In order to add weight to my chin ups and dips I recently made a dip/chin belt. This is one of the easiest DIY fitness devices to make. All that is needed is some chain, a pool noodle (make sure it is the kind with a hole in the middle), a carabiner and duct tape.
Once you have your material it is easy to put it together. First you will need to measure the pool noodle and cut it to the correct length. The easiest way to do this will be to wrap it around your waist and cut it to fit you. I cut mine a bit longer than what I thought I would need and then cut it down later after a trial run. After you have the pool noodle cut to the correct length run the chain through it. Put the carabiner on one end of the chain. Next wrap duct tape around the entire pool noodle. Make sure to use a lot of duct tape. If you don’t, the chain will eventually start to pull through the pool noodle. This will be the longest part of the process. Now you can slide some weight plates or a kettle-bell on to the chain and you’re ready for weighted pull-ups, dips or even hip belt squats.
Make sure to start light and work your way up. I found that a 20 lb vest felt much lighter than 20 lbs on the belt. So far it is working great. It is comfortable, strong and versatile.
When I began this blog I had three goals in mind; increase strength, become fitter and gain some muscle. I started with a program that combined strength and conditioning but had strength as the main focus. During this first year I got stronger, slightly increased my fitness and gained five pounds of muscle. In March I switched to a different program that combined strength and conditioning but this one had conditioning as the main focus. The reason for this was I wanted to put up a good score on Murph in May. Mission accomplished as I did better than expected. I intended to then switch to more of a bulking program over the summer to gain some muscle. But I was on such a high from the score I received on Murph that I continued doing what I was doing.
Recently I decided I was ready to change things up a bit. But I was undecided on how to go about it. Due to my physical limitations; knees, shoulder and lower back I was wondering if it was time to play it a little safer. As I explored that option I found it to be boring and I wasn’t ready for that. I enjoy varying my workouts by type of exercise and intensity. I didn’t want that to end. After looking at different options I decided to program my own workouts. What a novel concept!
I decided to use the following weekly format that I can best describe as my version of Crossfit or functional fitness or whatever term you want to use:
- Monday – strength training followed by a short intense circuit.
- Tuesday – body-weight only circuit done at high intensity.
- Wednesday – explosive strength training followed by a short intense circuit.
- Thursday – some type of interval or circuit using the airdyne.
- Friday – strength training followed by a short intense circuit.
So far I have found myself re-energized by being able to follow a program that is tailored to what I need and what I enjoy. I am able to have a good structure while providing variety in the circuits I use. Training is no longer stale and I look forward to training each day. I once again have a clear training direction.
Landmine exercises are typically done by placing one end of a barbell on the floor (typically in a corner of the room) or into a landmine base attachment. I had been interested in trying out some landmine exercises in the garage gym for a while now but kept running into different problems.
- Cost – A landmine base that does not attach to a power rack can cost anywhere from $60 to over $200. Power rack versions can be purchased for around $25 but I do not have a power rack so this wouldn’t work for me. There are also versions which can be inserted into a stack of weight plates on the floor. But I do not have enough plates to make this work for me.
- Space – You can simply place one end of the barbell on the floor in the corner of your room. However, since my garage is used for storage as well as my gym, this would not work for me either.
My solution was to make my own landmine base. I scrounged around and found a piece of particle board and an old 2 x 8. I even had the screws to put it together so my cost was $0.
So far it works great. I put a dumbbell or other weight on the back to keep it from moving and am able to do any landmine exercises I want anywhere in the garage. So far I have been doing front squats and one arm presses with it, but I plan on adding more landmine exercises to my fitness journey in the future.
The past few months I have slanted my workouts a bit more towards conditioning. I have still been doing strength training twice a week, but have included three conditioning workouts a week. This was done primarily to ready myself for the Memorial Day Murph workout I blogged about last time and was very successful as I beat my goal by over five minutes.
One of my favorite conditioning workouts has become interval training. Interval training is simply short high intensity periods of exercise alternated with short rest periods. I have done this type of workout in the past with sprinting. With my current knee situation I have been advised to reduce or eliminate running from my program by my doctor. I have greatly reduced my running to just the Murph workout. I have replaced running with the trusty Schwinn Airdyne I purchased off of Craigslist shortly before my surgery last year.
Typically I will pedal for either a certain length of time trying to keep a specified RPM or I will go all out for a certain distance. In between I will continue pedaling at a low RPM of around 50. As a personal preference I don’t really care for long distance running or biking so this type of training has been ideal for me and a great benefit to my conditioning.
In the example above I included some core work after a slight break from my interval workout. I enjoy including some core work on my interval days.
This Monday on Memorial Day I started my day with Murph. Last month I did it for my first time and was pleased to complete it in 42 minutes. This meant a lot to me since my goal was to complete it as prescribed in 45 minutes or less.
This workout is named after Navy Seal Lieutenant Michael Murphy who died in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. He was killed while heroically moving into an exposed area so that he could transmit a call into headquarters to get support for his team. The workout was one of his favorites and he used to call it Body Armor.
The workout is as follows:
- 1 mile run
- 100 pull-ups
- 200 push-ups
- 300 squats
- 1 mile run
- The pull-ups, push-ups and squats can be partitioned any way you want.
