Hacking Mobility with Julian Sardinas

The Origin Story

Everyone’s fitness journey starts somewhere. Talk to me a little about yours. In our first conversation you said that you’ve hung out with athletes for most of your life and some of it’s rubbed off.  Expand on that and the role working out has played in your life.

uball inventor Julian Sardinas doing a pull upGrowing up, I was around and played with great athletes.  One had once played professionally, his sons, who were my friends, followed right in their dad’s footsteps. Other friends played in high school, or were just good at sports. So, growing up, I was always playing something outside – football, baseball, basketball, you name it.  I was always trying to keep up with them! As we got older, there was less time to play of course so I wanted to make sure that could still keep in shape.  I went to the University of Miami and made the best use I could of their amazing gym.  Their campus was beautiful for running.  After college I continued going to a gym, LA Fitness, to keep in shape and have just continued on with various things over the years.  I found Crossfit about 5 years ago and absolutely loved it.  I of course have gone through spurts of not going to the gym or not exercising at all (due to injury/getting hurt).  A number of years ago I had knee issues (i.e. mainly torn meniscus) that kept me sidelined for a good while. I also got into a gnarly accident (my poor Jeep rolled over and was totaled ) and hurt my neck pretty good from it. From both experiences, I hated not being able move well. I had to get physical therapy and get some really tough deep tissue massages. So, those experiences really influenced me to want to learn how to move well and ultimate to create the UBALL.

Something else you told me when we “met” is that you’ve been training in a garage for about six months. You’ve been working out for longer than six months so what was the major factor in you making the move to training at home?  

I am not always able to make it to a CrossFit box at their scheduled times.  I have a busy schedule at work and, especially during certain parts of the year, I am just not able to leave “on time” and make it to the CF class.  And I didn’t really like larger gyms as they tend to be too crowded. Living in apartments, it was hard to have my own gym, but when I bought a house a few years ago having my own garage gym is what I looked forward to the most. Having my gym in my garage really helps me to still be able to obtain a great work out even if I’m not able to go to a physical gym.  If I’m running late, I can just work out at any time once I’m home.  I just have to be mindful not to drop the weights if it’s too late, the neighbors can hear and feel it!  Or, sometimes I wake up late or just get a slow start to the day and can work out in the morning before even going to work.  I am still signed up at a great box (LIV UP in Plantation, FL) to have access to a coach as I value that expertise.

Have you read my post about mentors?

I just read it and it’s spot on. I think it’s important to have some guidance especially if your hitting plateaus or  getting hurt or just not making progress. These coaches are pros and usually have years of experience and a good “eye”. The tough thing is to find the good ones. My main issue for getting a coach was to help me stay accountable. I also liked how your list has people for spirituality and even repairs (both come in handy).

What other areas do you have mentors in, for example do you have a dedicated soft tissue specialist? Or maybe someone to help you with diet?

I have a sports chiropractor that helps me a lot when I get issues that I can’t seem to fix myself. my Coach at by box (Coach Lo at Liv Up) is also a nutritionist. She has been a big help with fixing and tweaking my diet.

I see gymnastics rings, bumper plates and a utility bench along with barbells in your Instagram pics. What’s your preferred way to train? Are you into bodyweight stuff, powerlifting based, kettlebells or some combination of all those like CrossFit?

Right now, I am working on improving my Oly lifts. However, I still prefer to change it up and incorporate other things (currently trying to get better at squats) and doing CF metcons. Because I have to sit a lot at work and I’m dealing with some nagging injuries I need to do a lot of mobility exercises to be able to move properly. I watch a lot of Kelly Starret’s videos that have been a great help. He is the Mobility Master!

Since you’re a fan of Kelly Starrett’s have you read Deskbound? 

I have read parts of the book but I always refer back to his original book the Supple Leopard as well as all of his great videos.

Did you outfit the garage with just the basics to get started or did you go on a shopping spree on the Rogue Fitness website?  I have been slowly building my gym for 9uball creator julian sardinas on his concept 2 rower years.

My first purchases where when I lived in an apartment, which were an adjustable dumbbell set (Power Blocks) and a bench.  Later, I got a barbell (just the barbell!!), then a pull up bar. When I moved into my home I purchased a Concept rower and then a Squat rack from Rogue as well as rubber mats. I also added second hand bumper and iron plates.  The pull up bar came up with me from different homes as they are the ones can be bolted in to the ceiling.  (I actually bolted it to the concrete ceiling in one of our apartments we rented, filled in the holes before we moved and brought the bar with us to our garage.  I also made my own mobility tool, the UBall, really to address by own needs, but I thought it could help a lot of other athletes, especially ones that work out in their garage. So much of the background you see in my videos at uball.net is in my own garage.

Do you still play sports beyond the recreational level;  do you compete in a sport?  I still play recreational sports. I enjoy playing basketball with friends and co-workers.  I’m always up for a Mudrun or a 5K. I would like to compete in some sort of weightlifting/CF event in near future.

Recreational sports aside, you don’t have anything to get ready for. How do you stay motivated to train day in and day out, by yourself with no one to see?

I enjoy feeling good.  When I exercise and do mobility drills, my body feels better.  I’m able to free my mind of the daily stuff when I train.  This is usually my wind-down session at the end of the day.  As I get older, I don’t want to slow down – or, at least no more than I have to.  I see these older guys who can run circles around me, lift more than me. I can also do the same for some guys way younger than me.  That’s my inspiration.

