Sunday, November 30, 2014

Great Uses for Your Lighter Weight Equipment

We've written before on strategies for making the best equipment choices for pieces like Kettlebells, Medicine Balls and Dumbbells.  With all the different sizes available, it's not always easy to figure out what choices are the best. And as your strength improves, you need to adjust how you use these tools for them to continue to be effective or you'll leave them sitting in the corner collecting dust and no one wants that.

A little reprisal on our guide for selecting the right sizes is that there are three main points on your body that you can move weight to - the hip, the shoulder and overhead and the further you get away from the floor, the more challenging the movements become typically.  And this little axiom holds true no matter what tools you are using - barbells included.

Your strongest movement, especially for the beginner, is almost always the deadlift.  This movement from the floor to the hip is the shortest distance from the floor and to keep yourself challenged here, you need some of your heaviest tools.  There aren't a ton of variations in how to move weight to your hip - the deadlift being the most popular - and it's important to keep the deadlift in your game.  Just ask any strength coach.

Our moderate weight involves moving the equipment to your shoulder and the great news about this middle piece is that there are a ton of different exercises that you can do utilizing the kettlebell, dumbbell, or middle weight medicine ball.  Some of the off stream movements such as the Turkish Getup, SOTS Press or Kettlebell Halo can be really fun to mix into your routine to keep yourself motivated.  If you haven't tried any of those, look them up on You Tube and get them in the mix.

Since not everyone has the budget to outfit their entire gym all at once, many decide to build their gym a piece at a time, getting the most useful equipment first and that's smart.  Our advice is to invest in the pieces that are challenging to bring to your shoulder. 

No matter the size, medicine balls can challenge you
We suggest that for two main reasons.  First, that moderately heavy load will by far have the most usefulness.  The medium weighted kettlebell, for instance can be used for cleans, rows, swings, turkish get ups, renegade rows and goblet squats just to name a few.  And second, as your strength increases, you will be able to use that moderate weight more and more for movements that begin to go overhead.   If you were to start with a lightweight kettlebell or dumbbell, then it would not be as challenging as you progress.  Moderate weight is best to invest in first then buy heavier as you get stronger and more skilled.

If you are finding that some of your kettlebells, medicine balls or dumbbells just aren't getting the use they once were because they no longer challenge you, here's a few ideas to get them back into the rotation.

Learn a New Movement - The number one killer for any piece of equipment is limiting it's use.  If all we ever did with the kettlebell was the two handed swing, we may only grab it twice a week or less and that's not making efficient use of that great tool, or our investment for that matter.  Instead, find a new way to put that old tool into action.  Here are some of our most popular blog posts on different movements with medicine balls, kettlebells and gymnastics rings.  Learn a new movement and get it into the rotation.  And new movements keep your workouts exciting which increases your motivation to train.


Non Weight Specific Movements - If you are out of ideas for new movements with the same pieces, there are a few very challenging exercises that can be done with some of your equipment regardless of it's size or weight.
Deficit Pushups can be done with many tools
  • The Elevated Plank Pushup - Adding a medicine ball [or two] to the pushup is a great way to keep all of your equipment in the rotation.  Try this pushup variation with one medicine ball for each hand or both hands on one with your feet on the floor or elevated.  The instability of the medicine ball will make gymnastic ring pushups look like child's play.
  • The Deficit Pushup - Similar to the medicine ball pushup above, instead use one kettlebell for each hand.  The kettlebells provide a more stable surface but also get you up off the ground so that you can really get low in your plank.
  • Pass Throughs - While you're in that plank push up position with one hand on each medicine ball, move your feet from behind your hands to in front of your hands in one motion then back again.  This also works great with kettlebells, bumper plates and plyo boxes.  And the great news is that it just doesn't matter what weight any of these tools are.
  • Elevated Lunges - great with either the medicine ball or a stack of bumpers, perform elevated lunges with one foot elevated.  Crank up the difficulty by adding a pair of kettlebells or dumbbells held in each hand at waist level, at the shoulders or even overhead.
  • Elevated Split Squats - just like the elevated lunge, the elevated split squat begins with the rear foot elevated on a medicine ball, plyo box or stack of bumpers.  And adding weight in each hand or even a barbell across your back can add intensity.
  • Barbell Roll Outs - If you thought toes to bar or long plank holds worked your core, we've got an exercise that you might develop a serious love/hate relationship with.  Grab a pair of bumper plates or steel weight plates and your barbell.  To start, kneel on the floor and bring the barbell to your quads.  While keeping your knees stationary, roll the barbell forward [don't let go of the bar] as far as possible then return to the starting position.  Again, this exercise is completely independent of what weight you stick on the bar.  One tip to make this exercise the most safe for the beginner is to position the bar near a wall such that when you roll it forward, the wall will stop it's progress forward.  As your core strengthens, move further away from the wall, then eventually you won't need the wall at all.
We've got a bunch of new products and package deals for the commercial gym and garage athlete alike and many of them ship free.  Add a few pieces to your gym and keep changing up those workout plans to stay motivated and successful.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Workout at Home Effectively with the Right Tools

If you've ever dreaded the early morning wake-up to get to the gym or cringed at the thought of having to pound through rush hour at the end of the day to train, we've all been there.  Sometimes our schedules just don't allow for getting out to the gym, especially when you've got a family at home.

