Introduction: Bodyweight Fitness / Calisthenics Gym

Picture of Bodyweight Fitness / Calisthenics Gym

My son convinced me to do a 1-year challenge. After some research, he found Bodyweight Fitness (BWF) on Reddit. The support materials and videos are impressive. One of the great things about BWF is that it does not require weights. However, it does require a place to do a few exercises. I was surprised that I could not find a simple plan to build a gym for these exercises. So we decided to make one!

My goals in building this gym were:

- Inexpensive (I went through several designs and kept simplifying them. Eight 2x4s and two 3 foot 1" cast iron pipes along with fasteners are all you need)

- Compact (my wife permitted me to put in our bedroom. We don't have a lot of space)

- Easy to build and easy to use!

The total build time was about 3 hours. (Don't let all the steps fool you. The build was easy!)

P.S. If you want to check out our one year challenge we have a website and blog that will be updated throughout the year here. If you want to look more into BWF and the Recommended Routine we are doing it's here. Cheers!

Step 1: Buy Your Supplies

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Eight (8) 2 x 4 x 8 ft.

Two (2) 36" cast iron pipes.

Fasteners (I used 3" wood screws and 3.5" long 1/4" bolts. You don't need to use the bolts if you want to save money. Just add a few more screws!)

Twelve (12) 3.5" long 1/4" bolts and 12 lock nuts. 24 1/4" washers (we used slightly oversized washers).

Step 2: Understand the Measurements and Mark the Wood

Picture of Understand the Measurements and Mark the Wood

This diagram shows all the measurements. The photo is another reference (since I'm not a great artist).

Step 3: Cut the Wood

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I cut all the wood at the same time. Lay it out first to make sure all the pieces fit. I ended up with some scrap which I used to brace the corners (see the "details" section - final step)

Step 4: Measure Hole Placement and Cut Holes for Dip Bar

Picture of Measure Hole Placement and Cut Holes for Dip Bar

After some research and measuring my grip width, I decided that 19" wide dip bars (on center) were ideal for me. The web says anything between 18" and 22" works.

I used a 1.5" hole saw.

I used scrap 1/4" plywood to hold the two boards together so the holes matched for both sides.

We're cutting only half of a hole in each side of the board so the pipe rests in it. By temporarily holding them together, you can make sure the holes align on both pieces of wood.

Step 5: Cut Hole for Pull Up Bar

Picture of Cut Hole for Pull Up Bar

I followed the same procedure as I did for the dip bar.

I wanted the half hole to start 3/4" from the edge so I marked the center of the hole at 1.5" from the edge of the board.

Step 6: Move All the Wood to Your Build Site

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I waited until the wife was out shopping. This is one corner of our bedroom :-)

Step 7: Build the Front and Back Sides First

Picture of Build the Front and Back Sides First

I pre-drilled all the holes using a counter sink bit to avoid the wood cracking.

I started at the bottom with the 30" pieces. Then we put the 33" pieces at the top. Look at the picture for details.

Step 8: Add the Feet

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This is a two person job. We added the 42" feet to both sides. The feet tie the front and back together.

Step 9: Add the Dip Bar/row Bar Holders

Picture of Add the Dip Bar/row Bar Holders

We measured 32" from the base wood (33.5" from the floor) to the bottom of the 2x4. You can pick the height you think is best. We did use a level for this step. It's not 100% necessary, but if you have access to one, it makes it a bit easier. If not, just make sure your measurements from the floor are precise.

This step (and the entire build) only takes two people. My dad heard my son and I having fun, so he came to join us :-)

Step 10: Add Pull-up Bar Arms

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We followed a similar procedure as the dip bar supports. However, you just align these with the top of your vertical sides. We used a level again to ensure our pull-up bar would be perfectly level.

Step 11: Admire Your Work

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This shows the placement of the pull-up bar.

Step 12: Try Out Your Dip Bar

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It works!

Step 13: Try Out the Inverted Row

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It works too!!

Step 14: A Few of the Build Details...

Picture of A Few of the Build Details...

Picture one shows me pre-drilling so the wood does not split.

Picture two and three show the bolts. We put one bolt through every major connection. Again, it's not necessary but a nice detail.

Picture four shows 1/4" plywood scrap used for end caps so the pull-up bar can't slide out.

Picture five shows the addition of the 45 degree corner supports on the base. We used the scrap wood for these. It's not necessary but it did make the gym a bit more stable.

Picture six shows the original rough sketch.


RyanS398 (author)2017-01-24

How do you think this would hold up outside? Thinking about building one for myself, but the only place that I could put it would be outside.

SimonH145 (author)RyanS3982017-01-24

I would use stainless steel bolts, exterior grade wood glue and a good exterior wood paint. If you do that, it should be fine.

Deuce52 (author)2017-01-22

Just built it today. Thanks for the cool, easy design!

SimonH145 (author)Deuce522017-01-22

I hope you like it as much as my son and I do. It's been working out great! Let me know how it goes.

Tableleg (author)2017-01-11

Amazing work!

I've been wanting to do something like this for a long time now, and I think your plan is the one I'll use. I'll post pictures when I do. :)

You talk in another post about moving the chin-up bar to the middle. I'm having a little problem seeing how you did it. In it's current configuration, does it simply rest in the notches? (In other words, nothing is holding it in place?) How would go about shifting it to the center?

Again, I love this. It's like you took the idea right out of my head. Well done!

SimonH145 (author)Tableleg2017-01-14

In it's current configuration, the chin-up bar is resting in the notches on the top arms that extend out past the frame. What one reader suggested was moving the chin-up bar to the "inside" of the frame. I like the current configuration but moving it to the inside could have advantages too. If I was going to do this, I would change the way the top connects. There's not a "wrong" way to do it - figure out what makes sense for you and the space you're putting it in. Hope that helps.

