Friday, February 28, 2014

Tackling the Muscle Up - Are You Ready?

Conquering the Ring Muscle Up had to be one of my proudest moments.  I worked at it for what seemed like months before I finally got it.  And as I look back I wonder if I was really ready when I first began my attempts.

The Muscle Up was such a coveted achievement that it was a notch that I just had to get in my belt and ready or not I wasn't going to back down.  As soon as I saw it come up in one of the CrossFit® Main Page workouts, I was intrigued.  And quite honestly, I wasn't sure what it was.  In case you are unsure, have a look at this Ring Muscle Up video by  You might find that it's different than others out there.  Notice how his hips stay in-line with the rings?  With the popularity of the timed workout, Ring Muscle Ups are now performed for speed rather than finesse.  And with that speed in the movement, the hips travel well behind and in front of the rings.  I kinda like the pure Gymnastics style version because of the raw strength required.

With the popularity of the movement, instruction now abounds.  Back in 2006 when I was first tackling the ring muscle up, I didn't have access to all of the instructional videos and articles that are out there today.  Some advice I'd give to those getting ready for the Ring Muscle Up:

First - Are you ready?  From all I've read and those I've spoken with, the consensus is that you should have 15 strict pull ups and 15 deep ring dips before attempting the ring muscle up.  That's good advice.  I wish I had heard that when I began.  I was not quite at that strength level and because I tackled it too early I was frustrated when results didn't come as quickly as I wanted.  And since I didn't have enough strength, my technique through the transition was off and my shoulders ached.  Don't skip this first step.

Keep It Old School - With the increased popularity of the exercise, on come devices and gadgets which attempt to act as progressions to the movement.  They aren't necessary.  We've done without them in the past and you can do without them now.  Using a resistance band to assist in the transition part of the movement is fine but look out for other unnecessary equipment like oddly shaped rings.  Chances are they wouldn't be allowed in a competition and frankly after you've learned the muscle up, what good are they?

Break Down the Movements - If we break down the Muscle Up we will notice that there are a few key components that we can work on separately rather than trying to string them all together from the start.  For instance, the Ring Dip is part of the Ring Muscle Up.  Without a strong Ring Dip, the Muscle Up will continue to evade you.  Practice the component parts until they become strengths then string them together only after they are all mastered.  Here are the component parts:

  • The False Grip - rather than grabbing the gymnastics rings as you would a pull up bar, the false grip requires that the outside part of your wrist lay on top of the rings.  The false grip allows the easiest transition from the body below the rings to the body above the rings.  It will feel uncomfortable until you spend time with it.  During the first part of the muscle up movement the hands rotate from palms facing away [bottom of the movement] to palms facing in [hands pulled in to the chest].  You've got to spend time in both positions to master the feel, strength and flexibility.  Hang in the False Grip in sets of 10-30 seconds with your arms fully extended, plans facing out on one day and switch to palms facing in the next day.
  • Ring Pull Ups - While learning the false grip and until it feels comfortable, you can work on ring pull ups.  Unlike pull-ups on the bar, the rings allow the hands a certain range of motion throughout the movement so even though bar pull-ups do increase pulling strength, working the pull-up on the rings is best.  Additionally, many failures of the ring muscle up occur because the transition is attempted too early in the movement.  The rings need to be pulled to the chest.  If your strength level isn't there yet, work on it.  Grip the rings palms facing out and as you pull, rotate the hands palms in and keep the elbows close to the body.  Concentrate on touching the hands to the chest at the top of the movement.  And lower all the way to arms fully extended.  Working this movement in small sets of 3-5 will keep quality high.  It's better to keep the hips out of this movement as well as any swinging.  Swinging and hip pop help tremendously but also limit the amount of strength you can gain though performing these exercises strictly.
  • False Grip Pull Ups - after you've worked to 5 sets of 5 of the standard ring pull ups, now work on pulling while in the false grip.  From the bottom of the movement, the palms face away from the body and throughout the pull they turn in, finishing with the wrists touching the chest.  A fantastic way to work on these movements is by the EMOM method [Every Minute on the Minute].  If you have a gym timer that you can program, then set it to run for 5 rounds of 1 minute each.  At the top of each minute work on a set of 3-5 great quality rings to chest and back down fully extended.  They don't have to be all strung together at first.  When you finish the set, rest for the remainder of the minute.  Then start again at the top of the minute.
  • Ring Dips -
    Now that we've discussed everything done below the rings, now comes the pressing movement.  Up until now, all the movements have focused on pulling.  But, without a strong ring dip in your wheelhouse, success won't come.  So, in the same method [EMOM] that we talked about before, work on the ring dip.  No worries about trying to hold a false grip here.  Your hands won't be in that position when you reach this part of the movement.  From a starting position that is as low as is comfortable, press out to a supported position above the rings.  Work on the movement slowly and get a full range of motion from bottomed out to full extension at the top.  Some also finish off the movement at the top by rotating the palms out away from the body.  This isn't absolutely necessary but is a great way to increase strength and stability in the rings.  Sets of 3-5 to begin and working towards a max single set of 15. If the Ring Dip is too challenging, start with the static Dip Bar.  Add a resistance band if necessary.
  • The Transition - Here's the part of the movement that can put your shoulders at highest risk of injury if performed incorrectly or overtrained.  Keeping the arms in close to the body is key to success and to injury prevention.  For many, the transition is the part of the movement that results in failure.  Sometimes it is attempted too early in the pull or it is attempted with the elbows too far away from the body.  To assist with understanding the movement you can perform the jumping muscle up.  Hang the rings low enough or a use a box to allow you to get through the rings with assistance from your legs.  Keep the rings as close to your body as possible through this movement and use the false grip below the rings to feel the transition of pulling to pressing.  Once the Jumping Ring Muscle Up is mastered, read through our blog on using resistance bands to help with the movement.  By and large, if the proper strength is built by mastering the proper pull and pressing, then only a short time will be necessary learning the transition.
Here's a quick guide to installing our Hammerhead Gymnastics Rings to keep them super comfortable during your training.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Programming the Tabata Timer and Other Intervals

Programming with the Tabata Interval sequence has gained some enormous popularity through it's use in CrossFit®, but it's roots go even deeper than we would have guessed.  While researching the popularity of the tabata timer, we discovered that there are a few other popular timing sequences that focus on intervals as well.  This timing pattern is part of a larger group or theory called High Intensity Interval Training or HITT and it's been under some serious study by high level athletes and their coaches for years.

