One of the first things I learned when social distancing started is that every one of my friends, unbeknownst to me, had been hoarding gym equipment.
As soon as we were told to “stay home” and gyms closed, all this equipment materialized out of closets and storage spaces and started appearing in online group workouts. While I hoard many other things (bike parts, maps, obsolete music formats) I don’t have a spare set of dumbells hiding in storage.
Thankfully, DIY home gym equipment is easy to set up. Much of the mountain bike gear you would use to ride outside under normal circumstances can be repurposed for strength training indoors.
If you want to keep fit while “Staying Home,” here are a few DIY home gym solutions:
Ride packs and panniers
Backpacks, panniers, hip packs – they’re all perfect for using as weights. Tough construction makes outdoor gear bags ideal for holding heavy objects, and you can adjust the weight by adding or removing cans of food or whatever else you have around the house. Or, just fill the bladder on a hydration pack.
Wearing a weighted backpack is a great way to add resistance to bodyweight movements, like squats. Panniers have handles, which work well for lifting exercises.
Water bottles and milk jugs
This is a really simple one. Fill your water bottles, or an empty 4L milk jug, to use as hand weights. Again, a great way to add resistance to bodyweight movements. Or to use for bicep curls, so you can help show everyone which way the beach is when we’re allowed in public spaces again.
Spare handlebar, with grips for comfort and you are set.
Balancing like this without rolling forward or backward is about as far as I got. New quarantine goal?
There are a few commercial options for this, like the Descent Master, but you can also make DIY options with what you have on your bike. Or, ideally, a spare handlebar you have laying around the garage and an old set of grips.
With your DIY project, there are a few levels of difficulty. Attach the handlebar to a fixed object – say a spare piece of wood – to start. This will build more wrist stability than doing pushups on the floor. It’s also easier on the wrists for those with less range of motion. For an added challenge, attach the bars to something with a round bottom, so the bars can rock side to side if you don’t apply weight evenly.
For the hardcore types, you can just put the bar on the ground, and use your impressive wrist stability to keep the bar from rolling forward or backward. I’ve seen this done. I cannot do this.
Same handlebar, now with a water bottle for weight. A zap strap keeps the string from rotating on the bars.
Then lower slowly ... while ignoring the sad state of my "work from home" sweater.
Ever get sore wrists while riding or arm pump at the end of a long descent? Yeah, me too. If you don’t have quick access to ride big mountains out your back door, it can be hard to develop the specific muscular endurance that will help hold on when your arms get tired. Wrist rolls help, and they’re easy to do at home. All you need is some kind of handle, string, and a weight. Tie the string to the handle, and to the weight. Wind the weight up to the bar like a reverse yo-yo, then slowly lower it back down. If you want to make this more bike specific, attach a pair of old grips to the bar.
Foam roller replacements
Gyms aren’t just about pumping iron. Stretching and injury prevention are key to any strength routine. If you don’t have a foam roller at home, there are a few different ways to make a quick substitute. An empty wine bottle inside an old sock works well, or a couple of socks if one is too firm. A rolling pin can also work. Basically, any round object that is wide enough and will support your body weight can work in a pinch.
Inner tubes as resistance bands
Resistance bands are great for stretching or for strength exercises. You might not have the fancy version you’d find at the gym, but most cyclists have a few old tubes lying around. They don’t have much give, but you can get it close to what you want if you’re creative. Cutting a tube lengthwise can make it stretchier. Bonus if you have road tubes, for variable resistance.