Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Choosing the Right Equipment for CrossFit®

What is the most popular and most useful equipment for CrossFit®?  The exercise program nicknamed the Sport of Fitness is taking the country and beyond by storm.  Where does the effectiveness of the program seem to come from?  Intensity and Variation.

Ingenuity and creativity in putting foundational, grass roots equipment to use is what brings variety and interest to your training.  And that variety combined with intensity is proving to be the key to a successful program that keeps us interested and motivated to keep showing up at the gym.

What are the best equipment choices for CrossFit®? Here are the 10 pieces that dominate the programming.  Outfitted even with just a few of these pieces, you can build a highly effective and varied exercise program.  Much of what makes them so successful is the vast number of ways that they can be used. 
  • Barbells -
    Moving weight around is essential.  And the barbell is one of the top pieces in CrossFit® programming.  From the thruster and overhead squat to the deadlift and power clean, this equipment item ranks high on the list.  Because of it's versatility, the barbell can be used differently every day of the week and with that wide variety of movements it brings, the barbell needs all the right characteristics to perform them all well.
    • No Center Knurling - for those long workouts of cleans, front squats, and thrusters, the absence of center knurling in the barbell is a must - especially for ladies wearing scoop neck tops or tanks.  Knurling in the center of the barbell can bite, scuff and scratch.  A barbell absent of center knurling is essential.
    • Strength - to ensure the barbells are up to task, high grade steel [140,000PSI or more] that retains its straight length even when put under heavy loads is mandatory.  Movements like the deadlift and clean can put high stress on the barbell and it needs to be strong.
    • Great Bushings - While performing Olympic movements such as the clean and jerk and snatch, your hand position will change from palms facing your ankles to palms facing the sky.  And your hands need to do all that rotation without releasing your grip on the bar.  That means the barbell sleeves and the shaft need to rotate freely from one another.  That all happens smoothly when the barbell is constructed with bushings in the sleeves.  The higher the quality in the bushings, the more smoothly the shaft will spin.  What does that mean?  With a well constructed bar that spins freely, your wrists are protected from torque 
    • Shaft Diameter - the Hook Grip, essential to those Olympic Lifts mentioned above puts your hand in the best position to rotate as the bar moves from the ground to the shoulders or even overhead.  That hook grip is most comfortable with the right shaft diameters.  28mm-28.5mm has proven to be the most comfortable for Men and 25mm for ladies.
  • Bumper Plates - 
    alongside a great barbell, one of the most important equipment for CrossFit® items is the bumper plate.  Constructed of a mix of virgin or recycled rubber and polymers, the bumper plate looks a lot like the standard steel weight plates we've all come to know but thicker.  The rubber in the plate absorbs impact and allows the barbell to be dropped on the ground without damage to the floor or the equipment.  Since the barbell gets the lion's share of attention in CrossFit® programming, the bumpers, as they are often referred to, need to be built to take the punishment.  The one bumper plate that we've seen outperform most others is the US made Hi Temp Bumper made from recycled rubber.  It's super resilient and works great inside the gym and out in the driveway or parking lot.  Quality always wins over value when choosing which bumper plates are the best for your gym.
  • Pull Up Bar -
    With the pull up coming in at the number one programmed bodyweight exercise, you'll find that a solid pull up bar is a smart investment.  And, a wall mounted pull up bar does double duty for other exercises like toes to bar, knees to elbows and also acts as great place to mount gymnastics rings.  With the popularity of the kipping pull up, you'll want one that stands at least 30" away from the wall to give you room to move and it needs to built tough to withstand all that force.  Here are some tips on how high to mount the pull up bar and different ways you can incorporate it into your training.
  • Gymnastic Rings -