- The entire workout is done while wearing a 20 lb weighted vest or body armor.
I had signed up for the challenge at themurphchallenge.com which is a foundation created by Lt. Michael Murphy’s family. They raise funds for scholarships and their funding comes from donations and the proceeds from the annual Murph Challenge.
Since I had completed this last month I had some takeaways from that workout that factored into my preparation for Memorial Day:
- I decided to use the same strategy as last month by running each mile in around 10 minutes and complete the calisthenics in around 20 minutes. This would leave me 5 minutes of cushion if I needed it in order to finish in under 45 minutes.
- 1 mile run – Last month my knee started bothering me during the first mile and bothered me throughout the workout. Due to this I decided to wear a knee brace for the workout.
- I broke down the calisthenics to 20 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 15 squats. I performed each round every minute on the minute and planned to do this again.
When I woke up Monday morning I was very motivated and ready to go. I warmed up, got dressed put on my knee brace and headed outside. I didn’t even hesitate. I hit start on my watch and started my run. Right away I noticed I wasn’t having the discomfort in my knee that I had last month. I also noticed the knee brace wasn’t hindering my stride at all. It also did not bother my performance in the squats either.
Breakdown of the workout:
- First mile was completed in 10 minutes and 13 seconds so I was right on pace.
- As soon as I got back into my garage I jumped on the pull-up bar and started my pull-ups. Last month I did one round per minute but this time when I finished my first round I started my second immediately. I never checked the clock at all during the pull-ups, push-ups and squats.
- Pull-ups were better than last month but still need work.
- Push-ups were once again my best movement.
- Squats were much better than last time. The knee brace made a huge difference and I didn’t have any pain.
- I don’t know how long it took me to do the push ups, pull-ups and squats. I also don’t know what my second mile time was. I was so in the zone during this workout I didn’t look at my watch until the end of the second mile.
- Completed in 39 minutes and 30 seconds.
I was so excited to complete the workout in the time I did. Every time I started to think about resting I was able to push those thoughts away and keep going. I did not rest in between the 20 rounds of push-ups, pull-ups and squats until round 16 or 17 and even then only for a few seconds. Because of my knee issues I cannot run much faster than a 10 minute mile so it will be difficult for me to improve upon this time and I am fine with that.
- Although they improved I still need to improve my pull-ups.
- My push-ups and squats were very good.
- The knee brace worked really well. I did not experience knee pain and it did not negatively impact my running or the squats.
- I enjoyed this so much I plan on doing this each Memorial Day.
I enjoy a good bargain and I also enjoy do it yourself projects. That has also applied to my fitness equipment. Most of my equipment has been purchased used and some of it I have made myself. I am going to discuss one of those home made items today and plan on featuring others items on this blog in the future.
The first item I am going to discuss (as you can tell by the title) is the T-Handle. This item provides you with an adjustable “kettle-bell” for swings. It is fairly inexpensive to put together and extremely easy. I was fortunate to get the weights for free so that also helps with the cost. As I was driving down the road one day I noticed someone putting out a large amount of items with a free sign at the end of their driveway. Some of those items were old plastic cement filled weights with three barbells and two dumbbell handles. I stopped and grabbed them all.
The T-Handle is made from 3/4 inch black pipe and should cost you around $20 or so to make. Below is a list of the parts needed:
- 1 3/4 floor flange
- 1 3/4 T
- 1 3/4 12″ long pipe nipple
- 2 3/4 3 or 3 1/2 pipe nipples
- These are for the handles. If you have bigger hands you may want to consider 4″.
- Tape for the handles
- Clamp to keep the weights from moving. I don’t have one in the picture below but I have used clamps in the past until mine broke. With the weights I am using they fit fairly tight and don’t move much.
It is important to make sure that each fitting is tight each time you use this. I also would caution that the T-Handle is not a replacement for all kettle-bell exercises; only the two handed swing. It is a great finisher at the end of a strength training workout and an excellent conditioning exercise.
For as long as I can remember I have been a huge proponent of having an exercise journal or workout log. In fact, I still have most of them and from time to time I like to pull some of the old ones out and read through them. I thought I would outline some of the benefits of keeping a workout log.
- Goals – This is a great way to create and track your goals. By examining what you have done in the past you can learn what you need to improve, set new goals and stay on track towards achieving them.
- Progress – Keeping a journal is a great way to track your progress.
- Identify weaknesses
- Identify patterns
- Motivation – I love to look back at where I’ve been on exercises. Sometimes if I haven’t done an exercise in a long time I am motivated to get back to where I was in the past and sometimes it is just exciting to see how far you’ve come.
Traditionally I have always just used notebooks to record my workouts. Recently, my wife bought me an actual workout log to use. No matter what you use I like to make sure I record the following each day.
- Date – I record the day, month and year.
- Time – The time I start the workout and the time I end.
- Exercises done
- Sets and reps
- Notes – It is extremely helpful to record notes on each workout. I will record if a particular exercise is harder or easier than expect, if I feel I should stay at that weight next time or if I should increase the weight, any injuries, pace of the workout, conditions in the garage gym that day, etc.
This is definitely not a complete list but just the things that have proven to be important to me in the past. I believe keeping a workout log is an extremely under-rated and under utilized tool in any trainee’s toolbox.