JohnC430 (author)2017-01-11

wow that's a cool exercise machine. Did your wife get a surprise when she tried to walk in the bedroom door and found it was blocked by the machine :)) I guess it is the closet door. there are 3 men in the pictures. which one is you? the one with the bald patch or the guy doing the pull-ups? I made one at work once and everyone got a chance to use it. it was not as Impressive as this one. we did pull ups and standing push ups (I don't know what they call it, like the guy lifting himself on the bars) thanks for sharing.

SimonH145 (author)JohnC4302017-01-14

Thanks! I moved it to the other side of the room - she didn't like it in front of her closet door :-) My son and I built it. My dad just happen to stop by half way through the build and "help out".

JohnC430 (author)2017-01-11

if I was building that now, I think I would stop at step 6. any further would mean a life time of hard work

SimonH145 (author)JohnC4302017-01-14

LOL. If you stop at step 7, you could at least use it to store clothes on in your bedroom. :-)

stillborn32 (author)2017-01-10

This is perfect, will you be able to do a muscle up without it falling over?

SimonH145 (author)stillborn322017-01-11

I thought about that a bit. Not sure. It feels very stable so I think we might be ok. I have three ideas. First, just try it with my son standing near the gym so if it starts to tip, he can support it. Second, put weights on the base. Third, build removable leg extenders that I could easily attach when it was muscle up time. However I'm several months away from a muscle up :-)

bearfox (author)2017-01-09

Very nice work ;)

SherylinRM (author)2017-01-09

Good job. Impressed :)

Voted for you :)

SimonH145 (author)SherylinRM2017-01-09


srsabu (author)2017-01-09

Nice build - I'm thinking about making one but I would add notches for pull-up bars in the other direction, or add a second one in parallel if I move it to the inside, to allow for neutral grip pull-ups.

SimonH145 (author)srsabu2017-01-09

Great idea! If you move the pull up bar inside, you might want to change the attachment configuration at the top to maximize your "internal" space. Hope that makes sense.

hammer9876 (author)2017-01-08

A small rug, or at the very least, some felt pads under the wood would keep the floor from getting scratched. Of course it would make the whole thing more slippery, so no swinging around stupidly. (darn!)

I am concerned about the bracing, too. You need some triangles to keep the whole thing from shifting into parallelograms.

SimonH145 (author)hammer98762017-01-08

Check the details section at that end. I added 4 corner braces using the scrap wood. It made the structure very rigid. Felt pads are a good idea too. It might make the structure a little wobbly - not sure. I guess it depends on how many you use.

hammer9876 (author)SimonH1452017-01-09

Good. I missed that.

CReifschneider (author)SimonH1452017-01-09

maybe adding rubber (adhesive strips?) to the base for padding/scratch prevention but rubber would have the friction to prevent sliding

Those non-skid rubber-like things on flooring, especially under anything of weight, will degrade and stick to the flooring. Don't do this.

aquascapist (author)2017-01-02

Not bad at all

SimonH145 (author)aquascapist2017-01-03


matthewsdad (author)SimonH1452017-01-08

your wife permitted you? Tell her it's going in the bedroom and she's going to like it. just kidding. very nice job

SimonH145 (author)matthewsdad2017-01-08

LOL. I think she's extending grace because I'm doing this with our son :-)

jatkins729 (author)2017-01-08

The 8 square (non-triangulated) main corners transfer all forces to the screws in shear, particularly when doing chin-ups. Over time these joints may loosen and wobble. Wouldn’t placing the chin-up bar in the center distribute the forces more evenly? May need to move the top cross members to the outside.

SimonH145 (author)jatkins7292017-01-08

I used one 1/4" bolt with fender washers and a lock nut to address this potential issue. One website that shows "shear strength" rates #8 wood screws at 350 pounds each. We used 2-3 screws per joint plus 1/4" bolts. I think you could get away with screws alone and be fine. However, I REALLY like your idea of moving the chin-up bar "inside" the structure. It's a great idea. I would change the top to allow the maximum space on the inside with that modification.

TomV4 (author)jatkins7292017-01-08

I think additional bracing will probably be needed in the planes you indicated.

AnnieSage (author)2017-01-08

Wow, what a great idea! I am going to keep these design plans and build one for my son as a graduation present! Thank you for designing it and the great instruction details!

SimonH145 (author)AnnieSage2017-01-08

Thanks! I might paint mine at some point. My son and I love it so far. It's been super helpful and works well.

deserttea (author)2017-01-08

Is there a user weight/height range for this design?

jgwinner (author)2017-01-08

This looks fantastic! I was thinking of doing something similar for a power rack with real weights (I don't do a lot of weight). I think one for weights would require a little more bracing (or put the upper 2x4's on top of the lower 2x4 so it's wood on wood, instead of bolts in shear, or double up the 2x4's to make something like a notched 4x4 upright).

Alej24601 (author)2017-01-02

At my local Lowe's you can buy longer pieces of pipe and they'll cut it for you. When I built a clothes rack was cheaper to buy a full ten foot pipe and have them cut it into two five foot lengths than to buy a single five foot piece. It looks like doing this sort of thing might save a couple bucks.

SimonH145 (author)Alej246012017-01-03

That's a great idea! Thanks.

Swansong (author)2017-01-02

This is neat, I'd love to put one in our garage!

SimonH145 (author)Swansong2017-01-02

Thanks! It's compact and you can adjust the height based on your ceiling limitations.

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