So you're thinking about making our own platform :)
If you've lifted on a good platform you know nothing beats it. It's the best surface to lift on and once you have one you'll wish you had made one years ago.
Things to consider:
Where will it go - inside or outside?
Logistical concerns and available space will determine this for you. There are a lot of factors to consider. Inside is a lot easier logistically speaking. In the end I decided to have mine outside. Nothing is better than training in the sun. But this requires creating at least a relatively level surface to place it on (which may be quite a challenge depending on what you are working with) and it also requires water treating all the plywood.
Do you have anyone to help?
Making a platform is definitely a 2 person job, especially if you plan to do the install outside. It can be done by yourself, as I did mine, but it is a bit harder that way. Time and weather concerns may also play a role in the ability to get aspects of the project done, such as treating the wood and letting it dry. Once the platform is assembled it is diffuclt to move as well so keep this in mind.
What materials and tools are needed to make a decent platform?
4 sheets of 4 ft x 8 ft plywood - 1/2" thickness works well - these can be low grade - but find the straightest most level sheets you can.
1 sheet of 4 x 8 plywood - 3/4" thickness (matches rubber mats) - find high grade for that appearance if you can - also find the most straight and level sheet.
3 sheets of 4 x 6 horse stall mats are needed. They are 3/4" thickness. These will need to be cut as well (like the mats pictured above)
A Box of a few hundred 1" Deck screws.
What tools are needed?
A Drill or Impact Driver
Straight Edge for tracing cut lines
A long and thin box cutter - it's the best way to make straight and clean cuts on the horse stall mats. * This is important because there appears to be no other easy way to make straight, clean cuts *
Things you might need:
Circular saw (if the top plywood sheet isn't cut to 3.5 feet at the store - as you should have them do)
a Rake, Hoe, or Tamper if placing platform outside.
Thompson's water seal or similar water treatment if outside.
A roller or brush to apply the water sealer.
Leveling string and material to create a level surface that measures 8x8ft is a good idea though not necessarily mandatory.
Modify these directions as it makes sense for your application, whether indoors or outdoors and what materials are available.
1. Take 2 of your approx. 1/2" lower grade plywood sheets, orient them linearly and parallel to each other.
2. Take the other 2 approx. 1/2" low grade plywood sheets, orient them horizontally (perpendicular to the bottom sheets), and place them on top.
Take your time and line up the edges as perfectly as you can. Orient the sheets so they lay as level and straight as possible. Once you've settled on the best orientation, this will create the base of your 8'x8' platform.
3. Take your Impact Driver and 1" deck screws and screw the boards together. Go all around the edges in even spacing, and place some in the middle of the sheets as well. Make these as level and as flat as possible, you want the most sturdy foundation possible with no gaps.
4. If your high grade 3/4" plywood sheet isn't cut to 3'6" x 8' instead of 4'x8', cut it so that it is 3'6". This will create some more space for the bumper plates to land without them crashing down on the plywood sheet.
5. Place your nice plywood sheet running perpendicular to the top layer of boards on the base. Make sure it is perfectly center on each side. Do the math and measure and mark. Hint: there should be 27" of space on either side of the top sheet of the platform. Once you have it right, start screwing it down along the perimeter only, evenly spaced. Make sure it is as flat as possible against the foundation boards.
6. Use a straight edge to mark your cuts on your horse stall mats. Use a straight edge to cut against. These mats come in 4'x6' rather than 4'x8'. So you can make a 27" cut in one horsestall mat to get one side. Then take another mat and make another 27" cut. Do this using a straight edge, and use your exacto knife or box cutter, making a perfectly straight slicing motion along the straight edge, over and over again until you have cut through. Now you have 2 different 27" strips that are 6' long.
7. Now take one more mat, and then cut it so you end up with 2 different 27" x 2' pieces, which combined with the others you have will create your 27" x 8' long rubber strips on either side of the platform
8. Place the machine cuts against the center piece of the plywood for the most flush fit. Once you have it arranged, screw the mats down to the platform using your deck screws, go along the perimeter, don't screw in the middle so you aren't dropping your bumpers direectly on screw heads all the time.
9. Hopefully this was constructed where you want it to end up, otherwise, you must move it to where you want it. This task is fun. :)
The platform is sturdy enough to perform well even on an uneven surface with rocks present. It is noticable that it isn't perfect this way, but it's a huge improvement nonetheless. If I were to do this project again outside, I would spend more time leveling the surface first before assembling the platform. Once it is assembled it requires some help to move it.
But it is awesome lifting on a platform outside and it is well worth the money and the effort it takes.
