DIY GYM Equipment by William MastopĖ page 2

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The Heavy Duty DIY Lat machine (also row machine)

In April of 2015 after taking some courses for a couple of months and not doing a lot of lifting, I was back at it pretty hard.†† As it is with weight lifting, I started doing heavier weights, which is great!†† But..†† that means moving heavier weights.†† That also means putting greater stress on equipment, and sadly, I think I started to reach some of the design limitations of the lat pulldown machine that I had built initially.††† One day I reached some of those limitations in spectacular fashion when the cable broke.I believe the cable broke because the pulley's were too small for the load being places on them, as was the cable.I noticed the cable started to chafe, and within a few lifts it separated, with a load of weights on board.††† I can assure you that when a cable separates with a load of weights aboard the result is very sudden and unpleasant.I found myself thrown on the ground with considerable force while still holding the bar that I'd been doing lat putdowns with.†††

DSCF5699.JPGThe version to the left was the initial version that failed.The cable parted, dramatically.

As part of the whole gym equipment DIY Build it yourself process I had located information from a fellow named Carlos Dejesus.Carlos became a world champion bodybuilder, and started out on a tight budget.He built a lot of his own gym equipment, some of which can be seen on the Mother Earth Website at This link.

and can also be seen on Youtube at

I started out with the build that you can observe on those web pages referenced above, but found some structural issues that needed fixing as the weight I could lift, or pull down, increased.A big part of the issue that I encountered with the design by Carlos was forward and lateral support.The load and flex that was encountered caused the entire structure to struggle, but just a few adjustments really helped.As well, in the initial lat machine design (as pictured above) there was a bar that was horizontal that held all the weight.†† The difficulty with this design was that as the eights increased, the friction would also increase in that the load would rub against the support members of the structure.†† This seemed not to be consistent level of friction, but instead increased with the amount of weight on the bar.††† As such, it became impossible to know what I was lifting as far as weight went. So the new design is as follows:

Notice that the structure became more of a square box.†† The structural members are all 2x4 lumber.These are available for about 3$ each at my Home Depot Store. ††

The structure that holds the weights is a 1 inch steel bar, also available at Home Depot for about 5$.†† I had the top of the bar drilled out by my local machine shop, also for about 5$, so that it would accept a hook of some kind, as shown below.††† Note that one of the changes from the Caflos Dejesus design is change to the low horizontal supports (the feet that sit on the ground so to speak).These have been lengthened compared to Carlos design and are 74 inches long instead of 52 inches long.†† They were the same length as the upper weight bearing structure (52 inches long), but because they did not stick out very far I could not use the machine for standing bicep curls, or anything else that would have the effect of lifting from the front.Note that Carlos design was never intended for those functions, but this revised version allows for that, as well as use as a row both by the addition of the hook at the lowest front support member.





Weight Support Rod

As seen below, a one inch pipe, 24 inches long as purchased at Home Depot is threaded at both ends.Itís a simple matter to purchase a cap in the same section as the pipe, and a washer that will fit over the pipe.†† Slide the washer over the pipe, and tighten the cap onto the pipe.†† Tighten this cap very well, you donít want it coming off later.Some locktight would be good if you have it.†† At the top end of the weight support, youíll see that I had the pipe drilled at my local machine shop. You can do this at home if you have a drill press and a whole punch.†† If you donít, your drill will keep sliding off the pipe as mine did.†† The hole should be drilled to allow the chain hardware shown to be inserted through the pipe.This chain hardware can be found in the chain section of Home Depot.It is helpful if you take it with you to the machine shop so they will know how large a hole to drill.


In terms of the structure, itís essentially a standing rectangular box.††

Itís helpful to use standard size 2 x 4ís throughout.Everything is screwed with #10 x 2 Ĺ inch screws.†† If you can glue the joints as you go so much the better but itís not absolutely necessary.†† ††The horizontal supports are all 36 Inches long .†† The vertical supports are all 84 inches long.The two 2 x 4ís holding the pulleys are each 52 inches long.††† Inserted in those 2 x 4ís are 3 inch garage door pulleys available at home Depot.Note that for the pulleyís youíll also have to buy longerbolts to go through both the pulley and the 2x4ís, hence a 5 inch bolt with a nut should do it (also available at Home Depot).†† On each end of the bolt, and also within the 2/4ís at each end of the pulley goes a washer, with a 3/8th hole if I recall correctly, and roughly 2 ľ inches across.This helps with any friction from the pulley, and also prevents the bolt from pulling through the wood.†† The white messy looking stuff you see in the picture is spray on grease, again to assist with any friction.†† This stuff is important to keep around all your gym equipment that has pulleyís or sliding parts.I keep a can on hand all the time.



