Tag Archives: weights

The Stall…

That is just sort of where life is at the moment.  Stalled.  Training is at an abrupt halt, except for the body weight Bulgarian Split Squats I do with my office chair at work at my standing desk.  As we are settling in to life here, training of all kinds is on the back burner in favor of keeping the kids alive and staying on top of work.  I did acquire a new barbell that I am looking forward to reviewing in the near future.  Beyond that, I haven’t meaningfully skated in a couple of months.  With the weather getting colder and indoor practices now only being on Sundays, I don’t anticipate inline skating until the spring.  I may get to ice skate around Christmas, though.  This is where training and fitness are right now, though:  Stalled.  I am planning for the future, and that will probably never stop.  Until then, the new garage gym is outdoor and gets take apart after every use.  My programming is pretty limited, power cleans, front squats, hack squats, dead lifts and Romanian dead lifts.  It is grip intensive.  The new bar is very helpful with that, though, as the knurl just sticks to your hands.

the stall

Advertisements

Changing Cycles…

Seeing as it has been a quarter since my last post, and seeing as we are walking into the start of the outdoor inline season, I thought it was time to post here again.  Really, life has been kind of hectic.  We went to Hawaii over Christmas in 2014, meaning I got to skate outdoor in 70+ F weather on Christmas.  That was pretty cool.  After that, I spent a lot of time being busy around the house, taking care of our toddler, and eventually helping to take care of a newborn.  With two kids and a lot of personal and family changes on the horizon, this outdoor season looks to be a bit of a transition year.  Regardless, I am already skating outside, which means it is time to get fitness focused on my races this year.

First, I currently plan on attending the Chicagoland Inline Marathon and the NorthShore Inline Marathon this year.  If the stars align, I might be able to make it to the Minnesota Half, but right now I do not expect that to be a possibility.  With a truncated race schedule, this presents the opportunity to have a more focused early season build phase for training.  As such, as I am considering how best to organize my training for this season, I am taking this opportunity into consideration.

Before digging into the details of the training plan for this season, though, I want to review the off-season.  I had a couple of specific goals beyond what was mentioned in a previous post.  Specifically, my goal was to add 15 pounds to my heavy lifts before the start of this inline season.  My goal was to rear squat 200 lbs. and dead lift 250 lbs.  I hit those marks at the end of March, pretty much right on schedule.  Beyond these goals, though, I spent a lot of time on the slide board, but not enough time on the bike.  As a result, my lack of cardiovascular fitness reared its head while I visited Team Rainbo last weekend for the last team indoor training session of the year.  Even skating on wheels that have seen a lot of miles outdoor, I was able to push the pace, but didn’t stay with the pace line because I didn’t feel like I had enough grip to not be a danger to everyone else in the line when pushing deep in the corners.  What stood out, though, was the diametrically opposed burning chest and spry legs.  Lifting heavy has been good this off-season, but I didn’t get enough cardio.  Slide board and jumping on boxes alone isn’t enough.  I wasn’t consistent enough about spending any kind of time on the bike this winter, and that is something I absolutely must fix for next year.  This notwithstanding, my early season skates have been slightly faster on average than at the start of last year, but I haven’t been quite as efficient, meaning my heart rate is a little higher than my similar work outs this time last year.  I feel stronger, though, and that helps the mental game.

As we transition into the season, though, it is time to change training cycles. This transition will implement some of the things I learned after last year, like maintenance weight lifting needs to be in the schedule during the season.  Going back to weight training during the off season in 2014, proved to be more challenging than it should have been, requiring a 35 pound deload before building up to a 15 lbs. personal best on all my lifts in March.  I lost too much in that time period, and I hope to preserve these new personal bests through the season so that is my starting base weight in the fall.  While there is one day of weight training built into the schedule, I expect to also use it as an occasional rest day, since you maintain strength gains longer than cardiovascular fitness gains.  I have a lot of rebuilding to do with cardiovascular fitness, but that will eventually come back, too.  The season of technique last year also proved helpful, so I am planning on dedicating a day for the first month of the season to work on technique, using cone and double push drills from the Mantia Clinic last year.  So, this is what the outdoor training schedule will look like this year:

  • Mondays:  Maintenance weights
  • Tuesdays: an easy recovery skate
  • Wednesdays:  Cone Drills and intervals
  • Thursdays:  longer intervals and/or hill skates
  • Friday:  a recovery skate
  • Saturday:  Long Tempo Skate, and
  • Sundays:  Long Trail skate in the afternoon

Hopefully, this will maintain my strength baseline and build my cardio back to where it was toward the end of last year.  This plan will change a little bit once we get to June, as I will likely cycle out the technique day for more intervals, hills, or duration skating sessions.  Regardless, with only two races in the relatively distant future, patience will be necessary.

