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.

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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

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.

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!

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