Outdoor workout gym

At the time of writing, covid-19 (coronavirus) has just about shut down most of the world and that includes gyms and many outdoor workout parks. People are encouraged to socially isolate until the situation improves and so that means changing our workout strategies and either doing less strength training or finding new ways to work out at home. The other alternative of course, if you are lucky enough to have the space and access to equipment, is to build your own outdoor workout gym. This is what I have done and the following guide briefly covers the equipment and techniques used.

Equipment needed for the pull up bars:

  • Two 12 foot, 5×5 inch treated timber posts
  • One galvanised steel tube 33.7mm 1.5 metre length (for the pull up bar)
  • Eight ‘M6 x 50’ Ankerbolts – you can use any strong bolts which fit the wall plates
  • Two wall plates 33.7mm tube diameter to fit tube to wooden posts
  • Bags of postcrete/ready mix cement (or normal cement)
  • Rocks/stones to add to the holes (for adding strength to the cement)
  • An allen key for tightening the steel tube so that it doesn’t rotate when being used (usually comes with tube/wall plates)

Equipment needed for the parallel bars:

  • Three 7 foot 4×4 inch treated timber posts
  • Allen Key for 26.9mm and 33.7mm tube diameter
  • Sixteen ‘M6 x 50’ Ankerbolts – you can use any strong bolts which fit the wall plates
  • Two galvanised steel tubes 33.7mm 1 metre length
  • Four wall plates 33.7mm tube diameter to fit tube to wooden posts
  • Bags of postcrete/ready mix cement (or normal cement)
  • Rocks/stones to add to the holes (for adding strength to the cement)
  • An allen key for tightening the steel tube so that it doesn’t rotate when being used (usually comes with tube/wall plates)

Tools needed:

  • A spade, and/or a fence post cutter
  • A wrecking bar (helps if you come across large rocks when digging)
  • A long spirit level
  • A measuring tape
  • A pencil (for marking where holes should be drilled)
  • A drill and drill bit of similar size to the bolts
  • A wrench to tighten the bolts
  • A bucket or watering can to fill the holes with water for cementing

You will also need another person to help you when it comes to placing the posts in the ground and ensuring everything is level.

Building the pull up bars

For the pull up bars, you need very tall wooden posts. I needed them to be high enough so that I could perform muscle ups without my feet hitting the floor, so I went for 12 foot posts which would be dug to a depth of 4 foot below the ground (to ensure they were stable). Because of their height, I also chose 5×5 inch width posts. I think 4×4 would have been too narrow causing the posts to shake when training.

Step 1 – Digging the holes: Once I had ordered all of the equipment above, I dug two holes to a depth of four foot (48 inches) each. The holes need to be as far apart as your pull up bar, but don’t forget to take into account the width of the posts. Because my outdoor gym was built near woodland, the ground was full of large rocks so digging was no easy task and despite initially digging a narrow hole with a spade, I soon needed to go much wider, using my hands to pull out rocks along the way. At around 3 foot, the rocks were so large that I needed to use a wrecking bar to break some of them too. This was just my experience, but you may be luckier. A fence post digger may be all you need if your land is softer. As I dug the holes I made sure to keep hold of any rocks and stones that came out of the ground so that I could put them back in later along with the concrete to provide more security around the posts.

Step 2 – Paint the bottom of the wooden posts (optional) : This isn’t essential because the wood is already treated, but I painted the bottom 4 foot of the posts to ensure that they wouldn’t rot easily once exposed to the moisture of the ground. They dry pretty quickly but you may want to do this step before digging the holes.

Step 3: Attach one wall plate/flange to one of the wooden posts: You will need to measure out how high the pull up bar needs to be for your own reach. Once you have done this then you will know how far from the top of the post to fit the wall plate/flange which will hold the bar. Remember that the post needs to be 4 foot underground so if you want the bar to be 7.5 foot above ground then you should fit the wall plate around 0.5 foot/6 inches from the top of the post. You will need to place the wall plate and then drill through it to make holes for the bolts which will then hold it in place. Once the holes are drilled you can attach the plate with the bolts.

