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New Home Gym Equipment
Part Two: Miscellaneous
By Gary Zeolla
This article is continued from New Home Gym Equipment: Part One: Powerlifting Bars. That article has been updated and expanded since it was first published. Some needed corrections were made, and a section was added about the bars used at my last contest, so I would encourage the reader to check it out even if you read it before. See the page New Home Gym Equipment: Pictures and Videos for such media for all of the times mentioned in this two-part article.
CAP Cambered Bar
I got a cambered bar to help with my lackluster bench press. For those who don’t know, a cambered bar is a power bar with a “bend” in the middle. The bend enables one to lower the bar below chest level. I’ve thought of getting a cambered bar before, but they are rather pricy, usually costing $200+ with shipping (see, for example the one available at Amazon). Note that I compete raw (without a bench shirt).
Also, the bend is usually 4-5” in depth. That depth is more than someone my size (5’1”) would be able to lower the bar. But I found one at Warehouse Fitness that was not too expense ($73 plus $29 shipping) and that only had a 3” bend. That seemed liked a better depth, so I ordered it.
When I got it, it looked good. But then I weighed it, and it only weighed 37 pounds. My Texas Power Bar weighs 43 pounds. The first pair of 45s I always put on actually weigh 46 pounds each, so together, my “base weight” is 135 pounds, exactly what it should be. My new Heavy Duty Power Bar is 45 pounds, so my base weight with it is a bit more, 137 pounds, but I ignore the “extra” two pounds. However, with this cambered bar only weighing 37 pounds, it is probably not of as of a high quality as either of those power bars, but for me it will do just fine. But with those same initial plates, my base weight is only 129 pounds, which I round up to 130.
Also, my regular bench grip is one thumb length plus a quarter inch out from the start of the knurling on my Texas Power Bar. But the bend area on the cambered bar is such that to use that grip I need to put my hands on the bend area, near the end. But in a way that is good; having my hands angled slightly outward makes it easier to lower the bar the extra 3”. If I put my hands at the beginning of the straight part, that would give me the grip I use for wide grip benches (ring fingers on the rings of my Texas Power Bar). Wide grip benches are another bottom end exercise, so that would combine two such movements.
But whichever grip I use, with benching raw, I did cambered bar benches as the first exercise in Week A of my Post-Contest Routine of my recent training plan. In that routine, I did them in a “dead stop” fashion, resting the bar momentarily on the safety bars in my power rack. I mainly did them that way as I was not flexible enough to actually touch the cambered part to my chest, even with it only being 3”.
But by my Pre-Contest Routine, I did them second in Week B. By then, I was flexible enough to lower the cambered part of the bar to my chest, especially with being more warmed up with doing regular benches first. I thus lowered the safeties one hole and did the cambered bar benches in a regular bench fashion, with just a brief pause at the chest.
Having done them both ways, I think I will stick with the dead stop fashion, as it felt better and seemed to help my raw bench more. But whether done in a dead stop or a regular fashion, I really like the cambered bar benches, and they are helping my regular bench, as I set a new 50s PR at my most recent contest, APF/ AAPF, Ohio States - 2016.
Available from Amazon
I’ve had a home gym for over a decade now. I had been leaning my Texas Power Bar against an added wall that entire time. But over time, I put a hole in that wall. I then I got a cambered bar and started another hole with it. Since I was planning on getting a third bar (the Heavy Duty Bar mentioned in Part One), I figured I’d better find a better way of storing my bars before I took out the whole wall.
I thus checked Amazon for a bar holder, and this Titan Fitness Olympic Barbell 5 Bar Holder was the least expensive one I found, so I ordered it. It works just fine. It does not fall over, even with three bars and a curl bar in it, and without even being bolted down. I thus would highly recommend it.
Chains for Benches
Available from Amazon
For chain squats and deadlifts, I use two sets of heavy chains for a total of 90 pounds of chain weight, but when I used that much for benches it seemed to be too much, especially with competing raw. Thus for a previous routine I removed one set of the heavy chains, so the total weight was only 55 pounds, and that seemed more appropriate for raw benching.
However, removing the second set of chains was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. The problem was; I have C-clamps holding the chains onto the triangle in the middle of the setup, and the threads on the C-clamps were stripped. I really struggled to get the bolts off, so I ordered this new set of chains from Amazon.
