Trygve.Com > Exercise > The Dungeon of Heavy Things

Descend with me now, down into the dungeon, where many
interesting devices of iron and heavy chain await....

dangermouse, world's greatest secret agent Most of the animation cels are in the drawing room (which seems appropriate) but this cel of Dangermouse (the world's greatest secret agent) just belonged in the dungeon somehow....
This is technically a Quantum Low Row machine, but I removed the bench part which wasn't very helpful if you wanted to use it as a low row and just got in the way if you wanted anything else.

It's the best lat pull machine I've used--it's a reasonable height (which is unusual enough--you can see it actually sticks up in between the joists), it's got a good feel to it, and it's got a three hundred pound weight stack--so it actually has enough weight to do most exercises with.

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I also removed the original cable and put in a new one that ends right up at the top pulley and then I have a hook on it that I can attach a chain to. The chain works great, because I can put any of the attachments at whatever height I want, just by hooking onto a different link of the chain. That way it's possible to get a full stretch at the top of the movement as well as to get the full range of motion without banging the weight stack on the top of the machine, no matter which movement I'm doing.

Down at the bottom where the bench used to attach, I've bolted another chain, so it's possible to hook a dip belt to it like I've done here; that makes it a lot easier for exercises that use more than one's bodyweight.

I've put a second cable on the bottom pulley that can be hooked to the top chain and used for rows--the little "pedals" on the side actually are nice both for rows and for a few other exercises that one can do with this machine.

lat pull down machine
lat pull bars and attachments These are various accessories to be used with the pulldown/row machine including extra chains and cables (the chains let you attach things in one-inch increments, which is handy) and you'll note that in addition to allowing several different grip angles and widths, there are four different attachments to allow different widths with a neutral grip besides the attachments that permit supinated and pronated grips.

Most of the attachments are free to rotate as well, which is nice for some sorts of movements, particularly variations on pressdown and curling exercises. Not shown are some of the other straight bars that don't rotate which might be easier for some people to use if their grip is a limiting factor in performing pulldown-type movements.

The military press machine is one of the selectorized machines I had two-inch posts welded to. Selectorized machines are convenient because they're so easy to adjust the resistance on, but most machines with a weight stack don't have anywhere near a reasonable amount of weight.

I had the inspiration years ago of turning selectorized machines into combination selectorized/plate-loaded by the simple addition of the two-inch posts and collars you see here. Most of the time you'd never want to use a machine with less than a certain amount of weight, so I can just leave a pile of plates on the machine and then use the stack to make finer adjustments.

One of the nice features of this t-bar machine is the chest support which takes your lower back out of the movement. Unfortunately, it only allows for two different hand positions; at a minimum, another hand-hold for a neutral grip would have been nice, but otherwise it's a pretty good machine. t-bar row machine
cambered deadlift bar I like the cambered bar a lot. It's usually thought of as something you'd use for doing a greater range of motion in the bench press, but I don't like it for bench presses, so I never use it for that. What it is great for is deadlifts (conventional; not sumo-style) and shrugs. Not only does it keep you from scraping up the fronts of your legs, it lets you do shrugs with your arms a bit more in line with your body.

The blue plates in the middle are bumper plates. I like having those a lot too for deadlifts of any variety, because not only do they protect the floor, they are just enough bigger than a regular forty-five pound plate that if you put the bumper plates on first, you can then slide the rest of the forty-fives on and off easily.

Another helpful hint--use two sets of collars to make small weight adjustments. The spin-lock collars will hold the big plates securely and tightly, while a good pair of spring collars will be fine for holding a few smaller plates.

deadlift bar with extra collars
Despite having accumulated all these weight machines, I do most exercises with free weights and almost always start a workout with those. Having a variety of machines is entertaining nonetheless, not the least because they make it easier to stress a muscle harder in parts of its range of motion that don't always get worked as hard as they could be. Using the crossover machine to do lateral raises hits the deltoids very differently at both the bottom and the top of the movement. Doing bicep and tricep exercises on the crossover machine changes the feel of the topmost portion in particular, especially if you're going to concentrate on squeezing the muscle tight and holding it in its fully contracted position.

I still prefer to hit the freeweights first and hardest; in part, this might be a matter of prefering the feel of "real world" weights which don't impart friction or forces at odd angles--but the odd angles and the way some of the machines let you keep going when you might not otherwise be able to keep a barbell steady are great for making sure that whatever muscle you're working has endured everything you can put it through before you let it rest long enough to get ready for the next time when you'll push it just a little bit harder still....

The grey machine on the right is the donkey calf machine. That's another one that I had the posts welded on to so I could throw some plates on it in addition to the stack. It's a great machine even though it's so big that I had to cut it in half to get it down into the dungeon and then put it back together in place.

The nicest thing about the donkey calf machine as far as I'm concerned is that it takes all the stress off your shoulders and puts it across your hips. Some people probably would benefit from not having the compression on the spine that a standing calf machine does, but for me it's the shoulders because even with a thick layer of extra padding, I still break blood vessels in my shoulders when using a standing calf machine. I don't have that problem at all with the donkey calf machine, at least as long as I use it with the towel folded up across the back of my hips for extra padding.

donkey calf machine and seated calf raise
gaspari curl bar The Gaspari bar is a cute idea--the handles are gimballed but in-line with the rest of the bar so they turn freely even though you're lifting the bar and the weight on it. Sometimes I like it, though all the freedom in hand angle comes at the cost of not being able to use any other grip width on this bar. In that respect, an EZ-curl bar is more flexible, because you can use that with a few different grip widths instead of just the one. The Gaspari bar can be nice for doing French presses as well as curls, at least for me, since I prefer using something close to a neutral grip for that movement.
One of the advantages of working out alone is that you're free to do things like try out various bodybuilder-style poses in the mirror without anyone there to tell you that you look silly beyond belief.

Of course then I go and put a picture of me doing it up on the web. Hmmmmm.... Well, it's really much worse to get told that you look silly while you're trying to force out that one last rep that you're just on the very edge of being able to make. Doing silly things on the net, on the other hand, is second nature to me by now.

With the caveat that I'm not a competitive bodybuilder and probably never will be--physical training is just something I enjoy and find rewarding--I put together a page with a few "bodybuilder-style" poses on it. This shouldn't be taken to mean that I actually have any idea what I'm doing when in front of a camera like this, but I had fun anyway. I figure you can enjoy getting to see the results of your efforts in front of you like this whether you look like Arnold or not--if you look better than you did last month or last year, that's enough of a "contest" to win.

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