Interval training is simply explained as alternating periods of work and rest.  The work periods have proven to be most effective when programmed as short bursts at very high intensity.  They are followed by a short rest period before the next work period begins.  The shortened work period allows the athlete to keep intensity levels high and the rest periods, although lasting only a few seconds allow for ample recovery time.

Much of Professor Tabata's reputation was gained through the research he conducted while a part of the coaching staff for the Japanese Olympic Speed Skating team.  We found out that the timing sequence he is so widely known for was actually pioneered by the Speed Skating Coach he was working with.
Professor Izumi Tabata
During my time working with the Japanese speed skating team, the head coach, Mr. Irisawa Koichi, had me analyze the effectiveness of his training regime that involved a rotation of short burst of maximum effort followed by short periods of rest. Although Coach Irisawa pioneered the idea, somehow it became named after me (laughs). The current regime consists of repetitions of 20 seconds of intense work, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This means that, excluding warming up and cooling down, the exercise can be completed in only 4 minutes if repeated 8 times, more than enough to make even a fit person exhausted.
     - See more on the Tabata Timer sequence from an interview with Profressor Tabata here

The Tabata Time sequence is normally used in CrossFit programming for body weight movements such as the Pull Up, Push Up, Sit Up and [Air] Squat.  Because the work period is only 20 seconds long, the most effective way to use this sequence is with short, quick movements.  To further add intensity to the workout, it is programmed as 8 rounds of each of four exercises for a total of 16 minutes.

Less known, but just as interesting was what we found out about Peter Coe, the father of Sebastian Coe. While his son was training in track and field, his father was dissatisfied with the long distance training his son was being coached on.  He thought that long slow training would turn his son into a long slow runner.  Instead of following the programming he was sure was doomed to failure, he had his son train in sessions of 200 meter sprints followed by 30 seconds of rest.

As a middle distance runner, [Sebastian] Coe [#254] won four Olympic medals, including the 1500 meter gold medal at the Olympic Games in 1980 and 1984.  He set eight outdoor and three indoor world records in middle distance track events - including, in 1979, setting three world records in the space of 41 days - and the world record he set in the 800 meters in 1981 remained unbroken until 1997.  Kudos to Peter Coe for stepping out against the norm and contributing to the 'revolution of fitness'.

- from Wikipedia

Yet another pioneer in the field, Professor Martin Gibala of Canada has been studying the benefits of interval training for years at McMaster University.  In 2009 he conducted a particular study with students performing 3 minutes of warmup then 60 seconds of intense work followed by 75 seconds of rest for 8-12 cycles.  Those students who followed this training three times per week had gains similar to those who trained five times per week of steady state training.

A 2008 study by Gibala et al.[15] demonstrated 2.5 hours of sprint interval training produced similar biochemical muscle changes to 10.5 hours of endurance training and similar endurance performance benefits.

The old adage of 'slow and steady wins the race' might just be bunked by these experts.  Challenging the widely accepted and pushing the envelope in fitness and nutrition is bringing out the athlete in every one of us.  All we need is the willingness to apply what we see brings about the change and to keep an open mind when new discoveries are made.  

Much of today's high intensity workouts are done under the watchful eye of the gym timer and many are now gauging success not just on how many reps or how much weight, but also on the level of intensity achieved.  The shorter, intense workout fits in well with the busy lifestyle and it's effectiveness can't be denied.

Because of the importance and effectiveness of incorporating interval training in your programming, we've designed both of our Hammerhead Gym Timers to be able to accept virtually any interval timing sequence [along with all the other popular modes].  One of our customers asked us if we would shoot a video explaining how to program our timer for intervals.  We thought that was a great idea!  Have a look below and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to get in the know on all things Hammerhead.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Benefits of Resistance Bands - The Other 7 Ways to Use Them

Resistance bands are probably best known for providing assistance to the pull up movement and although they do a stellar job at that exercise, we've got 7 other ways you can put these fantastic training tools to use.

1)  Your New Travel Buddy

When it comes time to pack the bags for that business trip or vacation take a few resistance bands along for the ride.  They are lightweight, portable and you can even use them in your room if the hotel weight room is too small or non-existant.

2)  Paired With Gymnastic Rings

Movements like the Ring Dip and Ring Muscle Up are difficult movements and those struggling with conquering these feats will find that the resistance band can provide the right amount of assistance for these exercises.  If you've ever tried to use a resistance band with a set of gymnastics rings it can be a head scratcher.  Instead of using the band on the rings or looped through, instead try it this way: Set a squat rack up right under the gymnastics rings and instead of putting a bar on the rack, stretch a heavy resistance band across the J-Cups.  Either step into or kneel into the band to provide just the right amount of help.  Adjust the height of the band to increase or decrease the amount of assistance given.

3) Re-Invent the Push Up

The push up has got to be one of the all time greatest exercises.  It can be done virtually anywhere.  Increasing and decreasing the level of difficulty of the push up has normally been done by either raising the level of the upper body relative to the feet or by raising the level of the feet relative to the upper body.  Many have put feet up on chairs to increase difficulty or have kept their feet on the ground and set their hands on the chair to make the exercise easier.  Resistance bands can add a new twist.  Double up the band and put your hands in both ends while running the band behind your back. Get in the plank position and go.  To make the pushup easier, attach one end with a larks head knot to an overhead pull-up bar.  Put both arms through the band as you lower into the plank position.  With the band resting across your chest, it will now provide assistance to the movement.