ForceUSA Walkthrough Trap Bar
This bar ships in a box, so it arrived quickly and it requires assembly. Assembly is a 1 person job if you are mechanically inclined. This is a plus as most companies do not have an open trap bar design bar available at all, and if they sell one, it's either out of stock or it's waiting for a custom build with a lead time with shipping of many weeks. There are some downsides to this method though I'll mention later.
Upon first inspection, the trap bar itself feels sturdy, and it weighs 60 lbs. The welding on the corners is not up to the quality of what we expect from American Barbell or Rogue Fitness, there are imperfections and even certain corners that aren't fully closed. However the rigidity of the bar itself is not in question to me.
The hardware is high grade and appears to be stainless steel. Though for some reason it's all in the hex key format. The brackets for the handles are strong and the handles are free floating as well, which creates an interesting feeling when lifting with this bar. The diameter is larger than my preference, seems like 32mm rather than 28mm though not positive. You have the option of lifting with 2 different height handles as well which is a convenient feature. The assembly of the handles is straightforward as well. You can see the basic components below.
One of the best features of this bar is the jack feature, where you can lift it up on its side, which makes it super easy to slide on and off all the weightplates. In practice it is fantastic.
As you put the brackets for the handles together it starts looking like this.
Then you assemble the barbell sleeves and the trap bar handles on the brackets with the components below. The handles assemble nicely and feel very sturdy. See photo on bottom right.
And that leads to the rub that I have with this product. These bolt on "sleeves." Also known as the down side of having this thing delivered in a box. The compromise is the sleeves. The barbell sleeves are my least favorite part of this bar. I am not used to hollow, bolt on barbell sleeves. (bottom left photo) Not only are they hollow but also conspicuously short.
Even the bolts, while of decent girth are short IMO for their intended purpose. The sleeve diameter is not even standard, too much play with the weightplates, and normal OSO collars don't work, so you're forced to use spring collars. The components even when assembled do not feel as sturdy as I had expected. These are not real barbell sleeves if you know what I mean. I even had a little difficulty with the outside end of the sleeve and getting these torqued to my satisfaction with the tools and hardware provided.
The bar is rated for up to 660 Lbs. I have no doubt that the limiting point is just the sleeves. The rest of the bar is probably good for much more. I am pleased with the balance and sturdiness of the product.
Despite not being a fan of the components and design of the sleeves, let me be clear though that once the sleeves were assembled, they seemed to perform adequately during my testing. It did not feel like the sleeves would break or struggled to support loading up to 150 lbs on each side, and I believe I could put another 100 on each sleeve without worry. That would be 250 + 250 + 60 which comes out to 560 and it's rated to 660. My impression is that it would start getting iffy around that point in my judgement. Most won't ever need to lift this much though so unless you're a hardcore competitor, this will work just fine. In other words, the performance of the sleeves in testing was better than I had anticipated and this calmed my hesitancy about the sleeves.
The sleeves look like this when assembled, with another bolt coming in from the end of the sleeve. (not pictured here)
Final product looks like this, and it is really fun to lift with. The hardware looks nice and it defintely gets attention when people see it as well. Overall I like it and I'm glad I got it and took a chance on this product. One day though I may upgrade to one that doesn't have bolt on sleeves like this. I am happy with it though.
Gear for COVID-19 Home Workouts
Shelter in place - Quarantine... No Gym... Ok, I'll make a small investment in some home gym equipment for the time being... but what do I get?
Considerations: Size, Convenience, Versatility, Cost, Durability
Sand Bag -
The sand bag is extremely versatile, convenient, and relatively inexpensive for gym equipment. It also is relatively small, easy to store, and extremely durable. You can do anything with it, and you can get a great workout very easily. Whether you are going to do Carries, Power Cleans, Thrusters, Drags, Throws, Swings, the activities are only limited by your creativity. The instability of the load creates interesting demands on core stability and makes for fun workouts. During this shelter in place, I've found myself gravitating to my BruteForce SandBag every day. Recommended manufacture BruteForce Training. (Don't go cheap, you don't want ripping bags and sand spilling everywhere.)
Specifically, the Assault AirBike or the Rogue Echo Bike. These are versatile, but not as versatile as a Sand Bag or DB's or KB's. These are also relatively large machines so they require more storage space. They are extremely convenient because you just hop on and go. These are relatively expensive, although they are "cheap" compared to many other cardio machines. They last forever if you take a little care of them. I use one or the other every day, and I find myself on the bikes much more often than on the Concept 2 rower. It's such a great conditioning tool and it is so fast to just hop on and go and it's easy to integrate into WOD's, and you can build anaerobic power, glycolytic power, and aerobic power all on the AirBike by adjusting intensity, duration, and rest.