 


Do you even lift??

Admittedly, the title of this post pokes fun at bro-science (see also), but the post itself has a serious point:  lifting weights as cross-training for speed skating.

In the last couple of years, I have been in off-season situations where there wasn’t a good replacement sport for inline speed skating.  Generally, this is because I lived in locales where long track or short track ice speed skating weren’t viable options, or because the indoor inline skating options are limited for speed skating.  Life also tends to get in the way, as it does for many non-professional (read “I don’t work out for a living”) athletes.  As a result, I have always looked for a way to spend my time in the off-season that will benefit my on-skate time during the summer months.  In addition, I was looking for options for building strength and power that would support my speed skating and, ultimately, make me stronger.  The answer was lifting weights.

When I talk about lifting weights, I am talking about any kind of resistance program that will help with skating.  For me, right now, that is predominately barbell training.  Historically, it has also included dumbbell training, and body weight training.  Previously, I lifted to get stronger, simply doing lifts that would result in greater physical strength.  I have noted in previous posts that part of the point of weight lifting for speed skating is to put more power in the push.  The idea here is that the more strength your legs have, the harder you can push.  I have been experimenting and researching this idea for a little over a year now, and I can affirmatively say that lifting heavy stuff is good for skating.

Other endurance athletes know that lifting weights is good trainingRecent research supports these ideas.  Just because it is good for cyclists, though, doesn’t make it it good for skaters.  However, for a lot of reasons, it is true with skating.  Lifting weights helps with the economy of movement, which I examined in my last sports science post.  The idea here is you aren’t working as hard to get as much power transfer into the implement of forward movement.  For time on the bike, more push power in the legs against the pedals means you can maintain power for longer, or exert less energy for the same power as previously.  For skating, economy in this context means more power to the ground with less effort.  While there are a host of other factors involved here, notably technique, having the strength to push into the ground is one of the major components of skating.  That is, after all, why skaters have those noticeably larger butts and thighs.  Lifting weights with a focus on speed skating will help build those butts and thighs so you can leverage your technique and put more power to the ground.

So, should you lift?  It sure sounds like it.  Now we know why, the next question is how?  My answer to that query is however you like that will get you stronger.  Joey Mantia says he doesn’t lift weights, but prefers isometric body weight and plyometric exercise to build strength and power.  He can also do a wall sit for something like 10 minutes (his own estimation from the Minnesota Mantia Clinic).  He isn’t alone, Chad Hendrick and Shani Davis have also stated they don’t lift weights in interviews.  However, Apolo Ohno lifts, and so do a lot of other speed skaters, like Sven Kramer and Kevin Jagger.

I lift a barbell.  I find that barbell training works well for me.  It may not work well for others, so consult your coach or your doctor to make sure it is something you can do, and do safely.  My current favorite lifts are rear squats, power cleans, dead lifts, and Romanian dead lifts.  All of these exercises target the posterior chain, basically the muscles from your upper back through your heels.  These are also a vast majority of the muscles used in skating.  I mix these up with other exercises for power (like kettle bell swings), and upper body (like dips).  Another change that I made this year was training specifically for power.  I lift faster with a little more volume in my lifts, while still focusing on good form to build more powerful muscle.  The goal here is explosive lifting.  This should sound a lot like plyometrics, another terrific way to build power for skating.  In addition to lifting, I am still cross training with steady state cardio and plyos with some dry land and slide board, because you can’t neglect the skate specific stuff for cross training without losing out on skating performance.

If you are wondering about programming, you could do just those four exercises above, but you would end up a bit uneven.  This is why I have incorporated some upper body work in my strength training this year, notably over head presses and dips.  For basic lifting, consider Strength Camp’s big four, front squats, dead lifts, dips, and pull ups.  If there is interest I can share more about how I am presently programming my strength training.

So, do you even lift?  If not, maybe you should be.


Off-Season 2014-2015, Get At It!