4)  Add Weight to the Pull Up or Dip

Adding weight to the pull-up and the dip is a great way to train for higher rep workouts.  A heavy resistance band makes a quick dip belt in a pinch.  Run the band through a kettlebell then bring the two ends of the band together.  Keeping the kettlebell on the ground just in front of you, step through the resistance band and bring it up to waist level.  The rubber in the resistance band will grab onto your waist to keep the kettlebell from falling to the floor.

5)  Thrusters Anyone?

One of the most effective whole body exercises is the thruster.  While standing from the front rack position [hands at the shoulders, palms facing up, elbows high] step into a resistance band.  Either step in with both feet and grab the band with both hands shoulder width apart or use one band per arm.  Move from a deep squat to a fully extended shoulder press, moving the hands only after the movement upward has begun.

6)  Resisted Runs

We hesitate to tell you about this one because it is probably one of the most horrible exercises known to mankind.  Loop two heavy resistance bands together [we recommend the green ones]  With one resistance band around your waist and the other held by a similar size/weight partner holding it from behind, runs take on a whole new meaning.  The resisted run ranks right up there with heavy sled pushes.  Don't say we didn't warn you :)

7)  Progressive Resistance To Barbell Movements

The squat, deadlift and the shoulder press are foundational movements that never lose their usefulness to strength training.  Adding resistance bands to these movements provides a much different feel.  When moving a barbell, the weight normally remains constant from the bottom of the movement to the top and back down.  As you move throughout the range of motion with the resistance band, the resistance increases.  One simple way to incorporate the resistance band into the deadlift movement is to load the barbell as normal [we got a great tip here for loading the bar on heavy deadlift day] then loop one end of the band over each of the bar sleeves.  Rotate the bar so that the band is resting on the floor.  Step onto the band while performing the deadlift.  Piece of cake. Well, not really :)

So there's a little inspiration to get you reaching for your resistance bands.  Have another use that you incorporate into your routine?  We'd love to hear it.  And hate mail for the resisted run idea.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Wall Mounted Pull Up Bar

Has the wall mounted pull up bar lost it’s place in today’s garage gym?  With the emphasis on moving weight as the path to extreme fitness, have some overlooked the simplicity and effectiveness that this functional piece brings to the dedicated user?

Is it the fact that many see the pull up bar as only having one use that has caused it to lose its appeal?  We’re the first ones to get up on the soap box to say that if a piece of equipment has only one use then it had better be stellar.   But the pull up bar has uses well beyond just the pull up.  And CrossFit’s main page programming is dominated by the pull up so overlooking this important piece can leave you falling short of your potential.

Even if the pull up bar had only one use, it does do it very well.  But don’t let the simplicity of this tool fool you, we’ve got a ton of ways to mix up how you use it to keep your body guessing and your workouts varied.

A few things we should mention before pointing out some great movements that the pull up bar can offer your training routine:

How High to Hang it? - Ideally, the final height of the pull up bar should be just beyond your reach when installed.  Doorway pull up bars tend to hang too low to be the most effective.  Having to jump up just a bit when grabbing the bar means your feet will be able to hang free for the whole range of motion of the pull up and will keep the exercise the most intense.

Wall Mounted or Ceiling Mounted? - Both are great choices but depending on how high your ceiling is, the pull up bar might be out of reach or too low.  If you can find a wall to mount it on with good overhead clearance, we’ve found that the wall mounted pull up bar is the most successful of installations.  Distance from the wall to the pull up bar plays a big factor in how easily it is to use as well.  Too close, and those that have an aggressive kip will find that their feet or knees will collide with the wall.  A wall mounted pull up bar that is designed with the bar at least 30” from the wall will keep you free from hitting the wall.

Bar Diameter and Coating? - Those bars that are between 1” and 1-1/4” in diameter [25mm-28mm] are some of the most comfortable.  The diameter of the pull up bar should feel very similar to that of an olympic bar in your hands.  Some doorway pull up bars add foam rubber or other coatings to make the bar grippy.  We’ve found that it is a personal preference.  Some choose to add athletic tape to enhance the grip whereas some use chalk.  Starting with a bar that has a neutral surface appeals to most athletes as tape, chalk and other treatments can be added as per individual preference.

So once you’ve outfitted your Garage Gym or Basement with a Pull Up Bar, here’s a few ideas to keep your training varied.

Six Movements to Work On with Your Pull Up Bar

The standard movements for the pull up bar are Pull Ups or Chin Ups.  Switching hands from palms facing in to palms facing out changes the emphasis on certain muscle groups.  Palms facing in puts a higher emphasis on the biceps while palms out recruits the lats more.  If you’ve reached failure with one hand position, switch the grip to pound out a few more reps.

Pulling Strength Movements

The Mountain Climber
With palms facing out and unsung a wide grip, pull your chin up over the bar and pause at the top of the movement.  Move your body from the center to the left, then to the right.  Return to the center before dropping underneath the bar.

Chest to Bar Pull Ups
Hold a switch grip [one palm facing out and the other facing in] and pull so that your chest touches the bar.  When first beginning this movement, the tendency will be to lean back away from the bar as you pull upward.  As your strength improves, keep the body as vertical as possible and vary hand positions as well.  If this movement is not in your wheelhouse, add a resistance band in a lark's head knot to give you some assistance.

Close Grip Pull Ups
Grip the bar with both hands in opposite grips touching each other and pull up.  With this grip, your body will want to rotate 90 degrees so that your head is now directly under the bar.  As you pull up, move your head to the left or right of the bar.  Switch from left to right on each repetition.

Bar Muscle Ups
Moving from below the bar to a position of support above the bar is called the muscle up.  Many see the bar muscle up as the progression to the ring muscle up.  Some find it more difficult.  Working the chest to bar movement [variation three above] to a point where it becomes easy is a great precursor to giving these a try.  Get help from a resistance band to train this movement if necessary.