Resistance Bands -
Probably the least expensive, very versatile, convenient, and durable (but less durable than the other gear listed), but limiting for max strength development on their own. These are great for warm ups, bodybuilding style training, rehab/prehab, rotational exercises and helping build range of motion. You can also use them in conjunction with others weights you might have like DB's to add resistance, which is one thing I love to do with these. These are also great for helping build range of motion for difficult movements such as Overhead Squats. Cook Bands are particularly great for corrective exercise.
A staple in any gym. Relatively inexpensive for 1 or 2 pairs, but building a solid collection gets expensive. Also, DB's can present a bit of a challenge to store neatly. The convenience factor and durability of DB's are very high. The size is small which is great, but if you build a large collection the space requirements grow quickly. I use DB's often, particularly for bodybuilding style training as well as in WOD's. They can be a great alternative in workouts that use a barbell.
Another gym staple. Space/storage requirement is about the same as DB's, convenience is just as high, durability is extremely high, and cost is a little expensive when compared to DB's, particularly when you get a quality bell (a must). I love using these right now, as they create more of a challenge than DB's do and you have some more freedom of movement and more complexity in what you can do with them. I gravitate to the bells more so than the DB when looking for a quick way to build strength and especially when looking for a weight to use in WODs. These are great tools and will last forever. Quality comes into play with KB's, so try a reputable manufacturer, such as KB Kings, Rogue, or Vulcan.
The ultimate core training tool - whether you get the cheap plastic furniture sliders or some of the best like the Havak Sliders, you get a ton of versatility, and easy storage as these are small. They range from super cheap to a medium price. This is another tool where you are only limited by your imagination. Great calisthenics and core strengthening options with the sliders.
Any of these additions to your gym at home will be great add-ons that will enhance your ability to maintain or improve your fitness when you don't have time or access to a commercial gym. The best, most convenient way to build and maintain fitness over your lifetime is to remove as many barriers to training as possible. It doesn't get any better than having instant access to maintain or build fitness right in your garage or a room in your house. You've got instant access to food and to showers. You've got instant access to all your own music. You have to create a space in your house where you can work on your health and fitness for the sake of yourself and for your family in the future.
You don't have to do it all at once, just pick something that works for you and start from there.
Did you know that the statistics say that the average American adult gains over 1 - 3 lbs of fat tissue every year.
A smaller percentage gains up to 5 lbs.
Add this up over 20 - 40 years, and you can see where that road goes.
Dwindling muscle strength and bone density and increasing burden of carrying extra fat tissue weight and decreased metabolic function / or increased metabolic disease is not a recipe that produces a good outcome.
But here is the TRICKY part. Almost 100% of this weight gain occurs from Halloween to January. That means that most Americans manage to stay about the same for almost the entire year. Save for Oct 31 - Jan. So, a great plan to avoid a decline in health is to address what you're doing during the holiday season!
Also: the most active people gain the least weight during the holidays, and the people that are already overweight, gain the most weight over the holidays. Yikes. Even the most fit and active individuals need to have a plan to address their health and food intake during the holidays, that's how they stay fit and active in the first place. If you aren't fit or active, it's all the more reason to come up with a plan right now to avoid that negative turn this holiday season.
Following this line of logic allows the best of both worlds. You enjoy your parties, although in a moderate and tempered fashion, and you maintain your health and wellness, which is better for you and better for your family. And it prevents you from being a statistic, which is awesome.
Create that plan now. And have the discipline to stick with your plan!
If you need help, contact me and I will be glad to help with this :)
So I'm Back from Basic Training
"So how was it?" seems to be the thing that everybody wants to know :)
I was pretty brief answering that question when I got back. So many things happened that it's hard to choose what to talk about. I'll share some of the photos I have and some highlights and things that stick out in my mind for now.
Basic Training is its own little universe with its own set of rules. The difference between civilian life and basic training life is like the difference between night and day. They are just very different.
Resilience, adaptability, and attention to detail are qualities that serve you well in that environment, both mentally and physically. Patience, and influencing the group to work together, are also important skills. The smallest mistakes, missed details, or tardiness come with immediate consequences, and not only for the offending individual.
There are NO PHONES, NO COMPUTERS, NO INTERNET, NO NEWS, NO SPORTS, NO NOTHING. All you have are your Drill SGT's and battle buddies.
The days feel extremely long, but the weeks feel very short. There were some days where I had never been so miserable in my entire life :) The Field Training Exercises like "The Forge" were very challenging.
Wake up at 0500 +/- almost everyday, and lights out 2130 almost every night. That's a very long day.