The NorthShore has passed, my chest cold thing is finally gone, I have skated maybe three times, the race wheels have been put away until next year, and now we have nothing to look forward to but the long, cold, dead Minnesota winter.  There is a reason, besides keeping warm, Russians drink heavy.  If I lived in Siberia and had to look at that much snow, cold, and ice as that climate is known for, I would be driven to excessive consumption of alcohol also.  But, all of this time stuck indoors with not a lot to do means plenty of time to lift heavy stuff, binge watch bad TV while spinning on the bike, and think about whether I have enough clothes to keep warm while trying to ice skate.  That is pretty much what my off-season will look like.  Until the cold really sets in, I plan to try to skate on the weekends.  The sun sets too early to permit skating during the week right now.  As a result, training for next season starts right now, because your off-season is what makes or breaks your race season.  So, here is the plan:

After considering what I did for off-season last year, it wasn’t sufficiently structured, and my goals for working out during the week were based on an otherwise hectic life schedule.  This year promises to permit a lot more focus in my work out schedule.  Through the end of the year, I am going to continue to skate as much as possible, but realistically this will only last a couple more weeks until I convert my on-skates time to ice or indoor rink sessions/practices.  Since this will occur mostly on the weekend, that leaves me with 4-5 week days to fill with some training. Weight lifting provided some big gains for me over the last two years.  This was accelerated after I switched to an Olympic weight lifting set and built squat stands.  My goal is to get 3 days of lifting during the week from now until the middle of January, lifting heavy and adding weight weekly to every lift.  Every 4 weeks, I am going to deload, and give myself a rest to avoid overtraining.  I ended the off-season lifting 235 for my Dead Lifts and Romanian Dead Lifts and lifting 185 on my squats.  This year, I am going back to some older lifts and adding some new ones.  I am also changing up the way I am lifting.  Pat of the goal this year is to build power in addition to base strength.  One way of doing this is adding tempo to your lifts, or basically performing the lifts faster.  I am going to deload a bit at the start, and increase the pace of my lifts with the goal of adding power training to my base strength training, and, just maybe, spend a little less time lifting.  I am hoping to do the following three day schedule each week:

Day 1:

A1 Rear Squats
A2 Poliquin Step Ups
A3 Splits Squats

B1 Dead Lifts
B2 Romanian Dead Lifts
B3 Kettle Bell Swings (Set of 10)

C1 Core

Day 2:

A1 Over Head Press
A2 Curtsy Squats
A3 Power Cleans

B1 Barbell Row
B2 Weighted walking lunges (12 to 14 reps)
B3 Glute Bridges with Stability Ball

C1 Core

Day 3:

A1 Rear Squats
A2 Poliquin Step Ups
A3 Kettle Bell Swings (Set of 10)

B1 Dead Lifts
B2 Romanian Dead Lifts
B3 Dips

C1 Core

As you can see, it is a mix of standard lifts with some Olympic power lifting and, shockingly, some upper body work.  I am learning how important posture is to overall fitness, and seeing that I sit for 8+ hours a day at the office, I thought it would be good to add some upper body exercises to balance out my build.  These lifts are also, largely, compound lifts, meaning they work a lot of different muscles at the same time.  My goal will be to do 2 rounds of each super set, then follow it up with core work, likely P90X Ab Ripper X, because it hits everything in the core.

Aside from weights, I am planning on spending a lot of recovery time on the bike, grinding away on my heart rate Zone 2 target rides.  The gola here is base cardiovascular fitness, something that gets neglected over the winter months.  Beyond that, I am developing an off-skates program that will include plyos, dry-land drills from the Mantia Clinic, and slide board.  Ideally, I will take one to two days off per week.  I hope it will make for a productive off-season.


Skating, Fitness, and Some Science

I have previously mentioned that I want to post on the topic of fitness as it relates to skating.  Since I don’t have a degree or formal education of any kind, and the science specific to speed skating is so limited in terms of research and publications, consider this your lawyerly disclaimer that the remainder of this post is purely my opinion based on the arm-chair internet research I have done on the topic of sport science and how it may or may not apply to speed skating, specifically inline speed skating, and my experiences in training for inline marathon races.  Take this for what it is worth, something to think about and consider, discuss and dispute, dissect and analyze.  I hope this post can be used as a starting point for more conversation.

