Improved Dumbbell Storage

I have a 3-tier dumbbell rack, which works well, except for one key piece of the design. The lips that hold the top of each dumbbell aren’t really tall enough for the heavier dumbbells. Here’s a rough video showing the problem.

A 50 pound dumbbell only has to slip once or twice smashing your fingers on the bottom bracket before it’s time to come up with a fix. My solution was to cut a couple strips of plywood, notch them out to mate up with the the current lip, drill some holes, and bolt it together.

Didn’t need much extra height really. Here’s another rough video showing the improvement.

I also added a shelf for the smaller dumbbells because all of my sets don’t fit on the rack. I left space for two remaining pairs; the eights to match everything in my set from five to 40 pounds and some 60s (ordered today).

For a final touch, I created labels similar to what I made for the pulley weight stack.

Modifying/Upgrading a DP Ultra Gympac

On August 15th I bought the DP Ultra Gympac, a piece of fitness equipment from the mid-80s.

It was missing some of the original parts, but it had the weight stack and pulley system, which are what I cared about. I had made my own pulley system, but I’ve been fighting with it for several months. Having something dedicated with it’s own weight stack was going to be a big improvement. Here’s what the equipment looked like when I got it home.

This awesome machine was sold at Sears for $499.99 back in the day!

I paid $100 for this one and it also came with a small barbell and weights, which I’ll sell. The unit did need some work. I moved the bench and curl attachment to storage because I don’t plan to use them. Then I disassembled the unit. Most of the weight stack plates had cracks. By a stroke of luck, I came across a Facebook Marketplace listing for 14 of the same weights and I paid $25.

The base of the Gympac had quite a mess where something nasty had spilled a very long time ago. I got that taken care of and cleaned the pulleys really well. The main top and bottom pieces got fresh black paint. I bought new cotter pins for the pulleys, replaced nuts and bolts, added washers and made a cable. The hardest part of the rebuild was replacing the guide rails with longer ones to allow more travel length for the cable. A couple of eight foot pieces of 1″ aluminum square tubing ran me about $30 and I drilled holes for the various bolts. On my bandsaw I cut the original logo out of the cracked plastic case.

Making room required a big reorganization of my gym space. After that I moved the unit in place, put everything together, and bolted it to the wall. The final touch was labeling the weights. I wasn’t confident in the numbers on the original stickers, so I bought a small luggage scale and sure enough, everything had previously been labeled six pounds too heavy. I made some new labels.

I love it! The great thing is it only uses about two and a half square feet of floor space. Rethinking the entire organization of the gym space ended up making the rest of my equipment a lot more accessible as well. This was a really fun project. If you have a garage gym and some extra space, try to find one of these.

Weight Plate Storage

I made a weight plate rack probably 7 years ago and it held up reasonably well with limited use.

Through the pandemic, I’ve been using my garage gym a lot and the rack was starting to fall apart. The design had two main problems:

  1. The screws (I didn’t know about wood glue back then) couldn’t support the load of plates leaning and falling against the uprights.
  2. The narrow base meant the plates could easily roll off when bumped.

So I took a bunch of measurements, looked at my scrap plywood, and modeled a new rack in SketchUp. My goals were to make construction simple, not spend any money, add spots for the kettlebell plates, and save space. Here’s what I came up with.

Originally it was one wide rack, but I ended up making it in two sections since my scrap plywood wasn’t long enough. This made assembly easier and gives me the option of storing half of the plates in a different location.

I cut all of the plywood, used wood glue and a nail gun for assembly, and sanded all of the edges. I gave it some spray paint and number stencils. I had everything I needed in my workshop so I didn’t spend a dime.

I tested with the heavier plates and quickly realized I’d failed to plan for the plates tipping to the sides; they don’t stay upright without some kind of vertical support. Also with the lightweight plywood construction, the whole thing could move depending on how many other plates are in use. Back to the drawing board. I didn’t want to throw away all my work, so I came up with a way to use 2x4s from the previous rack.