Since, I started this journey, I have to, now more than ever, take my training more seriously.  I don’t care so much over how I look, I care more about how I feel and about getting stronger. Which both help with appearance anyways.

I’m a huge believer in the role environment plays in having good workouts. Everything from where equipment is placed to what I hang on the wall is geared to put me in the right frame of mind to train hard. Do you have any posters in your garage gym or banners that help you get focused?

I don’t have banners on the wall, but plan to in the future. However, I do play music. This is really my time to clear my mind and enjoy some time to myself.

What kind of music do you prefer when you train? Loud and energetic or more calming stuff?

I listen to various things depending on mood but for most part ‘m a bit old school so some 80s, sometimes a little jazz, or Christian music or mix of it all. But I really like to make it funky with some good old James Brown. Like he once said, “You can’t get up if you can’t get down!”

I mentioned Rogue Fitness as a catchall for equipment providers but where have you found the best, most user friendly shopping experience?

Rogue is now the gold standard. They have great quality and good prices, especially for important things like a rack/rig. Other times I found can be bought at second hand store or Craigslist (for example bumper plates).

An interesting purchase I made was for my Rubber flooring. Usually that can be very  expensive but I found out that the rubber mats used in horse stalls are very similar material and thickness yet cost about half!

What’s next on your wish list?

A few future purchases are a prowler (I saw one with wheels which I’m sure my neighbors would appreciate), GHD machine, Atlas stones, and a climbing rope.

What’s So Great About The UBall?

Garage gym life tends to inspire creative engineering. Whether it’s because we don’t have access to all of the toys or because we have the freedom that comes from owning the facility, we come up with a lot of ideas to make our training more effective. You have a mobility product called the uBall and without turning this into a commercial for it, talk about the role training at home alone played in developing it. 

Training at home was huge for this as I used my garage to do various mobility drills. But I always had the question of, “How can I get that same massage-like feeling, on my own, at home?”  I have lots of mobility tools, I still wasn’t getting the same feeling or results as I did when I’d go to a PT.  The only thing that came close was: 1) taping a ball to a barbell – which was a mess and time consuming or 2) my wife’s elbow, that often got tired.  So, I got the idea to make my own little device.  I saw how wonderful it worked, l loved it, and realized I was on to something and that others could use it.

A lot of us come up with great ideas but not all of us take the time to make that product available in the marketplace. What was it about this product that made you say, this is worth the headache of trademarking, product development etc?

Great question.  Well, I used it on myself for a while, and just kept thinking how it could help a lot of people, especially with the same desire to move better/reduce injury.  It wasn’t a decision I took lightly because like you said, I knew it was going to be a long road ahead and spend a significant amount of time and resources, but it really felt like something worth pursuing.  And I’m still on the road, but I believe in this product and that it can help others.  I believe that when used appropriately, it can really help a person move and feel better.  So, knowing how good it is, it pushes me forward knowing that something good can come from it.

I don’t have many friends who work out. Most of them don’t even comment about it beyond occasional comments when I post something on Facebook or if they come over and see a new piece of equipment. What role do your family and friends play in supporting your fitness lifestyle?

I’d have to say it’s very similar to yours.  My wife works out occasionally.  She’s not much for weights, more for light cardio.  She does try to help me with my diet and to not bring in what we like to call “contraband” (aka sweets). But none of my family works out, I don’t really say much to them about it.  However, I have some awesome coworker friends that are a great group of guys, that are into fitness and have they’ve been very helpful. Also, I still like the environment of a CF gym so as I said before, I go about once a week/every other week to an amazing box, LIV UP CrossFit, that the coaches and athletes are super nice people and know their stuff.

You’re six months into this as we have this conversation, what have you learned about the process of setting up a home gym that you wish you’d known going into it? 

I wish I could have done it sooner!! When I bought my house I got my squat rack right away and I have been more consistent than before. The only thing I wish I could have done better is plan the layout better. I had to move it around a couple times before I got it right. Also weather was important consideration. I’m in Florida so In the summer a good large fan was is a must! The other thing for me is to be patient and get good quality things even if they are a bit costly. Somethings are okay cheap (like the plates) but others are better to get quality stuff (like a rack/rig or barbell).

Parting Advice

What advice would you give to someone reading this who may have just decided to start training at home? 

Start out with foundational pieces – like a barbell, enough weights to grow into, rack/rig, dumbbells if possible (adjustable ones are best), bands, maybe a jump rope, and some mobility tools and then grow from there.  Create goals and work towards it. Find a good coach (in person online) or program to follow. Unless you really know what you are doing programming can be hard. Create a consistent time you want to work out and stick to it   Make sure you track your training to see progress and how many times you train a week.

How can people contact you if they want more information about the UBALL or just want to keep up  with your training?

People are welcome to email me at julian@uball.net and sign up for our newsletter at UBALL.net or they can follow me on Instagram and Facebook @uballnet.

Anything else you need from me to help you out? Would you like a promo code for your readers?

Promo codes are ALWAYS welcome man!

Julian was as good as his word so members of the Garage Gym Life community can save 10% off the purchase of a UBALL and get a free bungee cord from www.uball.net with promo code: GARAGE GYM LIFE at checkout!

About the author

John Greaves III is a writer based in North Georgia with nearly two decades of experience in training at home. A former amateur kickboxing champion, John now competes recreationally in powerlifting. He takes a physical culture approach to training; believing that strength and health need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to his nonfiction work, John has written two fiction books, A Different Kind of Giant and A Little Lesson in Manners that are available on Amazon.com.