After my VO2 Max test in April, I realized that my physical ability, in terms of being an endurance athlete, is in the average range.  My goal is to skate faster, and one way to focus my training to achieve that goal is to consider what weaknesses I need to reinforce to insure I am getting the most of the engine that drives my hobby, namely my body.  Unfortunately, there is very little science specific to speed skating, and even less dedicated to inline speed skating.  Most of my research looked at similar endurance sports, like cycling, for simulacra that could be used to understand what happens to the body during intense exercise.

Cycling and running are both good sports to compare with speed skating, at least, from a physiological health and training perspective.  Mass start speed skating, like anything in inline speed, and some events in ice skating, rely heavily on the pack dynamic during the race similar to cycling.  Running provides a lot of analogies in the context of physical fitness.

In the vein of analyzing similar sports, Joe Friel, triathlete coach and master cyclist, has a wealth of information on his website that is helpful in understanding how the body works during endurance sport.  We should start with the premise, as he does, that being a good endurance athlete requires three things:  Aerobic Capacity, Lactate Threshold, and Economy.  Some posts on Joe Friel’s blog break down these concepts in detail.

First, aerobic capacity is basically your body’s ability to process oxygen and use it for helping your body generate and consume fuel.  Oxygen is the catalyst for the biochemical mechanisms that make the body operate, especially during exercise.  Unfortunately, aerobic capacity is dictated by, in large part, genetics.  However, you can train your body to increase your capacity.  Scientifically, this capacity is measured using a VO2 Max test, and it is one of the reasons I was so interested in participating in this kind of test.  It provided a benchmark for me to compare and analyze my fitness for the purpose of skating.  Realistically, there are a couple of things you can do to increase your VO2 Max without getting new genes.  Weight can be a factor, and I have been fighting with mine lately.  I am always looking to drop an extra 15 to 20 pounds, but now that I am past the ripe age of 30, that has proven to be more difficult than I expected.  The one big piece, though, is endurance specific training.  That sounds ridiculous.  I skate long distances all the time, so I should be getting enough endurance training.  However, what makes endurance training important has more to do with heart rate than distance.

There is a lot of scientific support for the proposition that most of an endurance athlete’s time should be spent training in heart rate zone 2, roughly 60%-70% of your max heart rate.  It makes sense that you train in this zone to build endurance because in this zone you are “teaching” your body to burn fat for energy, and your muscles respond by increasing the mitochondrial density (and see also) in your slow twitch muscle cells.  Before we go off the scientific deep end here, this really just means that the portions of the muscle cells that produce and consume energy during a workout are increased as a result of this kind of training, making the athlete more efficient at burning calories for long periods of time, thereby increasing your endurance.  In addition to Zone 2 training, intervals are important, especially at a pace that is at or near your VO2 Max.  What we see here is a coordinated way to increase your aerobic capacity by spending a lot of time training in Heart Rate Zone 2 and doing intervals, in addition to losing some weight.

The second piece of this puzzle is Lactate Threshold.  I won’t belabor the science here, as Friel’s post does a great job on that point.  This is literally the “red line” for your heart, or the percentage of your maximum heart rate you can hold for 60 minutes of high intensity exercise like a race.  This is sport specific.  My Lactate Threshold based on my most recent inline marathons suggests that my threshold is about 165 beats per minute (bpm).  However, take that with a grain of salt because I have never undergone any specific lactate testing.  For more information on this terribly misunderstood topic, check out Training Peaks discussion on Lactate Threshold.  The conclusion in this article is very interesting.  In order to increase your LT, you need to do more Zone 2 cardio because it is the slow-twitch muscles that clear lactate from the fast-twitch muscles.  However, it is also important to work those fast twitch muscles so the body can recruit all of the muscle systems to maximize its efficiency in clearing lactate.  Bottom line, spend more time training in cardio Zone 2, and do intervals, also.

