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Archive for February, 2008

Before I discuss what a slam ball is, we need to explain the context in which such a training tool is used. And the context is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and specifically, Tabata intervals.

What is a tabata interval? It is a High Intensity Interval Training protocol originally devised by Dr. Izumi Tabata to increase anaerobic capacity (in particular the glycolytic and phosphagen metabolic pathways). In a tabata interval, an exercise is executed as fast and with as many repetetions as possible for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is repeated again and again, usually in rounds of 2, 3, 5 or 10-minute rounds.

This is done as a means of implementing anaerobic metabolic conditioning and, ideally, as part of a plan for achieving and maintaining acceptable levels of general physical preparedness (GPP). And an increase in GPP allows one to train harder, with more volume and increase intensity. Moreover, it allows one to recover faster.

There are different exercises that can be used in these 20-10 second intervals. And, as wacky as it may seem to you, taking a hard object and throwing it to the ground is one.

This is where a slam ball comes into place. I recently built a 17-pound, non-rebounding ball that can be thrown multiple times without risking bursting it or the floor. This is me slamming the living crap out of it in three tabata intervals (a 1.5-minute round.)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t1FlMUS32A

How To Build One

To build one, I followed online instructions found at the CrossFit and Ross Enamait’s websites. I believe I’m contributing an improvement onto those instructions by introducing more efficient funnels for pouring sand into the balls.

First, I started using an empty bottle of saline solution. It worked well as first, but I got impatient. As I tried to increase the size of the hole using a hand file, I tore it bigger than planned. That pretty much screwed it for a slam ball. Eventually I filled it up to make it a 25-lbs medicine ball, so it wasn’t that much of a loss.

Notice the obligatory beer bottle:

So, I took another basketball, and I was careful in punching a hole in it. For a funnel, I decided to insert a baby drop dispenser. It is important to keep the needle in the ball to allow air to come out as you pour sand:

Then I put an empty bottle of saline solution I was using first (with its end cut off) inside the drop dispenser, and voila, I got a nice, efficient funnel. It took about 10 minutes to fill it up with sand.

You can see the sand quickly going inside the ball. It was kinda cool.

Later you use a tire patch kit to patch the whole, you let the thing dry, put another patch, and begin to tape the crap out of it with duct tape.

Does it work well?

I think so. I’ve been slamming the living crap out of it, and so far, it hasn’t busted open. The trick is not to completely fill the ball. A basketball may take about 17lbs, maybe 18lbs, but that’s it. You need to leave room to be filled up with air.

This is not a bouncing slam ball. If you slam it on concrete it will barely bounce. This is good since it avoids having that thing accidentally bouncing on your face and it forces you to pick it up off the ground.

I do most of my slamming indoors, and I’m a bit worried about the floor. So I slam it on a rubber mat under a piece of plywood. I’ve also tried two and three rubber mats. Three is great as you get it to bounce (just be careful as the bouncing is erratic and can bounce with force right into your face.)

I find this to be much better than sledge hammer workout. Or I should say that I like it better. I don’t have to worry about switching sides, it works my forearms more and the downward pulling/throwing action in the trajectory it takes (right on front and above you) does an even work on your lats. Take a wide stance and contract the glutes as in a squat when doing this.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that individuals can cut down their training time by 60% using tabata sets (or other similar HIIT protocols) and achieve superior anaerobic conditioning that other, more “aerobic” activities such as jogging or using a stationary bike. This is another incentive why I (or anyone else) should pursue this type of training.

I’d strongly suggest you use a rubber mat or a 2x2x1/4 plywood when slamming the ball. This will allow the ball to last longer as opposed to being slammed against the concrete. Furthermore, if you are doing this indoors, you want to protect your floor from the pounding.

And it goes without saying not to try this if you live in an apartment building 🙂

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One of the most most priced posessions I have is a sandbag I build following Ross Enamait’s sandbag construction kit. As it is my nature to deviate from instructions and basically wing it, I added a few twists in its construction which allowed me to use to use less plastic bags. Ross suggests to use two husky bags, one filled with sand, and another one around it. I followed a different approach, which is the following:First, you put enough sand in a husky bag to get a given weight (I used 15lbs), make a tight bundle, which you secure at one end with duct tape.

Next, you take that bundle and flip it inside the bag

Once you flip it, make sure you pull the ends of the bag until the initial bundle is tightly inside the bag. Next, you begin to wrap that bundle onto itself. Make sure that each fold is tightly packed.

Once done, fold the sides tightly and secure the resulting bundle with duct tape. You can see in the scale that it’s about 15lbs.

Then add more duct tape accross the bundles. Use your judgment in how much you want to use (for me, more==better)

Then, I put the bundles in sea bags I bought in amazon for $15. Using two bags makes it a bitch to grip. So use one or two depending on what you want to train.

And that’s the bag on the right size (next to some other crap I made) and three 15-pounder bundles in front of it. So far I can load that sandbag up to 150lbs at 15lbs increments. I want to make two 10-lbs bundles and more 15lbs ones to get up to 200lbs.

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As I continue my trajectory accross the realms of Do-It-Yourself training equipment, I keep finding more and more ways to exploit the home-made crap I already have. Case in point, glute-ham raises.