If a steady gym membership just isn't going to happen, there is still hope.  Yes, going to a gym full of like minded people is a great motivator and the group style workout program makes everyone seriously accountable for putting the work in.  There is no doubt that working along side someone else doing the same workout as you spurs you on to get it done faster.  So, can an at home workout be as effective?

The right tools make all the difference
The absolute number one characteristic you will need for success is motivation.  Even the most expensive home gym equipment shiny and polished and full of potential won't do you one bit of good if you don't use it consistently.  And by and large the cost of the equipment does not correlate to it's effectiveness contrary to most beliefs.  It's more important to have the right tools than the expensive ones.  But before we reveal what we think are the most effective tools for the at home workout, we've got to get you thinking about what will get you using them consistently.  The right tools to use at home we can help with, the motivation part is up to you.  Here's a few pointers I've learned in my 25+ years of having fitness as a central part of my life.

  • Recognize the Need - If you are in the military, law enforcement or fire department then fitness is an obvious lifetime pursuit.  If you are at a desk all day then devoting a portion of your day to exercise may very well be just as important.  Get out a piece of paper and write down your reasoning for wanting to workout at home.  If you can't do that right now, it might be best to go pursue something else and come back when you see the need.  It sounds a bit harsh but if you don't see the need for adding a fitness program to your daily routine, then it's tough to attach a commitment and see results.  Spend more than a few minutes thinking about why you want to get fit and write it down.  Keep that slip of paper.
  • Have a Goal - No matter what we do, to see it accomplished we have to have a goal.  You set short term goals all day long - preparing a meal, stopping to fuel up your car, completing tasks at work.  Imagine your day without goals and what the resultant accomplishments would be?  Impressive, right?  Nope.  The same goes for having a fitness goal.  Make the goals very, very specific and measurable.
  • Be Okay with Changing it Up - I've pursued a lot of different training programs and used a wide variety of equipment.   Some I've used, left and come back to and some I've left permanently.  One constant in all those years was that I found something of interest and wasn't afraid to dive in.  Very few people ever stick with one piece of equipment or one fitness endeavor their whole life.  Change things up to keep it interesting.  Sign up for a road race, trail race or get your bike out for a few weeks at a time.  It is true that variety can keep us from mastering a specific tool or movement but in the long run, variety may very well keep you engaged better than routine will.  And if you don't try new tools or fitness outlets, you might be missing out on something you can really enjoy.
Outfit your home gym with versatile tools that keep your interest
If your motivation is now peaked, that's a good thing.  As we said, without it, you won't get far.  So, if we've got you interested, let's talk about some of the most useful tools for at home workouts. Two single most important aspects of any equipment you put in your gym is it's versatility and effectiveness.

Single use equipment had better be stellar at what it does or very cost effective to earn a spot in your gym.  It's kinda like having the same thing for lunch every day for a month.  Sooner or later you're going to hate it and want something else.  If you decide to add the piece with the understanding that you won't use it everyday, then at least you are being honest with yourself.  We've got a few ideas to keep your interest level high that we will share below.

What are the most useful tools for at home workouts?  We've got six in mind that have earned their spot because of their versatility and effectiveness.   And, by and large, they are very reasonable;y priced.  To give yourself the best chance of success at an effective and enduring workout program at home you'll need both in every piece.
  • The Pull Up Bar - If the last time you set your eyes on one of these was in high school, it's time to add one to your home gym.  We had a gymnastics unit in high school [yep, I do remember that far back :) ] and it didn't grab my interest then but that's a different story now.  Easy to install and superb at building a strong upper body and core, the pull up bar is in every major gym in the country for a reason.  And it's not just for the basic pull up.  Once you've got the strength for a set of 10 or more strict pull ups it's time to start trying some more advanced pulling movements on this great tool.  And the pull up bar is also fantastic at building your core with movements like knees to elbows, toes to bar, L Sit holds, windshield wipers and more.  Versatility will keep your interest and will keep your fitness level progressing.
  • Kettlebells or Dumbbells - Without a doubt two the oldest and most effective strength training tools ever designed are the kettlebell and dumbbell.  For many, either of these tools are interchangeable which makes them a great choice.  And not only are they effective, but the number of ways that you can put them to use is virtually limitless.  We've put together an easy read on what size kettlebell is best for you that applies to dumbbells as well.  And if you need a few exercise ideas for inspiration, here's more than a handful of kettlebell exercises you can do at home.  Suffice it to say that with a little inspiration, you could use a kettlebell or dumbbell differently every time you step in the gym for a month.  That says a lot, especially when you are on a budget.
  • Gymnastics Rings - Hanging up in your basement or garage gym, gymnastics rings might be one of the most interesting and low cost tools out there.  For men and women alike, rings have an incredible amount of versatility for pulling or pushing movements like the pull-up, push up, ring row even muscle ups.  Their instability and nearly infinite scalability make them an overwhelming choice for the home gym.  And because of their wide range of difficulty in exercises from the beginning level Basic Support Position to the Straddle L you can continue to pursue mastery for years with a host of different exercises.  There are a handful of really exciting beginner level gymnastic rings exercises that you can do right out of the box.
  • Concept 2 Rowing Machine - Ok, we're breaking the rules with this one just a little because it is a single use piece of equipment but the reason we've got the Concept 2 Rower on the list is it's amazing effectiveness.  This rower is an incredibly well built piece of equipment that although you probably won't use every day, still earns a high spot on our list of at home workout equipment.  For those that can't get to the gym or get outside for an intense run or bike ride the indoor rower delivers a fantastic workout.
  • Medicine Ball - The medicine ball is also high on our list because of it's high versatility but also it's low impact style of training.  Especially effective for the beginner but also able to challenge the advanced level athlete, the medicine ball works itself easily into many bodyweight exercises such as the squat, overhead lunge, pushup and sit-up.  For those that don't want heavy steel plates and barbells in their home gym, the soft, quiet yet super tough medicine ball is a great choice.
  • Resistance Bands - Also a fantastic choice for the home gym, resistance bands are easily adaptable to multiple movements and provide a lower impact type resistance to your training.  Add them to movements like the squat or use them for shoulder pressing and wrapped around a pull up bar for pulling movements too.  We've got more than a few ideas for using resistance bands in your training here.
Yep.  Enough Said.
Here's a few more tools to throw in your bag of tricks to keep your interest levels high and your workouts consistent.
  1. Throw in a Monkey Wrench - write down seven exercises that get you out of the gym - 5K runs, 5 Mile Bike Rides, 20 Laps at the Pool, or Trail Hiking with a Heavy Pack - that kind of stuff.  Fold up the paper notes and toss them in a hat.  One day a week, grab one and do it.  No matter what.  Toss it back in the hat and add more as you think of them.
  2. Learn Something New - Maybe you've just bought that set of Gymnastics Rings with three or four exercises in mind.  Awesome.  To keep them a little more interesting look up a new exercise that you've never tried and put that in your training plan.  Ring Turn Outs are amazingly effective and not in the mainstream.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Medicine Ball Exercises - Let's End the Trend

