By Tyler Desplenter 



During these pandemic times, one of the first questions running through your meathead brain is: how am I going to get a pump with all the gyms closing their doors? I know this because I have had many local strength athletes contact me about training at my private facility. Many of the local fitness centers have adapted to this viral situation and are offering free at-home training programs. I applaud these entrepreneurs for helping the communities in this way. However, upon looking at these training programs, you will see that much of the workouts consist of bodyweight exercises. This seems logical as the expectation is that most athletes will not have any equipment at home, which is why they are members of these training facilities in the first place. I have nothing against bodyweight exercises and agree with Kalle Beck’s recent Tweet about how some time off from barbell movement would be a good thing. If want training without any equipment, there are a couple good articles to get you started here, one by Mr. Beck and another by Mark Hallman.

I want to take a different approach and help you figure out how to keep strength training while having no access to standard equipment or a gym. I want to offer you ways to build a home gym quickly and at little to no cost. This way, you will not be limited to bodyweight exercises and can keep those strength gains coming in. Before we get to my guide, I do want to make a couple important notes. First, if you are ill in any way, I would recommend that you either do not train or limit the amount that you train. Your body needs the energy to heal itself and making yourself more ill might put you into dire situations given the current strain on our medical system. Second, please take caution in attaining the equipment that I am suggesting. If you can find and acquire them in a healthy manner, then do so. Don’t risk your own, your family’s, or your community’s health just so that you can train for a competition that is going to be cancelled or postponed. 

In this guide, the ‘equipment’ I am going to discuss will be nothing new to those that compete in strongman. To a strong(wo)man, every object is a something to be lifted, which is a good way to look at your possessions if your gym has closed. These implements are simple and effective, will connect to your primal biological circuitry, and allow you to keep gaining strength despite gym scarcity. You will also be able to find this equipment within your local area. You may owe your family, local businesses, or neighbours some favors to procure this equipment, but you’ll be strong enough to pay them back after training on your new kit.

Natural Stones

Stones have been used to build and test strength for much of recorded human history and likely long before. The reason is that they come in many shapes and sizes, and are highly available. With just a quick trip to a local landscaping company, excavation business, or farmer’s field, you can gather a variety of natural stones for little to no cost. Many of your neighbors might have stones in their gardens or yards they are looking to have removed or are willing to lend you. If you yell loud enough, you are likely to find someone within earshot that has or knows where to get some stones.







Stones can be used for building strength in many forms. They can be thrown, pressed, deadlifted, shouldered, loaded, dragged, and carried. Small stones can even be used as great grip training implements. Stones can also be used as weights for any other crazy implements you might want to build instead of couch surfing through this pandemic. A couple points of caution for those new to natural stones. First, try to find stones with rounded edges. This might not be possible, but you can round the edges with simple hand tools if getting them round is not an option. It does not take much for you to lose grip on a big stone and have a sharp edge cut you open. Second, the mass of stones is typically not uniformly distributed. This is especially important to account for when pressing stones overhead, as they are more difficult to balance. Practice with lighter stones at first and learn how to fail safely when lifting or pressing stones. There are many videos of professional strongman lifting stones, watch a few.

Tires

Tires are another object that come in a variety of sizes. Many of your family members or neighbours likely have used tires laying around the garage or shed. Go do them a favor and relieve them of their tires. For larger tires, tire shops, business that sell tractors or other large vehicles, and farmers are likely to have what you need. In many cases, people and businesses must pay fees to have their tires disposed of, which means that you can pick them up for free and save these people some money in the process. Smaller tires can be thrown, pressed, carried, dragged, and loaded, while large tires (think tractor tires) can typically only be flipped. Some mid-sized tires can be used to perform deadlifts or tire walks by standing in the middle of the tire and grabbing the inside edges with your hands. Much like stones, tires are very versatile and cheap. Just be make sure to pick up some good cleaners, as tires usually leave your skin blackened.

Buckets and containers

Buckets and containers are good options for progressively overloading intensity. Containers of all sorts are abundant. I bet if you go look in your storage space, garage, or shed, you might already have some to use. Containers can be deadlifted, carried, pushed, dragged, and loaded. Assuming your buckets have handles, they are great for doing both single-arm and double-arm farmers carries. You can also get some great grip work done if you fill a bucket with sand and try to dig to the bottom. It will only take a couple sets before your forearms are on fire. With buckets and containers, please use your common sense and make sure that you are not loading up these implements beyond their structural limits. Do not load up the Amazon box from your toilet paper order with stones and expect the stones not fall out the bottom and break your toes. 

Logs and Lumber

Humans have been cutting, trimming, pulling, and lifting logs for probably as long as we have been lifting stones. As a result, there will be logs or chunks or trees laying around your local area. In many cases, people pay a lot of money to have trees cut down and taken away. This is a win-win scenario: your neighbours get their yard cleaned up and you get some new training implements. Logs can be cut to different sizes, which means they made into implements that can be thrown, carried, loaded, pressed, and flipped. If you’re not interested in logs, then look to their successors: lumber. Lumber costs considerably more than logs, but it is easier to form with tools. With some simple hand tools and fasteners, you can construct any kind of strength implement that you can imagine. For example, you could make a wooden frame to carry and deadlift. Add straps and you have a car-walk simulator. Crafting objects with hand tools is also a physically demanding, so you can get jacked while you build your gym. Just keep in mind, construction objects with lumber is likely to be the most expensive and time-consuming option on this list.

Summary

Be creative with how you look at the objects around you. When I don’t have equipment to lift, my vision turns into something similar to that of the T-800 from The Terminator, as I scan the environment for potential signs of gains. There are other options for quickly building a home gym, but the ones I have given you are highly available and typically come at no cost, besides your efforts in acquiring them. Given these implements, there should be no reason to let this pandemic stunt your strength gains. The only thing stopping your couch from being used as a strength training implement is you getting your ass off of it. 

Tyler Desplenter, Ph.D.

Tyler is a doctor, scientist, engineer, coach, and business owner. He holds a Ph.D. degree in biomechatronics engineering and a B.E.Sc. in software engineering. Tyler has published several scientific articles and  is an expert in motion modelling, computer engineering, and developing assistive devices for physical rehabilitation. He has been strength training for 12 years, with eight years as a competitive strongman and three years as a competitive powerlifter. He owns and operates a small manufacturing business out of his garage in Belmont, Ontario that specializes in custom strength equipment.

Instagram: @drstrongbear

Email: [email protected]

Business Facebook/Instagram: @northernwarriorstrong

Business Website: northernwarriorstrong.ca

Business Email: [email protected]

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