|World and Olympic champion John Davis trained in a small gym he put together in the basement of a church in Brooklyn. That must have been one of the best gyms ever.|
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
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 from a 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.
It was still in good shape 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 circle.
That was easy enough, although it took a
lot of work to get the thing to form a
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 "cure."
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
When they were finished, the plates
They were huge slabs of rock, several
inches thick, weighing in at a whopping
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 press.
That’s the way strength training used
to be – a lifter, 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:
Dinosaur Training: Lost Secrets of
Strength and Development
Gray Hair and Black Iron
Strength, Muscle and Power
P.S. 2. My other books and courses --
including my Kindle e-books - are right
P.S. 3. Thought for the Day:
"The less you have, the more you can do."
-- Brooks Kubik
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