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.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Best Equipment for Your Garage Gym

We've got Three Great Equipment pieces in mind that can turn any Garage or Basement into the perfect home gym.  And the magic about these pieces is their low cost and superior scalability.  That means that no matter your strength or conditioning level, these pieces can adapt to your current fitness level and will continue to challenge you as your fitness improves.

Whether you are just thinking about making your home your gym or even if you are ready to pull the trigger, you'll want to have a read through what we think are going to be dollar for dollar the best investment you can make.

To start things off, we've just gotta admit that we've all been there...  We know that adopting some sort of fitness program is important to our health, but then we get sucked into one of those infomercials and before you know it we just dumped a month's salary on a piece of equipment that might very well be gracing the craigslist pages this time next year.

What seems like a fantastic investment on day one quickly loses it's luster and we're no better off a few months down the road.  There are a few ways to combat that.

For one, you could join a gym that runs class style programs with a coach right at your side to keep you motivated and fast friends that encourage you to keep going day after day, week after week.  If fact, it's not ever a bad idea to give something like that a go.  If you're completely new to fitness, there are definite advantages to having a strength coach get you in the know with proper range of motion, scaling and healthy eating.

If you've already gone that route and are looking to bring some of that right in your own home, then a garage gym setup might be just the thing.  These Three Garage Gym Equipment Pieces that we'll point out for sure won't break the bank and they'll have so many different uses, you'll stay interested.

Gymnastics Rings - If it were up to us, there would be a set of gymnastics rings in every able bodied athlete's home.  Gym Rings are infinitely scalable and bring a host of exercises for the beginner, intermediate and advanced athlete alike.  There's no need for 10 years of gymnastics training under your belt to put gymnastics rings to use.  Even a beginner can get them out of the box, hung up and into use the first day no problem.  And that's because they are so versatile and so scalable that you can target different muscle groups every day of the week.

  1. Supported Position - the most basic exercise that every athlete should be practicing at least once a week is the supported position.  With rings hanging just above your waist, grab a ring in either hand and hoist yourself up into a position with your arms straight at your sides.  Keep your hands down at your sides with your palms facing your legs.  Now hold that position for as many sets as it takes to get you to 60 seconds in that position.  Take breaks as often as you need but keep track of the time you're in that supported position and move on when you reach 60 seconds.
  2. Ring Rows - The unassisted pull up seems to be on every beginner's to-do list and with good reason.  It's a fantastic skill to own and if you just aren't there yet, ring rows are the perfect exercise to build on that pulling strength.  One of the secrets to mastering that chin up, chest to bar pull up or even bar muscle up is to bring a lot of variation to your training when it comes to pulling.  And ring rows are one of those great accessory exercises.  Ideally, you'll want to hang the rings just above waist height and grab the rings while lowering your body beneath them.  Anchor your feet against a wall or a stack of weight plates so that as you lower and return to the starting position, the angle of your body will remain constant.  To increase difficulty, lower the rings or raise your feet.  To make it easier, move your feet closer to the rings or raise the height of the gymnastics rings.
  3. Gymnastic Ring Push Ups - Coming in at one of the most popular and most effective strength training exercises that most any athlete can do with gymnastics rings is the push up.  The inherent instability in the gymnastic ring works your chest, arms and shoulders unlike the standard plank push up.  The Setup:  Hang the rings so that that are about two inches from the floor.  Get into a good plank position with your body line straight.  Grab both rings and lower your body all the while keeping that good body position.  Return to the starting position and repeat.

The Kettlebell - The second most important piece in any home gym is the kettlebell.  We just can't say enough good about this amazingly elementary but extraordinarily effective piece of gym equipment.  It's about as simple as it gets.  A steel ball with a handle but we won't be the first to tell you that it packs an amazing punch when it comes to transforming your body into an athletic machine.

  1. Movement Areas - The kettlebell can travel to tree points on your body - the hip, the shoulder and over head.  And any level athlete can take advantage of all the exercises a kettlebell brings to the garage gym.  We recommend three different sized kettlebells to keep the widest variety of exercises open to you.  The lightest kettlebell would be used for overhead movements.  The med range weight kettlebell is for all those movements that center around the shoulder area.  The heavy kettlebell is for those movements all around your central core area.
  2. The Kettlebell Swing - never to be overdone, the kettlebell swing is not only the most popular of the kettlebell exercises, it's also one of the most effective at toning and strengthening your body.  And since the overall skill required to swing correctly is moderate, most anyone can do it the right way right out of the box.  And the swing can be short - to the neck level, head high - level with the eyes, or even over head.
  3. The Kettlebell Press - Great for working the shoulders, moving the kettlebell from the ground to overhead is a great way to challenge not only your shoulders but also your lungs.  Just be sure that as you move the weight off the floor or back to the starting position that you do not bend at the hips.  Instead, move your butt down toward the floor while keeping your chest high.  Lowering your whole body is the best way to avoid back injury.
  4. The Overhead Squat - Now that you've got the hang of moving that kettlebell over your head keep it there when starting this next movement.  With the kettlebell overhead and central to the spine, keep the overhead arm vertical while lowering your body into a squat position.  Return to standing, using the opposing arm for balance off to the side.

The Wall Mounted Pull Up Bar - We're never about single use equipment unless it is stellar.  Many see the pull up bar as having only a single use, but we like it for a host of other reasons.  For starters it makes a perfect mounting station for gymnastics rings so if nothing else, it's a great way to get your rings hanging up in no time.  But more than that, we love the pull up bar when it's used to smash your core with exercises like knees to elbows or toes to bar.  The idea on these two exercises is to lift your lower body off the floor while hanging on to the pull up bar.

Ready to build that Garage Gym or Basement Workout Room?  Come see us at Hammerhead Strength Equipment.