    Not just for ring muscle ups, gymnastics rings have a wide range of uses that can challenge any athlete from the beginner to the very advanced.  Mount them to your pull up bar for Ring Push Ups, Ring Rows and Ring Dips.  Other movements such as the Archer Pushup [from the bottom position of the push up extend the right arm out to the side then return; repeat with the left] work best when the rings are mounted to a separate gymnastic ring hanger.  Rings are portable too so they can travel with you easily.  Think rings are beyond your skill level?  We wrote a quick guide on gymnastics rings exercises for beginners.
  • Medicine Balls -
    The medicine ball is another great tool that is used in CrossFit® programming to get you moving under load.  From the ever popular Wall Ball to Overhead Squats and Lunges, the medicine ball is a tool that you will be reaching for every time you are in the gym.  It's great for intensifying core movements like the sit up, too.  While seated in front of a wall, lower into the bottom of the sit up while holding a medicine ball overhead.  As you lift your body and the medicine ball together throw the ball at the top of the movement and then catch before returning to the starting position. They are also great for warming up movements such as the clean.  For adding weight to movements such as Pull Ups, Knees to elbows or Muscle Ups, grip the medicine ball between your feet.  Here are some great ideas to use medicine balls in your training program.
  • Kettlebells -
    The Kettlebell Swing, Clean and Snatch all find their way into CrossFit® programming regularly and as one of the most versatile tools ever designed, the kettlebells use is only limited by our imagination.  Shoulder Presses, Windmills, the Halo, Figure Eight and many, many more are just some of the ways that the kettlebell can improve your fitness.  We've put together a list of 19 different ways you can use the kettlebell to keep your training varied and effective.  Not sure what sizes right for you.  We've got some tips on how to select the right size kettlebell right here.
  • The Abmat -
    the staple for the sit up, the Abmat is not a seat cushion to make the movement more comfortable but rather extends the range of motion in the core for this exercise and it does it well.  To maximize the effectiveness, make sure the Abmat is placed behind your butt rather than under it.  We also use the abmat when performing Handstand Push Ups.  The impact of your head on the floor can be uncomfortable at best.  Stack them three high for scaling the movement and for adding comfort.  As your strength increases, decrease to two Abmats then one.  From there, add a 10lb bumper plate on each side to increase the deficit.
  • Jump Ropes -
    One of the simplest yet most demanding endurance tools, the Jump Rope holds a strong position in the top ten equipment for CrossFit® list.  One of the most important characteristics of a jump rope is not only in how well the cable spins free of the handles but also in how it is sized to the individual athlete.  And with it's portability, you can take it anywhere.  No more excuses for not being able to tax your lungs due to inclement weather.    With only an 8x8 area you've got enough room to get a great workout.
  • Gym Timer -
    Whether training on your own or with a group, the gym timer is a great motivator, especially when tackling a workout you've done before.  We don't believe in compromising form for time, but the timer keeps our rest periods at a minimum and our body moving.  A timer that is programmable for workouts like Fight Gone Bad and Tabata timing sequences will give you the most flexibility in your training.  Programming the gym timer is easy and our video tutorials make it a snap.
  • Resistance Bands -
    the resistance band is most commonly known for its use in assisting with Pull Ups and while it does an outstanding job at that, it has many more uses.  We like to use it for resisted Push Ups, Shoulder Presses, Overhead Squats and for adding weight to movements like the Ring Dip and Chin Up.  And if you're traveling for business or pleasure, packing a few resistance bands in your duffle doesn't weigh a ton.  Need some help with Ring Muscle Ups?  We'll show you a neat way to use resistance bands and a squat rack to conquer the muscle up once and for all.

So whether you are starting your own commercial facility or outfitting your garage gym at home, these ten pieces are not only essential to building a great gym, but their uses are so varied you can keep changing things up to stay varied and intense.

 The Equipment Buyers Guide
Need some more info on how to outfit your facility with the most effective and useful equipment?  We've put together a free Equipment Buyer's Guide that is an easy read and is filled with tips and advice on how to start things off right.  Choosing the right sizes of kettlebells and medicine balls can be a challenge but we've got you covered with some great ideas.

And we recognize that every gym is different, too.  Want to talk to us about getting your gym started?  Let's do this.