Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Opening a CrossFit® Gym - Frequently Asked Questions on Equipment

In the early stages of opening a CrossFit® Gym, planning what equipment to outfit with can sometime feel like playing the roulette wheel.  You never really know who will walk through that door at any particular class time.  And that can present a serious challenge when it comes to an equipment purchase for those that are just starting out.

Even studying the demographics will only give us an average snapshot across the US for ages, gender, income ranges and other data that might not really be that helpful for the particular area you are trying to establish.  And even if you've got a fistful of data to analyze, it's not a guarantee.

Generally speaking, whoever you are marketing for will be the clients you will gain.  And word of mouth advertising can skyrocket your membership levels with like-minded and similar demographic individuals.  Your "thirty and forty-something" clients with kids will talk about CrossFit® to their friends at the basketball or soccer games.  And those working professionals are your ideal members for a host of reasons.

But even knowing what type of client you are aiming for still won't provide you with all the info you need to have exactly the right mix of equipment on hand.  Does that mean that you need to over-buy?  Not at all.  We've got some strategies and insight that can help you make the most of your equipment on hand and how to best prepare for those first few months.

Easily Scalable Equipment

Here come the bread winners.  Whatever equipment provides you with the most versatility and scalability will pay for itself over and over.  Equipment that is easily scalable will allow you to change movements on the fly no matter the athletic ability or level of your client.  It's scalable pieces like these that the majority of your equipment budget should be spent on.

Got rings?
Gymnastics Rings - we've said it time and again that Gymnastic Rings might be the number one scalable tool in your grab bag.  And showing your clients that this seemingly 'unreachable' tool can be used by any level athlete will give them a confidence they never knew they had.  Ring Rows and Ring Pushups are two great exercises - one for push and one for pull.  And you can program either of those movements on Day One with any level athlete.  

And what's more?  Gymnastic rings are super affordable.  If it were up to us, there would be a set of rings for every athlete in your class.

Bars - another scalable tool that every gym will own is the barbell.  The biggest question you'll have to answer is what is the proper mix of Mens and Womens Bars to stock the gym with.  Before you get out the calculator for the high math, don't forget the Training Bar.  It can be one of the most underutilized pieces of equipment in your gym yet it is a huge problem solver for the new gym owner.  

The Hammerhead Training Bar has a 28MM Aluminum Shaft, no center knurl and has the same high quality alloy bushings as our Mens and Womens Bars.  We designed it that way so any athlete could grab it and not feel that it was an inferior product.  

Designed to handle loads of up to 150lbs, our training bar will be your life saver.  What is most important is that your athletes use the load you've prescribed up on the whiteboard.  So if it's 75lb Overhead Squats, does it really matter that they used a Training Bar?  Not when they've grabbed a quality one.  We suggest every gym have 2-3 of these on hand for overflow.

Gear Tip - The Training Bar will also play a huge role in saving your 10lb and 15lb bumpers.  Anytime you program loads of 45lb, 55lb, or 65lb, get the training bars out.  Weighing in at 15lbs means your athletes are forced to use at least two bumpers on each side to load the bar at those weights.  And having a pair of bumpers on each side always equals longer lasting equipment.  To help encourage your athletes to use the training bars for those lower weights, use colored ink on the whiteboard for the lower weights.  We've even seen some gym owners use colored tape on their bars to make them easily identifiable.  That's smart stuff.

Steel Weight Plates - Sometimes overlooked but always a huge help when everyone is scrambling to get their bars loaded with a challenging weight, small steel weight plates are critical.  We suggest only 5lb and 2.5lb plates though, just to keep an athlete from loading a bar only with steel.  Even with a stack of 10 or more of each plate in your gym, you'll find these little babies never collect dust.  And that means money was well spent.

Rowers - We don't normally encourage the startup gym owner to get outfitted with rowers off the bat.  We can't deny that they are amazing tools, but their single use comes at a hefty price tag.  For the cost of one rower, you can buy enough equipment to outfit one more athlete per class with ease.  But, one characteristic of rowers that can make them attractive to any gym is their scalability.  From beginner to advanced, nearly anyone can get on a rower and put forth effort.  If startup capital is not a problem, rowers are a great tool that everyone can use.

Non-Scalable Equipment

Ok - here's where the toughest challenge in outfitting your gym comes in.  Pieces like Kettlebells and Medicine Balls are super important because of their adaptability to many different types of movements but buying too many can leave you cash strapped.  Here's some ideas to keep your costs down.

Dealer's Choice - never forget that you or your trainers ultimately hold the trump card.  If the class is full and one or more of your athletes is forced to use a weight lighter or heavier than they would like, you can scale the movement up or down right then and there for them.  Increased or decreased reps is an easy way to change the level of difficulty so the workout isn't compromised and they feel challenged but not overwhelmed.

Just how much is on that bar?? :0
Ladies First - it's one of those rules that you should not need to remind your gentlemen clients but just in case you find them pushing in front of the line when it comes time to grab equipment, just write it up on the whiteboard under the WOD.  Or stick it up on the wall as part of your gym rules. [You have gym rules, don't you?]  And it's not about who is stronger or weaker.  If  you've written 35lb/55lb up on the board for kettlebell swings, you might have some gents not ready for RX'd grabbing the 35lb bell before the RX ladies have a chance.  Nuff said.

Circuit Training - this is a great way to keep everyone moving and to maximize your equipment.  Whatever you've got up on the board, create two to three stations for each exercise.  If it's Box Jumps, set up a few plyo boxes at varying heights.  For kettlebell swings, set out a few of each weight kettlebell in their own area.  For Ring Rows or pushups, set up a few stations at varying heights.  Start the clock with a few athletes at each station then have them rotate to the left every minute for 10 minutes.  At each station, your clients will have a wide variety of choices in equipment size/weight and won't have to compromise.

Staggered Start - these types of workouts work great for overloaded classes.  As in circuit training, set up several stations and start half the class immediately and half at minute two or three.  That two to three minute start will get the first wave of athletes comfortably ahead so that the second wave won't bump into them.  And put your fire breathers in the first wave too.  The staggered start is especially well suited for long chipper workouts like the Filthy 50.

Most often, just staying creative will get you through any class overloads.  And rather than show any frustration, instead remember that class overfill is a good thing.  That means word is getting out and your gym is growing.  Before long, you'll need to add equipment to keep up.  And when that happens, we're just a phone call or email away.

If starting a gym is in your future, or when it comes time to expand, visit us at Hammerhead Strength Equipment.  Our mission is to see you succeed because when you win, we both do.  Contact us here for more info.