When I got the chains, the first thing I noticed was the gold color of the heavy chains. It is really nice. I also noticed the setup was a little different than my previous chains. Rather than the leader chain and heavy chain connecting to a triangle in the middle, this setup uses a large clamp to hold the two chains together. That eliminates the need for the C-clamps.
I then weighed the chains. The total setup weighs 43 pounds. With my 45-pound Heavy Duty Power Bar, my base weight is 88 pounds, which I round down to 85 pounds. That is a strange weight, but then with putting on a pair of 25s, the based weight is 138, which again, I round down to 135. That is what I am used to starting with. It is easy to set up and take off the chains. Just slip them onto and off of the bar.
I used the chains in my Post-Contest Routine. It took a little while to get used to them, but once I did I progressed well on them. And I think they helped my regular bench, as when I initially did them in my Pre-Contest Routine, I had less problem locking out hard reps. But as that routine progressed, I began having problems with the lockout.
I think what happened is I switched from using these chains to using reverse bands for top end work, and the reverse band benches did not help the lockout as much as the chains were. Then at my most recent contest, I really struggled to lockout my final attempt. Thank God I got it, but barely, and I was more winded afterwards than I have ever been after a bench attempt. It was a rather dramatic lift, but the dramatics could have been avoided if my lockout strength was better. Thus for my current training plan, I will do the chain benches in my Pre-Contest Routine, so as to be better prepared for the lockout at my next contest. Given all of this, I would recommend these chains if you are looking for a way to train the top end of benches.
I also got a bucket to put them in from Amazon. The chains cost $112 and the bucket $12 (free shipping for both).
I discuss the use of bands for powerlifting at Powerlift Assistance Exercises: Bands and Chains. But here I will just say they are another way of doing top-end work.
Powerlifting bands come in different degrees of tension, with increasing numbers indicating increasing tension. I had been using #4 (average) bands for reverse band squats and deadlifts and #3 (light) bands for reverse band benches. But on the latter, that was from when I was lifting equipped, but with now lifting raw, the #3 bands gave me too much overload, so I tried the #1 (mini-bands) I already had, but that was not enough of an overload. I thus figured #2 (monster-minis) would be ideal.
With using the same tension on squats and deadlifts I was using the same bands for both. But deadlifts stretch out the bands much more than squats to, so I was concerned that with time the band would stretch and lessen the tension on squat. I thus thought it good to sue separate #4 bands for squats.
I had gotten my previous bands from Crain. They were solid color bands that work just fine and which I still have. But when I had later ordered new ones, the style had changed. The band were now all tan, with just a color code spot on them. That would have been fine, except there was a distinct rubber smell to them that the solid color ones did not have. I thus returned them, as that smell bothered me with my multiple chemical sensitivity.
Thus now needing new bands, I looked around and almost ordered solid colored bands from Amazon, but I wasn’t sure if they had the same tension as my previous bands or not, and they were clarified differently. Then I saw bands available at APT that had the same classifications as my previous bands and were also solid colored, so I ordered a pair of #2s and a pair of #4s. As it turned out, both pairs were yellow, not colored coded as my previous ones. But the new #4s have the same tension as my old ones, and the #2s are in-between my previous #1s and #3s. They are thus the same, even thought of different colors.
I am using the new #4s on squats and the older ones on deadlifts. I am using the new #2 bands on benches. The new bands have been working out very well, with no signs of stretching after months of use. I prefer using chains to bands, but bands are a good alternative for top end work for my Post-Contest Routine, but I will then switch to using chains for all three lifts for my more important Pre-Contest Routine.
Note: APT's website has been "temporarily down" for months. I am not sure what the situation is, but the bands as they are pictured on Crain's site are solid colored, so they would be the way to go if you desire bands.
A piece of equipment I considered going with for benches instead of the bands and chains was a SlingShot. I have not used one, but from the pictures and videos I have seen, it looks to be a partial bench shirt, consisting of just the sleeves and chest piece. I assume it would function much in the same way—pushing the bar off of the chest but helping less as the bar rises. It would thus be another top end exercise.
When I was benching with a shirt, that helped my raw bench, so a SlingShot would probably help as well, but I decided to go with the chains and bands for several reasons.