If your medicine ball that sits in the corner dusty until Wall Balls are in the programming it's time to bring it out of retirement and get it in your every day training routine.  Seriously, the medicine ball is one tool that can add that needed spark back into your programming.


Here's the deal - if you are going back to that same grab bag of exercises and movements that you've been using for the past 6 months or more, you will get bored.  And even more dangerous for the gym owner is losing clients due to lack of excitement and engagement in what goes on the white board day in and day out.

No amount of variety, rep schemes, timing patterns or combinations of thrusters, pull ups and kettlebell swings will keep you coming back for more forever.  Can it still be effective?  Absolutely.  But at some point if it isn't mentally engaging then it will lose it's luster and appeal then it's off to find the next mountain to climb.
Far too often, the Medicine Ball only comes out of hiding when it's time to throw it against the wall, but it's time to end that trend right now.

One of the best ways to build camaraderie and fun in your gym is the Partner Workout. Who doesn't get excited a little bit every time they see it up on the white board?  We've all seen the Mr. Bean imagery all over Facebook and Instagram...That look your friend gives you when a Partner WOD is announced.

Some gyms regularly schedule partner workouts while some do not.  There are the noted objections of "Will it be serious enough?" or "Will I get a good enough workout?"  We think yes in both cases when partner workouts are programmed with smart adjustments in timing, rep requirements or allowable change offs.  We'll cover more on that in another blog soon. [You are subscribing to these, right??]

Partner workouts can be incredibly effective in both fun factor and in intensity.  

The Partner Catapult Sit-up - This is an amazingly effective core blaster that you can even add a twist to but here's the basics.  Partner One gets on the floor in the standard sit-up position with knees slightly bent and a medicine ball held overhead but resting on the floor.  Partner Two stands in front of Partner One so essentially their toes are pointed toward each other.  Got the set up?  Good.  Now, partner one sits up and throws the medicine ball to their  buddy.  When they lie back down, partner two throws the ball back to them.  Variation: When Partner Two catches the medicine ball they have to Overhead Squat it before tossing it back to their partner on the floor.

The Partner Kayak - There are a few variations of this exercise but this one will give you enough to create more on your own.  Two partners stand back to back, one with a medicine ball in hand.  While keeping their feet firmly in place, pass the medicine ball from left to right.    One fun variation is to have the partners seated back to back but require that their feet not touch the ground.

Partner Medicine Ball Toss - Who wouldn't want to do this?  A game of catch is always fun.  To add intensity there are more than a few ways to crank this up a notch.  Increasing the distance between partners is step one.  Or having them throw from the knees is a great way to take the lower body out of the workout and add difficulty.  If you've got something in the gym that they can throw over that adds a bit of intensity as well.


If you're on your own, no problem.  And keeping your routine changed up and exciting is even more important if you are training on your own.  Training with a partner always adds fun and accountability so be sure to keep your training varied and different to keep your interest peaked.

You can modify any of the above partner medicine ball exercises by substituting the wall for a partner, and we've got some other lung burners for you to try, too so read on.

The Medicine Ball Burpee - Ok - we want to apologize in advance for bringing this one up.  It's a bit extreme and if you find it on the whiteboard the next time you walk in the gym well...we're sorry.  Tough, but amazingly effective is the burpee and if you just don't have time for 7 minutes of standard burpees, we'll guarantee that 30 Medicine Ball Burpees will be enough.  Tip: Toss the medicine ball on the ground before you get in the plank position for the pushup.


