Saturday, 27 July 2013

Homemade dip bars

Press ups are great, so are straight bar and ring dips, but I wanted to be able to do some weighted dips or high rep parallel dips as well (Weighted dips are also an excellent alternative to bench press). So I looked around at a whole lot of different set ups for dips; I saw lots of fixed dip stations made of pipe or wood. I also saw a few fixed to walls with two pipes coming out to grip. These were all great but I wanted to be able to change the width and angle of my bars. I finally settled on building two free standing bars which could be moved around. They take up more room than pipe fixed to a wall, and the design isn’t prefect but I’m happy with them. If I had the room I would set up full parallel bars outside, but these are a nice compromise.

Finding your measurements

Since I workout on my own and I’m relatively tall I measured everything to suit me. The bars are just less than 500mm wide each and stand just under 900mm off the ground. The only key measurement to make is how high off the ground to set them. To find this I kneeled down, set my arms up in the highest dip position I could manage (elbows above shoulders). From here I measured the height of my grip off the ground and my bar had to be higher than this, only 50-100mm higher is needed. This allows me to do full range weighted dips but if I fail the drop is very manageable. All the other measurements such as the width of the base are up to you, 500mm wide would make it more than stable enough.

The build

Sorry I didn’t get any build pictures of this one either, but it is a fairly simple design. I used all scrap wood, it would have cost about $20 to buy, the pipe was scrap too and would cost less than $10 to buy. The diagonal braces are just for extra stability, not sure if they are really necessary.

The two bars together, if the bases are staggered they can be placed closer together

Tips and suggestions

  • If you have access to a drop saw you could do a much better job than I have, one of my bars in out of square but it is very solid, just looks a bit funny.
  • When wearing my weight belt if the bars are not far enough apart the belt can catch on the wood under the bar, is takes all the momentum out of the dip and makes things difficult. You could design your bars differently to prevent this but I just check the spacing of the bars before I start my dips.
  • I have set up dips with an added 32kg, not loads of weight but I’m confident my bars will hold up under a lot more weight.

I’m not currently working on my dips but this set up is very comfortable and fun to throw in every now and then.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Homemade Rope Ladder

This is a really fun alternative to regular pull ups, which I use from time to time. It challenges the grip, lockout and stability of the regular pull up. You can either, climb up and jump down, climb up and down (multiple times), or do pull ups/chin ups on the rungs. I got the idea to set up a rope ladder after seeing a video on YouTube where Matt Wichlinski makes a massive bachar ladder. It looked really cool, but I have nowhere to set something like that up (got some ideas in my head though). So I decided on making a short vertical climbing ladder. I thought about using some thick logs to challenge the grip, but didn’t have any around. What I did find was some old 60mm pressure pvc pipe. To buy it would have cost no more than $20, so it’s still quite a cheap build. I bought 6mm rope rated to over 300kg so two people could climb at once if they wanted too. I got 12 meters, enough to build 2 ladders and it was about $1 per meter. Sorry no step by step pictures, but it’s an easy build.

The build:

First you will need to measure how long you want your ladder. Since my pull up frame is 3 meters high, I was going to build my ladder about 2 meters long. This sets the lowest rung at a position where I can just pull my backside off the ground to start the climb from the lowest point, and get the most distance out of the climb. I cut off 6 meters of rope which gave me about 1 meter either side spare (some of which would get lost in tying the knots).

Next find the half way point of the rope and tie off a loop. I put a hook in mine for ease of hooking up to my pull up frame, but you could just have a loop and use a shackle or carabiner. Now you are ready for the rungs. I cut my rungs approximately 500mm wide; it’s not important how wide they are (300-500mm is find). I then drilled a 7mm hole (slightly larger than the rope) on either end of the pipe about 30mm in from the end. Try your best to line the holes up straight.

Thread the rope for your first rung, set the loop up in the centre of the rung so it will hang straight. Tie a knot approximately 400mm down from the loop on both sides. Hang the ladder up and check the rung is straight. Repeat the process of threading, tying and checking for each rung. I spaced out 5 rungs on my ladder but couldn’t use the bottom one when set up on my pull up frame so I took it off.

Tips, suggestions and warnings:

  • After cutting your rope, melt the ends so that they don’t fray and are easier to thread
  • I space my rungs out approximate 400mm apart as this seemed like a good distance to pull up to and climb, but you could set yours further or closer apart.
One rung which didn't pull through and one which did
  • The pipe that I used was pressure pipe and so was extra thick meaning the knots I tied did not pull through. However I set up a second ladder using thinner 25mm standard pipe. When I started to climb on this the knot pulled through the first skin of the rung, this could have been dangerous if it had pulled through both and fallen 400mm. What I need to do is either tie a few extra knots so that it won’t pull through, or wrap the rope around each rung to tie off. This would make it much safer.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Pull up frame

Showing the height of the bar

This was my first big fitness related build when I moved into my house and it’s the one which gets the most use. The total cost was about $100 which I’m pretty happy with. Before I had this built I had to do my pull ups on the washing line, or go across town to a park to do my pull ups, which weren’t really the best options. This allows me to knock out my pull ups (or hangs) while I get dinner ready, or work on homework etc. The original plan was to build it out of scaffolding pipe like the Kavadlo brothers so I would be able to move the bar up and down as well as work on flags; however I priced up the pipe at over $200 which was just too much for me at the time.