First, chains and bands are a one-time investment. The chains I bought will last me the rest of my life. The bands could conceivably stretch out over time, but I’ve had my older bands for over a decade and the new ones for several months, and neither set shows signs of stretching. But a SlingShot, if it is like a shirt, will probably get worn out after a year or two and need to be replaced time and time again.
Second and along these lines, as the SlingShot gets worn, it will help less and less, while the chain resistance will never change, and bands tension should stay steady for a long time.
Third, again if the SlingShot it is like a shirt, exactly how it is put on will affect how effective it is for each set, while the chains just hang from the bar and the bar from the bands. They thus give the same resistance for every set.
Fourth, once the chains or bands are set up for a workout, that is it. They do not need to be adjusted for the rest of the workout. But the SlingShot would need to be adjusted for each set. And all of that adjusting is tiring. In fact, that is one reason I stopped using a bench shirt (and squat suit), how exhausting they are to use.
However, the SlingShot is an option, especially for some who benches equipped. It is probably easier to put on than a full bench shirt, and it is definitely less expensive than a full shirt. It can be ordered directly from the company or from Amazon. But note, there are four versions of the Slingshot for different levels of benchers, so if you get one, be sure to contact the company and ask which would be best for you based on your benching poundage.
I did dips on Bench Assistance day in two consecutive routines, so I wanted an alternative for my next routine. I had remembered before about doing dips on gymnastics rings back in the day. But I also remembered how tough they were, so I didn’t think I’d be able to do them. But with using 75 pounds for regular dips at the end of my previous routine, I figured I was ready to handle them, so I ordered a set of "Yes4All Olympic Exercise Fitness Crossfit Gymnastic Rings" from Amazon. The description says they are red, but when I got them, they looked orange to me. It took a good bit of fiddling to get them put up and adjusted correctly, but I finally got it.
To be sure I don’t get hurt, I warmed up with a couple of sets of dips on dip bars, then I used the rings. My memory was right—they are tough! It took a few weeks, but I finally got the hang of them and was able to start adding weight, though not near as much as with bars. And I doubt they would help much with benches. But they are a good exercise overall for general strength training purposes.
Adjustable Ankle Weights
Available from Amazon
I injured my right adductor (inner thigh muscle) years ago, but it never fully healed and still bothers me slightly occasionally, so it is probably affecting my squat and deadlift, so I am now rehabbing it by doing an exercise specifically for the adductors/ abductors. I am doing it standing, raising the right leg sideways to the left as far as possible, then to the right, and of course, repeating with the other leg.
To effectively do this rehab exercise, I needed to buy another new piece of gym equipment, namely adjustable ankle weights, so I could gradually increase the weights. Specifically, I got these "CAP Barbell 20 lb. Adjustable Ankle Weights." There are five, 2-pound sand bags that can be inserted into each wrap.
They work just fine. The only problem is it is a little hard getting the sand bags in and out of the wraps, so I am only doing do straight sets of 3 x 10-15 reps rather than using a drops rep approach like I usually do. I am also using them for a couple of abs exercises.
Available from Amazon
This “Dead Wedge” came up as a “recommended product” on Amazon after I ordered the preceding weightlifting equipment. The Wedge had all positive reviews, so I spent the $18 and ordered one. And please note, that is ONE, not two, not a pair, just one wedge. If you want a pair to have one to use on both sides of the bar, which would be logical way to sell this product, you will need to order two, for a total of $36.
That might not sound like much for what is an alternative to a much more expensive deadlift jack. But when I got it and held it up in the wrapper, I could picture it hanging up on a rack in a Dollar Store for two bucks. It is just a small piece of rubber.
Does it work? Yes. Is it worth $18 (or $36 if you are fool enough to order two), absolutely not! I have been using a 2-1/2 or five-pound plate to change the weights on deadlifts ever since my college lifting days back in 1979-82. In fact, an older lifter showed me the trick of doing that my first year at Penn State Main Campus. Then a few years back, before I setup my home gym, at a commercial gym, a group of college boys looked like they were struggling to change the weights on deadlifts, with one holding the end of the bar up while another changed the weights. I tried to mention to them about using a 2-1/2, but they looked at me like I was strange, ignored me, and kept doing what they were doing. That was the one and only time I tried to give unsolicited advice.
In any case, now in my home gym, I use the Dead Wedge on one side of the bar and a 2-1/2 or five on the other. And one works as good as the other. But the Dead Wedge cost me $18 while I already had the weight plates. My advice is thus to skip this exorbitantly priced product and use the 2-1/2 or five pound plates that you already have.