Every single place you go, there are Drill SGT's present, and you don't go anywhere alone.
All 50+ people in your platoon needed to be down in the correct uniform fully accounted for in formation by 0530, showered, shaved, etc. For many this proved a struggle in the beginning and we paid for it.
There are a lot of classroom briefs and there is a lot of memorization.
You train, you learn, you clean, you get tested, you get put in leadership roles, you do training events that are graduation requirements that you MUST pass to escape basic training... Obstacle Courses, Shooting Ranges (marksmanship), Grenade Range, Victory Tower / Ropes Course, Ruck Marches, Land Navigation, Field Training Exercises, Squad Tactics, Combatives, Drill and Ceremony, Combat Casualty Care, Radio communications, and the like are the things we practiced and learned. You went everywhere with your m4, you even went to the DFAC (cafeteria) with it slung and ate that way.
There are moments you have out in the field in basic training where you will question everything. And you think about how you could be back home chillin at the coffee shop with your wife with not a thing to worry about. In those moments, a strong sense of purpose, will, camaraderie, and never quitting are the things that will carry you through.
I missed my family, friends, and my clients a lot. But I knew the fastest way to get back to those things was to do the best I could and graduate Basic Training - so I put all my effort into that. When I wasn't working, I spent the little time that I did have available to either organize and clean gear or write to my wife/family.
Some of the main takeaways that stick with me are "I always take care of my arms, my equipment, and myself."
The other one is that no matter how unbelievably miserable things can get, YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN NEVER QUIT. You can push yourself much farther than you currently realize - whether you were well trained going in or not. If you think a lot about those things, you realize how much they can set you up for success and separate you from the rest of the population.
My Strength and Conditioning system prepared me extremely well for what was expected of me. I came in performing in the top 10% on the initial PT test. If there was a weightlifting test, and a well rounded crossfit style fitness test, I'd have destroyed.
My strength, and in particular my core, hip, glute, and back strength, did serve me extremely well though. There nothing that they threw at me that my body wasn't capable of withstanding. Some folks who were under-trained suffered fractured hips under the constant stress.
The only change I would go back and make is to do a lot more Ruck Marching. No matter how fit you are, when you are on mile 20 and it's completely dark and you're bleeding and you can't feel your arms, you've got skin floating about in your boots, and can't form cohesive thoughts or movements, you can't overcome that with fitness. You can only overcome that with will. More physical and mental exposure to difficult ruck marching circumstances would have helped though.
Fitness and strength do not overcome technique in combatives. You can't rely on it to defeat a well-trained opponent. You must be very familiar with BJJ and striking to perform well.
When you train functional movement patterns, the lunge, deadlift, and squat, and you train them unilaterally, you win.
When you train your core and you cover rotation, anti-rotation, flexion, extension, anti-flexion, anti-extension, in different stances and positions, you win.
When you train upper body with full range of motion in all planes of motion, and you've got shoulder stability and strong lats, you win.
All you have to do is take it one day at a time and pass all your graduation requirements, and not do anything monumentally stupid, and you will graduate and you will get to leave :)
What's a good snack?
What should I eat for a snack?
This is another question I get all the time. I mean, it is a good question on its' face. We both know most commonly available snack foods are just a bunch of junk. So it can feel difficult; but with some planning you can have some healthy snacks that help you AND taste pretty good.
Gear for the Warm Up
In my last post about building a home gym, I didn't mention anything specifically for the warm up. First of all, you really don't "need" any gear to do a good warm up, but gear can help with some specific things and definitely make certain aspects of a warm up more effective. Some of my favorite tools for the warm up are:
You can do a great warm up without these tools, but these are great lightweight and portable tools that would be a great part of your home gym. They also double as an addition to your gym bag to carry with you when you workout elsewhere. Most commercial gyms do not have these available, so consider acquiring this gear and learning how to use it whether you plan to use it at home, a commercial facility, or any public place.
How do you make a garage gym?
The Garage Gym... Where do I start?
The space in the garage is the most limiting factor when making your gym. Naturally then one should try to maximize the utility of the space that you have. This means being efficient with the layout and storage systems. This also means stay way from giant, heavy, bulky, non-versatile machines that you can't move! That means you Bowflex.. In this post I'm just going to focus on the BASICS of what gear you might want to get first, and I'll address it by category.
What are the basics of a sound strength and conditioning program?
What gear can you use for Calisthenics? The most helpful gear for Calisthenics are Olympic Rings and a STURDY PULL UP BAR, not the cheap door hanging plastic crap. You can make very serious strength gains with just these 2 tools.
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