of instability to familiar movements like pushups and rows, you can further engage and challenge the muscles that stabilize the joints involved in those movements.

Rows on Suspension Straps

Rows on Suspension Straps

In this post I’ll show you how to build a set of suspension straps at a price far below the commercial offerings. To start with, you’ll need three cinch straps, a foot of 1” PVC pipe, a pair of scissors, a lighter, a carabiner and a quick link for chain. Cinch straps are a little different than ratchet straps, but they’re in the same location at the hardware store.

Just a quick note on safety here: look for straps and hardware with weight ratings. These ratings will let you know if the materials you plan to use will be strong enough. Remember that you’ll be suspended on this stuff, so don’t sacrifice safety to save a couple dollars. Get materials to build gear you can trust!

Cut the PVC pipe in half. Boom: handles! While we’re cutting stuff up, cut the buckle off one of the cinch straps, and use the lighter to make sure the end doesn’t fray.

Suspension Strap Anchor Loops

Suspension Strap Anchor Loops

Remember that overhand loop knot from the lat pull down? Make one big loop with the buckle-less cinch strap and tie a tie an overhand loop knot at the end. Starting from the knot-end, continue to tie overhand knots at intervals of 6 inches until you reach the opposite end. Put the quick link in this last loop. This strap becomes the “trunk” of the suspension strap and the loops are essentially adjustable anchor loops. The quick link is where the other two straps will connect. The carabiner gets used to connect the anchor loops when you loop the strap around your rack, pull up bar, tree branch, playground equipment, etc.

Quick Link

Quick Link

Back to the other two straps: Feed one end of one strap through a PVC handle, through the quick link, and then through the buckle to create a loop. Repeat for the other side. We could stop here, but we’re on a roll!

Go set the straps up and get them adjusted for typical working length. Chances are you have a bunch of extra strap on the two handle loops. Cut off 24-36” from each strap. Use the lighter to de-fray all the cut ends. Now put one of the cut-off straps through the handle and tie a square knot to make a loop. Repeat on the other side for a pair of foot cradles.

Suspension Strap Handles

Suspension Strap Handles

Congratulations on creating your very own suspension straps! As always, share your experience in the comments or over on the Facebook page!

Push Ups on Suspension Straps

Push Ups on Suspension Straps

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.

Refurbish a Bench

“Since we all want big chesticles, we have to put some pec in it, ok? Chesticles are why we bench press, after all!”

-Mark Rippetoe

The first step in refurbishing a bench is to actually acquire one. Quite frequently, a bench could be picked up along with a barbell and some plates via Craigslist or a garage sale. I have one from each of those, and a third that I acquired when purchasing my current house.

bench before

Bench (Before)

You don’t need to worry about what condition the upholstery (typically vinyl, and often cracked or torn) is in. Check the structural parts of the bench, and understand that the bench will need to hold your weight, plus all the weight that you put on the bar. When benching properly, the vast majority of that weight will be focused on the area where your upper back comes in contact with the bench.

Step two is to tear everything apart. Pull off the upholstery and inspect the structure of the bench. My bench had a label stating the load limits, which I found to be quite helpful.

bench disassembly

Bench Disassembly

bench label

Bench Label

bench fully disassembled

Bench Fully Disassembled

If it needs it or you’d like to do it, this is a great time to prime and paint the bench. Wipe down all of the pieces so the primer doesn’t cause dirt or dust to stick. Apply the primer, and use a second coat if necessary. After the primer has dried (I waited a full day between coats of primer and coats of paint), spray on the paint color of your choice. I went with a matte black color to match my Rogue rack.

add primer

Add Primer

add paint

Add Paint

While I had everything disassembled, I gathered all the bolts and took them to the hardware store. The bolts that were on the bench were black, and I wanted to replace them with traditional hardware to match with the rack. Be sure to match threads where applicable.

bolts

Old Bolts and New Bolts

With the painted parts and the fresh bolts, begin reassembly of the bench. If the bench is made of particle board or if it’s not of sufficiently-sturdy construction, remove it. On a different bench, I replaced an old, worn out particle board bench with a new board, which significantly improved its strength and stability. Most quality benches are 12 inches wide, with some over-sized benches reaching as high as 14 inches.

bench reassembly

Bench Reassembly

Most benches have thin, feeble foam cushioning. Here is your opportunity to customize the compression of your bench. Some like a big plush cushion, while others prefer a firmer surface. Either way, make sure it’s stable and allows you to establish a solid base from which to bench. Most fabric and craft stores carry a variety of upholstery foams.

