Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Stackable Plyo Boxes - A Space Saver

Our stackable plyo boxes give you all the benefits of multiple platform heights that store in a fraction of the space.
The Puzzle design means they go together perfectly every time.
The Plyo Box is one of the most simple yet effective training tools out there but it can take up valuable space in your facility.

Space in any gym is at a premium.  The more space you have, the more your programming opens up.  We've seen it happen when a few more than expected show up for a workout and the coach has to reconfigure the workout to make sure everyone has enough room.

And having adequate space for working out is important for everyone's safety, too.  Who wants to be too close to someone when going through a workout with double unders in it?  Hey, they're dangerous enough when doing them alone :)

So, along with some inspiration from Joe Celso, owner of +CrossFit Rochester in Rochester, NY, we developed the Stackable Plyo Box.  The 3 Sided Plyo Box is a great tool as well, but if you are short on space, they can take up room quickly.  Our friends at CrossFit R5 out in Wayne, PA store theirs along a window wall.  That's a great choice since that wall won't be used for Wall Balls or Handstand Pushups.
If you've got the room, stacking the boxes up against un-useable space is key.




But lining them up or stacking them against a wall can cut into the useable square footage of your space as well.

Our stackable plyo box can be a great space saver and can still deliver all the popular plyo box heights as well as many new ones that can be great for beginning athletes or even advanced users.

Each of our stackable boxes stands 12" high by itself.  Add another box on top and the height increases by 6".  With each box you add the height keeps increasing by 6" intervals.  12"-18"-24"-30"-36", etc.  We've found that the 12" height is perfect for beginners as is the 18".  And for the intermediate level athletes, the 24"and 30" are perfect for RX'd workouts.

And with our unique design and the trapezoid shape, the boxes will never stick together - even in high humidity areas.  We computer cut each box to keep tolerances just right.  And multiple, ample sized hand holes on every side of the boxes [rounded over inside and out] make them easy to grab, stack/unstack and are easy on your hands.  The unique stackable design allows them to be stacked as high as you can reach.  Even 10 of our stackable boxes will only take up a footprint of 2 feet by 2 feet on the floor and stand 6 foot tall.  That's like one of you!  Not bad for storing away 10 boxes.

Have a look at our selection of 100% US Designed and Made Stackable Plyo Boxes right here.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Gym Timer - One of the Most Useful Training Tools

Having a timer up on the wall in your garage or commercial gym is a great tool for you and your athletes.
The Gym Timer adds a unique element to training that you don't want to miss.
The gym timer has made a serious bid for one of the most important pieces in the gym.  Ten years ago the only reason to have needed a timer up on the wall at the gym was to know what time it was.

But it can play a serious role in strength and conditioning.  It's no longer just about how much weight you can move or how many reps.  It's now about how quickly can you move that weight as well.

There are those that see the gym timer as a double edged sword.  Is it too strong of a motivator?  Can the user focus too much on moving quickly to beat their last effort and throw form and safety out the window?  No doubt.  That's a possibility.  But for those that strive for integrity in the movements as we all should, the timer is a great training tool to help us measure success and to insist that we push every step of the way.

Let's run through some of the most common workout scenarios that use the timer.  And after having read through these we can see how important a timer can be for the gym.  It's a great motivator that keeps us plugging along and working hard.

AMRAP - As Many Rounds As Possible: (ex - 12 Bodyweight Deadlifts / 12 Pull Ups / 12 Kettlebell Swings)  In this type of workout, the athlete runs through these exercises in a continuous loop until a set time expires.  The gym timer can be set in count down mode to count to zero from a set time, 12 minutes for example.

RFT - Rounds for Time.  In the above workout, instead of repeating until time expires, the goal now is a bit different.  In Rounds for Time, there is a set number of rounds that must be completed before the workout ends.  And the number of rounds depends on the difficulty or number of reps of the individual movements.  A challenging workout for the above would be 5-7 Rounds.  So, in this example, the timer starts counting from zero and keeps counting up until the 5-7 rounds are completed.

EMOM - Every Minute on the Minute.  This is a great use of the timer as well.  With the timer either counting up or counting down, at the top of each minute a short but intense movement is completed.  Some use this style of programming for heavy strength training, i.e. 1-3 heavy back squats.

The Ladder Workout - In this style of workout the number of reps increases each round, ex. 1-2-3-4-5-6... and it is most commonly used for movements like pull ups or burpees, etc...  And in the Ladder workout, the workout ends when the next series of reps can't be completed within the minute.

Tabata... Another very popular method of utilizing the timer founded by Izumi Tabata of Japan in which the athlete performs 20 seconds of high intensity work followed by 10 second of rest for 8 rounds.  In just 4 total minutes you can find yourself gasping for air.  We've seen one of the most popular uses for this sequence by running it back to back for Pull Ups, Push Ups, Sit Ups and Air Squats.

And with these five timing methods, the combination of workouts you can make is endless.  It's the variety in programming that keeps the workouts interesting and fun.  We really like what the gym timer adds to training.  It is the coach that motivates us to beat that last effort and it encourages us to keep moving.

Both of our gym timers are capable of running these timing programs and more.  See our lineup of gym timers here.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

If Stranded on an Island, Which Piece of Equipment Would You Want?

Notice I didn't write 'stranded on a desert island'...not sure why 'desert' island is the coined phrase.  If I had to be stranded on an island, it better be tropical.  But, as interesting and far-fetched as this question might be, it's neat to think about.  [Especially when it's 7 degrees outside] And it answers a bunch of questions, doesn't it?
Whoa - being stranded here might not be so bad...