One Arm Pull Ups
Certainly something to brag about if you've got these.  To work up to the single arm pull-up  start with one hand on the bar and the other gripping the wrist.  To increase the difficulty and increase strength in the movement, throw a t-shirt over the bar and grip the bar with one hand and the bottom of the folded over t-shirt with the other.  That farther away from the bar your opposing hand gets, the harder the movement.

Towel Pull Ups
Just as the name suggests, throw a towel over the bar and grab a loose end with each hand.  This varies the grip strength required.  A variation of this movement is to change the position of the hands by sliding the towel up and down on the bar.

Once you are strong enough that you are knocking out these movements for reps, add weight either with a dip belt or by using a resistance band run though a kettlebell and hung around the waist.  I’ve even given my kids piggy back rides while knocking out a few pull ups.

Core Strength Movements

Knees to Elbows
The pull up bar is also a great tool for blasting your core.  From a dead hang position with any of the grips mentioned above, lift the knees to the elbows or as close as possible.  Your body will naturally curl the higher the knees get - that’s acceptable.  

Toes to Bar
Once the Knees to Elbows is mastered, now at the top of the movement, kick your toes to touch the bar.  With either of these movements, a kip or swing can develop which brings the hips behind the vertical plane of the bar.  Many find this movement acceptable but keeping the kip to a minimum will enhance the effectiveness of these exercises.

Hanging L-Sits
From a hanging position on the bar hold the feet out in front of the body with the knees straight.  To make the movement easier, bend at the knees.

Windshield Wipers
Not for the timid, the windshield wiper requires serious grip strength and core strength as well.  From a hanging position below the bar bring the toes up to the hands by bending at the waist.  Once at the top, move the feet from left to center to right and return to center before dropping down.  When first starting the movement it's easier if the range of motion from left to right is short.  As strength increases, increase the range of motion.

Accessories for the Pull Up Bar

Get a Set Of Gymnastic Rings - The pull up bar is a fantastic tool that also can be used as a place to mount gymnastic rings.  Run the gymnastic rings straps around the pull up bar and set the rings for any of these exercises:

Ring Dips - Hang the rings at just above waist height and shoulder width apart.  Grab the rings and jump up to a position of support with your arms extended.  Lower your body by bending your elbows behind you.  Once your wrists are at or just above chest level, return to the starting position.  [Variation - The Bulgarian Ring Dip.   Elbows stay flared out rather than tight to the body.  Note: Master the first ring dip position before moving on to this one]

Ring Rows - with the rings hanging at waist height and your back on the floor, reach up and grab the rings while keeping your body in a plank position [feet well in front of the rings].  Pull the rings to the chest while keeping the body tight and lower back to the starting position.  Pulling the rings so that the hands touch the chest increases the difficulty substantially.

Ring Push Ups - lower the rings a few inches from the ground so that when you grab them your hands just miss coming in contact with the ground.  Keeping the rings shoulder width apart, lower the body [keep the thigh plank position] so that the wrists touch the chest.  Return to the starting position.  [Variation - while in the bottom of the push up move the left hand out away from the body and back in.  Repeat with the right hand.  Then push up to the starting position.  Repeat for every rep.]

Has the pull up bar lost it's appeal or usefulness?  We don't think so.  Outfit your garage gym or basement with one of the most effective training tools right here.

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

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Countdown Timer 'UnPlugged'

One of the most important pieces in the gym is the countdown timer.  Ask any coach who uses one and they'll tell you that without it, their programming would likely have to take on a whole new twist.

Without a gym timer, much of the programming in today's functional fitness gym would be vastly different.  Why is that?  It's because of the fact that this one simple tool is capable of being the coach, the motivator and the judge all in one neat little package.

For the CrossFit Affiliate or Garage Gym athlete, the countdown timer brings on an intensity to the training that can be difficult to muster without.  For those that need the extra incentive or that extra push, the timer is up to the task.  It keeps us on track and motivated to keep moving.  No matter the workout - whether it's three rounds of Pull Ups, Push Ups and Squats or Squat Cleans and Kettlebell presses, adding the element of time into the mix increases the intensity dramatically.  And we've all seen that appropriate levels of intensity gets results without injury.

With the resurgence of the timer into the daily training routine, creative coaching has pushed the envelope and has demanded more than what just a everyday countdown timer can deliver.  Functionality that can add variety to programming allows the coach more flexibility in programming and with that variety and flexibility comes less adaptation and better results for the athlete.  And the variety also keeps interest peaked.

Because of the demand for more out of the ordinary countdown timer, many timers have quite an array of timing sequences and modes that add intensity in different ways.  Let's take a closer look at many of the popular timing sequences.

