How to make your own sparbar

The standard items of equipment for training by yourself in the sport of boxing are the three bags: the heavy bag, the double-end bag, and the speed bag.

I love beating the shit out of the three bags as much as the next person. In particular, there’s nothing quite like a long session of twelve or so solid rounds on the heavy bag.

But however enjoyable it may to show the three bags who’s boss, they can be seriously detrimental for your development as a boxer if your training is overly reliant on them.

The problem, of course, is that the three bags don’t punch you back.

Everyone knows the feeling. You let fly on the bags and you feel like the young Ali. You’re popping away and nothing can touch you. You’re the champ, man!

And then you get into the ring for a spar. You let fly and you miss. Your partner is popping away and everything’s touching you. You’ve got work to do, man…

So it goes after too much bagwork. Not even the double-end bag really punches you back. It just flies around all over the place, sometimes reaching you on the rebound, sometimes not. It certainly doesn’t target you.

Enter the sparbar

The sparbar is a training device intended to at least partially overcome the aforementioned deficiency of the three bags.

In essence, every sparbar comprises a vertical stationary pole, or axis, with a horizontal rotating bar attached to it. The axis may be either wall-mounted or free-standing. You punch the bar and it rotates around the axis and comes right back at you – just like a punch! You then slip it or block it or punch it again to keep it rotating. Either one of those, or it hits you in the head.

A sparbar is obviously no substitute for genuine sparring with a human being. Your sparring partner doesn’t just stand there throwing hooks at your head for you to slip, block, and/or counter. Your sparring partner also throws jabs and uppercuts, moves around the ring, feints, mixes up the levels of attack, and so on. In other words, your sparring partner actually spars.

The sparbar does not. If you want a machine that does that, you’d better study robotics and get to work.

In the meantime, if you train a lot by yourself, I’m of the opinion that your training stands to benefit significantly from the addition of a sparbar. And even if you don’t train solo very often, you may still wish to consider using a sparbar to break up the monotony of traditional bagwork.

Buying a sparbar

So should you go out and buy one? Well, it depends.

Let’s take a look at your options.

The name “Sparbar” is actually a brand and company name that, like the brand name “AquaBag”, has entered boxing vernacular as the common name for a certain kind of training device. I shall use the lowercase “sparbar” to refer to the generic device and the uppercase “Sparbar” to refer to the company.

The inventors of the sparbar founded Sparbar in 2013. The company’s original model of sparbar was wall-mounted, but it soon introduced a free-standing model as well. Imitations of both models have since been released by other companies.

A genuine device from SparBar is a very, very, very expensive proposition.

Sparbar Compact Series (US$299)

| Amazon US |

Sparbar Pro Series (US$699)

| Amazon US |

If you’re an Australian and you want to buy a genuine Sparbar device, you have to order directly from Sparbar. Amazon US won’t ship them downunder.

Innolife and Title produce imitation wall-mounted and free-standing sparbars. Although they’re cheaper than genuine Sparbar devices, they’re still pretty expensive in my opinion.

Innolife Speed Trainer – Wall (US$200)

| Amazon US |

Innolife Speed Trainer ($US200)

| Amazon US |

Innolife Speed Trainer – Punch Ball (US$210)

| Amazon US |

Innolife Speed Trainer – Kick Pad (US$310)

| Amazon US |

Innolife Speed Trainer – Punch Bag (US$300)

| Amazon US |

Title Rapid Reflex (US$200)

| Amazon US |

Title Rapid Reflex Tri-Bag (US$300)

| Amazon US |

There’s no hope for Australians enticed by the lower costs of the Innolife and Title models. Amazon US won’t ship the Title models to Australia. And although it will ship the Innolife models downunder, the additional fees are prohibitive.

There are several other options for Australians, though. Morgan, SMAI, and Viking all sell imitation sparbars.

Morgan Rapid Rotating Bar (AU$289.95)

| eBay AU |

SMAI Boxing Bar (AU$299)

| SMAI |

Viking Spinning Bar (AU$300)

| eBay AU |

So both genuine and imitation sparbars are pretty expensive. What to do? My advice is as follows. 

If you’ve got cash to burn on a new sparbar but neither the time nor inclination to make one yourself, then buy one. You should probably buy a genuine Sparbar, as the imitations tend to be lower quality (or that’s what reviews suggest, anyway). 

If, like me, you don’t have cash to burn on a new sparbar but you’ve got the time and inclination to make one yourself, then this post is for you.

Making a sparbar

I should preface what’s to follow with the declaration that I have no intention of attacking or otherwise undermining the official Sparbar company. 

Sparbar is not a dodgy operation a la AquaBag. I’ve already exposed AquaBag for perpetrating a marketing fraud on the boxing community by selling rebranded marine buoys you can buy for a fraction of the price elsewhere. Sparbar is not doing anything like that.

