Refurbish AB Hyper Bench

In previous posts, I covered how to refurbish a bench and how to reinforce a bench. This is going to be similar to the former, in that I’ll be doing some refurbishing work. I happened across this piece of equipment when someone along my commute was discarding it. There was nothing functionally wrong with it, though I did discover it was not in usable condition.

Ab Hyper Bench

Ab Hyper Bench

I brought it home and disassembled it. Upon doing so, I discovered that the wood had rotted and the padding was moldy. I kept the pieces around just long enough to make a template, then promptly discarded them. For as bad as the wood and padding were, the vinyl coverings and metal frame were in good condition.

Disassembled

Disassembled

Since the vinyl was black and didn’t need to be replaced, I decided to change the color of the framework to Garage Gym’s signature fluorescent orange. In retrospect, I should have put a light-colored primer on first. This would have reduced the amount of orange paint I needed to apply, and would have improved the finish. Regardless, it’s orange now!

Garage Gym Orange

Garage Gym Orange

I cut new pieces of wood from the measurements of the old ones, taking extra care to get the Tee nuts in the right locations for reassembly. Next, I layered pieces of carpet foam from a previous project onto the pieces of wood, stapling them into place. Finally, I carefully replaced the vinyl covering and secured it with staples.

Refurbished Upholstery

Refurbished Upholstery

With orange framework and freshly cleaned up benches, I reassembled the entire bench. The end result, as per usual, is a nice piece of equipment for significantly less than the retail price!

Finished Ab Hyper Bench

Finished Ab Hyper Bench

Have you refurbished used equipment? Let us know about it in the comments or over on the facebook page.

Advertisements

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 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.

HSPU Station

It’s been a busy week in real life here, but I didn’t want to leave you all hanging! So, I’ve got a quick, easy diy for you: an HSPU station!

In my gym, I have unfinished walls, which means that if I were to kick up against them for hand stand push ups, I’d be buried in a pile of insulation. If you’re in a similar situation, but you own a power rack, I’ve got a solution for you!

HSPU

HSPU

Start with a piece of plywood or OSB, approximately 24-30″ tall by 48″ wide. At the hardware store or lumber mill, they’ll call that a “cut-off.” If you were to get a piece cut in the other direction, it’d be called a “rip.”

C-Clamps

C-Clamps

Set your J-cups at about chest-height and place the plywood into the J-cups. Use two 4″ (or other appropriate size) C-clamps to clamp the plywood to the rack’s uprights.

Kick up, lower and push push! And don’t forget to tell us about it in the comments or over on the Facebook page.

DIY Farmer Carry Handles

Outside of heavy stones, the most bad-ass tool in the gym is the farmer carry. It’s brute strength and fine motor control. It’s strength development and work capacity. It’s lower body, upper body, grip and core, all in one!

Garage Gym Guy Lifting Stones with Rob Orlando

Garage Gym Guy Lifting Stones with Rob Orlando

So… let’s build some!

First off, this project will go much smoother if you own, or have access to, a drill press and an angle grinder. When I built mine, I did not have a drill press, so it can be done with just a plain ol’ drill. Also, a hack saw will work in place of the grinder, but it will take significantly longer, and probably make for a solid arm workout!

DIY Farmer Handle

DIY Farmer Handle

Second, if I had to do it over again, I’d simply use 2” pipe for the main bar, rather than trying to make fancy collars. I’ll show you how I built mine, and offer a few other suggestions for how you might do it a little differently.

Materials:

2 pieces of 1” pipe, 5 ft long

1 piece of 1” pipe, 18” long

4 pipe end caps

4 pieces of threaded rod 5/16” x 10-12”

5/16” Washers, Lock Washers and Nuts

4 feet of 1 ½” PVC

2 1 ½”PVC pipe couplers

4 hose clamps

Farmer Handle Materials

Farmer Handle Materials and Tools

Begin by using an angle grinder with a cut off wheel to cut the 18” pipe in half. These two pieces will be the handles. Next, find and mark the center of the 5’ pipes. Measure and mark 3 ½” from either side of the center. Repeat this marking for the handles. Drill, using a 3/8” metal bit, completely through the pipe at each of those locations, as this is where the threaded rod will be inserted.