  • Countdown Timer - One of the most common timing modes that may have the least amount of impact on intensity.  The countdown timer counts from a preset number to zero.  One of the most common training programs that uses this sequence is the AMRAP - [As Many Rounds As Possible].  In this sequence, the athlete performs a shorter duration workout repeatedly  as the time counts down to zero.  In many instances the workout is one that can easily be accomplished in the time frame, therefore to add intensity, the workout needs to be repeated over and over until the timer reaches zero.
  • Count Up Timer- Also very popular in CrossFit programming is the RFT - [Rounds for Time] timing sequence.  Similar to the AMRAP, there are those that argue the RFT is a more intense style of programming.  This type of workout is one in which the athlete has to complete a set number of rounds no matter the time it takes.  Unlike the countdown timing mode which will eventually signal the end of the workout, this type of program won't allow the athlete to quit early.  You've got to finish.
  • Tabata Timer - The first of the Interval Timing Sequences in which there is 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest normally for 8 rounds.  Known to be one of the most intense and effective training methods because the forced, short interval of rest demands high intensity during the work period.  Normally this type of workout is reserved for less complex and short duration movements like the pull up, push up and air squat in which each of those exercises is performed for 8 rounds.
  • Fight Gone Bad - made popular by CrossFit - each of five exercises are performed for a full minute - Wall Ball, Sumo DeadLift High Pull, Box Jump, Push Press and Row for Calories ending with a minute rest period.  This workout is repeated for three rounds and scored based on the total number of movements plus calories rowed.  Again, a stellar example of programming intensity, moving from one type of movement to another every minute in which different muscle groups are used keeps the athletes movements strong.  And the suggested one minute rest period is short but allows the intensity to be maintained.  And because of the rest period, it is expected that there is no rest during the movements.
  • Every Minute on the Minute [EMOM] - An excellent training tool for strength movements, the athlete is expected to work at the top of every minute normally with a heavy weight movement such as a Dead Lift or Front Squat.  The reps are usually kept very low to allow the weight moved to be as high as possible.  The remainder of the minute is spent in recovery for the next round.  The EMOM is normally programmed for anywhere from 5-12 rounds.  Some coaches even mix in two movements such as 3 Heavy Deadlifts and 5 Handstand Pushups and ask the athlete to alternate every minute through the movements.
  • Custom Interval Programming - And even with the above timing sequences, many coaches demand for the ultimate in flexibility.  The gym timer that can be custom programmed to any work-rest, or work-work,-rest, etc. is becoming the norm.
The Countdown Timer at Hammerhead Fitness can run all these sequences to bring a new level of intensity to your training.  


Monday, February 17, 2014

Be Content But Never Satisfied With Your Training

Is it possible to be content but not satisfied? 

That seems like an oxymoron, but I think we can be both.  When you put in a good day at the gym and get through the WOD that was intimidating or set a PR, how do you feel?  Or if we get through an entire day of clean eating, we certainly feel content, right?  But we also know that it doesn't end with one great day.  We've got to continue on.

I saw this Facebook Post from CrossFit 716 yesterday and it made me think:

We all have demons, excuses, problems and troubles. Running from those problems will never make them go away.  It will never provide resolution.  We are best at lying to ourselves.  Convincing ourselves of a truth we fabricated to create comfort with our shortcomings.  However, many people do not realize we are just being self saboteurs.  We need to be honest with ourselves regularly to ultimately attain success.
Two excellent examples.  How is your eating?  Not that bad, don't lie to me.  If I told you that you would receive a $1,000,000 for eating exactly the way I told you to, what would you have to change?  If that list is more than two items you are fooling yourself.
How do you spend your open gym time or at home gym time?  Do you practice the things you hate the most?  Do you practice your weakest links?  Or are you working on what you are already good at because it strokes your ego?  Are you working on a very, very specific skill that has little practical application?  Exactly.  Work on your biggest weaknesses and stop avoiding the gym because you don't like the programmed workout.  Chances are you probably need to be doing it and not hiding from it.
We are masters of self deceit.  Allow us to help you continue to pursue your goals, to become better to become your best.  Do not fool yourself into complacency.  You will never end up happy that way.
Always be challenging yourself in new and different ways.  Keep up the great work, be happy but never satisfied.

"We are masters of self deceit..." and "...are just being self saboteurs..."  Ouch.  Those statements hurt, but they are true.  Our body will always want to:

  • quit early
  • find the easy way out
  • count that rep that was questionable
  • take that extra breath
  • take a day off
  • tell you that you are good enough
  • tell you that you deserve a break
  • cheat on the diet
  • work only on the skills you are good at
  • come up with excuses to keep you from your goals

Until we realize that we can be our own worst enemy can we truly be successful?  Nope. I believe in sowing and reaping.  You get out of something exactly what you put into it.  Yes there are circumstances beyond our control that can interrupt our goals but by and large, hard work, consistency and determination delivers success and nothing else.

So when or how can I ever be happy about my training you ask?  If we're never content, what is the motivation to continue on?  

Be happy with the results, but not with the path that gets you there.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

7 Rules of Etiquette in the CrossFit Gym

We saw a Blog post from some good friends of ours recently and they very kindly point out what some of us, myself included, sometimes don't consider when signing up at the gym.  We've all made these mistakes from time to time but a little refresher course never hurt anyone.

Every single one of the gym owners 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 gusto.  It takes a serious leap of faith - especially with those that have left a career they were established in to try something new.  When we take that into consideration, it's not pity we feel for them, it's respect.

Some of them post gym rules up on their wall as a reminder to all of us and some don't.  For those that don't, here are 7 Unspoken Rules which I think we all should abide by.  Just a little forewarning - some of these might sting a little but after you read them, can you really argue?