Bumper Plates work well for this movement too.
The Atomic Sit Up - Start from the bottom of the sit-up position with a medicine ball held overhead.  As you sit up, bring the medicine ball forward of your hips and through the knees.  As the medicine ball moves forward, use the momentum to stand up.  The finished position is normally with the ball held overhead.  For the beginner this movement can be adapted by removing the medicine ball.  The added weight does assist in creating momentum, but holding an object with both hands makes it impossible to reach for the floor to assist in the stand up.

Medicine Ball Pushups - Many coaches and trainers know that creating instability in movements recruits much more muscle fiber than when working with machines that isolate.  Equipment like gymnastics rings are one of the great tools to maximize this instability for many movements but the medicine ball push up is arguably even more difficult the the ring pushup.  If your gym isn't outfitted with a set of gymnastics rings, here is an great alternative for pushups.  The medicine ball push up and its variations recruits a massive amount of stabilizer muscle in the shoulders, back and arms.  From the standard plank position, place both hands on the medicine ball and lower until your chest and hands touch.  Fairly standard stuff but amazingly effective and difficult.  Variations: To increase difficulty, raise the level of your feet with a stack of bumper plates or a plyo box.  Or put one hand on a stick of bumpers and the other on your medicine ball for deficit pushups.  With two medicine balls use one for each hand or put both hands on one and both feet on the other.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Redesign Your Home Gym

Winter is setting in and chances are you've got to move more of your workout indoors.  And while that might put a downer on your motivation, instead see it as an opportunity to shake things up with your current routine and your space.

Get Something Motivational Up on Your Wall - Stirring up enough motivation to train hard at home can be a challenge but there are ways to shake off the cobwebs and get down to business when you walk in there.

Whether it's an inspirational quote or poster, there is a lot to be said about visual cues.  Many of us are predominantly visual and getting something up on the wall where you'll see it everyday can play a big part in staying motivated.

Put Up a Goal Board - The number one killer to any training program is the absence of a goal and the lack of recording progress.  Do you remember what your deadlift was this time last month?  How about last year?If you've been steadily training a movement for the past few months, have you made any progress?  We all get motivated by setting and achieving goals.  You might be surprised by how much improvement you've made in the past year but without keeping record or setting goals for yourself you just might be missing out on seeing those great accomplishments.


If writing down your goals on a white board isn't quite the thing to motivate you, pin up a relevant photo or two of your next goal.  The quick visual can be much more meaningful and sticks in your head more than a number up on the wall.  And when you smash that goal, replace it with something else immediately so you can stay focused on making gains.

Keep a Training Log and Plan Ahead - Keeping a training log is important but also critical to success is having a plan and following it.  Once you've got one or two goals written down, put a four week plan together to meet them.  If after four weeks you've met your goals, fantastic!  Set new ones.  If you did not reach your goals, don't look at it as failure, but learn from it.  Maybe the goals were too lofty?  Or maybe the movements you were training didn't contribute to increasing your capacity.  Change the plan and try again.  That's part of the fun of it.  Seeing what works and what doesn't then exploiting the type of movements and rep schemes that works best for your goals.


Do Something to Improve Your Space - Having a clean, well-lit place to train plays a big role in staying motivated, too.  Chances are that if you are training in your basement or garage, there is probably something that you could do to improve it's look or functionality.

Our first advice is not to try to rebuild your gym from scratch all at once.  Maybe tackle one small improvement every few weeks.  It might be adding a floor mat or two or maybe putting fresh coat of paint up on the wall.  Make improvements slowly and keep the projects small enough that you can complete in one afternoon.  That way you won't clutter up your space or make it unusable and you will stay motivated to keep on improving your space.

One thing we've found that is amazingly cost effective but of great value is adding a sheet of 4x8 plywood on one or more of your walls.  If you like working Handstand Push Ups or Wall Walks and Wall Runs, plywood is an effective wall protector, it looks great and you can walk out of the hardware store with a sheet of it for under $50.  Don't grab the expensive stuff - even particle board works great.  And some like the look of it unpainted.  It adds to the industrial feel.


Make Cleanup Easy - Most everyone likes clean lines in a space, and whether its your living room or it's where you meet some iron for a little training time, you'll want that area to be ready each and every time you walk in there.  Keeping your equipment well put away maximizes your open floor space and keeps you motivated to train.

If you end a training session with equipment left out, it's a real detriment to training the next day.  Ever walked into an unkempt gym space?  Who wants to spend their first 15 minutes cleaning up the place?  You haven't got to empty your wallet to keep all of your equipment organized, but keeping your space tidy goes a long way in staying after your goals.


Train With Versatile Tools - The enemy of progress in the gym is routine.  Understandably it's tough to master movements which you don't practice steadily, but without mixing up our programming, we don't stay mentally engaged and challenged.  Once your brain checks out, your workout becomes boring and you won't stay after it.

Owning equipment that is versatile allows you to keep changing things up and keep your interest level high.  If you haven't tried any new exercises with your current equipment, it might be tie to learn something new.  Tools like gymnastics rings, kettlebells and dumbbells are smart investments because of the wide range of exercises that can be done with them.  If you need some inspiration on what to try next, here's a few exercises for gymnastics rings that are challenging and fun.  And if you are looking to outfit your gym with any of these tools, we've got some great home gym packages put together that are the perfect answer for the stale routine.