  • What's the best piece of equipment I could own?
  • What is going to provide me the most benefit?
  • What piece will challenge me the most but be able to be used at any skill level?

 Gymnastics Rings | Hammerhead Fitness
When starting your home gym, everyone wants to know what the best piece of equipment is.  And although it's doubtful that you will only ever have access to just one piece, there is some equipment that is more versatile than others.

We've jumped on the soap box on more than one occasion to give a shout out to the gymnastics rings as being the number one piece.  And we haven't changed out opinion on that, we still feel that dollar for dollar they are one of the best pieces you can own.  But maybe gymnastics rings wasn't the first thing that popped in your head as you were answering the question in the title?

Well, if I'm going to be life long mates with a piece of equipment, it better over deliver.  That means it had better pass my golden rule with flying colors"

If you can't perform at least five exercises with it, then don't start your gym with it.

Ok - there's a big check mark next to this one for gymnastics rings.  We can easily perform more than five exercises and one of the really incredible things is that in some of these exercises we can also change intensity/difficulty level as well.

  1. Ring Push Ups
  2. Ring Rows
  3. Dips
  4. Pull Ups
  5. Muscle Ups
  6. Front/Back Levers
  7. Reverse Curls
  8. Handstand Push Ups
  9. Front/Back Pulls
  10. L-Sits
 Wood Gymnastics Rings | Hammerhead Fitness
The reason we like equipment items like the rings so much is that they are useable by any level athlete.  Anyone can pull them out of their gym bag and put them into use.  Maybe every athlete isn't ready for the Muscle Up, but beginning level exercises like the Ring Row or Ring Push Ups are surely within reach.  Adjusting the height of the rings can increase/decrease the level of difficulty of these exercises, too.

That's one of the remarkable things about the gymnastics rings - leverage.  Depending on how you change the leverage, the difficulty of an exercise can change drastically.  And that's a good thing.  Let's have a look at the Ring Push Up.  By changing the height of the rings or the feet, the intensity of the exercise can move from beginner to advanced - all with one piece of equipment.  The standard ring push up setup is rings adjusted to about two inches off the floor - just enough height to get your hands on them without touching the floor.  If these pushups prove too challenging, raise the height of the rings.  If not enough of a challenge, keep the rings at the same height but raise your feet.

The same goes for Ring Rows.  The standard position for the ring row is rings hanging above the body and when you've grasped them, your body is nearly parallel with the floor.  Pull your chest to the rings.  Repeat.  If this proves too difficult, raise the height of the rings.  If too easy, raise the feet.

With just two exercises we can dramatically change the intensity all with one piece of equipment.  And although we also love the kettlebell as a great training tool which passes our Golden Rule easily, the range of leverage and difficulty with owning just one weight does not compare to what can be done with gymnastics rings.

Some might be quick to point out that there isn't much [or anything, really] that can be done for the lower body with gymnastics rings.  True.  Nothing comes to mind.  But if I were stranded on that island I guess I would spend a lot of time working on the Single Leg Squat.

The moral of the story - the next time you are traveling over water in the tropics, be sure to have a set of our gymnastics rings in your carry on :D

Have another great piece that you think outranks the gymnastics rings?  Chime in and let us know what you think.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Gymnastics Rings - Gear Specs

Here's a run down of all the specifics about our Gymnastics Rings
Gymnastics Rings are a great tool for any gym.
We're starting a Blog Series on Gear Specs for all you gear junkies out there like us.  Gymnastics Rings were our first pick in the series because of their popularity with everyone and also because they are one of the best training tools out there for the investment.

Gymnastics Rings come up quite often in our Blog because they have such strong ties with fitness.  With the help of some of the local trainers will be writing and shooting video of many of the exercises that you can do with them so stay tuned and subscribe to our You Tube Channel, too.

In the mean time, we want to give you a very specific guide to our rings including how they are constructed, how long the strap are, the thickness of the wood, etc.

Country of Origin - Our gymnastics rings and straps set is US Made from the Cam Buckle to the sewn in velcro straps.

Gymnastics Rings - we do import the Baltic Birch Plywood in sheets to manufacture our rings.  Why?  Baltic Birch is among the strongest and most stable plywoods manufactured.  Why did we choose wood?  The enchanted grip that it offers you will quickly come to appreciate during those long workouts.  It feels great in your hand, won't give you splinters and takes chalk like a champ.  If you notice that they are starting to get chalk build up or are collecting dirt, just sand them down for 2-3 minutes with some 200 grit sandpaper and they will look just as good as the day you bough them,

Dimensions - we manufacture to FIG specs.  Inside diameter - 18cm.  Thickness - 28mm

Our gymnastics rings are full commercial quality at a Garage Gym price.
Our 1-1/2" Wide Flat Black Cam Buckle is super strong
Cam Buckles - 1-1/2" Wide Flat Black Anodized.  Years ago we experimented with other cam buckles which were not as wide and also some had shiny coatings on them.  We found that for just a few dollars more we can widen the straps and cam buckle which dramatically increase the load capacity and therefore the safety factor in the rings.  Wider buckles have more teeth, larger springs - all the right stuff to keep you safe while using them.


Straps - Along with the 1-1/2" wide cam buckles are our 1-1/2" wide heavyweight polyester straps.  At 0.06" thick, our straps have a recommended working load of nearly 1600 pounds.  Our straps are 15 feet long each and since the straps form a loop when holding the rings from a pull up bar or overhead joist, the effective maximum distance that they can hang from that point is 7 feet, 6 inches.  Add the distance to the bottom of the ring and that means you can drop them all the way to the floor when mounted from an overhead bar at 8 feet high or less.  And as long as there is a two inch long free end coming out of the buckle, the rings will hang safely.
Why wood for our gym rings?  Wood has a superior grip and hand feel that you will appreciate in the middle of a long workout.
We went with wood because of the great grip it gives you.

