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

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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 Lat Pull Down

Lat Pull Downs are a common accessory movement in many training programs. For those who are unable to do pull ups or chin ups, the lat pull down is the best way to build up to pull ups and chin ups. The same equipment is required for triceps press downs, which are another common accessory exercise.

DIY Lat Pull Down

DIY Lat Pull Down

You’ll need the following materials, all of which are easy to locate at any hardware store:

-2 pieces of ¾” black pipe, 18” long

-2 ¾” floor flanges

-2 pieces of ¾” black pipe 6” long

-2 ¾” 45 degree elbows

-Tie down/Ratchet strap in the color of your choice, preferably 12’ length

-2 Carabiners (suitable for loading/lifting/climbing)

-1 Quick Chain Link

-1 U-Bolt 5/16” by 2” by 4 1/2” with washer and nuts

-2 5/16” nuts and washers

You will also need the following tools:

-Drill with 3/8” bit suitable for drilling metal (not a masonry or wood bit)

-C-Clamp

-Wrench

-Scissors

-Lighter

We’ll begin by building the loading pin. Screw one of the floor flanges to one of the 18” pieces of pipe. Using a C-Clamp, secure the other floor flange to a suitable surface, and drill out two of the opposing bolt holes using the 3/8” drill bit. Be sure to use appropriate eye, ear and hand safety equipment.

Drilling the Floor Flange

Drilling the Floor Flange

Thread a nut onto either side of the U-bolt, about an inch into the threads. Put the washer that came with the u-bolt on. Now put the u-bolt through the floor flange, and add the remaining washers and nuts. Tighten the nuts securely.

U-Bolt Flange Assembly

U-Bolt Flange Assembly

You may now thread the u-bolt/floor flange assembly onto the 18” pipe. Congratulations, you are now the proud owner of a loading pin. There are many additional uses for loading pins, but we’ll save that for another post. On to the pull down strap!

Loading Pin

Loading Pin

Open one of the ratchet straps, and set the ratchet/buckle portion aside. On the strap portion, carefully pry open the hook, just enough to slip the strap off the hook. Put one of the carabiners in place of the hook you just removed. Put the loading pin in place under your rack, connect the carabiner and strap to the loading pin, and drape the other end of the strap over the chin up bar on your rack. Tie an overhand loop knot with the strap that hangs over the chin up bar. The knot should be within a couple inches of the bar when the strap is pulled tight. Put the chain quick link in the loop you just created. Leaving a little strap to spare (approximately 4-6”), cut off the rest of the strap. Use a lighter to carefully melt/weld the edges to prevent fraying.

Overhand Knot

Overhand Loop Knot

Now we need a handle for the pull and press downs. Thread the two 45 degree elbows onto the remaining 18” piece of black pipe so they are hand-tight. Thread the 6” pieces of pipe into the other ends of the elbows, again hand-tight. Now adjust the joints so that all of the pieces are in-line with each other.

Handle

Handle with Lark’s Head Knot

To attach the handle to the strap, you’ll need the remaining piece (24-36”) of strap. Tie an overhand loop knot in both ends, then tie a Lark’s Head knot around the handle such that both overhand loops come through at the top. Use a carabiner to connect the two overhand loops to each other, and ultimately to the chain quick link on the long strap.

Triceps Press Down

Triceps Press Down

Give it a shot, and let me know how it works in the comments or over on the Facebook page!

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.