Be careful to drill straight through the pipes! If the holes don’t line up closely-enough, the threaded rod will not be able to align for proper assembly. Since I used a hand drill for lack of a drill press, I had a little variability in mine, and had to struggle to get everything to line up.

Once all the holes are drilled, begin assembling the threaded rod. At the bottom end, I started with two nuts with a lock washer in between. This creates a sort of jam nut, assuring that the assembly cannot come unthreaded. Push the threaded rods through the long piece of pipe, and add a nut, lock washer and nut to make a jam nut on the upper side of the pipe. I left all of the nuts fairly loose to make it easier to align the threaded rods.

Now, add another jam nut, this time about 2 inches down from the top of the threaded rod. Next, add the 9” pipe handle, and finish with a final jam nut on the top. Get everything lined up, and tighten it all down.

Farmer Handle Threaded Rod

Farmer Handle Threaded Rod

Now it’s time to assemble the collars. Start by cutting four 1” lengths of the 1 ½” PVC pipe. Cut each of these again, but in the opposite direction to make a split ring. The split should remove enough material so that the ring can be squeezed tightly onto the pipe using a threaded hose clamp. These split rings and hose clamps form the stops for the collars.

To make the collars, cut four equal lengths of 1 ½” PVC pipe, roughly 9” in length. Cut the PVC couplers down the middle, such that the inner “rib” is removed. Use PVC cement to glue each of these to one of the four 9” long pieces of 1 ½” PVC pipe, flush with the end. Slide these over the metal pipe, and secure them into place by adding the metal pipe cap to each end. The collar should be trapped between the split ring and the cap.

Farmer Handle Collar

Farmer Handle Collar

If I were to go back and re-build the handles, I’d probably just use a 5’ piece of 1 ½” metal pipe instead of the 1” pipe. This would simplify the “collar” arrangement. Instead, you could simply add a flexible coupler (rubber) with a hose clamp as a stopper.

Since neither collar arrangement is precisely the same size as a barbell collar, I use a 2” spring clamp to hold the plates in place.

Farmer Carry

Farmer Carry

Time to throw a few plates on, chalk up and get carrying! As always, give it a shot, and let us know how it works out either in the comments, or over on the Facebook page.

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!

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

DIY Pulling Sled

This is probably the easiest DIY that I’ve done so far. Paradoxically, it’s also one of the most useful pieces of equipment that I have. Mine gets used primarily for warmups and finishers, but there are a variety of other uses for such an implement.

DIY Tire Pulling Sled

DIY Tire Pulling Sled

The most difficult part of this project is getting a tire. Old, beat up used tires can be found in a variety of places. I picked up a truck tire from the family farm, and also kept the full set of four old tires when I bought new tires for my car. You might also check scrap yards and community recycling centers. A 16” radius tire will work well for holding weight plates.

The other pieces we’ll need are two straps (ratchet or cinch straps), an eye bolt and some extra washers and nuts for the eye bolt. The only tools required are a drill (with a bit) and wrenches to tighten the nuts on the eye bolt.

Drill a Hole in the Tire

Drill a Hole in the Tire

Begin by drilling a hole in the tire. I prefer to put the hole a little closer to the bottom than the top so that when pulled, the front edge of the tire is lifted slightly so it doesn’t dig into the ground. Thread a nut all the way onto the eye bolt, and then follow it with a washer. Then, insert the eye bolt through the hole in the tire. Add another washer, then a nut. Tighten the nuts toward each other until suitably tight.

Eye Bolt with Washers and Nuts

Eye Bolt with Washers and Nuts

Remove the two long straps from the pair of ratchet/cinch straps. Slide one tail through the eye of the eye bolt, then tie the other tail to the first. Finally, tie the two straps together, thereby locking the straps together and to the eye bolt.

Straps Tied to Each Other and to the Eye Bolt

Straps Tied to Each Other and to the Eye Bolt

To drag the sled, attach the hooks to a dip belt or lifting belt. For free-hand exercise, simply grasp the straps, or create handles similar to the ones we made on the suspension straps.

Pulling the Sled with a Lifting Belt

Pulling the Sled with a Lifting Belt

For stacking multiple plates, I found that having a length of 1 1/2” PVC pipe with a cap or union on it and slid through the holes keeps the plates from sliding off each other.

PVC Pipe and Union to Secure Plates

PVC Pipe and Union to Secure Plates

As always, share feedback in the comments or over on the Facebook page.