Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Seven Simple [Really] Gym Rules

We see social media posts from time to time regarding gym rules.  Some are kindly pointed out, others sting a little.  Some these rules we [me included here] sometimes don't consider when signing up at the gym.  Or after some time spent in the gym we get a little lax.  If you're looking to brush up on what we've found are the most popular gym rules, read on and share with your favorite gym buddies and owners.

Every gym owners out there we've talked to are just like you and me.  They are brothers and sisters, husbands, wives, Moms and Dads.  What sets them apart is their willingness to take on their passion, leave the standard career mould and take a leap of faith in their own business.  When you stop to think about that, it's not pity we feel for them, it's respect.

Some gym owners post their gym rules up on a wall in the gym and others present them to you when you sign up.  If you've never seen gym rules where you train, here's a compilation of what we've found to be the most popular in the industry.  Just a little forewarning - some of these might sting a little but after you read them, can you really argue?  They make sense and we'll bet your gym experience will be all the better for following them.

  1. Pay your Dues When they are Due - Ouch.  Yep, I think we've all slipped on this one from time to time.  The group style classes that many gyms today offer get us a lot of one-on-one time with the coaches and owners.  Those are the very people that count on our dues coming in on time.  Since you'll be rubbing elbows daily with them getting friendly is a fantastic benefit.  Don't take advantage of that friendship by being late on forking over the cash when it's due.  
    That gym is a legitimate business with bills to pay and we've got to respect that.  If you show up for class when your payment is due and you forgot to bring it in, excuse yourself, run home, write a check and pay your dues before you take the next class.  Then show up the next day to train.  Asking for payment extensions and giving excuses just puts the gym owner in a difficult situation and can put a strain on your friendship.  Our advice - pay for a few months in advance, or maybe even a year.   You may even get a discount.  Come'on let's face it, your hooked :)  Pay up front and avoid the uncomfortable conversations.
  2. If they offer a Free Week, Do It Once and Done. - For the gym owner, offering a free class or free first week can be a good promotional idea to get some folks in the door that just want to see what it's all about.  Some will see the gym as a good fit and others might not. Just because the local gym offers a free class every Saturday morning doesn't mean it should be filled with all the same people every time.  That's abusive.  The gym will have its regulars there on Saturday but those folks are paying members.  If you've got a bunch of friends and you bring one or two with you every week to try it out then cool.  People like workout buddies, especially when going somewhere they've never been.  And sometimes gym owners will offer discounts or bonuses to member when their friends sign up.
  3. Always Speak Highly of The Gym Owners and Coaches - 
    Kristin C. of The Pack CrossFit posted a cool quote the other day that really made me think - "Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Be kind. Always."  If you've spent any time being an adult you'll see the truth in that.  Stuff doesn't go as planned, expectations aren't met or sometimes the car just won't start.  We've all got troubles from time to time and your coach is no exception. But the coach has to always be on pointe.  That's a hard thing to do and occasionally you may step into a class when they've got troubles they are dealing with.  You know the deal.  Stuff happens.  If they're having a bad day, give them a little room to be off their game.  We all show up for work a little less than enthused even if we're doing what we love.  Keeping this all in mind, remember the 99 other days that your coach was stellar and speak highly of them and the gym when someone asks.
  4. Show Up Early - Keeping #3 in mind, we all get the occasional bump in the road where everything doesn't go as planned.  Traffic, sick kids, important phone calls, you know the deal ...  And the Coach understands that too.  But if you do show up late, don't make a grand entrance and interrupt the class so you can bring everyone up to speed on your latest.  Instead, slide in ninja style in the back and pick up where everyone is.  And if there's a burpee penalty for showing up late, grind them out with a smile and carry on. If getting to class on time is a battle you're fighting weekly, consider changing class times to one that works better.
  5. Work Hard and Listen - We all know the gym is about intensity.  The normal group class structure is an hour long and it's packed full of information and movement.  That's the only time many have to devote to the gym so while we're there, take advantage of every minute.  Repeated trips to the water cooler or bathroom only rob us of opportunity to improve and distract others.  And displaying that attitude can be infectious, especially to those just starting out.  Have a strong work ethic, respect and listen to the coach when they talking and work hard.  Always.
  6. Put Stuff Back and Respect the Equipment - This should really be a no brainer.  But more and more we see pictures posted on social media of equipment that was left out.  At the end of the workout everyone is busted up and understandably it takes a few minutes for us to gain our composure.  But then we get up and clean up.  It's our reasonable service to put things back neatly in the place they go.  And while we're on the subject of putting stuff back, remember too that we're all just renting the space, the time and the equipment.  That stuff is time-consuming to maintain and expensive to replace.  Yep, it's durable but it isn't unbreakable.  Follow your coaches advice on how much to lift and how to load the bar to save those bumper plates.  And if you do break something, own up to it.  Integrity earns you respect and it's the right thing to do.  Nuff said.
  7. Keep Track of Your Workouts and Max's - Even in a small gym, to expect the coaches to know your max lifts by heart just isn't realistic.  When it comes time for a benchmark workout, lots of us want to see improvement but rarely can remember what we did last time.  If your gym has a "Wall of Fame" where you can record all your PRs that's a serious benefit and you should take advantage of it.  
    If not, Journal Menu is doing some cool things with workout logs and it would be a great idea to get one.  They've got some really neat covers and the information is indexed well so it's easy to find.  They'll even create custom workout logs for you.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.  If grabbing one of these isn't in the budget here's another neat trick.  A buddy of mine here in Victor grabs his smart phone after class and takes a quick snap shot of the whiteboard after class.  That's smart.  Instead of having to record all that stuff while standing there along with everyone else you can do it at home after class.