Third, we need to consider the economy of movement to maximize the use of energy over a long race.  Joe Friel, again, notes in his post, that science knows very little about how this impacts fitness and sports performance, but that it is basically defined as how much oxygen the body uses per specified amount of exertion, or milliliters of oxygen per mile.  When speed skaters think about economy, we usually also think about movement efficiency, and for good reason as they are basically the same for our sport(s).  Friel talks about different ways to improve economy by pointing to examples on how to reduce external friction (like aero bars on TT bikes) or work on pedaling technique for cyclists, and reducing gear weight for runners.  However, he also notes that explosive exercises like plyometrics can make the body more efficient.  For anyone who has been to a skating clinic, this probably all sounds very familiar.  For speed skaters, this really boils down to something very straightforward, technique.   This is something we can work on until we think we have it perfect, watch video of our skating, and find 10 new things to change.  For skaters to excel on this level, it requires drill after drill to perfect technique and form, something most of us don’t care about as much as we should because we just want to get out and skate.

Knowing that efficiency is part of the game is great, but there also has to be a way to measure economy so we can see when it is having an impact on our skating and potential results in a race.  Friel commented in a Twitter post that the method of calculating efficiency over the duration of a work out is speed/HR.  If you are looking at an overall workout, for example, you can take average speed divided by average heart rate to get your economy for the entire work out or race.  My recent race at the MN Half Marathon would look like the following: 18.7 mph avg/165 bpm avg.  I think this serves to show speed over effort, and there are a lot of factors that influence this kind of data.  For example, in a pack sport like outdoor inline marathon racing, drafting is a big part of the tactics and should be considered a required skill.  It reduces the amount of wind resistance and can conserve energy by up to 30%.  However, when you are out on a solo skate, pounding away at the pavement, the real terms of economy come down to stride and glide length, underpush, weight transfer, and knee bend.  I also think that weight lifting has a role here, particularly in skating.  By lifting weights as part of training, you are capable of putting more power to the ground under max effort, which should translate to being able to put a larger amount of power to the ground through the push than if you are not weight training.

What does this tell us about training?  First, this analysis doesn’t seem very far off base.  Sutton Atkins from Sk8 Skool Online recently dissected a post from Training Peaks on these points.  Generally, we seem to agree that much of this scientific study from other sports applies to speed skating.  Second, and most importantly, it gives skaters an idea of how to train.  Joey Mantia said in the Minnesota Clinic he did in June that some skaters are tremendous physical athletes, while others have perfect technique, but the best skaters in the world have both.  I think anyone who seriously trains for speed skating should strive to be a great athlete with great technique.

Clearly, there are three things that need to be in a training program:  Long HR Zone 2 work outs, Intervals, and Technique practice.  However, we also see the need for supplemental exercise to support overall fitness and increase skating performance.  Plyometric exercises, skating in groups for drafting practice, weight lifting, and tempo skating all have their place in a well structured training plan.  Also, it shows we can rely on science supporting other endurance sports to help direct how we should be training as speed skaters.  All of a sudden, there is a lot more information and a lot more training options out there.

What do you think?  Am I right, or so wrong I should go back to the basement and spend 5 hours on the slide board?


Training Updates and Future Posts

I have been rotating between working out in the basement during the week and skating on the weekends, when the weather permits.  It has been a wet and windy spring here once the cold finally broke.  I have been able to skate at least once, sometimes twice, every weekend since mid to late April.  After my VO2 Max test in April, I did a lot of research about cardiovascular capacity, particularly material written by Joe Friel, and decided to significantly change my early season base training.  I mentioned in my last post that I was going to spend a lot more time working on base cardiovascular fitness, and, as a result, many of my recent training sessions that are not focused on weight lifting or skating have been extended duration cycling sessions with my bike in the trainer.  In addition to being a great way to build base cardiovascular fitness, it also helps me get caught up on television I don’t otherwise have time to watch.  I am averaging 2 of these sessions per week.  My weight lifting program has changed, also.  Like last year, heading in to race preparation phases, I tend to focus a lot on cardiovascular training.  When I made the transition last year, I took some of the weight lifting program into a joint plyometric program where I would do a super set of lifts followed by a super set of plyos.  I am doing some thing similar this year, but with a different target for my lifts.  Rather that focusing on split squats or Poliquin squats, I am hoping to build power by mixing power cleans, rear squats, dead lifts, and Romanian dead lifts with tuck jumps, split jumps, single leg jumps, super skaters, and box jumps.  I do this work out one day per week, and spend the rest of my training time on the bike or on skates.