I cut slots in the 2×4 to create stable vertical supports. I only needed a single screw in each one. Then I added another piece of 2×4 across the back, double screwed to each support, to link all four together, which improved the strength a lot. Each half rack was also screwed to the wall. It works well now.

While I was at it, I removed the Plasti Dip and colored paint from the small metal plates, which had been peeling for years. Blakleen was a huge save in this process, even though it was still a mess and a lot of work. Then I primed and painted them black. They look really good, so it was worth it.

Speed Bag

Today I installed a new piece of gym equipment in the garage. I’ve always wanted to learn how to hit a speed and a during pandemic seemed like a great time to learn. It’s much harder than you think!

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Cardio Triple Threat

So happy to have added the rower to my garage gym. I’m really enjoying 30-40 minute cardio sessions in the cold garage. Didn’t have the heat on long and I ended up ditching my hoodie, but it’s nice to warm things up a bit to get started.

Titan Fitness 21.5″ Fold Back Wall Mounted T-3 Power Rack

Yesterday I installed a folding power rack in my garage, which completes my garage gym reorganization. Since I now have a truck and a car, I didn’t want to dedicate half of my garage to the gym; I wanted to park both vehicles inside all year. I needed to significantly compress my garage gym space.

If you’ve been following my blog, you may remember posts where I created custom dumbbell storage, made a barbell accessory organizer, and figured out a way to store mats against the wall. I’m not sure if I talked about it in previous posts, but I removed the lifting platforms and sold my large Rogue R3 power rack, which took up a lot of floor space.

I wanted to get a wall-mounted folding rack. Rogue’s small one is $495, with another $163 for spotter arms, and doesn’t have free shipping. I found the Titan Fitness 21.5″ Fold Back Wall Mounted T-3 Power Rack, paid $284 for it, another $74 for spotter arms, and it shipped free. About half the price of Rogue’s option! It even comes with an extra set of J-hooks.

Let me explain how I did a solo install of the rack.

Unfortunately there weren’t any instructions in any of the boxes. There was a card showing a URL to download a manual, but it was a broken link. I emailed Titan Fitness in case anyone was working on the weekend. I got a general idea of the install from a couple of YouTube videos, but mostly came up with my own method, which worked out really well.

The first step was a shopping trip to Home Depot.

  • 2″ x 10″ x 8′ boards (2 @ $10.36)
  • 8″ composite shims (12 pack – $1.97)
  • 1/4″ x 5″ lag screws (16 @ $0.54)
  • 1/4″ washers (16 @ $0.12)
  • 1/2″ x 2.5″ lag screws (8 @ $0.63)
  • 1/2″ washers (8 @ $0.22)

Total before tax: $40.05

With the rack parts on the ground I bolted the swing arms to the uprights and connected the cross-bar. I stood it up against the wall to get a feel for how everything would go. I figured out the middle of the top stringer could go about 6’5″of the floor and the middle of the bottom could be 11″. With eight foot boards I could span six studs on the wall and screw in to four of them. I measured out the 16″ spacing on the boards and drilled eight holes.

Perhaps the trickiest part of the install to do by myself was figuring out how to get the heavy stringer on the wall make it level. With a stud finder I found the right most stud at 6’8″ from the floor and drilled a hole. Then I put a 1/4″ x 5″ lag screw in about 2/3 of the way to temporarily attach the stringer to the wall. The other end of the board was on the ground while I did this, so I didn’t have to support its weight.

With the one screw only in part way, I was able to swing the opposite end of the board up and put a level on it. When I was happy with the position I drilled through one of the holes in the board to make a mark on the wall. Then I could swing the board back down to the floor and completely drill out the hole in the wall. Swung the board back up, and partially put in another lag screw where I had fully drilled the hole in the wall. With the board held in place I drilled through the other six holes to make marks in the wall. Then I unscrewed the two screws, took the board down, and drilled the holes in the wall. Everything lined up great and I was able to completely put in all eight lag screws.

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I repeated the same process for the bottom stringer, which was easier since it was so close to the ground.