Hammerhead Strength Equipment is a functional fitness and strength equipment manufacturer proudly outfitting Garage Gyms and Commercial Facilities throughout the US and beyond.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

8 Minute Killer Kettlebell Workout

Even when you're short on time, there's no excuse to get in a killer workout and we've got three 8 Minute Killer Kettlebell Workouts that will do just the thing to get you in and out of the gym fast without feeling you've wasted the trip in.

To keep these short training routines effective you'll have to keep three things in mind:

Choose a Kettlebell Weight that is Challenging - if you choose to conservatively you'll feel cheated.  Too aggressive, you'll be spent before the time runs out.  The routines we've put together can all be done with a single weight so there's no need to have more than one kettlebell at the ready.

It's Only 8 Minutes - If you've chosen the right weight, at around the 6 minute mark you'll wish you were done.  That's good.  But because the time is relatively short, make every effort to work through all of the movements without unscheduled rest breaks.

Quality of Movement - It's far better to spend an extra few seconds per round to make your movements cover the complete range of motion.  Cutting the thruster short either with a shallow squat or an incomplete extension at the top of the movement just won't yield you the benefit.  Quality wins over speed every time.  With consistent quality movement, speed will follow.

As with any training routine, before you dig in deep, spend 5-10 minutes with some type of warmup. It's especially important to get your shoulders, hips and knees loose as they'll be taking the brunt of the punishment.

With these three 8 Minute Kettlebell Routines we'll also introduce three different timing techniques that you can use on a variety of different training routines.  Here's a quick explanation of how they work:

The EMOM [Every Minute On the Minute] - With this timing sequence you'll set your countdown timer to 8:00 then hit the start button.  During that 1st minute complete all of the exercises in the even minute schedule.  Whatever time is left before the timer reaches 7:00 is yours to rest.  When the timer reaches 7:00 begin the movements in the odd minute schedule.  Rest for any time remaining before the timer reaches 6:00 then start again with the even minute schedule.  When the timer reaches 0:00 you're done.  Typically, the EMOM timing sequence allows for around 15 seconds or so of rest at the end of each minute and as such is used for strength movements.  You should look to grab a heavier kettlebell than usual for this timing technique.

The AMRAP [As Many Rounds As Possible] - Also known as the lung burner, it's this routine that has you racing against the clock.  Keep track of rounds completed with pennies, poker chips or the like and look to repeat workouts like these once or twice a month to see your progress.  Ideally, you'll want to choose a weight that allows you to keep moving throughout the entire 8 minutes.  The only rest you'll earn during this timing sequence is when the timer reads 0:00.