So, wake up that routine, plan a gym improvement project and get some motivation to pursue your goals.  What are you waiting for? 3-2-1-Go!






Monday, November 24, 2014

Pull Up Rack - New Upgrades and Accessories

We've been busy with our design team on bringing some new and upgraded accessory pieces for our pull up rack into production.  Though already a great piece of equipment for pull ups, toes to bar, hanging gymnastics rings from or racking the bar on, there's even more to do with just a little ingenuity.

For those training heavy barbell movements alone, our Safety Spotter Arms are a great solution that allows you to step away from the rack while still having a place to catch the bar.  Use them at any vertical position along our poles from just under 20" to over 5 feet.

Our recent modification gives our safety spotter arms even more strength and stability.  The unique but more effective horizontal key mounting design of our rig series allows the attachment to be inserted from the front of the pole rather than pivoted into place like many others.  This front attachment method allows us to design our mounting bracket to completely encase the front and sides of the vertical pole making our attachment the strongest and most stable.  And this attachment method translates into stronger accessory parts like dip bars too.

We've also been busy designing a new, more stable yet low cost Wall Ball Target.  For some gyms, adding wall ball targets right to their wall mounted or free standing rig can be a great option.

Our simple, yet effective Wall Ball Target can be placed at any of 18 different positions on our vertical poles and the stand off design will place the targets in front of our ever popular Offset Pull Up Bars.

And our target faces are reversible so if you want to purchase your own gym decals to proudly display that's not a problem either.

One of our most popular options for our customers has been our pull up rack Pole Extension Kits.  Our standard poles are a full 9 foot high and have dozens of options for mounting pull up bars at heights that are comfortable for any size athlete.

But some gyms with super high ceilings were having a tough time figuring out how to hang gymnastics rings and climbing ropes for their clients.  The standard 9 foot pole height wasn't high enough for either of these tools and we found that although we can make 12 foot poles, shipping costs were staggeringly high.  So, our design team came up with a pole extension kit that raises the height of the poles by three feet and that can be added at any time.  Our unique wrap around connector is super strong and keeps the pole amazingly stiff.  With the pole height now at 12 feet, you can hoist pull up bars all the way to the top which leaves enough head room for ring muscle ups and short rope climbs.

Another popular piece for us has been our Gymnastics Ring Hanger and Climbing Rope Attachment [not pictured].  For those gyms with drywall ceilings or in spaces with exposed wood floor joists, our mounting brackets have been a great solution for hanging gymnastics rings and climbing ropes.  These pieces originally designed for the Garage Gym Athlete have gotten the attention of the commercial facilities as well.

Our new Universal Mounting Bracket is designed for use on our pull up rack in conjunction with our extension kits.  With this single tubing bracket connected at the top of the extension kits you can get the most overhead clearance possible for hanging climbing ropes or gymnastics rings.  And with mounting holes along the entire length you can choose exactly where the rings and climbing ropes hang.  Our new Wall Ball Target faceplate will also be sold separately from the mounting bracket [pictured above] should you wish to mount it directly on this new attachment as well.

Our new Band Pull Hook is a simple yet effective attachment for our pull up rack series that allows resistance bands to be easily attached to our rig poles at nearly any height along the vertical.

Ideal for mobility work, resisted runs or band pulls, our Band Pull Hook is easy to use and comes complete with a gravity key.  Pair it with a set of our resistance bands and add yet another dimension to your training.


All these great new attachments will be available in the coming weeks so stay tuned to our website and if you haven't liked our Facebook page yet, please do.  All of our latest announcements, product developments and special deals on equipment are announced on Facebook first so don't miss out.

Until then, lift heavy and often!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Is Your Training Program Losing It's Luster?

Frustrated at the Gym?  Maybe it's time to change up your routine.
Every training program can lose it's luster after time.  And if you are feeling a bit bored, are beginning to lack motivation or are no longer seeing steady gains, read on.

That waning interest in your current routine is not a black mark against your dedication or level of effort.  It's human nature to want variety and if your programming is starting feel a bit mundane, maybe it's time for a change.  Imagine eating the same exact foods every day?  At some point they lose their ability to satisfy.  The same goes with exercise.  At some point, if you've been doing the same thing over and over again, not only will it be harder to motivate yourself to see that training day through, it will have diminishing effects on your body.

Even the very best training routines need a new twist every so often to keep us progressing and interested.  And even if you change rep schemes, combinations or weight, using the same grab bag of movements will eventually stir up a desire for something new.  It does make sense to practice and pursue certain movements on a continuing basis - true.  If we only ever dabble in something, we'll never master it and some movements require a certain foundation of strength to move on to more challenging exercises.  But, keeping variety in our exercise, if those new movements are closely related to our goals, can help us break through plateaus and can keep us interested in training.

Remember the first time you tried a new movement, a new piece of equipment or started following a new training plan?  That newness can really keep us motivated and challenged.  And if you've found lately that your workout includes just the same handful of exercises and the same old tools maybe it's time to shake things up a bit to give you that spark back.

Some of the most foundational movements are also the best.  The squat and the deadlift, for instance, are arguably the top two strength exercises out there.  And there isn't too much that we can do to change those up nor should we steer too far off course with what has proven time and again to be effective.  It's not about a complete overhaul of you program as much as it is about adding in a few new twists.