Velcro Strap and D Ring - sewn into every one of our gymnastic rings straps is a velcro strap which quickly and conveniently stores the excess strap material when not in use.  We've sewn it in so that you never lose it.

General Use Guidelines - Gymnastics Rings are hung at all different heights from as low as the floor for exercises like the ring push up to hanging overhead for movements like the ring muscle up or front pulls, for instance.  They can also be hung at heights near shoulder level for movements like front and back levers and ring dips. Or mount them at hip height for ring rows and L-Sit and Straddle Ls.

How to Hang - The two most important aspects of hanging rings are to be sure that what you are hanging them from is structurally sound and free of sharp burrs or edges and when inserting the loose or running end of the straps through the cam buckle, be sure the teeth of the buckle are facing away from you.  If you insert the strap incorrectly it will very easily pull our from the cam buckle so be sure to test the rings safely before putting all your weight on them.  Once you become familiar with how to hang them, it only takes moments to move the rings from one location to another.  To raise or lower the rings, simply release the spring loaded buckle and pull the strap from one side or the other.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How to Install or Mount Gymnastics Rings

Need some advice on how to hang gymnastics rings?  We can help.  From how high to hang them to best locations for overhead clearance, we've got you covered.

If you are thinking about adding a set of gymnastics rings to your gym, here's a simp guide to getting them installed.
Gymnastics Rings are a great training tool.  We can help you decide where to install them.

Before we get started hanging the gymnastics rings, there are a few things to consider:
  • Mounting Heights - the three primary heights at which gym rings will be the most useful are when they are positioned overhead, at chest level or just off the floor.  You'll want to pick a spot that will allow you to hang the rings in these three major positions.  It is better to hang them in a taller location than shorter, but even if you have limited height to work with the rings can still be very functional.
  • How high is high enough?  Here's a quick, easy method to know what height is optimal for your body.  Stand next to a wall and make three temporary marks: One - as high as you can comfortably reach, Two - the point at which your hand is comfortably at your side and Three - your height.  Measure the distance between the bottom two points and add that to the top point.  That is the optimal height from which to mount the rings.  With the ring hanger mounted at least that high you will be all set for ring Muscle Ups as well as all matter of Front Pulls, Back Pulls and more without fear of hitting your head or having to compromise your position over the rings.
  • Location, Location, Location - If at all possible, pick a spot that will be permanent.  Think about your space - do you have an area to perform overhead movements with a bar?  How about Double Unders?  Rope Climbs?  Box Jumps?  Having a dedicated space for each of these exercises along with a spot for the gymnastics rings keeps setup/put-away time at a minimum and allows you to be the most productive moving from station to station.
  • Overhead Structure - there are a few different installation methods we will discuss but first and foremost, ensure that the spot you want to install is structurally sound.  In every case, if it looks questionable, then don't do it.  And a great rule of thumb is that if you can spread the load to two or more points the better.  We'll talk a bit more about locations in a second.
  • Mounting on a Pull Up Bar - although not the most ideal, hanging gymnastics rings from a pull up bar, is popular and easy to do.  When mounting this way, the ring dip, ring row and ring pushup are available exercises but movements such as the Muscle Up and Front Pulls, Levers and Inverted Pulls are difficult.   The optimal way to hang the rings is in a separate hanging station far overhead.

Possible Mounting Locations for Gymnastics Rings:
  • Garage Rafters -
    definitely not a bad place to install.  PROs: It requires no tools or special hardware to install and rafters are abundant in any garage so you can easily move/choose locations.  Additionally, you can hang one ring from each rafter [best] to spread the load out over two points. CONs: Rafters are normally 24" apart which spaces the rings a little further apart than is comfortable.  Ideally, rings should be spaced shoulder width apart which is about 20".  Any wider than that and it adds more stress on the rotator cuff.  Another downside to the garage install can be off season use.  Some garages aren't heated in the winter so the use of the rings becomes seasonal or you've got to add a heat source to keep things comfortable.
  • Exposed Floor Joists -
    like the rafters in a garage but closer together and with decking above.  PROs:  Normally in a heated space like a basement, this makes an ideal location because you can use it year round.  CONs: Typically overhead height is minimal which means you've got to  do Muscle Ups from  the knees or an L-Sit position.  You also need some sort of mounting hardware to hang the rings from.  Warning **don't cut slots or holes in floor joists to run gymnastic ring straps through.  It's not a safe practice and weakens their integrity.  Instead, use a gymnastics ring hanger [see below].
  • Bar Joists -
    if you've got access to a commercial space that has a flat roof overhead, then you will have Bar Joists like these pictured to the right.  Those are the steel trusses that support flat roofs.  They are more than strong enough to support an athlete on a set of rings.  PROs:  Super strong, great height above the floor and easy to install.  CONs: Sometimes too high so that the rings can't be installed without a really tall ladder.  Too high also means that the rings can't be lowered far enough for ring pushups or ring rows.  If one ring is hung on each bar joist than spacing can be too far apart to be ideal as well.
  • Hard Ceilings -
    sometimes Garages or Basements can have their ceilings drywalled which hides the joists.  No worries, they are still there but you'll have to locate them before you can hang rings.  PROs: Normally, ceilings are drywalled in a heated space so year round use is possible.  That means you can pick one great location and keep the rings there permanently.  CONs:  This type of installation takes the most time.  If the drywall is unfinished then it's easy to see the location and alignment of the floor joists above.  If not, then you've got to get a stud finder and find them yourself.  This type of installation also requires mounting hardware.  Our gymnastics ring hanger comes with all mounting hardware and spaces the rings optimally so it's the best choice when you've got this type of setup.