Genuine Sparbar devices seem to be great products. But I’ve always thought that they’re really expensive considering what you get. After all, they’re hardly products of the technological frontier. So I decided to try and make a sparbar myself, and I think I succeeded.

Note that this guide focuses on the materials and construction of a free-standing sparbar. If you want a wall-mounted sparbar and you’ve got a bit of experience making things yourself, you shouldn’t have much difficulty figuring out how to attach the swivel mechanism to a bracket.

Materials

Swivel

This is the magic component of any sparbar. You need to find something that rotates 360 degrees and to which you can attach a bar (of some sort). I confess that at first I had no idea how to solve the swivel problem. But then one day I was wandering the aisles of a local hardware store when I noticed a swivel caster wheel. This mechanism, it turns out, is very well suited for the job once the wheel has been removed.

Swivel caster wheel

Not long after the serendipitous moment in the hardware store, I learnt of the existence of swivel plates, which seem to be the ideal mechanism.

Swivel plate

If I could’ve done so, I probably would’ve used a swivel plate for my sparbar. At the time of construction, though, I lived in a country with a paucity of hardware supplies and very slow international postage. So I just settled for a caster wheel. Whether you use a swivel plate or swivel caster, make sure it’s robust.

Bar

You need something to put the bar in sparbar. For most people wood will be the best substance to use for a bar. Wood is much easier to work with than metal, unless you know how to weld. I personally don’t know how to weld, and in any event I don’t have access to a welding machine. 

A good length is roughly 80cm (31.5”). I used a axe/pick/mattock handle which, incidentally, I noticed on the shelves of the hardware store very soon after noticing the swivel caster wheel. The handle happened to be ideal for me because, firstly, its fat end sits tightly in the swivel caster, and secondly, it is smoothly rounded with no sharp edges. It would be hard to attach to a swivel plate, though, owing to its cylindrical shape.

Axe/pick/mattock handle

A wooden beam would be the easiest thing to attach to a swivel plate owing to the flat surfaces. If you decide to use one for the bar, make sure that it’s not too big and heavy, and take care to file and sand away the sharp edges first. Even with foam or cloth around them, they could pose a risk of injury.

Post

The swivel mechanism has got to be attached to something solid. I used a big heavy fence post with end dimensions of roughly 11.5cm x 11.5cm (4.5” x 4.5”). The end of the post must have ample space for firmly attaching the swivel mechanism. In particular, you don’t want the screws to be too close to the sides of the post.

End of a post

You should be able to buy a post or beam from your local hardware store or timbre dealer. The ideal length of the post will be such that, once the swivel and bar are attached to it, the bar hits you on the side of your chin. Of course, that will be a function of your own height and typical boxing stance. It’s obviously better to overestimate the required length than underestimate it, as overestimation will allow you to cut the post down to size if necessary.

Long post for cutting down to size

If you want to make a wall-mounted sparbar, then you’ll have to make or buy a bracket on which you can attach the swivel mechanism. 

Tyre

You need a base to keep the post vertical and stationary. As with free-standing heavy bags, the free-standing sparbars made by Sparbar and other companies rely on plastic containers you must fill with sand or water. I used old car tyre filled with concrete and it works perfectly. You should be able to pick up an old car tyre for nothing from you local garbage dump. 

FREE!

Do not use a huge truck or tractor tyre! To be sure, they’re solid as rocks. But if you use one for the base, its massive circumference could seriously diminish the utility of your sparbar by obstructing your footwork. Furthermore, you almost certainly won’t be able to move a truck or tractor tyre after you’ve filled it with concrete.

Cement

I used cement mixed with some sand and stone I already had lying around in my backyard from another project. Most people, however, will be best served by one or two bags of cement pre-mixed with sand and stone. That’s because you only need to add water and hey presto!

Get this and do what it says

I probably would’ve used pre-mixed cement if I could’ve; but at the time of construction I lived in a country with limited hardware supplies and pre-mixed cement wasn’t available in any of my local hardware stores.

Plastic sheeting

You don’t want the wet concrete inside the tyre to damage or stick to the surface on which you construct your sparbar. I put several large household garbage bags underneath the car tyre before filling it with concrete.

Black plastic garbage bags

I’m glad to report that they were sufficiently robust to protect the surface on which I constructed my sparbar. I suppose you could use a tarp or something like that, but if you do make sure it’s a worn-out one. I wouldn’t want to risk ruining a good tarp with an inadvertent shovel strike just for the sake of this project.

Torque reinforcements

I doubt whether it’s necessary to reinforce the post against torque. However, given that I have pretty much no understanding of even the most elementary principles of civil engineering, I generally prefer to over-engineer than under-engineer my projects. Over-engineering reduces the likelihood I’ll need to re-do them. For this project, I used two metal brackets I found in my shed.