Here's a few ideas that won't take a ton of investment to incorporate into your current routine and many of them you can start immediately.  Before we show you these four great tricks to keep you on your toes and excited about training, here are two pieces of advice that are key to progress.  Both are crucial to seeing real results and without them you will miss out on your true potential.

MAKE A WRITTEN PLAN

Ever taken a vacation?  If even for the weekend, vacations always go better when you've got a plan;  how to get there, how long it will take, sights you want to see, restaurants, and so on...  The same goes for training.  If you don't write down a plan, you won't have a road map to follow.  Writing down a plan is smart and keeps you on track.  Keep your plan short.  Any plan longer than 4 weeks is harder to stick to and perhaps more importantly, a shorter schedule is important to allow for feedback on success and the ability to make timely changes.  You'll notice in 4 weeks what is working and what is not.  If one of your lifts is stagnating after 4 weeks of effort, change something.  Not to give it away early but read below for some ideas...

WRITE DOWN A GOAL

While you are writing your training plan is the best time to think about what goals you want to accomplish.  Maybe it's a limited number of absences or maybe a personal record on a lift.  Write it down and review that goal every time you look at your plan.  If you smash that goal early, write another one.  Goals are another great motivator that both push us to succeed and are fun to celebrate.

If you've committed to writing down a plan and a few goals for the next few weeks, congrats!  Here's a few twists to add into your routine to keep those foundational movements you can't live without spiced up a bit as well as giving you some new ideas to try something different.

Vary hand spacing.  For many of the static barbell lifts such as presses, deadlifts and rows, even a variation in hand spacing on the bar can be all your body needs to push past your current PRs.  Make note in your training log where you gripped the bar so that next time you train that movement you change things up.  And that $2 roll of athletic tape can do more than protect your hands or provide extra wrist support.  The next time you're in the gym, roll three pairs of marks on your pull up bar.  One for narrow grip, one for neutral and one for wide.  Every time you jump up on the bar, grab it a different way.

Learn a new movement.  Nothing adds interest more than trying something you've never done before.  And since it's something new, you can also have fun looking online for instructional videos, too.  If one of your current lifts isn't progressing, look for a similar movement and swap out the old for the new.  One movement that you may not have tried is the Kettlebell Turkish Get Up.  It's a bit out of the mainstream but it is a complex movement that isn't easily mastered, and can challenge even the most skilled athlete.  Learning and incorporating a new movement will add interest to your programming and will keep the gains coming.

Get a new piece of equipment.  Along with a new movement, you may want to try a new piece of equipment.  If your current routine only uses three different pieces of equipment, it's time to change things up.  Gymnastics rings are a great upper body trainer and are easy to keep in your gym bag.  Gym Rings are one of the most interesting strength tools on the market that can fit instantly into any training program for any level athlete.  And there are an abundance of movements that you can try right out of the box.  Even static holds above the rings are incredibly challenging for first time gym rings users.  And ring dips, ring pushups and ring rows all hit your chest, arms, shoulders and back like nothing else.  You'll find that the investment you make here will never be regretted.

Use a different tool for the same movement.  Want another way to add some flair to your dulling routine?  Change up the tools you are using for a few of your current movements.  Either single handed or double handed, kettlebells are a perfect accompaniment to barbell work because the movements are so similar.  And that similarity means you've already got a head start on technique.  Now it's just getting used to the new feel and balance.  And if you've been predominantly working with barbells, the kettlebell adds an instability that you will find challenging.

At the end of the day, it's all about getting your body stronger and more fit so don't hesitate to step out of the box to find a new weakness.  Now grab a pencil and paper and write that 4 week plan and your next goal.  Let's do this.

Friday, November 14, 2014

How to Keep Your Pull Up Workout Effective

If your pull up routine is getting stale or not bringing continued results, we've got a few ideas to keep your training varied, interesting and effective.  It's easy to see the pull up bar as a tool with limited use.  Maybe the most variation that comes to mind is changing hand placement such as palms in or out.  And these are fantastic variants to the pull up that you should be incorporating into your training.  But we'll show you some important steps to take and new movements to include in your routine to keep gains coming.