**After installation, it's always a smart idea to double check that the rings are mounted properly and that the structure is sound, especially when hanging them in a new location or after having just adjusted their length.  Test them out before putting yourself in a position where you could get injured.

If your mounting location requires hardware as in the Exposed Floor Joists or Drywalled Ceiling, here is a simple how-to to get your gymnastics rings mounted safely and easily.

Tools you will need:
  • Gymnastics Ring Hanger
  • Step Stool or Ladder depending on height
  • Stud Finder [for Hard Ceiling areas]
  • Cordless Drill*
  • 1/4" diameter drill bit
  • 3 each 3/8" diameter by 4" long Lag Screws with oversized washers [we provide these with the ring mount]
  • Open end wrenches (good), Crescent Wrench (better) or Ratchet set (best)
  • Bar Soap [ha - not for washing but for applying to the lag screws.  It makes them screw in easier]
*If you have a corded drill then no problem but you will need an extension cord as well.
A dedicated gymnastics ring mount is the best choice.
  1. Choose the best location that gives you the best overhead clearance and the best chance of not having to move the rings once installed [see above for more info]
  2. [Exposed Joists can skip this step] You will want to install the Gymnastics Ring Mount over three studs if at all possible.  That means that you need to use your stud finder to mark three studs.  Normal building codes require floor joists spaced every 16" and our Ring Mount has three mounting holes spaced 16" apart to make mounting in floor joists easy.  Mark three studs with a pencil.  Keep the three marks all in the same straight line.
  3. Hold the Gymnastics Ring Hanger tight up to the ceiling to verify that the marks you just made coincide with the holes in the mount.  If not, double check with your stud finder the location of the studs.  If your studs are not spaced at 16" on center, you can mount the rings all on the same joist, so rotate your installation 90 degrees and mark the stud in three locations, all 16" apart.
  4. With your corded or cordless drill and the 1/4" drill bit, pre-drill each of the three holes.
  5. To make installing the lag screws easier, wipe the threads of each screw with bar soap so that some of the soap sticks on the threads.  It's easiest to hold the screw pointing away from you and scrape the soap in the direction of the screw.  Do this two or three times to each screw.
  6. If you've got an extra pair of hands [wife, husband, brother, etc] now's the time to get them.  Have them hold the ring mount in place while you ratchet in the first bolt.  Make sure you put the washer on before you screw it in.  It makes no difference which one goes in first but do NOT tighten it all the way.  Leave an inch or so gap between the ceiling and the ring mount.  Leaving the gap will help you ensure that the next two bolts go in the holes you just pre-drilled.
  7. Install the second bolt the same as the first.  Leave that same gap between the mount and the ceiling.
  8. Install the last bolt.  This time ratchet it all the way so that the ring mount snugs up to the ceiling.  You don't need to over tighten so that the drywall buckles.  Imagine you've got a piece of paper between the ceiling and the ring mount.  You want to tighten it just enough so that the paper would not come out if you pulled on it.
  9. Hang the rings really low so that you can step in them.  Test out each ring by stepping into the ring while hanging on to the strap for support.  Shift your weight up and down with small jumps to test the mount.  Repeat on the other ring.  Then get back on the step stool or ladder and inspect the ceiling and mount to see that it is secure.  If you secured it into the three studs then it's super solid and will last you a lifetime.  If you noticed that the mount is pulling away from the ceiling - STOP and relocate the mount.
We think Gymnastic Rings are among the best fitness tools for any level athlete.  We've got a package offer for gymnastics rings and a ceiling hanger system that gets you fully outfitted in one step.  Get it here.

Need some inspiration on how best to get started with your gymnastics rings?  Here's a few blog posts we wrote:

Like our install guide?  Let us know below and feel free to click the "like" button.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Gear Tips - The Abmat

Here's one little trick to making the Abmat Situp much more effective
Abmats should find their way into every functional fitness gym
The Abmat is the all time staple in the functional fitness gym.  It's easy to think of it as nothing more than a seat cushion to provide comfort when sit-ups are programmed into the warmup or workout.

But, as Greg at +Wolf Brigade Gym showed us, many first time users tend to use it more as a seat cushion than for what it's true purpose is.

Admittedly, when I first used the Abmat, I tucked it well under my butt and thought of it more as a tool to keep me comfortable during those long workouts.  In fact, the more of it I sat on, the more comfortable it was.  Greg pointed out that tucking it up under your butt actually allows it to be used as a fulcrum, making the sit-up movement much easier and therefore much less effective.

Greg insists that all of his athletes put the Abmat noticeably behind them before they begin the sit-up movement.  The extra inch of space between the Abmat and the butt accentuates the movement and effectiveness of the sit up drastically.  I tried it and immediately noticed a huge difference.  The Abmat now extended my range of motion and forced my core to do more work.

And although it's uses are somewhat limited - it comes in very handy for what we've found to be another great use - Handstand Push Ups.  For those that are scaling the Handstand Push Up and have not yet built the strength for the movement, try stacking two or three abmats under your head against the wall.  This limits the range of motion of the exercise and can put it within reach of those trying to master the movement.  As your strength improves, remove one of the abmats.  With a shorter stack of abmats, the difficulty increases.