Bracket with stay

I think you could obtain similar reinforcement against torque by cheaper and simpler means, such as half-embedding large nails or screws in the lower sides of the post. Or just not worry about it.

Padding

Even if you own 20oz Winnings, you’ll need padding on the bar to protect your hands (and your awesome gloves). Oh, and there’s also the small matter of your cranium. A foam tube over the bar, or a foam sheet wrapped around it, would probably be ideal. I decided to use four fluffy tea towels because they were the most suitable things I could find at the time.

Four stylish tea towels

I attached the tea towels to the bar with layer upon layer of polyethylene duct tape, which is pretty soft itself and therefore adds even more padding.

Tennis ball

The end of the bar is harzardous, especially if it has edges. Even if your bar is otherwise well-padded, the edges on its end might still pose a risk. I learnt that lesson the hard way.

Embarrassingly enough, my sparbar caught me above my left eye and opened up a small cut owing to the inadequately covered edges on the end of the bar. Even though – as this incident attests – I’m a bit stupid, I did eventually think of the obvious solution. You just need a tennis ball.

Construction

I constructed my free-standing sparbar alone and in accordance with the following 10-step procedure. For all I know there may well be much better methods of construction for this project. I’m just reporting how I did things because, well, it’s how I did things and it worked.

I was doubtful whether it would work, though, and I didn’t take regular photos of my progress through the 10-step procedure presented here. Given that I run this blog, that was weird and stupid. But even though many of my photos are ex post facto, they still give you a pretty good idea about how I went about constructing my sparbar.

1 – Cut the post down to the appropriate length. It should come up to roughly the middle or upper-middle of your neck, depending on the shape and size of the swivel mechanism. You want the bar to rotate on the swivel mechanism so it hits you on the side of your chin.

See? I’m not just making this stuff up

2 – Attach the swivel mechanism to the top of the post with screws. Pre-drill screw holes to prevent the screws from causing structurally deleterious cracks or splits in the wood.

Swivel caster screwed firmly down
Screws embedded far from edges

3 – Attach the torque reinforcements (if any) to the lower sides of the post. Ensure they’re low enough that they’ll end up mostly if not entirely submerged in concrete.

Brackets for torque reinforcement

4 – Set down plastic sheeting (e.g. garbage bags), lay the tyre down on it, and stand the post in the centre of the tyre. The post should remain upright without any support.

5 – Prepare the concrete in a large bucket or on plastic sheeting. Thoroughly mix everything together as instructed by the cement manufacturer. Use a shovel for a bit of a workout. Cement mixers are for wimps.

A fine bag of cement

6 – Shovel the concrete into the tyre. Spread it around evenly as you go. Fill the tyre right up to the top, otherwise the base may end up too weak and/or too light. And you want to avoid creating attractive lodgings for spiders, vermin, and other unwelcome characters.

Strong and heavy base

7 – Allow the concrete to cure for several hours or even overnight like I did. The base should be pretty solid before you move on to the next step, as you don’t want to accidentally tilt the post in the concrete.

8 – Attach the bar to the swivel mechanism. The best way to do that will depend on the structure of the swivel mechanism and the structure of the bar. You may need to drill one or more holes in the bar for fasteners. I had to drill a big hole for a bolt in the fat end of the axe/pick/mattock handle.

Bolt hole in bar
Bar mounted on swivel mechanism
Extra support to help maintain bar at desired height

9 – Attach the tennis ball and padding on the end of the bar where you’ll punch it. Ensure you cover a section at least 25cm (10”) in length. Use layered polyethylene duct tape to secure the ball and padding because it’ll provide even more protection.

Tennis ball covering end of bar
Tea towels used as padding
Tennis ball and padding attached with duct tape

10 – Wipe the sweat from your brow and admire the product of your own handiwork! You should avoid enthusiastically testing it out with bare knuckles. Trust me. I told you I was a bit stupid.

Ready to rumble!

Have you considered making your own sparbar? Or have you actually made one? Let me know about your ideas and experiences in the comments below!

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Posted by ScepticalBoxer

30 comments

This is an awesome post. I appreciate it, going to build one soon just for fun, Thanks for posting!!

ScepticalBoxer

Glad you found it useful, Jimmy.

Great post. I’m going to give my own a try at some point but great to have a base to follow from. Thankyou

ScepticalBoxer

I’d be interested to know how it goes for you, Ricky – especially things you do differently, better, etc.

Love the idea. It looks sketchy as hell though.

Luke K Porter

Not a boxer/fighter/combat athlete, but I’ve been wanting one of these just to train hand-eye coordination in a way that punishes mistakes. Definitely wasn’t planning on spending $200+ so this is an awesome find. Going to start gathering the resources this weekend. Hardest part is the tire, but I’ve got a few busted ones laying around that we keep in case we need for a random project. Looking forward to the build.