Before we dive into some really interesting ways to use the wall mounted or ceiling mounted pull up bar we want to point out three important rules that you have to follow to see real results.  Those that don't follow these rules just won't see the success that really is possible.
  • Rule #1 - Consistency.  Of course, right?  If we aren't consistent in our training then we won't get results or they will fall short of our expectations and hopes.  Consistency is key and without it you will not see the results that you could.  To help keep consistent in your training you'll need to develop a habit.  Don't wait to work on your training when you 'feel' like it.  Our motivation ebbs and flows all the time and if you wait for the right mood to hit you, your training will be sporadic.  Instead, pick out an easy to follow schedule that you stick to no matter what.  Make it easy to commit to and if at all possible make it the same time each day.  And remember, consistency doesn't mean you need to train every single day.  Your body does need rest so take days off but make them the same day.  Research has shown that it takes about 21 days to form a new habit so plan on pushing yourself a bit extra for those first three weeks.  Before you know it, your training will be consistent.
  • Rule #2 - Variation.  To keep your body confused, your mind engaged and most importantly to keep gains coming, you've got to mix things up.  One of the most common objections to variation that comes to mind is that if the training is constantly varied, will I see improvement in any one exercise?  If I'm always changing my routine can I ever get good at anything?  The answer is yes provided that you incorporate similar movements to what you are trying to excel at.  If we're trying to increase pulling strength in the pull up, working on Deadlifts won't help us make gains there, but a movement like rope climbs will.  And changing the width and the position of your hands in the pull up, for instance, is a variation that is very important to do.  More dramatic variation such as the rope climb keeps your brain challenged even more and the training more exciting.  What to take away?  To see continued results, never perform the same pull up variation twice in the same week.  Change your grip, move your hand position or incorporate a similar pulling exercise.
  • Rule #3 - Write Down a Plan.  Failure to write down a plan and record results is the number one killer to motivation and progress.  Read that sentence again.  it is absolutely key to making progress.  Keep your plan to no more than 4 weeks long so that you have a chance to evaluate, see your progress, and change things up.  But write down what you'll do every training day for the next four weeks and no matter what, stick to the plan.  And writing down your accomplishments for each day is critical to track your gains and move through plateaus.  Make a plan, stick to it and record your results daily.
If you think outside the box, the pull up bar really can be much more of a training tool than many take it for.  And there is no reason that you can't incorporate it in every single training day.  As we've said before, variation is key.  

There are some that liken the pull up to the upper body as the squat is to the lower body.  Really?That's something to take note of.  We all know how foundational and important the squat is, but can the pull up have that same impact on the upper body?  Definitely.  We'll first need to recognize that mastering the basic pull up or chin up is only the beginning.  There are many advanced pulling progressions to work into your training after the basic strength is mastered.

Equipment Selection - Just a few quick notes on equipment selection before we get started.  A wall mounted pull up bar is a good choice provided that it's far enough away from the wall and has enough overhead clearance.  You might think that all pull up bars are created equal, but by choosing one with just a few key design characteristics, you can be prepared for many more exercises than just the basic pull up once you've mastered the basic pulling strength.  To keep the most amount of exercise options available, keep overhead clearance at 4 feet or more if possible and a bar that stands 30" away from the wall is ideal.

Get Out the Tape - To help keep your grip spacing varied, mark the bar in six locations with athletic tape.  The first pair will mark a narrow grip, the second pair a neutral grip and the third pair a wide grip.  If it helps to keep them super straight in your mind, color each set a different color.  Keeping track of and changing your grip spacing every training day is an absolutely huge part of success.  And it costs you nothing extra.  A few pieces of well placed athletic tape will pay you enormous dividends.

Basic Hand Position - There are three basic hand positions on the pull up bar to train pulling strength.  Palms facing in is the Chin Up, palms facing out is the Pull Up and we can also work on pulls with a mixed grip - one palm facing in and the other facing out.  All three of these hand positions are important to keep incorporated into your workout.  Match this with the athletic tape marks you've just added to your bar and you've already got 9 variations of the basic pulling movement.  The key to making sure that you are getting proper variation is to write down that training plan mentioned above.  Whether you've got a 3, 4 or 5 day routine, planning out now which pulling movements you will do each day is critical to keeping variation.  If you don't plan it out, you just won't remember what you've done or what is next.  Plan it out and succeed.

Bar Walks - One day a week incorporate bar walks in place of a pulling movement.  To begin, place your right hand, palm facing out in the middle of the bar and your left hand on the far left of the bar also palm out.  Imagine three points on the bar - Left, Middle, and Right.  The Left is the leftmost end of the bar and the Right is the rightmost part.  We'll abbreviate the positions as L - M - R.  Starting position is L-M. Then M-M, then M-R and R-R.  That is one repetition.  Without coming down off the bar and keeping hands at R-R, move through these positions. M-R, M-M, L-M, L-L.  That's rep number two.  Aim for three sets of 10 with one minute rest in-between each set.  If you drop off the bar, the set is over.  It sounds deceivingly simple but is super challenging.  And this type of exercise is great for developing a superior grip which will go a long way in building your raw pulling strength.

Bar Runs - A more difficult variation for building amazing grip and arm strength is what we call the bar 'run'.  Walking on the bar above can be done by sliding the hands out then together then out and together again.  Running requires even more strength and coordination.  To begin, grip the bar at one end with hands together, opposing grips.  When you hang free your body now rotates 90 degrees under the bar and that's just how we want you.  Now to run on the bar take the hand in back, release then re-grip in front.  Continue exchanging hands until you reach the opposite end of the bar.  It feels a bit like using monkey bars as a kid.  When you reach the end, turn around and come back or try moving backward to the starting position.

Sample Plan - As we've said, without a plan, you just won't see the same results.  Keep the plan to 4 weeks at a time so you can stay interested yet have a long enough time to see positive results.  Don't worry about planning out how many reps you want to go after.  That will take care of itself when it comes time to train.  Only be sure you write down how you did in each set.  Here's what one week with four days of training might look:

  • Rest
  • Day One - Hand Position - Switch Grip, Hand Location - Neutral
  • Day Two - Hand Position - Palms Out, Hand Location - Narrow
  • Rest
  • Day Three - Bar Walks
  • Day Four - Hand Position - Palms In, Hand Location - Wide
  • Rest
Test In and Out - And pick any one Hand Position and Hand Location before you start your routine and test your current strength before you begin the 4 week plan.  After working for 4 consecutive weeks, test out with the same criteria.  By following the three rules above you will see dramatic results.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

New Site, New Services, New Products

Over the past few months we've been busy with projects, product development and building new relationships with new CrossFit® Gyms.  If you've dialed into the website in the last 24 hours you've noticed one of our most major changes - a completely new look.