Need some protection for your head and neck dunning long HSPU workouts?  Try an Abmat or two.
Abmats keep your head comfortable during HSPUs.
Another distinct advantage that the Abmat brings to the Handstand Push Up is the comfort it brings to the top of your head.  When you are looking at the whiteboard and see 21-15-9 of Deadlifts and Handstand Pushups, sometimes it's hard to tell what might be more sore the next day - your back or the top of your head.

The cushion of the Abmat will not only keep your head more comfortable, it will keep you much safer.  Failure in this movement can lead to uncontrolled drops of the weight of your body on your head, neck and spine.  With the addition of one or more Abmats under your head, the impact is lessened.  **Note:  Performing Handstand Push Ups without the appropriate level of upper body strength can quickly lead to injury.  Before you attempt this exercise, seek out a local trainer for guidance.

For those athletes that have mastered the exercise, add a bumper plate on either side of the abmat to increase the range of motion.  The deficit created by the added height of the bumpers will keep your range of motion full all the while saving your head from direct contact with the hard rubber floor.

It's a simple idea that should really be the staple in every gym.

From Mike Cleavas out at +CrossFit Njörd in Chesapeake, VA - Great tip...I've gone over this in my box several times as well. Always start with the low side snugged up to your "crack" (for lack of a better term) with the ramp or elevation going away. This actually hyper-extends the spine/torso while doing sit-ups and engages more of the abdominal muscles and psoas. The abmat isn't meant as a tool to "assist" sit-ups, but to make them a fuller range of motion. A lot of people say "nah, I want to do real sit-ups...I don't need a pad". I laugh and then have them do a dozen or so before the look on their face changes quickly.

For more Gear Tips and advice on how to start or expand you gym, subscribe to our blog.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

What Makes a Successful Gym?

We've got some great respect for gym owners and coaches out there.  It's not an easy job.  They've got quite a great responsibility to deliver advanced fitness without injury.  The knowledge they have and application of it doesn't come easy.  One thing I've always admired in the successful coach is being able to take a client well past the comfort zone but away from the danger zone.  I think most have come to realize that the body is capable of far more than we can give it credit for.  It's the mind that limits us.
We've seen some great success from Gyms that do things just a little differently.  Have a look.
Alex at CrossFit Headway had a great idea.

So what else makes a great coach?  Although the training and programming are very important, we've seen some amazing facilities that have taken coaching to the next level.  These coaches are building more than just gyms.  The are building communities filled with home athletes that call the facilities they train in more than just a gym.  They are calling it a home away from home.

The Indicators of a Successful Gym:
  • Technical Competence in the Staff - this tops the list.  It's the front-runner without question.  Coaches and owners can have all of the other attributes we list in spades, but competence is key.  Understandably, not every coach can master every skill.  The great ones continue their education by seeking training themselves and hire other coaches with other competencies to help with training.
  • A Clean, Well-Organized Facility - With the amount of time you will be spending on the floor either in plank holds, burpees, sit ups and the like, super clean facilities are a must.  Athletes are sharing equipment with 100-200 other members, and coaches are insisting that  athletes put equipment away when done.  That's good.  They may even ask you to get out the disinfecting wipes for the bars, kettlebell and dumbbell handles.  Bravo.  It's their responsibility to keep the floor clean, but yours to take care of the other stuff.  Clean is smart and safe.
  • Personable - If you haven't seen a class in action, ask to.  Get there early to see the dynamic of the class just before it begins.  You might hear some chatter going on.  There should be - that's a good thing.  Everyone will probably be friendly rather than stone faced and serious.  Cool.  Community and friendships are an important part of a successful gym, too.  When you see people walk in others are probably shouting out their names in greeting.  [I kinda like the way the employees at Moe's shout "Welcome to Moe's!" as you enter.  It's different and makes you feel welcome.  That would be kinda cool if gyms would do that when you walk in for a class.  Maybe not the same slogan, but something interesting, even if it's just "HEY!!!" every time someone walk in.]
  • Motivational - the timer can provide a ton of motivation for those that are competitive.  But you will see the coach and other athletes cheering each other on.  Serious training is hard and a little encouragement goes a long way.  I'm not talking about screaming in someone's face like a Drill Sergeant - that's a little over the top.  But a couple shout outs from fellow athletes going through the same misery is awesome.  And be prepared to give back some of the same.  It's infectious.  We saw something really cool that Alex over at +CrossFit Headway in Huntingdon Valley, PA is doing for motivation.  He hung a small bell on the wall and whenever someone gets a PR, they get to go up and ring it.  Super cool.  It's just a little something different that shows you that a coach wants to see you succeed and share your success with others.  Cool stuff, Alex!
  • Fun - it's super easy to program a workout to kick someone's face in the dirt.  Here: 5 Rounds of 20 Pull Ups, 20 Kettlebell Swings, 20 Knees to Elbows, 20 Box Jumps.  Easy, right.  That will get your heart pumping.  I've found that the creative coach can not only push you past comfortable but can also make it fun.  Some of my favorite workouts are those where I did not know what was coming next.  The Deck of Cards Workout adds some excitement for sure. [pick 4 movements and each suit represents one - for a twist make the Jokers a 30 sec rest card and watch the one who pulls it scream for joy].  There are a ton of ways to add something to the workout that makes people grin while still crushing them.  Team WODs once a week are fun and it's a little different to keep everyone interested and excited to train.  The successful gym stirs things up a bit and keeps you guessing what might be on the board next.  We even heard of one gym using "Musical Chairs" during a Warm Up.  And just because it may seem a little off-stream doesn't mean it's not challenging or frivolous.
  • Social - This stuff makes it fun, too.  Some of the most successful gyms have get togethers, cookouts on Saturdays after class [ we saw that CrossFit Gryphon in Cleveland, TN does this - cool!] , fundraisers for local charities, gym anniversary parties and more.  And by social, I don't mean competitions.  Yes, it is fun to compete, but great gyms are offering services beyond heavy lifting.  You can really build a great community by bringing people together in a setting that they can get to know each other in.  It's very rewarding!
These are just a few of the aspects of a great facility.  And being a little different doesn't mean that the owner[s] aren't serious about building great athletes.  Being different for the right reasons build better bodies and better communities.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Gear Tips - The Golden Rule

Need some advice on what to start your gym with?  Here at Hammerhead Fitness we've got some great advice for you.
Gear Tips help you make the most of your investment
Many have aspirations of building their own business - we did.  It takes effort, commitment, passion and know-how.  And when businesses are successful, the rewards come in droves.