This is a brutal, yet effective exercise for developing knee flexion strenght. Nothing hits the hamstrings during knee flexion as this one. Furthermore, it trains the hamstrings to generate force from a stretched position. A person who can complete a full rep is one almost impervious to a hamstring injury.

This blog post may not be much useful to anyone beyond presenting this exercise. However, if you have had enough time to build a lifting platform as the one I built (and are retarded enough to actually go through the enterprise of doing so), then a glute-ham raise platform is within your grasp.

All you need to do is set up a loaded barbell to keep the platforms firmly in place, and hold a wooden dowel with clams as in the picture below:

And voila, that’s your glute-ham raise platform. You can use a rubber mat or towel to protect your knees while keeping your heels (just above the achiles’ tendons) on the dowel.

And no, I’m not going to put a picture of me doing glute-ham raises because I suck at them.

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OK, some things didn’ t work as planned. One of these were the rings I made (previously discussed here.). Despite the fact these were filled with chains, they bent and lost their shape while doing dips. A partial solution was to fill them up with sand (while sealing the ends with a glue gun.)

But even then, this was not still enough for the tubes to retain their shape, so my cheap-ass solution is to put a piece of pool noodle on each when I do dips on them. This is not necessary for pull/chin ups, though.

I would not call this a failed experiment since I can still use this contraption for dips, pull/chin ups and other exercises. It is, perhaps, the easiest way to make a pair of rings.

However, I do not believe I will build one like this again. The effort is not that much, but the amount of tools you need is a bit too much. You need a glue gun to begin with, and I believe the best material for filling them would be concrete rather than just sand.

I will keep using them since they serve their purpose. In the meantime, however, I’m actually working on an improved version using metal pipes, plumbing elbows and a 3/4 natural-fiber rope with a 600-lbs load capacity.

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Alright meat-heads.

Following my last post on the subject, this is the third installment of this crap I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks. The fact of the matter is that my g/f and I have already signed and mailed our cancellation forms to LA Fitness. Screw them. The only thing we’ll miss from it is the squat stations. And since that’s something I’m not comfortable with, we may end up buying one of these puppies from the New York Barbell Company:

New York Barbell Sumo Rack C92565W

In the meantime, my hammer keeps landing and the drills keep drilling. I haven’t built a WhiteShark Push-Up yet, and I don’t think I will for the time being. Too busy. However, I have a particular update from the original creator of this contraption. He found a very effective way to increase the grip workout in this thing… by using pool noodles.

Be advised that this is a beast completely different from the commercial “Perfect Push Up” – you must work your grip with this beast. If you have girly hands, don’t. Work on your wrist strength first, and then plow ahead with this thing.

So… where was I? Oh yes.

Home Made Rings.

I finally got the time to install the rings I made (previously discussed here).

Holy crap. I don’t know what the fuck is in the wood beam (adamantium maybe), but it took forever to screw those things – killer shoulder workout. And this was after drilling a 9/36″ hole for the screws to go in.

Anyway, this contraption seems rock solid. The rings are about waist level. A tad low, but that’s good for my g/f to do assisted pull ups. Doing dips in these things is hard. Last time I did weighted dips on a station, I did like 10 reps with 95lbs on a dip belt. With these rings, it’s a challenge to get 10 reps body weight.

This requires a lot of stabilization, meaning, it == teh cool.

I did several tests last night and this thing is rock solid. I’m happy with it.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpzFmOTtnic

The Lifting Platform

And while I was working on the rings and other stuff, I was trying to build a lifting platform for quite sometime. The hardest part was to get someone to cut the bloody lumber in Home Depot. If I had a truck, I would have hauled the stuff home and cut it myself. Oh well.

Anyways, I don’t recall exactly where I got the idea for this at this time. If I remember later, I will come back here and give the due credit.

It is not one platform, but pair of stackable lifting platforms made out of a 2″x12″x8′ and a 2″x4″x8′. Each piece is basically a 2-foot long piece of wood, 12″ width with one 1-ft long 2″x4″ at each end. There are four of those.

You can stack them all four and make a deep thing for step ups. It’s not good for jumping but that’s ok. The top 2 have 1×1 pieces on their ends to stop the barbell from rolling.

I wasn’t designing them that way, but they ended up being perfect for me for floor push ups and rack pulls 2/3 up of my shins. Taylor made by accident. I drop stuff on them and so far seem capable of taking a beating.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLlwMLBymaM

I’m going to build four more and figure out how to slide a “core”, a pipe or something through them to stabilize them further. You can put them in, take them out, and stack them in a small corner without taking a lot of space.

The only caveat for anyone who wants to build them. Make sure you use a drill bit thick enough to go through them and use a clamp to inmobilize the thing. I couldn’t find my clamp, so I used my feet to hold them. Lo and behold, I moved a bit thus breaking one of my bits (crap!)

One more note. 2×12’s are usually curved through their lenght, just a bit, but never perfectly flat. Use that to your advantage by placing the concave facing up. This acts as a cup to hold the blates IN the platform.

The only question I still have about this thing is whether to use an additional rubber mat under them to protect the floor during deadlifts.

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