With the foam cut to shape, it’s time to add fabric. My favorite color is orange, so I got a couple yards of heavy weight (essentially denim) fabric from the fabric shop. Wrap the fabric over the bench, and cut it roughly to size. Start by stapling one of the long sides of the fabric to the underside of the bench. Pull the other side over the bench so it’s taught (not so tight that it compresses the cushion), and staple along the other side. Finish by stapling the ends of the fabric to the head and foot of the bench.

fabric stapled to bench

Fabric Stapled to Bench

To protect the knurling on the bar, I added some “grippers.” These grippers are a piece of rubber with an adhesive backing, meant for preventing furniture from sliding on smooth floors.

grippers

Grippers

grippers installed to protect knurling

Grippers Installed to Protect Knurling

Your bench is now complete. Load up the bar and get pressing!

bench after

Bench (After)

As usual, post comments, questions or feedback to the comments.

Nice Rack!

In our last post, we put together the lifting platform. In addition to protecting the floor, the platform also helps to define our workout space. As you’ll see below, the platform also becomes a functional element for securing the rack or squat stands.

I know this is a DIY blog, but lifting weights comes with some risks and we have to factor in personal safety. While some DIY racks or stands might be ok, it has been my experience that there is no substitute for a quality squat rack. I, therefore, recommend that you find the right rack or stands to suit your budget, space and training goals.

When I first started, I was focused on my budget. My strength was not at a level where I was terribly concerned about a failed bench press or squat, and so I opted for the Powerline PS60X squat stands. They had a footprint that matched my training space, and were rated up to 300 lbs. – in excess of my maximal strength at the time.

Other, more substantial squat stands are available, and if that’s the right piece of equipment for you, then the more substantial options would be my recommendation. For those of you interested in Olympic Weightlifting, Catalyst Athletics makes use of the Werksan Portable Squat Stand.

Fast forward through a few months of CFFB’s aggressive Amateur program, and I was starting to become concerned about the weights I was squatting and pressing under. Since I did most of my lifting alone, without a spotter, I knew I needed to compensate.

Still working with a tight budget, I crafted, using common lumber and steel pipe from the hardware store, some spotter bars which attached to the squat stands.

Squat Stands with DIY Spotter Bars

Squat Stands with DIY Spotter Bars

Fast forward a few more months (and several PRs in the major lifts) and I faced another conundrum. Garage Gym Girl and I needed to move in order for her to pursue a new job. The new space was a similar size, but could not have a suitable space for the pull up bar. And, given the effectiveness of the CFFB program, I needed a safer place to squat and bench press.

By now, the iron bug had bitten and I knew that this was a hobby that was not soon to be given up. It all added up to one simple solution: a power rack. I weighed my options (and there are many – Rogue, Elite FTS, etc) and chose a Rogue R3 Bolt-Together.

squat rack

Rogue R3 Bolt Together

When choosing a rack, consider the availability of both replacement parts and ad-on accessories (dip bars, alternate pull/chin up bars, etc.). I chose the bolt together option to make it easier to dismantle and move, in addition the wide variety of extras available from Rogue.

Regardless of your particular choice of rack or stands, we’ll need to tie it back in to the platform. The Rogue rack came with feet, pre-drilled for just this purpose. With the rack assembled and in position on the platform, I marked and drilled holes to bolt the rack to the platform. I then removed the rack from the platform, and disassembled the plywood in order to get carriage bolts installed. The use of carriage bolts is primarily for the flat, rounded head which will not elevate the platform, but will still provide a firm connection. I put the bolts, heads-down, up through the holes in the bottom layer of the platform. I then re-assembled the platform by lining up the remaining holes with the shafts of the bolts. Finally, I placed the rack back over the top, added flat washers and tightened the nuts onto the bolts.

Carriage Bolt in Rack Foot

Carriage Bolt in Rack Foot

The squat stands did not have feet, and were therefore a little trickier. In that case I purchased some U-bolt plates from the hardware store, along with eight carriage bolts. I placed the stands in position on the platform. I then marked and drilled holes in line with the U-bolt plates. I removed the stands and disassembled the plywood in order to get carriage bolts installed. I put the bolts, heads-down, up through the holes in the bottom layer of the platform. I then re-assembled the platform by lining up the remaining holes with the shafts of the bolts. Finally, I placed the stands back over the top, added flat washers and tightened the nuts onto the bolts.

Squat Stands Bolted to the Platform

Squat Stands Bolted to the Platform

Evaluate your current strength level and training goals; consider your budget and the space you have for training. Do your research, and find a rack or stands that work for you.

11 Guage Steel - Garage Gym Dog Approved!

11 Guage Steel – Garage Gym Dog Approved!

Come back for future posts where we’ll discuss refurbishing a flat bench and how to install chin up bars for those of you that go with stands instead of a rack.