Training Gear Update: ladder, rope, belt, hammer, oh my

It's been a while since I've made any notes about my training gear. In fact, the last time I've discussed training gear was my post on my cheesy pull up bar solution. So, here is my long overdue training gear post.

Buddy Lee Aero Speed jump rope

It's been nearly two years since I bought my Aero Speed rope. I really liked the rope when I first bought it, and I still really like it. I've read some people complain about the cord snapping or the rings on the swivel bearings breaking. I haven't experienced that sort of equipment failure, but I've only used my rope indoors on either rubber mats or sprung wood floors. I'd be pretty annoyed if my $40 jump rope broke on me under those conditions.

That being said, the rope cord has thinned in the middle. I thought I'd never wear out the cord, but apparently two people (my wife and I) doing numerous speed skipping sessions has taken its inevitable toll on the rope cord. Replacement cords are reasonbly priced ($4-5ish + shipping), but I'm cheap. I decided there's got to be a hardware store solution to this. After wandering into the plumbing aisle, I found it: 1/4" polyethylene tubing.

At $0.11 per foot, it's a very affordable way to put a sleeve over the rope cord and extend it's useful life. Just cut lengthwise down the middle of the tube, and wrap it around the rope.

Another issue I had with the rope was that you're not supposed to kink the rope if you want to turn it quickly. That rules out hanging the rope on a hook or just cramming the rope into my gym bag. Again, my years of experience as a poor engineering grad student came to my aid. My solution: a cardboard cutout holder. Just cut four notches into an ~8" square piece of cardboard, wrap the rope around it, and toss into gym bag. Easy, cheap, and functional.

Homemade Agility Ladder

For a period of time, I was recovering from one of my bouts of wrist tendonitis. Jumping rope wasn't exactly speeding up my wrist recovery, so I had to do an alternate exercise for my plyo/interval training cardio. So, thus began my adventures with the agility ladder. This is one case where I probably would have been better off just buying a commercial ladder, but I decided to save the cash and spend too much time building and debugging the homemade version. With some 1/2" PVC pipe and some nylon rope, I concocted my very own agility ladder:

I was proud of myself, and I was pretty sure nobody was going to steal it because of its pink rope and ghetto PVC rungs. I quickly discovered one major problem with my ladder though. Stuffing it in a backpack to transport to and from my workout locations ran the serious risk of creating a holy tangled mess. By the third untangling session, I decided to copy something from the commercial versions. A threaded rod rammed through drilled holes in the middle of each rung would keep the whole mess together without becoming tangled. A wing nut at the bottom keep the rungs from sliding off.

Now, I can look totally cool as I saunter into the gym with my pink corded agility ladder and makeshift carrying handle.

Ironmind Dip Belt

Gen gave me a dip belt last Christmas, and I've loved the belt. I'd be using it more often if doing weighted dips and pulls didn't flare up my wrists. It's rated for some absurd amount of weight (1000 lbs?), which I'm not even close to doing. I only got up to 65-70lbs.

Undoing the webbing from the buckle to change weights works ok. I prefer the carabiner and loading pin solution myself since it's more convenient. But I didn't want to buy the loading pin, so I just searched the internet until I found someone's suggestion of two carabiners and a chain. Works for me.


The sledgehammer is my latest toy (is it bad that I consider workout equipment "toys"?). I didn't think 8lbs could be so tough. I can't yet do the sledgehammer walking finger strength drills, and I'm definitely not going to attempt any sledge levering exercises which bring the sledge anywhere near my face (at least not for a while). I could swing the bad boy at a tire, and that was hella fun. If I had any stress aggression before my workout, it was gone by the time I finished my sledge swing workout.

I've heard talk from one of my buddies about a 20 lb sledge. I don't think I'm ready to jump much beyond a 10-12 lb sledge (and then only for swings, forget levering). It seems like such a puny jump going from 8 lbs to 10-12 lbs. But then again, a weight on the end of a stick makes things a lot more interesting, and 2-4 lbs more weight is still a 25-50% increase. I think I'll be sticking with my 8 pounder for a while.