You earn financial security, a sense of accomplishment, and although it can at times be stressful, most who start their own business are pursing something they really enjoy.

Part of what we do is give people some of the tools that they need to be successful.  It would be tough for a gym to excel without having equipment.  But we like to think that we are more than just another equipment supplier.  Sure...if you want pick up something for your home gym or affiliate, we're always here for that.

But another big part of our passion here at Hammerhead Fitness is helping gym owners make great choices in what type of equipment to outfit their gym with.  And once you get started, we want to continue to provide support in any way we can to help you succeed.

 Our 5-7 Athlete Package
Our 5-7 Athlete Equipment Package
One of our most popular Affiliate Packages is our 5-7 Athlete Package.  Don't let the small number fool you - this package is packed with all the essentials and more to get your gym started well.

We built it with our Golden Rule in mind:

If your athletes can't perform at least five exercises with it, then don't start your gym with it.

Startup capital is at a premium.  And even though we're not Gym Owners, we understand that well.  Our business model is still founded on many of the same principles.  We make many of the same decisions.  So, when talking with gym owners, we suggest that they make their equipment choices based on product quality and how much use the equipment will get for the cost.

There are always the essentials - we think there are Five Pieces that no gym should be without
  • The Affiliate Rig
  • A Bar and Bumpers
  • Kettlebells
  • Gymnastics Rings
  • Medicine Balls
Each of these pieces has at least five uses and that means you've got a ton of different combinations of exercises available right out of the gate.  That keeps everyone challenged and interested.


A great customer of ours - Natalie at +Crossfit Corps in Tilton, NH started this past April with our 5 Athlete Package and is already busting at the seams - that's great news!  She's already expanding and making plans to grow.  Congrats Nat!  And she is just one of the many stories we hear about.

We've seen and heard, too that there is much more reward for the gyms and their clients than what everyone might have expected.  The gym owners look to pass their knowledge and be financially secure and the athletes like to see their fitness levels soar.  But what's happening too behind the scenes is that communities are being built.  It's not just come in for a workout and leave.  We're building lasting friendships, celebrating birthdays with custom workouts, raising money for charities and having Christmas parties.  That's a huge part of the reward that success brings.
Need some inspiration on how to use that equipment item best?  Check out our Blog.

One of the other passions of ours is to keep fresh ideas flowing on how to put your equipment to use. From time to time we will remember a great tip that someone showed us years ago or maybe something that we just talked about with a client today.  We enjoy sharing ideas and you'll see them pop up on our Blog and on our site as Gear Tips.  If you've got one you'd like to share, let us know.






Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pull Up Rack - Extension Kits

Our Affiliate Rigs are super strong, come with some great accessories and Ship Free!
Muscle Ups anyone?  Our Extension Kits make great Muscle Up Stations!

When +CrossFit Njörd out in Chesapeake, VA told us about their challenge when it came to performing Ring Muscle Ups and Rope Climbs on their Pull Up Rack, we knew we could come up with a solution.

Form time to time we talk to aspiring gym owners who find the perfect location to open their gym and it can have everything going for it - location, great visibility, perfect price, room for expansion, bathrooms already built, etc.  Then, there's one little drawback - the ceiling.  Sometimes it's not tall enough or in some cases as in that with CrossFit Njord, it's drywalled.

Although not a serious drawback [it saves on heating costs and looks great], it does present an issue with how to mount Gymnastics Rings and Climbing Ropes.
Adding extension kits to any of our Affiliate Rigs makes great Ring MuscleUp Stations!

We do have a few options to mount rings and ropes separately but since Mike and Joyce already invested in our 12 Pole Free Standing Pull Up Rack, we wanted to give them an additional option.

Thus the 3 foot Extension Kit was born.  Our Pull Up Rack Poles come standard at 9 feet and although we could easily make them 12 feet long, the added expense of shipping something of that length [the ship price soars dramatically on an over sized skid] is a bit cost prohibitive.  Our 3 foot extension kit attaches with two 1/4" thick steel side plates that make the extension super strong and stiff and what's more, it's compact size means less shipping costs for everyone around.

Additionally, if Muscle Up Stations aren't in the budget today, it's easy to modify your existing rig next month or next year with these great kits rather than having to buy 12 foot poles.  Even if your rig is already put together, it's a snap to add the extensions then move pull-up bars higher.

The Extension Kits work great for our Wall Mounted Pull Up Rack series, too.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gear Tips - Plate Loading the Deadlift Bar

Loading a heavy bar on Deadlift day can be tricky without this one little tip.
Loading the Bar on Deadlift day can be a little tricky without this one little tip.
Ahh...Deadlift day.  There is something alluring about picking up really heavy loads.  And the Deadlift is one of the most foundational and functional movements in the books.  Every time you pick something up off the ground, be it a tire, a barbell, a kettlebell or even household items in your daily routine all point back to the movement of the deadlift.

