This fall will be my 20thyear in the Iron Game. In that 20 years I have tried at least 100 different “Hacks” in an effort to get my training completed when I didn’t have the ideal set up or machine. I remember in 1998 when the local gym, which ironically I ended up buying, had a brand new Smith Machine. At the time, I was newly diagnosed with my spondylolisthesis and was instructed by my neurologist not to squat until I had my CT Scan done and my results back. So I came up with the idea of using the Smith Bar as a leg press. I did so by laying on the floor, on my back, below the smith bar and putting my feet up on the bar. I would lift the bar off the hangers, my wife would twist the bar to disengage it, and I would lower the bar down toward my chest and press it for repetitions. This was the first of many hacks to come. So what I present to you here is my favorite, and most effective “hacks.”
“Milking The Velcro Life Out Of Wrist Wraps And Versa Grips.”
Let it be known that I am a famous tight wad. I will milk the life out of anything and everything that I own before having to shell money out for a new one. When the Velcro on wrist wraps or Versa Grips begins to give up from all the use, you can simply put a wrist band around the wrap to hold it in place. Recently I found an even better “hack” in the form of an old pair of my son’s football gloves. On them were some removable Velcro straps. I took them off the gloves and found they work even better than the wrist bands. Once you wrap your wrists or fasten your versa grip tightly, you can hold the Velcro strap with your 4thfinger and pinky pinched against the base of your palm and then wrap the strap around the existing wrist wrap or Versa Gripp and no matter how shot your wrist wrap or Versa Gripp is, it will not come loose.
“Making A Barbell More ‘Sticky’ While On Your Back.”
This is one that I posted on my Instagram account a few years back. If the smooth part of the squat bar sits on your rear delts like mine, you’ll quickly find the bar sliding down your back if you squat low bar. To remedy this, simply wrap athletic tape around the smooth part of the bar and you will find the bar sticks to your back just as well as a Bar Grip Shirt.
“Sticking Your Traps To The Bench.”
Many of us have found that if you take your Rogue or West Side bands and wrap them end to end on your bench you instantly make a slippery bench full of grip and your Scapulae stick to the bench. However, what do you do if you are in competition and that pesky “ER Rack” bench has the traditional textured but slick surface? With the addition of copious amounts of chalk on your back, you can also tuck your shirt as far as you can down the back of your singlet (you will probably need help doing this), exposing as much of your neck and upper traps as possible. Then, put your weight belt around the singlet and shirt to help keep it in position. Stretching out the neck of the shirt also helps expose the skin on your neck and traps. This area of the skin provides a good amount of grip on the bench and is usually just enough to keep you from sliding up the bench as you are driving with your feet.
“Ankle Weights For Fractional Loading.”
I discovered this one way back in 2005, when I had dumbbells that only went up to 90lbs. I discovered that if I put a 2lb ankle weight on my wrist, the 90lbs I was lifting with that arm was now 92lbs. If I put 2 ankle weights, that arm was lifting 94lbs. Before long, I had ankle weights lining my arm from my wrist to my elbow. However, I digress. You can use this method for fractional loading to make a smaller jump in load for any dumbbell. I also discovered that if you don’t have fractional plates for a barbell, you can purchase a 1 or 1.25lb ankle weight, wrap around the bar outside of your plates and collars, and now you have made a 2.5lb jump in weight on any barbell.
“The Many, MANY Uses For A Dip Or ‘Brute’ Belt.”
The single most valuable tool in my gym bag is my Brute Belt. A very similar, but much more comfortable and safer version of a dip belt. Most people use this belt for weighted dips and pull ups. A few more will use it for belt squats. Oh how I have milked the use out of mine for many other purposes though. Using the belt like a belt squat, if you rest your back leg on a bench and find something to hold on to, you have a very safe and effective split squat. If there is no attachment to do single leg kickbacks you can simply attach both ends of the dip belt to the cable and place your foot in the middle for the kick back. The nylon strap that comes with the dip belt works great for this too, as both ends of the strap have loops. You can also use this strap as an extension for cable rows and pull downs if the end of the cable you hook the attachment to is too far away. You can wrap the belt around a sled, prowler or even a big tire for sled drags or cross over drills. Then use the strap on the Brute belt to hold on to, or the chain on the dip belt.
“Crossing Dumbbells To Make Heavier Dumbbells.”
I discovered this one while on a cruise ship to Mexico. It originated from my good friend Alberto Nunez who was famous back in 2008 on the Bodybuilding.com forums when he used to cross dumbbells on top of one another to do ridiculously heavy dumbbell rows. As a matter of safety, a Cruise ship is constantly moving. Therefore, the dumbbells on ships often only go up to 50lbs. If you wanted to do rows or any exercise with your arms hanging by your sides like shrugs or suit case deadlifts, you can simply rest 2 smaller dumbbells across the ends of the bigger dumbbell. This works especially well when using the hexagonal shaped dumbbells as they have flat ends and can rest against each other. Then you simply insert your hand in between the smaller dumbbell on top and grab the bigger dumbbell on the bottom, and you have a heavier than 50lb weight to use on your rows, shrugs or what have you.
These are my six favorite hacks in the gym. I’m sure you have some of your own and if you could, please share those for everyone in the comments section of our blog. If we like it, it’s safe, and it makes good ole’ fashioned sense, we will approve it for everyone here to see. Stay tuned as I begin work on my “5 favorite hacks in the kitchen” for your enjoyment and hopeful use.