Skating seems like it is going well.  The weekends have worked out so that the weather is manageable, though we have had some very windy days.  Slow skating is good experience, and it builds strength.  I am noticing deficiencies in my technique, and I am climbing a lot of hills.  I hope this will yield good results as I move into a training phase with a lot more skating.  So far, my average speeds have increased over last year, some of them by more than 1 mile per hour, which is a considerable jump from the end of one race season to the start of another.  I think weight lifting has helped considerably in this regard.

Starting this weekend, training changes again.  I am going to continue lifting weights, but I am planning on deloading, basically making my weight lifting maintenance work outs meant to insure that I am not losing anything.  I may slowly creep the weight back up, but I find that the delayed onset muscle soreness after really heavy lift days results in restricted training on skating days.  Skating volume is going to seriously increase.  This year, I am focusing on technique and trying to get every bit of power from my legs to the ground.  The hope is that this increase in efficiency will result in faster marathon times.  I am hoping to skate at least 4 times per week, with one day being a technique focus, one day an interval focus, and the other two longer skates that mix aerobic HR zone training and longer distance tempo skating.  I need to climb a lot of hills, also.  I plan on reviewing the data from the last Chicagoland Inline Marathon race to see where I struggled with the hills and see if I can keep up with the main pack this year.  All I want to do is keep up with the main pack and not get dropped.  If I can stay in the pack and avoid pulling, I should be able to keep pace for the entire race, or, at least, I hope to.  The key to this course, though, are the hills, and making sure you can climb hill after hill without losing the rest of the group.  I see a lot of time climbing the mountain-esque hills on Country Club Road in my future.

With all of this training going on, I am hoping to post more videos than I have been lately.  Also, I am going to have some posts that combine a lot of the research I have been doing on cardiovascular capacity detailing how inline speed skaters can learn from other endurance athletes and how these training theories can be applied to inline skating.  I hope it will make for some interesting reading.  This weekend, I am skating with Team Rainbo, and will shoot video of the Saturday practice to post next week.  For anyone who isn’t yet, Spring has sprung, get out and skate!


How To: DIY Squat Stands

Since I started lifting weights in earnest at the end of 2012, I always felt like a lack of appropriate equipment was limiting the benefit I got from my lifts.  I started lifting with a 40 pound dumbbell kit that you can get just about anywhere.  I got mine at the local sporting goods store.  I had to modify a lot of my movements to get the right target muscles for skating specific cross training.  This meant modified versions of dead lifts and squats to work with the dumbbells.  Weight was also limited, and I very quickly moved beyond the weight I had.  Also, dumbbells aren’t ideal for lifts that target your legs.  I then acquired a standard barbell.  It was a 5 foot long standard width (1″) barbell with screw-on end caps.  This totally changed the game for weight lifting because I was no longer having to modify lifts that started on the ground.  Squats remained a problem.  I quickly got beyond the 150 pounds or so in weight that I had amassed in standard plants, that included eight 10 pound plates, and two 25 pound plates.  All of my standard gear then got traded for a 300 pound Olympic lifting set.  While I continued to progress in weight for lifts that started on the ground, I found it more difficulty to modify for squats.  I was doing all of my squats hack-style, where you basically lift like a dead lift but with the bar starting on the ground behind you.  My form suffered, and I don’t think I was making gains that really helped.

After doing some digging, a squat rack or stand seemed to be the missing piece in my weight lifting kit.  I don’t do a lot of upper body, so a bench wasn’t necessary.  However, I also wasn’t in the position to spend big money on a set of stands, a cage, or a rack.  A little more internet research led me to two blogs:  End of 3 Fitness and Homemade Strength.  End of 3 has a great section of DIY fitness projects, and promotes street parking, the idea that your garage can be your gym.  He made a set of squat stands out of 4″x4″ posts and buckets, with the posts set in buckets.  I liked the idea, but the build required tools  I didn’t have or couldn’t get a hold of.  Also, the build didn’t seem to be as effective as it could be, as there is no back-stop for the weight as it rested on the stand.  More digging led me to Homemade Strength, where the blogger had designed a set of squat stands that used variable height 2″x4″ rather than 4″x4″ posts.  After reviewing the build, the instructions on Homemade Strength ended up becoming the best option for the project.