As the load gets heavy, it can be a chore to load the bar with plates or bumpers.  Whether you're hitting a max at 405/495 or jumping in weight from set to set, adding weight can get a little sticky sometimes.  Since all the big plates are the same diameter, sliding them on one after another doesn't work well.  And if you are using bumper plates it's even worse as the rubber in the bumper does not slide well against a rubber floor like most gyms have.  We've seen folks recruit others to help lift one end of the bar as the other slides the plates on.  That's all well and good unless you are training alone.

+Jeff Rice over at Flower City CrossFit showed me this simple trick years ago and not only does it make loading and unloading bars a breeze, you can do it alone and with what you've already got in your gym.
Want to see how a 2.5lb steel weight plate can make deadlift day easier?  Read on.
This inexpensive tool has one little known use.

Enter the 2.5lb steel weight plate...  Every gym from the commercial facility to the Garage Gym should have a stack of 2.5lb and 5lb steel plates.  We wrote a blog post on how important the steel weight plate is to your training.  If you don't have a small stack of steel plates, get them.  They are super affordable.

So when it's dead lift day and after you get the first set of 45s on the bar, wedge two 2.5lb steel plates [ridge side up] under the 45lb bumpers you just put on the bar.  One on either side.  Now, roll the barbell up on to the steel plates.  The ridges will keep the bar in position and the 1/2" thick plate lifts the bar just high enough off the ground that sliding any other plates on is a snap.

Simple ideas are sometimes the best ones - thanks Jeff!

Hammerhead Strength Equipment is an equipment manufacturer outfitting commercial facilities and garage gyms with functional fitness equipment all over the US and beyond.



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Gymnastics Rings - Strap Storage 101

Ever been frustrated with dangling gymnastic rings straps?  Yeah, they can kinda get in the way.  But, long straps are a necessity so you can change the height of the rings from as low as the floor to overhead and somewhere in between.

And hey, if it doesn't bother you that the straps are just hanging out all over the floor, then read no more...  We get a little OCD when it comes to storing those loose ends.  And we figured that out there somewhere is someone with the same, ahem...compulsion.

Mike T., owner of +CrossFit Alpha Dog out in Lombard, Illinois gave us a call the other day explaining his frustration at dangling straps.  Mike is a great customer of ours and just didn't like how his setup looked.  He's got 10 sets of our Gymnastics Rings and was threatening to cut left over strap material to keep it from hanging.

Hold up a sec, Mike!  We designed the strap and buckle system with a cool velcro closure that makes storing the straps easy and it looks good, too.



Four Easy Steps to getting your Gymnastics Rings Straps Stored Out of Your Way
  • Step One - Hang the Rings with the Buckle on the outside of the rings below the velcro strap.  Bring the free end of the strap up to the buckle, essentially folding the strap in half.  When you've got the free end held in place at the buckle, you now have 'doubled' the strap.  Grab the end of the doubled strap and bring that up to the buckle folding it back on itself again.  Continue to grab the free end until you've got a handful.
  • Step Two - Make sure the velcro strap is free off to the side of the straps and fold the handful of strap up so that the middle of the bunch is approximately in the center of the velcro closure.
  • Step Three - Grab the entire strap bundle including the two straps running back up to the ceiling.  Feed the loose end of the velcro through the Silver D-Ring.  The velcro won't grab on yet so don't let go of the strap bundle.
  • Step Four - Reach behind the bundle and pull the velcro to the front.  Make it as snug as possible and be sure that the velcro strip is secure around all of the straps.
With the strap bundle secure, you can now slide it up out of the way.  For comfort sake, keep the buckle and strap bundle on the outside of the rings as shown.  Having the buckle low and on the inside of the rings makes ring dips, ring pushups, and muscle ups kinda uncomfortable.  No need to have the buckle rubbing up against your arms - - get it up out of the way.

Here's a quick video demonstrating how to hang our gymnastics rings.

          

Monday, December 9, 2013

Building the Quiet Garage Gym

Any stay at home early morning athletes out there??  For me, hitting the gym before dawn is the only way I'll get it done.  Once in a while if I've got the energy, I will run down to the basement in the evening to work on a few skills.  That's one of the major conveniences of having a gym at home.

But, I've got a house full of kiddos and a great wife that probably would not take too kindly to me throwing around a Barbell at 5AM in a workout like Grace [135# Ground to Overhead x 30 reps].  Nope.  If I'm up early dropping weights in the basement then everybody's up.  So, what to do?

Am I destined to pay a gym membership and forget the convenience of working out at home?  And maybe the bigger question is - Can I get incredibly fit without lifting heavy?

If you've got a detached Garage that is far enough away from the house no one can hear you and that you can heat during the winter - then you are among the few.  That just might be the dream gym.  For those that have only the basement or garage to retreat to, read on.

In my days, I've flip flopped back and forth between the full fledged gym membership and staying at home to get things done.  There are distinct advantages to both - convenience and budget friendly, the Garage or Basement Gym is hard to pass on, while the Gym Membership is a lasting investment that brings proper coaching and more motivation.
One of the best pieces of cardio equipment that has its place in the commercial or home gym.
The Rower - Silent but deadly...

But, in the case of me and those like me that want to stay home either seasonally or full time, how do we add intensity without adding excessive noise?  Can I really enhance my fitness level without pushing heavy weight to failure?  I think so.  Maybe goals need to be adjusted, but can I still push way past comfortable without waking the neighbors?

What are the pieces to a quiet gym?  If we've got to keep the bar and bumpers out of the picture, what equipment can get it done?