Cables and Attachments

You will see below both the type of cable used Ė this is unshielded (no plastic or wrapping around it ) 3/8th inch cable, with the appropriate sized (matched to fit that size of cable) clamps on it.†† Note that you must use 2 clamps at each end, so four clamps on the standard setup for one cable.If you decide to do the extra cable arrangement for the rowing or standing curls be sure to do two of the clamps on each end as well.†† There is also a saddle on each end of the cable where the cable loops through and goes back the way it came.†† These are important, as constant flexing with an unsaddled cable will eventually cause the cable to break, with dramatic effect.Youíll find all this stuff in the chain and cable section of Home Depot.The finished length of the main cable is about 110 inches.This may vary a bit with your exact placement of the pulleys, so donít be cheap when you buy it.†† Itís a lot easier to cut off some extra cable than it is to yank an assembled cable apart and rebuild it with new cable because you were cheap the first time!



The angled supports (3 of them)

In using the machine as originally depicted in the Mother Earth article, and as I increased the weight, I noticed that the machine had an increasing level of flex to it.Flex leads to bad things, like collapse.†† Collapse is not at all a good thing when youíre lifting weights.†† Like a door, some angled support will and does greatly improve the structural integrity.I didnít have a lot of wood on hand, and so I had to go with one near full length piece running almost the full height of the machine, and two pieces each about 4 feet long as depicted in the photoís below.It is in attaching these pieces only that I had to use longer screws, including a couple of 3 Ĺ in number 10 screws at the widest part of the fastening.†† The use of these angled changed the whole feel of the machine, and Iím now pulling just short of 200 lbs on it as a lat pulldown without any flexing of the machine.††

Attachments for the Machine

Once I had it built, it was time to start with some lifting.I had a couple of bars so I didnít need to construct those.†† However, I wanted a rope for doing tricep pressdowns, and I also wanted to be able to do standing curls, upright rows, and seated rows if I wished.These things required a couple of changes.††† Firstly, I found it necessary to double up the support at the front of the machine where it contacts the ground.†† Instead of one 2 x 4 going across, I put in two.††† As well, I added an eye bolt.Be sure to use large washers on the eye bolt on both sides, itís going to take a lot of force.Also be sure to thoroughly fasten the cross pieces that have been added.

It was also necessary to build a cable addition so that I could add the curl/row cables easily.†† This cable, with a hook and pulley attached, has a completed length of 72 inches.Note that for doing curls or upright rows I place a board on the lower 2 x 4 as shown in the picture.I have one screw in each 2 x 4 about a foot from the end that sticks up about ĺ of an inch.This prevents the board from sliding forward and is an important addition.Note that if you donít put a board down to stand on the legs, when you attempt to lift the bar it will lift the entire cage.††† It is necessary to have that board on there and to stand on it.

The rope for the tricep pressdowns, or overhead throws if that works for you, was a very affordable thing indeed.Iíd seen them for sale in stores for about $30.00.†† I thought for $30.00 Iím off to home depot to see what I can build myself.††The rope cost about $1.40 a foot, and I believe I used about 4 feet.Itís important to slide the hook on first, then tie the knots where you think you want them and then cut off the extra rope.It is very challenging indeed to tie a knot at exactly the end of a rope.Hereís the finished product:

I hope this little project will be a good one for you.If you have any questions youíre welcome to email me.Iím William Mastop, and I can be reached at

Back Extension Machine

Again borrowing from the design by Carlos Dejesus shown in the Mother Earth News Articles referenced above, I commenced to building a device to do back extensions.††† What I came up with, after some small modifications, was:



The blue padding that you see is a rolled up yoga matt.Itís comfortable, reasonably durable and does not seem to absorb a lot of water when it rains.†† I had stapled it on, but have found that the staples pulled loose with time.†† It stays pretty much where it should though, so Iíve left it.††† All materials are 2 x 4ís, except for the board that sits on the two uprights.†† That board is a 2 x 10.†† The measurements for the front and rear upright 2 x 4ís is 31 inches.The middle upright is 29 Ĺ inches.Note that for uprights having an angled cut the measurements given are on their longest edge.†† The ďfeetĒ, being the boards that sit horizontally and form the base are each 40 inches long.†† Each of the two cross members is 20 inches long, and the single horizontal brace is 30 inches long which also gives you the measurement from the back upright to the front upright.Everything is screwed with #10 by 2 Ĺ inch screws.Pre-drill all screw holes.†† As well, itís best to glue each joint with a bit of carpenters glue to have everything stay really tight.

I hope this little project will be a good one for you.If you have any questions youíre welcome to email me.Iím William Mastop, and I can be reached at

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