The specs:

I used 100x100mm H4 treated wooden posts for the whole thing; they stand 3 meters out of the ground with 1.1 meters underground. This was the maximum depth I could dig with the post-hole borer I was using. The posts were concreted in with 2 bags of cement per post ($40 total cost). The cement I used was a simple, pour in and water type, no mixing required. The frame is 1.8m wide to the outside as 1.8m is a standardised size for the posts. This makes the whole frame 3.1m high. The total cost for the wood was $60.

The set up for the bar was sized at three heights, the top is set so that I have a small jump to reach the bar so that I can do pull ups with a full hang. The next rung down was sized to give my head just enough clearance when doing muscle ups. The bottom rung is set up so that I can do Australian pull ups.

The rungs were made with old wood I had in the garage, but ideally they could be made with steel (salmon ladder anyone?). These are just screwed on and have held up very well. The ring bolts at the top are for attaching my gymnastic rings and rope ladder.

Pull up, Muscle up and Australian pull up height.

Notes and suggestions:

To get the frame level and square, set the top beam up first and square up the posts before adding the concrete. I was lucky that I could tie off to the fence behind the frame to hold it square while the concrete set.

Ideally I would have made the frame wider (approximately 2m to the inside) to allow for an iron cross to be performed, but realistically I would require training at a proper facility to work towards this skill. And since 1.8m is a standard size for the post that is the width I went with.

I would also have liked to build the frame 3.3m high so that I had room to jump to the pull up bar, muscle up, and still clear my head from the top beam. However the frame is way too big as it is, given the proximity of the neighbours house so I had to reign myself in a bit. I’m lucky the neighbour is a good guy and didn’t complain. 

Given the height, the frame does swing a bit, not enough to make it fall over but it did help to brace one side against the fence. I still need to brace the other side too which I haven’t done. If you are making one and don’t have a fence to brace off, you could set two extra posts a meter or so behind the frame and brace off that. You could even set it up to be parallel bars behind it.

One issue I have had with the way the bar is set up is that it can twist since it is not locked in. I think this may be why I can’t get a clean muscle up as the twisting means I cannot maintain a false grip. This would be solved with drilling the frame and bar for a pin (large nail) which was removable but prevented the bar from rolling.

All finished I am very happy with the frame I built. It’s extremely versatile and sturdy.

I've since made some improvements - see here

Rope ladder and Gymnastic rings


Homemade weight belt (dip belt)

Here is an easy one that I made about two years ago but never got around to posting. I got the idea from Ross Training. It’s super simple, and very cheap. Just need a pool noodle ($5), 1-1.5 meters of chain ($15) and a latch of some kind, I used a basic u-shackle which only cost a few dollars. Run your chain through the noodle (or cut down the length of the noodle to get the chain in), duct tape the hell out of it, throw on some weight and you’re ready for weighted pull up and dips.

I’ve been using kettlebells since that’s what I’ve got, but plates work just as well, if not better. Ross has had 100kg on his and it works just fine, I’ve loaded 48kg onto mine and it worked well.

Just a few notes and suggestions:

  • Get large gauge chain and make sure your shackle will fit, don’t muck around with one that doesn’t fit.
  • Use lots of duct tape as the chain will start to pull through the foam. Use even more than I have. I’ve run out of duct tape and need to get some more.
  • Once the weights get heavier, set them up on a seat or in such a way they you can squat the weight up in a good position.

Chin up with 32kg kettlebell

Back after over a year.

I’m back into posting after over a year without a post. I’ve got lots in store and hope to keep the posts coming over the next couple of weeks. The last time I was posting I mentioned that I had just finished my Masters and hoped to post more and that clearly didn’t happen, I had lots on at the time (still do) but I now have so much to share its time to get back into it.

In the last year or so I had a job demonstrating in under graduate labs at the University of Auckland which I enjoyed a lot, then I got a basic labour job so I had ongoing work. I got into a graduate diploma of secondary teaching this year and that’s moving along well. I hope to get a teaching job next year with that. I also moved into my own place last year so expect to see some bigger projects in the next few posts.

So in the past year I’ve still been training hard and building more homemade gear which I intend to share. When I look back at my workout logs from when I was lasting posting I was working on 3, 4 or 5 pull ups with 16kg once a week in my workout. In the last couple of weeks I hit 3x10 pull ups with 16kg and 10x1 pull ups with 40kg working towards my goal of a one arm chin up early 2014. Also when I was last posting I was working on close grip push ups and I’m currently on 5x5 one arm push ups (with my feet 1.5x shoulder width apart). So my progress has been steady and heading upwards.

That’s all I’ve got for now, once this is posted I’m going to start work on the next few articles so stay tuned.