Hail to the Dinosaurs!
One of the best gyms I ever trained in was my
parents’ garage back when I was 18 or 19. I
lived at home while I was going to college.
You’d have laughed if you’d seen it. It was
a unique collection of things cobbled
together from a variety of sources.
I had an exercise bench we bought from a local
equipment company that some guy ran out of his
garage. I saved my pennies forever to buy it.
The thing was a combination flat bench and
adjustable incline bench, and the first time
I tried an incline press on it (with 150 or
so pounds), it collapsed. After that, all I
could use it for was a flat bench.
My squat stands were wooden things made out
of 4 x 4’s, using a design in an old course
written by Bruno Sammartino, the wrestling
champion. I’m not much of a carpenter, and
they probably would have earned me a C–
minus in Shop class, but they did the job.
My dad had an old exercise style barbell with
a one-inch bar and 110 pounds of exercise
plates. He bought it in 1965 or 66. It was
still in good shape 10 or 12 years later
when I used it as part of my garage gym.
I had two “big” plates. These were black iron
25’s, which dad bought for his barbell. They
let me load the bar up to 160 pounds.
That wasn’t enough weight for squats, benches
or deadlifts, so I had to think of something
else. Barbell plates were expensive, and I
was a poor college kid, working a variety
of part-time jobs to try to pay for school.
First I got another bar. This was a seven-foot
length of one-inch iron rod that lay rusting
in the corner at one of the local YMCA’s. The
athletic director let me have it for nothing.
An issue of Iron Man came out, and Peary Rader
ran an article on how to make barbell plates
out of concrete. This was amazing, because
Peary sold his own barbells and barbell plates,
so the article was strictly against his own
business interests. He admitted this, but
said it was okay because he was doing it
as a sort of public service for lifters.
Which goes to show you the kind of man
Anyhow, I decided to make some concrete
I followed the instructions carefully.
You made a mold out of sheet metal formed in a
That was easy enough, although it took a lot of
work to get the thing to form a perfect circle.
You mixed the concrete.
That was easy.
You poured the concrete into the mold, added
some small pieces of chain and wire to help
hold it all together, and then you put in a
piece of plastic pipe to form the center hole.
That was all pretty easy, except for getting
the center hole exactly right. I cast four
plates and only got it right on three of them.
The other one was a little bit slanted.
After casting the plates, I waited a few days
so they would have time to dry out and season.
If memory serves correctly, you had to sprinkle
water on them every day or two, which seems like
a strange way to help the drying out process –
but I think that’s what you were supposed to do.
Mind you, this was more than 40 years ago, so I
may be getting some of the details wrong.
When they were finished, the plates were enormous.
They were huge slabs of rock, several inches thick,
and weighed about 75 pounds apiece.
They were so big and cumbersome that you got a
good workout just loading the bar.
But they worked fine. I used my old iron bar from
the YMCA and the concrete plates for all of my
squats, benches and deadlifts, and although it
may have looked funny, it built plenty of muscle.
My first 300 pound squat was with that homemade
barbell – and later, my first 300 pound bench
That’s the way strength training used to be – a
guy and a garage (or a basement) and a barbell –
and not much else. But that was all it took.
That’s all it ever takes.
As always, thanks for reading, and have a great
day. If you train today, make it a good one!
Yours in strength,
P.S. Those old concrete barbell plates weren’t
pretty, but they WORKED! So do the training
programs, the advice and the ideas in these
books and courses, and in the Dinosaur Files
strength training journal:
Dinosaur Training: Lost Secrets of Strength
Gray Hair and Black Iron
Strength, Muscle and Power
The Dinosaur Files (October issue)
Oct Dino Files on Kindle
Oct Dino Files in PDF format
P.S. 2. My other books and courses -- including
my new e-books - are right here:
P.S. 3. Thought for the Day: "The less you have,
the more you focus on what's important."
-- Brooks Kubik