The LADDER - Lots of folks refer to this timing sequence as "Death By....." as reps increase each round and eventually you won't be able to continue.  In our variation, we start with a modest three reps per exercise and although you'll add one rep to each exercise at the completion of the round we've shown you some mercy by capping the workout at 8 minutes.  For this workout you will want to choose a moderately challenging weight and do your best to keep moving throughout the entire 8 minutes.  Record how far you reached, i.e. 12 Goblet Squats, then try to beat your score by repeating this one about three weeks later.

The 8 Minute Kettlebell EMOM
Every minute on the minute perform:
EVEN Minutes:
4 - Left Hand Thruster
4 - Right Hand Thruster
8 - Kettlebell Swings
ODD Minutes:
5 - Left Hand Overhead Squat
5 - Right Hand Overhead Squat
8 - Goblet Squat

The 8 Minute AMRAP
Repeat As Many Rounds as Possible of:
5 - Left Hand Push Press
5 - Right Hand Push Press
10 - Goblet Squat
10 - Push Ups
10 - Tuck Jumps

The 8 Minute Ladder Challenge
Complete As Many Rounds as Possible in 8 Minutes
After each Completed Round add 1 to the total number of reps of each exercise
3 - Kettlebell Swing
3 - Goblet Squat
3 - Turkish Get Up
3 - Push Ups

We're huge fans of multiple use equipment like the kettlebell.  It's one of those pieces that never breaks, needs little to no maintenance and because you can use it so many ways, it will keep your training varied and fun.

Not sure what size is best for you?  Read our Blog on How To Choose the Right Sized Kettlebell.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Back to school, back to a routine!

All across the country it has been back to school time!  For some areas, it was weeks ago already.  For the rest of us, it is only the first full week of classes.  Now, don't get me wrong, we had a great summer!  Traveling, camping, boating and all of the other fun things that go along with summer vacation.  I am not even sure if we were home for one entire weekend from July to Labor Day....

But, that is all behind us until next year.

I don't know about you, but I know that the hectic summer schedule really played havoc with my training and time at the gym.  Sadly, I realized that I had taken a whopping two months off, with minimal exercise (unless swimming in the ocean and dragging a cooler across the beach counts).

So, now what.  Time to get back on schedule.  That is really the key.  Trying to "fit in" a workout is not nearly effective as writing it down and committing to it on a schedule.  It is all about setting GOALS

Consider Your Goal - sometimes even the simplest of things can set us on the path to a desired goal.  It might be a magazine article or an overheard conversation or it might be that we've witnessed someone else achieving their goal and now we're inspired.  But before we jump in headfirst, it's important to take some time to consider what we really want and what it will take to get there.  I like to think about what's involved first.  It's important to count the cost.  Every goal we set has a price.  It might be paid in time spent, or perhaps you will need to make food sacrifices.  Your goal might require other expenditures in equipment, workout gear, or gadgets, too.  Consider all of that fully before making the commitment.

Make Sure the Goal is Specific - if a goal is too general, then it's easy to get off track or change direction.  Instead, make it super specific.  Which of the following goals is more specific?
  • I am going to spend more time at the gym this week
  • I will go to the gym 4 days this week
  • I am going to go to the gym Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday.
Make Sure the Goal is Measurable - the more defined you make the goal, the easier it is to know when you have met it.  Without some gauge as to what it takes to meet the goal, the more apt you are to fall off the path.
  • Instead of "Butterfly Pullups"
  • Try "5 Butterfly Pullups"
Write the Goal Down - A written goal represents a real commitment.  And one that is written for others to see sets it even deeper.  And having those that know your abilities seeing your commitment can be there to motivate, inspire and celebrate with you once you've achieved what you set out to do.

Work with a Coach to Develop a Plan - the desire alone for a Ring Muscle Up is not as effective as that desire mixed with a definite road map to that goal.  Working with a trainer is the best way to success.  If you are already working under their supervision, they know your current limitations as well as your strengths.  Grab them after class, ask them for their guidance on how to achieve your goal then follow that plan.

Work Outside the Gym - if you attend group instruction classes, it is not always feasible to get class time to work on your goals.  If getting that Ring Muscle Up is on your goal board but not on the whiteboard this week, it might be time to grab some equipment for home use.  Some gyms have open gym time one day a week or more.  If you can take advantage of that, do it.