ScepticalBoxer

Good on you, Luke. Given the coronavirus restrictions, it’s a good time to work on a DIY project like this one. Best wishes for it.

Thank you! I ended up using your concept to build something similar with materials I already had around the house. Works great!

ScepticalBoxer

Good on you, Justin. It’s great you could do it with stuff you already had lying around the house.

This is brilliant! I’m in the process of making a sparbar but I’m making mine from steel. It should do the trick but I’m a bit unsure about how to make the bar spin. I’m using a bearing but I’m not sure it’s free enough. I’ll continue and if I need to I’ll alter it later. Great article!

ScepticalBoxer

That sounds great! I’d be interested to see images of it.

Another option that I think would work for the swivel attachment is a rod end. Like this.
There’s a few different styles but I think having this as the spinning joint would be more “frictionless” and last longer, but just guessing on that.

https://www.amazon.com/Rod-End-Economy-Included-Direct/dp/B07HMCL9Y8

ScepticalBoxer

That’s a really good suggestion, CH. It never occurred to me. I think it would probably work well.

I’ve worked with the company Spar bar and have worked with the “CEO” and let me tell you 1st hand. He’s sketchy as hell. Spar bar has a bad reputation for Ethier overpriced products that were manufactured in china for dirt cheap. Spar bar are yne worst brand/company and the product isn’t worth the price. Most of the reviews the CEO literally had to beg for testimonials from celebs fighters etc. Many had actually complained to me that the top part broke off which means it breaks easily. The petty CEO literally been going for “counterfeits” not knowing it’s a gimmick product that anyone can make themselves. You cant stop people from making a product that I’m sure everlast came up with the concept 1st anyway.
Don’t fall for the reviews. I have proof of the complaints. The CEO sells his sob story for a profit,likes and reposts on social media. Pretty pathetic. If the product is supposed to speak for itself.. the actual spar bar is not for people who want to train power as it will just break.

Have most of the stuff on order to build this, apart the actual bar to hit, Will a baseball bat work do you think?

Amazing article and tutorial, thank you!

ScepticalBoxer

No worries, Ben, glad you found this post helpful.

I don’t see why a baseball bat wouldn’t work (assuming it’s firmly and securely attached to the rotational mechanism).

Could use a wooden broom handle if not and some pipe insulation to cover with a bit of glue on the inside and duct tape to give cover and support.

A steel bar, pipe or even a timber dowel with a pool noodle slipped over it would be a better option. Much easier on the hands and face.
You could even have a double sided one that would create a faster reaction time.

Critical B&F

Yes, they would indeed be (much) better options for anyone doing this project in an advanced developed economy – but they weren’t options for me in the country where I was living at the time of this project.

This has been great help! I saw the original product and thought a home made would be just as good and significantly more cost effective. I really like the build of yours and your YouTube clip using showed it’s sturdiness. I’m trying to figure out how I can make one that is height adjustable as I’m 6’5 and I would love for it to not only be useful for myself. If anyone has any ideas I’d love to hear them! I’m not all that handy with this sort of thing but no better time to learn than now!
Thanks!

ScepticalBoxer

This is an interesting question, which I’ve thought about myself – but without any success, unfortunately. I too am not very handy with this sort of thing! I give DIY projects a go for a challenge and hope for the best.

I have all the parts to make it out of UPVC with an old umbrella stand for a base but the swivel bits giving me a headache thinking I might be able to use a wheel like this now might have to fix it into concrete somehow though as I’m using pipe.

Completed the build, super easy following the steps and for £20 this thing is amazing!!

I’m no Kevin hart on it yet but here’s a little video showing it in action

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_SwbuLhQM7/?igshid=12vbjc9a1slye

ScepticalBoxer

Awesome man! Great job.

I made a similar spar bar with a fence post except I bought a a metal fence post stand I stead of concrete and screwed it onto a peice of floorboard I had and added some lengths of wood to base for stability and for the spinning bar If you have a micro scooter you can use the wheel attach plumbing pipe/peice of wood with nuts and bolts and threw spaces on wheel works great

Jon Bowden

This looks great, I’m thinking of using a Christmas tree stand just so I can move it more easily if needed. Do you think that would work?

Critical B&F

I have no idea how well that would work, Jon. It depends on the weight of the tree stand. You need it to be pretty heavy for overall stability.

PVC! Light weight and strong depending on gauge or thickness. Can use for base , and there is a swivel or mechanism and of course pipe for the “ bar”. Go behind a carpet store and get that padding for under carpet.

Critical B&F

Yeah, maybe, but I couldn’t afford it in the country where I was living at the time of this project.

I had made my own, its not exactly the best but I managed. Love to share but notnsure how.

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