Secret Weight Training with an Improvised Barbell

Back in the days when I was still in college, I stayed at my aunts' house during the weekdays. The house was old, but very spacious. I had my own bedroom that was neat and comfortable and it was there where I spent studying.

But it wasn't only studying that I did there. Little did my aunts know, that bedroom with the nice and shiny wooden floors also became my secret gym for my improvised weight training exercises.

The Need for Strengthening Exercises

Having had an interest on weight training, I was longing for some strengthening exercises that would complement my already existing cardio workouts.

We already had some homemade barbells made from concrete at my parents' house but I only visited them occasionally. I really liked the idea of working out at home. So what strength exercises could I do?

Living with three aunts who were all single meant there was nothing in the old house that would remotely resemble exercise equipment.

Using Bodyweight for Working Out

Even then, I wasn't fond of pushups and situps and many floor exercises. I'm aware of their value but I always had this feeling that they're too uncomfortable and difficult to do.

I don't know. They're probably too reminiscent of punishment in military training.

But chinups, where you pull up your own bodyweight, is an exercise I'd love to do. It's a pulling exercise to develop the arms and the lats. My bedroom had this big closet that didn't have closet doors.

They were probably broken and pulled out for good. The closet was high enough for me to grab its top jamb.

To perform the chinups, I'd enter the open closet, and face the bedroom from inside the closet. I'd grab the top jamb of the closet doors and perform chinups. It was tough performing chin ups with just a part of the top door jamb.

And to make the exercise a bit easier for the hands, I jammed a couple cut aluminum pipes around 4 inches long in between a couple of nails. Those became the handles for my "chinning bar". It wasn't a very safe set up and I just had to be careful.

Improvising a Barbell for Presses, Curls and Pullover Exercises

Naturally, just doing chinups in my secret gym wasn't enough. I also needed some lifting exercises like the bench press and shoulder press as well as curling exercises for the biceps.

Never mind the legs I thought. Do newbies really think about working out the legs? Nah, it's the chest and arms!

My aunts were meticulous with orderliness and cleanliness around the house, so I had to think of something to lift that wouldn't be too obvious to my three aunts. I scanned the entire living room of the old house and spotted a side table that really doubles as a bookshelf.

Unfortunately, it's vintage furniture and I can't find anything like it on the web. Here's the closest image that I can put up.

The actual side table was much more heavily built than the one pictured above. It was originally located at the ground floor of the house. It was used as a decorative side table for flower vases.

How I Set Up my Secret Home Gym

On the pretense that I needed additional storage for my books and working table, I was granted permission to bring the side table up to my bedroom. The table was heavy, being made of solid wood.

And needless to say, there was no weight adjustment, no weight increases, nada. The two wooden posts on the bottom shelf became the parallel grip handles for the exercises. It was so heavy that it seems I always put in maximal effort every time I exercised. Whew!

What did I use for a bench? Well, the bed of course! There was a near mishap in the pullover exercise when I missed a rep in the last set and the side table brushed loudly against the floor - a close call, after Aunt Trining (bless her soul) heard the loud thud.

Talk about working out to failure!

I was happy how it turned out and even entertained thoughts that maybe I'd be building exercise equipment for a real home gym someday. That piece of furniture became the improvised barbell I used for barbell curls, barbell pullovers, shoulder presses and bench press.

It built up reasonable strength that I managed to showcase in an arm-wrestling incident in school. After all, that heavy table gave way for some heavy lifting and high intensity training.

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