Remember that there is absolutely no shame in scaling back fitness goals to meet your current ability.  Very few athletes will see a professional team locker room yet that shouldn't stop us from keeping after it.  At the end of the day you want to set goals that are reachable and realistic.  And as you meet them, keep setting the bar higher.  Keep within yourself and your abilities and celebrate your smaller victories one at a time.

Look Back on Your Progress - my last word of advice on setting fitness goals is to record goals and progress where you can look back on it.  Go buy that $2 notebook and take just a few minutes out of each day to record some specifics about what you've done.  It does not have to be elaborate or lengthy.  Just write something down.  Take a photo.  And please put a date next to it.  Or better yet, jump on to Google Blogger and start your own fitness blog.  No one has to see it but you.  But write 10-15 sentences on what you did.  Then after you've met your goal, go back to the beginning to see where you started from.  It's a serious motivator.

Thanks to +CrossFit Lawless in Estero, FL for setting a great example with their Goal Board!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Keep it Varied

Having a variety of styles of equipment in your home gym or box is valuable for many reasons.  Primarily for scaling workouts, or varying technique in the workouts.

     We all know the CrossFit standards.  Box jumps are 24" or 30" for the guys, and 20" or 14" for the ladies.  Kettlebells are 35lb and 55lb and 70lb.  I certainly do not need to go through the whole list.  If you work out in your garage, or own a box, my guess is that you are well versed on all of the Rx weights and movements.   

     Most athletes do not start out performing movements as Rx.  Unless they are a high level athlete when they walk through the door, it is unreasonable to think that they would go Rx.  Even high level athletes need to learn the standards.  Any good coach or experienced athlete will know when to scale the weight or movement to prevent injury, and to maximize the effectiveness of the workout.  It may not be beneficial to do Grace Rx if it takes 25 minutes (though you have to start some where).

     Now, in addition to the decision / need to scale or not to scale, it is great to change out equipment to vary your standard workouts.  Changing your grip, adding variable resistance, and many other techniques can add variety to your workouts.

Let's start with the Rx discussion.

Mini Plyo Box 16x20x24     Plyo boxes.  The 20x24x30 is the standard.  But look around next time a 30" box jump is programmed in a WOD.  What percentage of athletes will go Rx at 30"?  There will always be a few, but typically not the majority.  That got us thinking, is there possibly a more useful configuration of the box?  We have developed a 16x20x24 three sided box.  It still has the 20" and 24" standard heights, but also a 16" height for newer athletes, or ones who are building confidence to get to the 20" height.  Additionally, stackable boxes are a great alternative.  Start with a 12" box, and add 4" with each subsequent box.

     Kettlebells.  These may be too obvious to mention.  Most boxes have kettle bells from 20lb to 55lb in 5lb increments.  Then jump right to 70lb.  15lb is a big jump, even if they are proficient at the 55lb weight.  Adding a 60lb and / or 65lb bell will help your athletes transition to the higher weight.

         Pull Up Bars:  You will have athletes performing toes to bar, bar muscle ups, and of course kipping, strict, and jumping pull ups.  What height it proper?  Now, there is no "correct" answer here.  I have had a couple of conversations about Pull Up Rack bar height with quite a few box owners, like Daniel Davidson at CrossFit Mainline in Ardmore, PA.  Here is what it boils down to....  We typically recommend two basic heights.  (and with our offset bars standard, you really get four heights).  As a gym owner, you can set half of the bars to a height that works for you, and one for someone who is not quite as tall as you.  You will probably not want to put them in the lowest height (you may knock your head if you forget to duck) or at the max 9' height (unless you have a few 6'9" athletes).  But, here is what we recommend.  Put the bars at "reasonable" heights.  As the athlete base grows, you will of course get a wider range of heights needed.  It is very simple to change the height of the bars as your needs change.  Multiple heights can alleviate the need for bumpers or boxes to get your athletes on the bar.  Nobody wants to worry about tripping on a bumper during Fran.  There is enough to worry about.

Non Standard Exercises;

The use of resistance bands with barbell exercises have become more and more popular.  In the previous post on incorporating resistance bands in training we covered the concepts used to get the most out of our band training.  For fun, the first person to send me an e-mail at with "band" in the subject line with their shipping address and a quick note to say hello will get a free blue band.  Many people are using heavy chains on the ends of the barbell it change the resistance over the exercises range of motion.