I bought my materials at Home Depot (no link, this isn’t a sponsored project or post).  The store in my area gives you two cuts per piece of wood, so I premeasured based on the instructions, and went in with a list of materials.  It included four 10′ 2x4s, two 8′ 2x4s, two buckets, and Quickcrete.  Since I had the lengths I needed in mind, I could be more economical with my choice of 2×4.  In the end, this saved me money and resulted in less re-usable project waste.  I also used 2.5″ wood screws for the project.  Since the store did my cuts, I didn’t need a saw.  I went in with my measurements, grabbed my wood, and walked to the cutting station.  The associate helping me marked the wood, cut the pieces to length, and I walked out with all of the materials I needed ready for my build.  When set side by side, my pre-cut 2x4s looked like this:

photo 1
I then lined the pieces up on top of one another and screwed them together.  The pieces I picked out ended up being more warped than I expected, and the lack of a very strong drill meant there were some gaps in the wood.   If you can avoid this when you do your build, I would strongly recommend getting the wood to sit flush after it is screwed together.  This should prevent unnecessary cracking in the cement.  Also, when I set the stands in the buckets, I found that the top rest was about two inches too tall.  Before setting the wood in the cement, I had to cut the excess from the bottom of the stands.  Thankfully, I didn’t hit any of the screws.  This also resulted in a slightly uneven base.  I used the concrete to correct this problem when setting the posts.

After screwing them together, I placed them in the buckets and started working with the concrete.  I probably used a little too much water for the concrete as it cracked some after it set.  This may be caused by the warped wood problem, too.  After mixing the concrete in a tub, I started adding it to the buckets.  I put down a layer of wet concrete in the bucket and then put the post into the bucket, driving it down to the bottom of the bucket.  This compensated for my uneven cut to shorten the posts by allowing the concrete to fill in around the gaps in the bottom of the posts.  Once I got the concrete and the stand legs into the buckets, I used a level to make sure everything was even, and pushed the stand legs around until they leveled front to back and side to side.

photo 2
The end result is a solid set of stands that has two levels, one at squat height, and the other at bench height.  I probably didn’t need to do a set at bench height, but I have found this helpful for moving the weight from the ground to the top of the stands.  I dead lift the weight to the bench height, then move them up one side at a time to the top of the stands.  So far, it works pretty well, and I am glad I followed the measuring instructions for the bench height.  Otherwise, I would be forced to unload and reload the bar every time I need to switch from ground lifts to stand lifts.  This cuts down on wasted time during work outs.  This is what the stands look like loaded:

photo 3
I like the buckets.  The slogan is good motivation.  Aside from the tip concerning making sure the wood is screwed together flush, my other suggestion is to use Quickrete’s post setting concrete product.  I used Quickcrete 5000, which is a commercial grade concrete for heavy duty uses.  I may have let my ego get the better of me with that purchase.  I bought two 80 pound bags, and had about half of a bag left over.  I think the post setting concrete product is sold in 60 pound bags.  The post setting product also requires a lot less mixing, meaning you can empty the contents of the bag into the bucket with the post, pour the required water in the bucket, level your posts, and walk away.  The post setting product will set in a couple of hours, with a full set after a day or so.  This cuts down on a lot of the extra mixing work and equipment required by working with the commercial grade product.  It also requires less experience working with concrete.  If that aspect of this build seems daunting, the post setting product removes that concern.  If you don’t need a height for a weight bench, you can also set the lower height level for a short person, or just a lower starting height for your squats.  Using 2×4 provides a lot of additional options over using 4×4 for the build.

Why do this build?  First, it was cheap.  Commercial stands run about $200.  This build cost me about $52 (I needed some mixing tools for the concrete, a trowel and basin).  Second, having the stand means I can do proper squats, work on maximizing my squat form, and have more productive work outs.  Hack style lifting was probably sufficient, but this will insure that I lift properly, and build the muscles I want/need to build for skating.  So far, this and my other DIY projects have saved me over $300 in commercial equipment.  I have been working out with this set-up for most of January, and I really like it.  If you find yourself  needing squat stands, you can’t go wrong with this build.

—————-

Update 4-10-16:

After moving from Minnesota to Illinois and selling most of my gear including my prior set of squat stands, I built another set. The posts of the stands, in order from front to back, are 37″, 36″, 52″, 51″, and 62″ tall. I put the screws in through the back so you can’t see them. I used Quickcrete Post Setter this time and it was very easy. This is still a great, easy, cheap set of stands. I anticipate building a full rack at some point in the future, but this will work fine for now. 

 

Now, I can restart training. Hopefully there will be more posts on this progress.