Outdoor pull up bar

Note: the wall plates that I used came with a fitted screw which can tighten to the steel tube to stop it from rotating when used. It is maybe better to ensure this screw is at the bottom so that rain doesn’t collect in it.

Step 4: Place the post with bar now attached into one hole. You now have one post attached with a wall plate attached. This can be placed into the centre of the one hole.  With the help of someone else, use your spirit level to ensure that the post is totally upright in both directions. Once you are happy that it vertical then you can fix it in place, either by throwing a few large rocks into the hole, or by using some wooden sticks to hold it (or both). Once this is firmly in place you can begin work on attaching the bar to the other wooden post.

Building outdoor workout gym

Step 5: Fit the pull up bar at one end: Next you can fit the pull up bar into the wall plate on the erect post and tighten the screw using an Allen key (which came with the wall plates/steel tube).

Step 6: Attach the wall plate and bar to the second wooden post: Place the second post in the ground and bring it towards the end of the bar. Place the wall plate next to the post and use a spirit level to ensure that the pull up bar would be horizontal in this position. You don’t want your pull up bar to be uneven. If both holes in the ground have been dug to the same depth then you could just use a ruler to measure how the first post how far down from the top you need to place the wall plate on the second post, but double check that the bar is level in this position. Once you are sure that the pull up bar is level then you just need to also check that the second wooden post would be upright before lodging it in place by placing some rocks around it in the hole or using long wooden sticks to prop it up from each side. You can then drill your holes and loosely (!) fit the wall plate with screws before attaching the pull up bar to the second post. Again, check that both the pull up bar and post is level before again securing it with your rocks or sticks.

Step 7: Cement the posts in place: You will have your pull up bar and two posts in the right place now and you can start adding some more rocks to each hole. You will need quite a lot of these and once a solid base has been formed you can start adding some water, and then your cement mix (assuming you are using ready made cement like I did). Proceed to fully fill the holes and leave it to set overnight.

Outdoor gym

By morning your pull up bar should be ready to use!

Building the parallel bars

For the parallel bars you only need three timber posts because one bar will be fitted to the frame of the pull up bar which you have already built. The technique and tools used are very much the same as for the pull up bars, only now you will  need to dig three holes for the posts and they will not to be quite so deep. I dug the holes to a depth of around 2.75 feet (33 inches) each. This meant that the 7 foot posts would be 5.25 feet above the ground (51 inches) and I could then attach the bars around 6 inches from the top of each post so that my parallel bars would be around 45 inches above the ground.

The most important thing when building the parallel bars is to ensure that they are of a correct height for you and the right distance apart. So, before you dig, work out how far apart the centre of the holes needs to be by placing the length of your galvanised tubes on the floor. Then measure how far apart from each other the bars should be to allow you to perform exercises like dips and weighted dips comfortably. For me, 23 inches between each bar was perfect. As already stated, I had decided that the bars should be 45 inches from the ground for my height. Once you have measured what will work for you then you can dig the three holes.

Outdoor gym digging holes

The next step is to attach one wall plate to one of the posts holding up the pull up bar and then fit one of the parallel bars in place, tightening it with an allen key. You can then begin work on fitting the post at the other end to complete the first of the parallel bars;

Lower the first 4×4 inch post into the hole and place it at the end of your first parallel bar. Then take all the steps above to ensure that it is just about vertical and lodge it in place using rocks or sticks again. You can then mark where your wall plate should be fitted with a pencil or pen before levelling up again and then drilling the holes and fitting the plate and finally the bar. Add your water and cement to the hole along with plenty of rocks and leave it to set. You now have you first parallel bar.

For the second parallel bar, you just need to repeat this process. Again, the important thing is just to make sure that everything is level and the correct distance apart. Keep checking with a long spirit level that all posts are the correct height above the ground and that the bars are going to be totally parallel with each other once everything is fixed and cemented in place.

Finally, you can add your rocks, water and cement and your parallel bars will now be ready to use 24 hours later too.

If you follow these directions your bars will be solid enough to do muscle ups and weighted pull ups and dips. So far I have used my body weight plus 60kg for both pull ups and dips and I know I could go heavier if my strength improves.

Outdoor Workout Gym

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