Many of us have been watching American Ninja Warrior.  Grip strength is one of the main components of the competition.  Peg boards, Door Knobs mounted on the wall, and the salmon ladder are great variations on developing upper body pulling strength.

We would love to hear your alternative exercises, and non standard gear that gives you a change up in your workout.


Hammerhead Strength Equipment

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Revisiting Equipment Value

I wrote this original blog a few years ago, and thought that it might be time to revisit the topic.  I am going to go into a little more detail, as outfitting your gym is expensive, and will have an impact on how quickly you grow membership.

After you find a great place to train your athletes and sign the lease (check out our blog on location considerations), comes the next big decision.  What am I going to put in the gym? 

Now, not to be to obvious, you are going to need gear to program workouts and train your athletes.  What to get?  How much of each?  This is not intended to be an affiliate outfitting / buying guide, but just a few highlights on our thoughts at Hammerhead Strength Equipment when outfitting a new box.  By the way, this also pertains to a home / garage gym!

We do not want to talk you into or out of any piece of equipment.  We are not trainers, we do not program WODs, and would never tell you how to train your athletes.  But, what we do is try and get you the most value for your hard earned dollars. 

Let's start with the basics.

Pull up rig:  So much of this decision has to do with the layout of your space.  Will free standing or wall mounted give you the best utilization of the floor space.  Remember you need space for oly lifting, burpees, and all the other exercises that require open space.  Also, most rigs are expandable.  Buy only as much rig as you think you need, and plan for expansion as membership grows.

Barbells:  There are hundreds of brands, styles and different price points for barbells.  The prices can range from $99 to thousands of dollars.  It all depends on the shaft steel, bearing or bushing quality, and the individual characteristics of the bar.  You really have to decide what works for your training style.  If you will allow people to drop the barbells, you may not want to focus on the high quality action, or more expensive bars.  Or you may want a mixture of WOD bars and Olympic lifting bars. 

The ratio of men's to women's bars is important too.  You can start with a 1:1 ratio, and add more when you see the makeup of your classes.

Bumpers:  If you decide on virgin rubber or recycled rubber, with care either can last through the rigors of CrossFit.  We recommend about 160lbs per athlete, based on your expected class size.  This is a good starting point.  People may need to partner up on heavy dead lift day, but you can work around that.

Kettlebells:  so great for core strength.  We all know the Rx weights, but don't forget the intermediate sizes.  5lb increments allow people to make gains, without having to jump 10 to 15lb each time.  Obviously, you do not want to train on technique with too heavy a kettlebell.  Same goes for a run of dumbbells or medicine balls.  You will need the variety for your athletes

But, what about the more specialized pieces of equipment.  Most notably rowers and GHDs.  These are great, exhausting, and challenging pieces of equipment. 
Awesome movements for a workout that will really get your athletes fit.  But, think about how many bumpers and bars or kettle bells can get for the price of one rower or GHD?

 And, how many people are you expecting in your classes?  It can be challenging to program workouts for 10 people with only two rowers. 

There is a flip side to this discussion too.  If you are planning on taking on private training clients, then rowers and GHD are a GREAT tool.  You only need one for each private client.  As time and goes on, you can then slowly increase the numbers of each of these as you grow your athlete base.  Next thing you know, you have 15 rowers in your stable of equipment and can program with much more flexibility.

Again, we will NOT ever talk you out of a piece of equipment, as long as it is high quality and durable to stand up to the punishment of CrossFit and functional training (admit it, we have all dropped some piece of equipment at one time or another, well, not during Cindy).

We would love to hear your comments and perspective on getting the most bang for your buck.



Hammerhead Strength Equipment
Victor, NY

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The open is over for most of us, now what?

How did the CrossFit Open go for you? 

For a majority of us, we can look back and see where our strengths and weakness were exposed.  In only 5 workouts the field was whittled down from an international field to the regional competitions. 

Was it the skill work, like the toes to bar or double unders?  How was the volume of work on 16.4?  Or a true lung burner like thrusters and burpees? 