  1. If they offer a Free Intro Class or Free Week on a rotating basis don't take advantage of it beyond 1-3 classes. - Some folks have not heard about CrossFit yet [Yeah, hard to believe, I know :)] so offering a free class or free first week is a good idea for the gym owners to allow people to have a look before they commit.  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.  If you've got a bunch of friends and you bring one or two with you every week then cool.  People like workout buddies, especially when going somewhere they've never been.
  2. Pay your Dues when they are Due - Ouch.  Yep, I think we've all slipped on this one from time to time.  
    And because of the group class style of CrossFit, we can become quite close to the coaches and owners.  Don't take advantage of that friendship.  They are running a 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 with you, excuse yourself, run home and pay your dues.  Then show up the next day to train.  Asking for extensions and giving excuses just puts the gym owner in a difficult situation.  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.
  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."  Truth.  The coach has to always be on pointe.  That's a hard thing to do and occasionally you may step in class one day when they've got troubles.  Maybe it's an illness of someone close to them they just heard about or maybe their car wouldn't start or maybe they woke up late and rushed just to get the doors open on time... you know the deal.  Stuff happens.  If they're a little off, give them a little slack.  We all show up for work cranky sometimes even if we're doing what we love, too.  Keeping this all in mind, speak highly of them when someone asks.
  4. Show Up for Class 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, etc...  And the Coach understands that too.  But if you do show up late, don't make a grand entrance, stop the whole class so you can ask what's new with everyone.  Instead, slide in as unnoticeable as possible [ninja style] at one of the far ends and pick up where everyone is.  If getting to class on time is a constant battle, consider changing class times to one that works better.
  5. Work Hard and Listen - We all know CrossFit is about intensity.  The normal class structure for the gym is Stretch/Mobility - Warm Up - Skill - Strength - WOD - Cool Down.  It's an hour long and it's packed full of information and movement.  That's the only time many of us 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 it can be interruptive to others, especially new comers who will think it's okay.  It's only an hour.  Have a strong work ethic, respect and listen to the coach when they talking and work hard.  Always.
  6. Put Back What You Take Out - This should really be a no brainer.  But more and more I'm seeing pictures posted on social media of equipment that was left out and for each +1 or Like, the guilty party has to do Burpees.  Yeah, that's reasonable punishment :)  At the end of the workout we're all 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.  Nuff said.
  7. Keep Track of Your Workouts and Max's - Even in a small gym, to expect the coaches to know your max Dead Lift or last time at that benchmark workout isn't realistic. 
    Some hang huge whiteboards or use chalkboard paint on the walls so that everyone can record PRs.  If not, go grab a book like Journal Menu and keep track on your own.  They've got some really neat covers and the information is indexed well so it's easy to find.  And keep it in your gym bag so you've got it with you all the time.  A buddy of mine, Jeff P. here in Victor showed me a really neat trick.  He grabs his smart phone after class and takes a quick snap shot of the whiteboard after class.  That's neat.  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 Facilites throughout the US and beyond.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Pull Up Rack - 7 Questions to Think About Before You Purchase

Choosing the right sized and right style Pull Up Rack is perhaps one of the most important decisions you can make as a new gym owner.  Call it the cornerstone, the centerpiece or the foundation, it plays a major part in the training of your athletes.

One of the first conversations we have with potential gym owners is about what style pull up rack will suit their space and needs the best.  Our popular Wall Mounted Pull Up Rack comes standard with every one of our Equipment Packages for Affiliates [Bronze, Silver and Gold].  It's one of the most important and most useful pieces in your gym.

Here's the top 7 Questions we get about our Design, How to Choose the Best Rig based on your gym Layout and Installation after the purchase.

  1. What is the best type of Pull Up Rack - Wall Mounted or Free Standing?  By far our most popular question and it's a good one.  What's best?  Well, both styles are, but depending on your budget and dimensions of your space, one might be more favorable and useful than the other.
    • The Wall Mounted Pull Up Rack is ideal for smaller, more narrow spaces.  Most all gyms start small and there's nothing wrong with that.  Our Wall Mounted Pull Up Rack does everything the Free Standing Unit does but in a smaller package and at a smaller price tag.  We recommend that spaces between 14 feet - 22 feet wide use the Wall Mounted style to conserve on space.  And anchoring the Wall Mounted Unit to the Wall provides added stability.
    • Free Standing Pull Up Racks work best in the middle of wide open spaces.  Rooms that are minimum 22 feet wide and that have a square shape are ideal.  The Free Standing Pull Up Rack provides a better ratio of Squat Stations to Pull Up Stations and the open layout gives your athletes easy access as it cuts down on single lane traffic to get on or off the rig.
  2. Are those Double Pullup Bars on the outside of the rack included in the price or do I have to pay more?  The double pull up bar on our rack comes standard at no extra cost and with bars spaced 6" apart in height, you've got two pull up bars at every station.  Taller athletes can grab the higher bar as they face the inside of the rig while smaller athletes can grab the lower bar as they face away from the rig.  Everyone wins.
  3. Double Pull Up Bar Questions:
    • How far apart are the Offset Bars?  The lower bar on the inside of the rack is 6 inches lower than the higher bar on the outside.  And the higher bar stands 8 inches away from the rack.  That distance away from the rack on the high bar is beneficial because it opens up the inside of the rig for even more pull up spots.
    • Can I do Toes to Bar on either of the bars?  Yes.  Both the lower, inside bar and the higher, outside bar are designed for toes to bar.  Shorter athletes grab the low bar and face away from the rig and taller athletes grab the high bar and face the inside of the rig.
    • Can those bars be used for Bar Muscle Ups?  We designed the outside bar primarily for the bar muscle up.  There is no bar overhead to put your athletes in danger of hitting their heads while attempting bar muscle ups.  And if you want to swap out any of the pull up bars on the rack for single pull up bars, we can do that too.  The single pull up bar is great for muscle ups and pull overs.
    • Can I mount the pull up bars at different heights?  Absolutely.  We've laser cut holes every two inches along the better part of each side of the rig poles so you can mount the bars at most any height necessary.  And we include all the hardware to do that, too.
  4. Do Barbell Hooks come with the Pull Up Rack? Yes.  Whether you choose a Wall Mounted or Free Standing Unit, we include Barbell Hooks.  The Rack is designed: Squat Station - Pullup Station - Squat Station, etc... so every narrow section does come with two barbell Hooks [J-Cups] to allow the bar to be racked.
  5. If I get a Wall Mounted Unit, how do I attach it to a stud wall?  
    This is another very popular question we get and fortunately, installation is not too difficult.  The pull up brackets that attach to the wall are just about 17" long.  We recommend using wood timbers [2x6's, 2x8's, etc] mounted horizontally on the stud wall [pictured left] along the entire length of the rig.  The pull up bars which attach the rig to the wall are best mounted at the highest position on the poles [puts the bottom pull up bar at 7'6" from the floor].  When installed all at the same height, it makes installation of the 2x6's [or 2x8's, etc] the easiest.  Attach the 2'x6's to each stud with lag screws to keep the installation as strong as possible.
  6. Can you make Single Bar Pull Up Bars if we want them?  Absolutely.  CrossFit R5 out in Wayne, PA asked us to make single pull-up bars for their Free Standing Pull Up Rack.
     They installed a few of them sporadically in the center of the rig .  They too can be adjusted up and down the Pull Up Rack Poles in 2" increments.  And we can make Fat Bars too if you like.
  7. If I want to add to the rack or change it from a Wall Mounted to a Free Standing Unit can I do that?  Yep.  We get a lot of requests to add onto Racks that we've sold.  That's a good thing.  That means gym memberships and class sizes are growing.  Not only can you add on to any rack in either direction, you can change a Wall Mounted Rack to a Free Standing or vice-versa.  Our friends +Crossfit The Tracks just changed the orientation of their rig from a Free Standing to a Wall Mount and they did it with just a few additional pieces.  The good news is that both styles of pull up rack all use interchangeable parts so no matter what you start with, it's all useable if you want to change things up later.
Ready to open your gym?  We be happy to help answer any questions you might have about how best to choose the right Pull Up Rack for your application and space.

