Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Defeating winter gloom, Phase 2

I got some Vitamin D, so Phase 1 is underway.

I decided Phase 2 is to exercise. So today built a homemade barbell which should allow me to do the two most important lifts - deadlifts and squats. If I build a bench, I can bench press with it too. The basic concept will work for auxiliary lifts too, if I decide to do any. I got my inspiration from browsing some forums yesterday, and PM'd the guy for details. Today I dropped $50 on supplies and assembled my ghetto weights.

Blue buckets, for experiments in concrete. Orange buckets, for sand. Two pieces of 2' chain (definitely overkill). Four 250 lb snap links. Two eyebolts and a new drill bit. Not shown: a 6' piece of 1" inside diameter steel pipe.

I clamped the pipe in my vise. (side note: the vise is the most awesome tool I never would've thought to buy. Everybody needs one!) The two yogurt containers held water to lubricate the bit. My poor little homeowner-grade cordless drill was, amazingly, up to the task of drilling 1/4" holes in that steel pipe. Once I got the first hole started, I really leaned on the drill and poured water from one container, over the pipe, into the second container. It took many many containers of water to drill each hole, and I swapped/recharged the battery after every hole.

After four holes, the water was pretty grody!

The holes were the only hard part. I bolted the eyebolts onto each end of the pipe, with some Loctite for good measure. A snap link connected each eyebolt to a piece of chain. Another snaplink hooked the chain onto the bucket handle. The buckets will hold close to 80 lbs of sand each, and the bar weighs 10 lbs.

Here's the clever part: the chains are adjustable. They're set so that when I'm squatted down completely, the buckets are resting on the ground. This means that if I try to lift something too heavy and fail, I won't be crushed by the weight. That's what the safety rails in a power cage are for.

I dragged the bathroom scale out and marked the buckets - about a quarter full of sand is 20 lbs.

But that's pretty clunky, really. You need a way to add weight incrementally - 50 lbs is a good warmup for squats but it's probably the most I can bench press. Shoveling sand in to add weight and dumping it back out to switch exercises is a no-go really. So I futzed around and made two concrete weights.

Remember those blue buckets? I lined them with some black plastic and mixed up some concrete. I added knotted rope loops in the concrete for handholds.

When they cure, I'll weigh them. Hopefully the plastic liner means they'll pop right out of the buckets, but if not, the buckets were pretty cheap. If I can get the concrete out, I'll make several more sets of concrete weights. They should stack inside the orange buckets.

The whole thing is far from perfect, but I'm not a competitive weightlifter so it's plenty good for me. The buckets wobble a lot on their chains, but I think that makes it better for my purposes - it'll really work my core stabilizers to pick up a wobbly load. If I really want to add more weight I can drill more holes in the pipe and hang another set of buckets (or find bigger buckets!)

Right now I'm using yard sand, but I'm thinking about setting up the Former Dr. Seuss Room as my weight room, and I will probably buy nice clean playground sand if I do that. What if there are bugs in my yard sand? Shudder.

If I buy a 2x12 and some bolts, I can whack together a bench pretty easily. I'll need to whack together a small platform to deadlift with this setup, but I have enough scraps in the barn to do that tomorrow. I'm pretty excited about this!


  1. I've been running again the last few months and would like to cross train with some weights. I need to work on my upper arms and abs. I wish I had an ounce of handiness and I would copy what you've done - I'm impressed and I covet your weights!

  2. Melissa, Jason can put together the same system in about 30 minutes from stuff laying around your farm. The pipe bar only weighs 10 lbs, so it's perfect for beginners (a barbell in a gym weighs 45 - pretty intimidating!). Glad you like it!

  3. You are astonishingly handy. I bow down, srsly.

  4. I've been picking up handweights at garage sales, but I think your system beats them all!
    Funny you mention the vice - I just did a post about some of my 'must have tools' and completely forgot about the vice. You are right - everyone should have one! I use mine constantly!

  5. I am impressed! .....God help us mortal men!

  6. Ingenious! Loving the ghetto weights.

  7. ingenious!

    i've never suffered from dark weather, i just don't like driving home from work and having it dark already: (

    you would just die in seattle.

  8. I just picked up some liquid vitamin D on Tuesday to try to fight the SAD, I've definitely felt the darkness starting to creep in already. The time hasn't changed yet but all the rain we've had lately sure makes it feel the same :(

    And I agree, you are astonishingly handy.

  9. You never cease to amaze (in wonderfully handy ways).


    ~ E.G.


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