These workouts were meant to challenge everyone from the new CrossFitter, to the most experienced games athlete.  And they did.  Just ask the athletes at any CrossFit box, like John Matheus of CrossFit Cariari.  They have the luck of working out in Costa Rica in the great weather!

Well, again, the open is done.  So, we all go back to our regular classes and continue our fitness path.  You many not want to be an open athlete, or possibly you do.  That is completely a personal decision and goal.

No matter what your goals, you can always improve on the movements that tripped you up in the Open.  A barbell with bumpers, pull up bar, and jump rope will allow you to work on most of the movements that we endured this last Open season. 

Having that very basic equipment at home allows you the flexibility to work on your skills, on your schedule.  I personally love going into the gym, and the class style workouts and the camaraderie that forms in the box.  But, I can't always work on specifics at the gym.  The classes are pretty full, and WOD of the day.  Being able to work on muscle ups or double unders at home on my own time certainly has benefits.  I am probably not going to go as intense on my own (just me, and I know it) but I can certainly improve the skills without killing myself (I will save that for the WOD).
focused on the skills, lift and

A small investment in your home, and lead to great benefits next time the open comes around.

We would love to hear your thoughts.

the Hammerhead Strength Equipment Team

Friday, April 8, 2016

Thoughts on Single Use Equipment

"CrossFit is constantly varied, functional movements performed at a high intensity." 

Most people who are into CrossFit or Functional fitness are very familiar with this statement.  The functional movements are generally associated with functional, multi use equipment.  Think of the barbell.  How many movements can you think of when you add a pile of bumpers?  Dead lift, squat, presses, cleans, snatches....  the list goes on and on.  Same can be said for kettlebells, medicine balls, the pull up bar, and multiple other pieces of equipment found in a typical CrossFit / Functional Fitness gym.  Get a few basic pieces of equipment in your garage or basement, and you can do a majority of the benchmark WODs, and follow almost any programing system. 

Now, here at Hammerhead Strength Equipment have always had a basic philosophy when outfitting a garage gym or CrossFit Box.  Avoid spending your money on anything that can't be used in at least 5 different ways.  (see some of our previous blogs, or give us a call to discuss, and you will see we are pretty consistent on this point)  Now this is only a recommendation.  We know that everyone programs their workouts and trains differently.  And the pieces and types of equipment below are great training tools. 


We all know that rowing is a great "whole body" workout.  Doing sprint intervals, a long steady row, or some combination of the two will give you aerobic benefits, and will help build lower and upper body strength.  Incorporating a rowing component into a WOD (see Jackie or Fight Gone Bad), and it can be down right brutal (55 cal row after 55 dead lifts and 55 wall balls, how did your legs feel?).

I will never say that they are not a good fitness investment.  The only problem comes when you want to incorporate them into a WOD for a CrossFit Class.  How many people do you have in class?  Do you have enough rowers?  At almost $1000 a pop, you may be limited in the number you have in your gym.  Joe Celso of CrossFit Rochester (who's 10 anniversary of CF Rochester is coming up) has taken all of those 10 years to acquire enough rowers to accommodate a full class of athletes.  He has used, new, Model D, Model E, PM3, PM4, PM5, and everything in between. 

Glute Ham Developer

The GHD is another great tool.  Building core strength is a basic philosophy of CrossFit.  These are also great for rehab work when an athlete strains their back, or just want a little extra work.  I know many trainers use them for their personal training clients. 

GHDs have the same basic problems as do rowers.  They are a single use piece of equipment, that
takes up valuable floor space when not in use.  Again, I would not tell a trainer not to buy one, but think about how you will use it and how often. 

There are other pieces of ancillary equipment that we could discuss, but it would be more of the same (monkey bars, peg boards...).  Single use training tools can be great additions to a gym, if they align with your training goals.  (heading to Ninja Warrior, by all means have a rock wall and peg boards, and a warped wall!). 

Think about the value of the equipment.  For the same price as one rower, you can outfit a home gym with enough equipment to get great, varied workouts.  For the gym owner, think about additional bumpers, barbells and kettle bells.  How many people can you train for the same amount of money?

We are always happy to work with anyone who is thinking about equipment purchases.  We will never tell you what to buy, or what not to buy.  We just want to help you get the most for your hard earned cash.

Feel free to contact us any time.