Need some custom work done for the Pull Up Rack in your new gym?  We can personalize pull-up bar gussets or even make you a sign to proudly display on your new Rig.

Want to keep up with all things new at Hammerhead Strength Equipment?  Follow us on Google and Like our Facebook Page for all the latest.

Monday, February 10, 2014

19 Reasons Plus One Why the Kettlebell is King

The Kettlebell is indeed king when it comes to versatility and scalability in equipment.  We love it so much that we've named it one of the top six pieces in our Gym Owners Buyer's Guide.  And whether you're a full fledged CrossFit® Affiliate or a Garage Gym athlete, the kettlebell will deliver a great workout time and time again.  And with these 19 different exercises you could program differently every day of the week for nearly a month.  That's one handy piece of equipment that won't leave you bored.
Gear Up with Hammerhead

  • The Kettlebell Swing - performed either two-handed or one-handed the swing is a great exercise to develop hip drive.  There are variations of the swing based upon the weight of the kettlebell being used.  The Short Swing is one where the heavy kettlebell is driven just to chin height. With moderate weight kettlebells you can perform a full swing to vertical, hold there for 1-2 seconds then recycle.  With a lightweight kettlebell, speed can be the focus not only in driving the kettlebell up, but also in pulling it down for quick, explosive reps.
  • The Kettlebell Clean - Taken from the ground to the front rack position in one quick movement, the hip is again dominant in this movement.  Either single kettlebell or double kettlebell cleans can be done.
  • Deadlift - At the beginning of every kettlebell movement is the deadlift.  Moving the weight from the ground to the hip safely is important and from the top of the deadlift position, the Figure Eight can be performed [see below]
  • The Snatch - Moving the kettlebell from the ground or from the bottom of a kettlebell swing through the front rack position and into a fully extended vertical position in one fluid movement.  This move proves to be one of the most challenging.
  • The Kettlebell Halo - While holding the kettlebell handle with both hands near where the handle meets the bell, move the kettlebell clockwise from the front rack position under the chin, around the head following your jaw line, then behind the head, and returning to just under the chin.  Keep the head as stationary as possible and move the weight rather than your head.  After moving the kettlebell clockwise, reverse directions.  It's best to use lightweight here until the movement is comfortable.
  • Pressing the Kettlebell - The kettlebell is one of the best tools to isolate and strengthen the shoulder for pressing movements.  From the front rack position, extend the kettlebell to overhead and return.  Do not bounce or lift heels off the ground.  To best isolate the lower body from this kettlebell movement, either sit on the floor with legs out in front straddle or sit on a flat bench.
  • Goblet Squat - This movement is performed with both hands on the kettlebell and elbows down at the sides.  Keep the kettlebell 'locked' in place as you lower and raise your body in the squat.
  • Overhead Squat - Another variation on the squat that is very challenging is the Overhead Kettlebell squat in which the kettlebell is held overhead with a straight arm as the body lowers into the squat and raises up again.  The double kettlebell Overhead Squat is very challenging exercise.  Make sure you've got the single arm mastered first.
  • Turkish Get Up - One of our all-time favorites, the Turkish Get Up requires quite a bit of practice to execute correctly.   The movement begins on your back, moves through arm-supported one leg kneel, deep lunge position, to standing, then returning to the deep lunge, the one-arm supported one leg kneel then finishing agin on the back.  All the while the kettlebell is kept overhead with eyes fixed on it always.
  • Farmers Carry - simple, yet effective, the Farmers Carry with one or two kettlebells builds great endurance and grip strength.  Carrying the kettlebell like you would a pail of water, move from point A to point B and back as quickly as possible.  For really heavy loads, even holding heavy kettlebells for time in any position is an excellent exercise.
  • Figure Eight - From the top of the single arm deadlift position, the kettlebell is passed between the legs and caught by your other hand.  Instead of immediately passing back through the legs again, the kettlebell now swings around the hip [right arm-right hip, left arm-left hip] to the front of the body as you stand fully upright.  While half-squatting, grab the kettlebell while it swings back between the legs with the opposite hand.  While standing, the opposite hand now swings the kettlebell around the hip to the front of the body, ready to be caught again on the swing back between the legs.  The path of the kettlebell forms a figure eight and thus the name.  If this exercise proves a little too daunting at first, simply forego the pass between the legs and pass instead in front and behind.
  • Kettlebell High Pull - with both hands gripping the kettlebell on the top part of the handle, move the kettlebell from the ground to just under the chin.  Keep the hips lower than the knees as you move from the ground to standing and back.
  • Russian Twists - From the top of the sit up position, place a moderate to lightweight kettlebell next to your hip.  Grab with both hands and move the kettlebell from one side to the next, touching the ground only briefly.  To enhance the difficulty, keep the feet up off the ground the entire time.  To lessen the difficulty, keep the legs flat on the ground and extended in a vee.
  • The Liberty Sit Up - From the bottom of the sit up position, grab a lightweight kettlebell and hold overhead with one arm.  While keeping the kettlebell directly overhead the entire movement, raise to an upright sit up position and return.
  • Weighted Sit Ups - While holding the kettlebell with both hands in the Goblet Squat position, move throughout the sit up position.
  • Weighted Pull Ups and Dips - Kettlebells are also very handy to add weight to pull-ups and dips.  Pair them with a hefty resistance band.  Loop the band throughout the kettlebell handle, attach with a lark's head knot and either step into the resistance band so it rides on your hips or shoulders.
  • The Kettlebell Windmill - done with either one or two kettlebells, one kettlebell is held overhead and the other at the hip.  While keeping the overhead arm locked and upright, move the opposite arm slowly and deliberately down the same side leg [left arm-left leg] all the while keeping your eyes fixed on the kettlebell which is overhead.
  • Kettlebell Lunges - With the Kettlebell overhead, in the Goblet Squat hold or Farmer Carry hold, move from standing to the deep knee lunge.  Make sure the front knee does not track over the toes nor should it sway inward.
  • Kettlebell Front Squats - From either the front rack position with one or two kettlebells or from the Goblet Squat hold start from standing and move to a full squat position with hips always ending lower than the knees before returning to the start position.
And even though these 19 exercises are reason enough the kettlebell deserves it's place among your tools, the "Plus One" for us is it's portability.  Whether you're vacationing or taking a business trip, throwing a kettlebell in the car for the ride is a great idea.  **I buckle it in to keep it from turning into a cannon ball :)  And even if you only bring one kettlebell along, run through 3 sets of 10-15 reps of a bunch of these movements and do your best to keep moving during the entire set.  You'll be gasping for air before long.

