Pull-ups and dips are among the best exercises for the upper body. So,  I have always wanted to build the necessary exercise equipment in my backyard. Our move to San Jose and this excellent article on HowToMatic provided the critical mass to get me started. This post captures all you need to know to build your own.

Necessary Tools and Materials

I got everything I needed at Home Depot, except for the bungee ropes, which I already had.

image

Fig. 1  Tools and materials

 

Building the Equipment

1. Have a plan. Here’s what mine looked like:

image

Fig. 2  Equipment diagram

 

image

Fig. 3 Final result

2. Dig the 6 holes. It took me about 4 hours to dig all of them without killing myself and I made the mistake of digging them a bit too narrow. Don’t be afraid to dig wide. The holes need to be at least 1.5 feet (50 cm) deep and need to be about 1.5 feel (50 cm) in diameter.

3. Drill holes for the pipes through the wooden beams. Drill about 4 inches (10 cm) away from the end of the beam. Don’t forget to wear glasses / goggles for eye protection. You can either drill al the way through the entire beam or drill just on one side of the beam. In retrospect, I should have done the latter for all holes.

4. Position the beams in the holes. Use small stones and the bungee ropes to ensure that the beams are properly positioned and straight. I decided to make one side of the dip bars slightly wider than the other side – for exercise versatility – so my dip bars are not exactly parallel. Position the pipes into the beam holes.

5. Prep the concrete, following the directions on the bag. I prepped the concrete one bag at a time. Mixing concrete is tough so I recommend the following workflow:

  • Pour all water you need for a full bag of concrete in the bucket
  • Pour half a bag of concrete in the bucket. Mix, until you get a homogenous mixture.
  • Pour the other half – mix again.
  • Work fast – you have less than 5 minutes to mix the whole bag and probably another 5 minutes to pour the concrete into the holes.
  • Use some help – having a second set of hands helps a lot.

6. Pour the concrete into the holes, compressing it.

7. Clean up. Let it cure for a day before using the equipment. Then drill the small holes for the screws to prevent the pipes from rotating.

Frankly, I loved the physical labor, and you will too… It is a surprisingly therapeutic and rewarding experience.

 

Exercises

The great thing about this setup is that you can do all sorts of different exercises that develop strength and agility, using the weight of your own body, for example…

I recommend starting with chin-ups and dips (3 sets each, max repetitions in each set) and progressing from there.

Enjoy!