But I would amiss not to mention that when I posted the above review on Amazon, the co-owner of Evolutionize, the company that makes the Dead Wedge, responded to my post. She said it was very expensive to produce, but due to my dissatisfaction, she refunded my money. That is very commendable of her and her company.
Generic Boots for Squats
This last time is not really a piece of gym equipment. It is actually an addition to be added to my two-part article on Footwear for Powerlifting. But I’m also adding it here for the benefit of those who already read that article but might be interested in this update.
As indicated in that article, I had been using Crain Squat Shoes for the past decade. They are great shoes, and I would highly recommend them. But after over a decade, they had gotten worn out, so I was going to order a new pair. But the problem, is, Crain no longer carries sizes smaller than 7.0, while I wear a size 6.5. I thus had to look for an alternative and ordered Pillar shoes from Inzer. From the pics on the website, they look identical to the Crains and cost the same, $125.
I ordered my normal size 6.5. But when I got them, they were too big. I thus returned them for a smaller size. But then a week later I got a call form Inzer telling me they are discontinuing the Pillars, and they no longer had the smaller size in stock.
I looked around and could not find a good alternative. Titan sells squat shoes, but they cost twice as much ($250), and I did not like the design. They are mid-tops, not high-tops. Elite Fitness has lifting shoes, but they have thin soles and no heels, more like deadlift shoes than squat shoes.
I then figured I could go back to what I wore in college, regular boots. I checked Amazon for some ideas, but I would probably buy them locally so I could try them on. But as I looked over the boots I realized I already had what I needed.
Many years ago, probably back in the 1990s, I bought a pair of black boots at I believe Picway. There is no brand name on them, so I am calling them “generic boots.” I had only been wearing them on my morning walks when it is raining and cool. It if it is warm and raining, I wear sneakers as usual. If it is cold and snowing, I wear similar boots that are insulated, while these are not. That means that despite being so old, these boots are barely worn out at all.
I put the generic boots beside my Crains, and they were identical in terms of the thickness of the sole, the height of the heel, the height of the shoes itself, and even the size. The only difference is there is of course no Velco straps, but they do have eyehooks instead of eyeholes for the next to top two holes, so they are easy to tighten and loosen. The sole and heel thickness is important as my *foam squat box is set so that while wearing my Crains, when my butt just taps the box, I know I am at depth.
But when I wore them for a workout in mid-August 2016, I noticed when I racked the weight after my first set I was hitting my power rack a bit higher, so they raise me up a bit higher, probably about ¼- ½”. But that is better than them being lower, as it means when I hit my foam box, I am definitely below parallel.
Another difference is the Crains are flat, toes to heel. That is to have as much contact between the shoes and the floor as possible to increase traction. But these boots, as with most shoes and boots, bend upward slightly at the toes. That is of course to aid in walking. But I figured they might help with the walkout.
In any case, that first workout went very well, with these boots seeming to provide even more support than my old Crains, but that could be due to the Crains being so worn. The walkout did seem a bit easier, and I had no problems at all with the shoes slipping. But I did have problems hitting my foam box and a bit with form, until I got used to them. But once I did, I really liked them and have been using them for squats ever since, including at my recent contest. At that contest, I went 3/3 on squats, getting all with white lights, so with these shoes forcing me to go lower, I had no problems with depth.
I would still recommend the Crains for squats. But a less expensive alternative would be some kind of boots. Either of these options would be far better than sneakers that many wear for squatting. That is foolish, as sneakers simply do not provide the support or firm footing that squats require.
All of the new equipment mentioned in this two -part article cost me about $1,000 total. That is a lot of money. But it should all last the rest of my life, and my training has been going great since acquiring it. In fact, at my most recent contest, I set 50s PRs on all three lifts and on my total.
As such, I consider all of this equipment to be a worthwhile investment. And it is my hope this two-part article will help the reader to decide on what equipment to spend your hard-earned dollars on for your home gym. And don’t forget to check out the New Home Gym Equipment: Pictures and Videos page.
For another article in this series, see Yet More New Home Gym Equipment.
New Home Gym Equipment - Part Two: Miscellaneous. Copyright © 2016 by Gary F. Zeolla.
The above article was posted on this site October 1, 2016.
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