To say we're excited about our new layout is an understatement.  Not only do we have a new image, but we've also restructured the site to make finding that perfect piece of equipment for your gym even easier.  And we still have our sleeves rolled up as we know there are bugs to work through and functionality to improve but we hope you like what you see so far.

One of our biggest new features on the site is the separation between Garage Athletes and Commercial Gym owners.  While we love both, we've made that distinction not to differentiate in quality of equipment but rather to allow gym owners to shop differently in that they most normally want a few of each item.  Not only have we changed because of the way our customers shop, we've also made some changes on the manufacturing end to have products with the same functionality but appeal to both the commercial gym and the garage gym.  Case in point is in the design of our Gymnastics Ring and Climbing Rope Hangers.  We've built a smaller scale version for the Home Gym athlete and a larger commercial size version for the Gym Owner.

Many of the gyms we've worked with in the past now have their members, owners and spaces featured on many of our product images on the new website and there are a few thank you's we want to pass around.  As always, if you've got a great image of a piece of our gear in action, send it on in as we are always looking to showcase our customers.

Thanks go out to CrossFit Motivus out in Spartansburg, SC for letting us be part of their gym and take a few great pics as well!  Glenn and Cayce are front and center on our new T-Shirt Club icon.  Glenn, Cayce and Zac are doing some really great things down there and we like seeing good people succeed.  We wrote a few blog articles on their success story.

So, with that said one of the first new services we'd like to introduce is our T-Shirt Club.  When you click on that link you'll find Timmy Card of CrossFit Lancaster right at the top of the page.  For gym owners, we've given you a place to make your apparel available to people outside of your area.  We sent out an email blast to our customers a while back asking if there would be interest in purchasing t-shirts from some of the gyms we work with.  We received a very positive response so we decided to start the club.  It's easy to join.  Just get in touch with us to have your shirts and hoodies pictured on the T-Shirt Club page.  For athletes that love cool T-Shirt designs, feel free to browse our selection and if one or two strike your fancy, add them to your cart and check out with them as you would any other equipment item.

We've also added a spot for event sponsorships.  In the background is our very first customer - CrossFit Rochester from back when we started in 2010.  We understand how important competition is not only to the gym owner but also to the athlete so we've been getting more and more active in playing part in these fun events.

If you've got an event coming up, let us know.  We've got a few different options to get involved.  And if we do have equipment in use during an event, we offer great deals to the athletes and spectators after the awards ceremony to grab up some of it for their own home gyms or commercial facilities.

All of our metal fabrications including our ever popular Pull Up Rack, Wall Mounted Pull Up Bar, Sleds and more are all sporting a new branding that we're super excited about.

If you've been following us from the beginning you'll notice we've tweaked our website address name to Hammerhead Strength Equipment.  Our primary reason for doing that was to brand ourselves a bit better so that athletes and gym owners could tell right away when they see one of our t-shirts or products that we're all about providing Strength Equipment.  The former Hammerhead Fitness name was leading some folks to think that we were a gym rather than an equipment manufacturer.

And our Rig Poles now have 9 more horizontal slots in front to further increase their usability and functionality.  [We've got a brand new attachment coming out in the next few weeks that we think you'll love].  And we have also added holes on the bottom of the poles for future attachments as well.  Good stuff coming...stay tuned.

In addition to all the webpage enhancements, and new services we've also been busy in new product development.  A few months ago we unveiled our new Jerk Blocks.  One thing that we've always tried to do was to make equipment with multiple purpose.  Single use equipment, unless it is stellar, just doesn't bring the return on investment for any of us.

Our new Jerk Blocks stack on top of our 20x24x30 Plyo Boxes [most competitors boxes too] so that you don't have to build up to Jerk Height from the ground.  By building from the 24" tall height, we immediately save you having to purchase 2 feet worth of Jerk Blocks.  We were so excited about this idea, we applied for and we approved for a Provisional Patent.

We think the Jerk Blocks with their non-skid rubber top also make good plyometric platforms.  Use them right from the ground or begin stacking right on the 24" tall side of our three sided plyo box.

And although we've got even more to show you, we'll end with just one more new product we're really happy to introduce.  Our new Classic Hammerhead Kettlebell has finally hit the shelves and we're confident that it will be a huge hit with Garage Gym athletes and Commercial gyms alike.  The single casting makes for a uniform surface on the handle and the bell keeping it super comfortable in your hands during those long workouts.

We also have color coded the handles to make identification of weight easy.  And on the back we've included the weight stamp in both kgs and in lbs.  The texture of the handle and bell is just right for those that like a non smooth surface and it takes chalk well if that's the way you roll.

Keep in the know on all things Hammerhead as we continue to bring new products and improve on our current equipment lineup.  As always, if there is anything we can do to help bring your fitness to the next level, don't hesitate to look us up.  Cheers.