  • The Rower - Yep, without a doubt, the rower will absolutely punish, leave you gasping on the floor for air and leave everyone else in the house still snoozing soundly.  +Concept2 makes one of the best in the industry.  It's US Made [scores high marks with us] and boasts a great computerized monitor so you can keep track of your progress.
  • Gymnastics Rings - Pull Ups, Push Ups, Dips, Muscle Ups, Front and Back Levers, and more.  Absolutely a winner in our book.  Rings are one of those few equipment items with which you can adjust the amount of leverage your body has to take an exercise from novice to expert in no time flat.  Try holding a full tuck back lever [easiest], to a flat tuck [back flat], then lower your knees to the ground to form an ell, then continue to move your feet behind your hips to full extension.  Hard, isn't it? :D  And a set of rings and straps weigh around 2.5lbs by the way.  Super lightweight, super strong, super portable....win.
  • Resistance Bands - try grabbing one of our Green Resistance bands, step into one of the ends and hold it to the ground.  Now press the opposite end overhead.  Still think resistance bands are for sissies :D.  And no annoying loud noises when you drop the band from overhead??  Yet, try a 21-15-9 Shoulder Press with the Band and Pullups and see how you do.  And the only thing that might wake up the wife is the sound of you calling out for help getting up the stairs when you're done.  They also make pushups super challenging.  Put one hand in each end and stretch them behind your shoulders.
    A full set of resistance bands just might challenge you more than you think.  Read what we have to say here.
  • Pull Up Bar - Score...  Moving bodyweight is super quiet and super effective.  Toes to Bar, Pull Ups, Ring Dip mounting station, Front and Back Levers.  And try this one, too.  Get in a Front Lever tuck position and then crank out a few bar rows.  Easy, I know...
  • Jump Rope - love this piece....  Lightweight, inexpensive, super quiet and a serious lung burner.
  • The Abmat - this is a great piece, too.  Keeps your back in the proper position not just to prevent injury but also to accentuate the movement.  
And here's a few super challenging movements that you don't even need equipment for:
  • The Pistol [One-Legged Squat]
  • Handstand Pushups
  • L-Sits
  • Wall Sits
Are you a stay-at-home athlete?  Tell us what you do to push the limits without making a ton of noise?





Friday, December 6, 2013

The One Piece of Fitness Equipment You Might be Missing

When outfitting a Garage Gym or even a fully functional commercial facility, we often think of the big ticket items:
Here's the standard equipment that most functional fitness gyms are outfitted with.  But are they missing that one small item that is necessary?
Here's some of the usual suspects in the functional fitness gym

  • Pull Up Rig
  • Barbells
  • Bumper Plates
  • Kettlebells
  • Medicine Balls
  • Gymnastics Rings
And even some of the other essentials:
  • Abmats
  • Jump Ropes
  • Plyo Boxes
Yep, all of those are definitely winners that get the job done well and open up a ton of exercises for you and your athletes.  But there is one little thought of yet very essential piece of equipment that is really important to any facility, even the home gym - the steel weight plate.  And even with it's small price tag, it can easily make the difference between a PR and frustration.

It is very common to outfit the Home Gym or Affiliate with 160lb-190lb of bumpers per athlete.  That set normally consists of the following bumper plates 10lb - 15lb - 25lb - 45lb.  If we stop for a moment to consider what weights we can get on the bar with a pair of each of these, the need for a set of 5lb and 2.5lb steel weight plates becomes evident quickly.
This little piece of equipment can be the difference between success and failure.
Is this the missing piece in your gym?

Our chart below shows that with the addition of 15lbs worth of steel plates [a pair each of 2.5lb and 5lb] you can get 23 different weight combinations than you could with just the common set of bumpers.  That's an amazing fact considering that 15lbs worth of plates will cost you less than a couple tickets to the movies.  And some of these incremental weight changes are super important to strength gains.  When you are quickly approaching a max on shoulder presses, deadlifts, or back squats sometimes a 20lb jump just isn't possible.  If all you've got at the gym are 10lb bumpers then that's the minimum jump you can make.  But with a set of 2.5lb steel plates, the 5 pound jump may make the difference between you wearing a smile all day versus feeling defeated.




45lb Bar
2.5lb
5lb
10lb
15lb
25lb
45lb


2
2
2
2
2
2
65lb
x


x



70lb
x
x

x



75lb
x



x


80lb
x
x


x


85lb
x

x

x


90lb
x
x
x

x


95lb
x




x

100lb
x
x



x

105lb
x

x


x

110lb
x
x
x


x

115lb
x


x

x

120lb
x
x

x

x

125lb
x



x
x

130lb
x
x


x
x

135lb
x





x
140lb
x
x




x
145lb
x


x
x
x

150lb
x
x

x
x
x

155lb
x


x


x
160lb
x
x

x


x
165lb
x



x

x
170lb
x
x


x

x
175lb
x

x

x

x
180lb
x
x
x

x

x
185lb
x


x
x

x
190lb
x
x

x
x

x
195lb
x

x
x
x

x
200lb
x
x
x
x
x

x
205lb
x


x

x
x
210lb
x
x

x

x
x
215lb
x



x
x
x
220lb
x
x


x
x
x
225lb
x


x
x
x
x
230lb
x
x

x
x
x
x
235lb
x

x
x
x
x
x
240lb
x
x
x
x
x
x
x

For the payback that the 2.5lb and 5lb steel plates bring, they are worth much more than the investment.  They'll keep strength gains coming when your body isn't ready to make the bigger leaps. Stretch the usefulness of your bumpers with a few sets of steel weight plates.