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I had to think about the next step a bit. Other people seemed to prop the entire rack up against the wall to figure out where to attach everything. With my floor sloping from right to left (back to front of the garage), I knew I’d have to shim up the left upright when the rack was open. I decided to do the right upright on its own first.

I had measured the width of the cross-bar, telling me the middle of the mounting brackets would line up pretty close to the studs I hadn’t attached the stringers to. I propped the upright up against the stringers and used a framing square to line it up. I also used a level to make sure the uprights were straight up and down. Some 1.5″ drywall screws temporarily attached the brackets to the stringer. I wanted to be sure it would swing against the wall before drilling holes for the lag screws. Since the rubber foot was solid against the ground, I had to give it a good push, but once it was free, it swung great. I drilled through the big holes in the brackets and used 1/2″ x 2.5# lag screws to solidly attach the brackets to the stringer.

With that first upright in place I propped up the left upright and attached the cross-bar. I once again used the square to line up the arms with the stringer and a level to get it straight up and down. Now I had to make the uprights sit level with each other, so I placed a long level across the support arms of each upright. I kept adding shims until the bubble showed level. Rechecked square and upright level before I attached with drywall screws again. I removed the cross-bar and shims to make sure this one could swing up against the wall too. All was good so I drilled and put in the lag screws.

In the picture above you can see some shims under the left upright. According to Home Depot’s product page…

Can easily withstand up to 16,000 lbs. of pressure

Should be sufficient!

Everything easily folds out of the way.

With a bunch of extra space on the side of the stringer, I used screw hooks (free from Menards) to hang bands, jump ropes, belts, etc.

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After finishing with the install I used the rack for shoulder presses and everything felt solid. I’m really happy with it and glad I found Titan Fitness instead of spending twice as much at Rogue Fitness.

Designating the rack as 21.5″ in the product title is misleading because that is the length of the swing arms. With the stringers, mounting brackets/hinges, and depth of the upright, the end of the rack is about 26″ from the wall. Also of note is that the diameter of the cross-bar is 2″, which is in between a normal pull-up bar and a fat bar. This will give me another option because I have a ceiling mounted pull-up and a set of Fat Gripz.

Later in the evening Titan responded to my email and sent the manual, so I’ll include a download link here for anyone who wants it. After seeing their instructions, I like the installation method I came up better because pretty much all garage floors are sloped and I installed everything by myself. It took me about 3 hours of work time, which was a lot of measuring and remeasuring.

Here is a 2013 photo of the garage gym, which was still pretty close to what it looked like a few months ago.

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Now it looks like this.

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I still have the pull-up bar hanging in front of the back door as well as a Ski Erg, Airdyne, and treadmill on the other side of the garage.

Mat Storage on a Garage Wall

I’ve slowly been continuing with my garage gym clean-up and reorganization. Originally I was going to get rid of the extra stall mats because I’m not going to park on top of them and I have a much thinner mat that rolls up and easily stores in a corner. As I was looking at the back wall I got an idea to store these two pieces of mat against the wall, so I can quickly pull them down for workouts.

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The mats are 3/4 inch and very rigid, so they stand pretty well on their own. I wasn’t going to risk them falling back on a vehicle though, so they needed a seat belt.

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On each side I drilled in to a stud and screwed in an eye bolt. Then I could hook in a ratchet strap, tighten it, and the mats will never fall over.

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I love when an easy solution works.

DIY Organizer for Barbell Accessories

These accessories for my barbells were laying on the floor or on a shelf (now full of other things). I built this organizer out of a bunch of scrap wood so everything has a place to go, which is out of the way.

Running Upgrade

Grabbed this treadmill for my garage gym, because I love running so much (haha). It’ll be a nice option in the winter, even for active recovery walking, which I miss out on when it’s not golf season.

It doesn’t fold up, but I couldn’t pass on the price (free) and having a truck means I can grab stuff like this now. Just need a Concept 2 rower to complete the cardio quartet since I have an Airdyne and Ski Erg.

treadmill