Have another great use for the kettlebell you'd like to tell us about?  Chime in!

Monday, February 3, 2014

5 Easy Steps to Get Your Box off to a "Running" Start

Like you, I wake up every morning excited about what I do.  We really enjoy outfitting CrossFit Affiliates with great equipment packages, talking with new and existing clients, meeting with gym owners and coaches on great new ideas for our product line [some of those coming soon, by the way] and building our business.

This weekend was a big one for us.  The folks out at +CrossFit 405 in Oklahoma City, OK just put on a huge three day competition and asked us to be the Title Sponsor!   It was called the Fittest in OK and had over 350 competitors with RX'd, Scaled and Team events.  The event featured our Mens and Womens US Made Performance Bars, Gymnastics Rings, a huge Pull Up Rig and more.  We saw it as a great opportunity to get some brand exposure and we are very thankful to have been chosen.

The business plan for an aspiring CrossFit Affiliate has many of the same goals as that of Hammerhead Fitness.  Like you, we're passionate about what we do, want to deliver quality and we like people and want to see them succeed.

So, how can you get your business off to a running start?  Here are 5 Easy and Smart Ways to get your brand out there.
  • Give Something Away - What??  Yep.  Our friends at +CrossFit Nj├Ârd have a great plan.  They hold a free 10:00AM class every Saturday and have been doing so for the past three months.  There are a ton of things I like about this.  Number One - that flyer is cool.  Well designed, great logo, provides their location and it has the word FREE right at the top.  Number Two - it's consistent.  Putting a flyer out for a free class you are going to hold in three weeks is not as effective as this.  If you only do it once a month or once a quarter then people may forget, have a scheduling conflict, or not see the promotion in the first place.  Mike and Joyce [the owners] have this figured out well.  Kudos to them.
  • Meet With Similar Local Business Owners - Like yours, there are other aspiring businesses right in your backyard and both of you can benefit from a relationship together.  The first ones I'd suggest you visit are the local running shoe stores.  Many of those shops will be owned by people just like you.  You can help them by referring your clients to them for apparel and footwear.  They can help you advertise.  Almost everyone walking through their doors is fitness minded so putting up a few flyers and business cards will get your business advertised to the right clientele.  Local Food Trucks/Restaurants that are Paleo/All Natural are another great choice to partner up with, too.
  • Get Your Athletes to Register in Local CrossFit Competitions - After your athletes have ample time under their belts and you are confident that they are ready for a Team or Scaled event, getting exposure out at the local competitions is a great idea.  Obviously, make sure they are outfitted with a great logo'd T-Shirt and our advice is to put your location on it, too.  Again, I like what CrossFit Njord has done with their flyer above.  The location listed under their Affiliate name is conspicuous, yet doesn't detract from their logo.  If you and your athletes show up with only CrossFit Njord on the shirt then unless you tell someone where you are, they can only guess that you are reasonably close.
  • Sponsor Local Events or Teams - This is cool.  Getting involved in the community is important and allows you to express your passion about fitness.  Sponsoring a local High School or Junior High Sports team is a great way to spread the word.  And chances are if the kids are heavily involved in sports then Moms and Dads have interest too.  In fact, some of your members might have kids on those teams or be coaches and volunteers there as well.  And remember that relationship you started with the local running shoe store?  Ask them about local road or trail races.  Setting up a small booth during one of those events or bringing out water, fruit or other great snacks will bring people to your table.  Bring some T-Shirts and give some away.  It's a great way to give back, meet some great new people and build your business.  You might have so much fun doing it, it won't even seem like work.
  • Stay Visible with the Right Apparel - We touched on this last week.  Although tees and tanks will sell very well to your athletes, keep in mind too that they may only wear them to the gym.  That might not get you the best exposure out in the community.  I like the idea of Knit Caps and Hoodies in the cooler months.  People will wear them outside the gym.  And someone told me once that putting your logo on the back of a hoodie or sweatshirt is better than on the front.  Picture yourself walking towards a person.  If they've got a branded t-shirt on, you've probably got 5-10 seconds to take in what's on there.  However, if you are walking behind them and the info is on their back, now you've got a lot more time to see what's going on.  So, small logo on the front pocket and large logo on the back.   And get your location on there...
It's our passion to see gym owners and athletes succeed.  We fill our blog with gear tips and advice on what we've done or seen others successful with.  Want to see more?  Subscribe to our blog and like us on FacebookGoogle+ and YouTube to keep in touch with what's new at Hammerhead Fitness.