Thursday, May 28, 2015

10 Minute Fixes to Bring Old Gym Equipment Back to Life

Given enough time, even the most highly polished gym equipment begins to fade with use.  That's true with all things.  And faded, worn equipment is a sign that your commercial facility or garage gym is being used.  That's a good thing.

But with an increasingly competitive commercial gym market, you've got to outshine those nearby facilities - literally.  It some cases a client's choice to sign up with your gym over the next very well may come down to the overall look of your gym and the condition of the equipment.

Your curb appeal is the very first impression you give to any potential client.  No matter how great your personality and training/nutrition skills, a gym with a dirty floor and worn equipment can have a negative impact on that first impression.

At the end of a long day, the last that most of us want is to spend extra time at the gym cleaning, disinfecting and maintaining the equipment.  So here's a few ideas to keep your equipment looking and functioning well without spending hours every night long after you'd like to punch out for the day.

Keep a Maintenance Calendar - If there is anything that will make the process of keeping your gym in top shape manageable, this is it.  Make a list of every type of equipment you own - bars, bumpers, GHDs, Gymnastic Rings, etc.  Ideally, separate that list into 20 parts.  Each weekday, write down one of those parts until you fill the calendar.  Each weekday, work on one equipment piece only.  And if you don't happen to have that piece in the day's workout program, you can get your maintenance in before lights out for the night.  And with a max of 20 days maintenance on the calendar, you automatically get weekends off.  Do your best to manage time spent on that daily maintenance down to 30 minutes. Break it up throughout the day if you can but keep that time down.  Anyone can manage another 30 minutes and that short time commitment will make it much easier to stick with your monthly maintenance calendar.

Get The Right Tools - Nothing will sap your time and energy more than trying to care for your gym with incorrect or worse yet, undersized tools.
  • Clorox Cleaning Wipes - If there is one piece of cleaning equipment that you should own, it's these.  Portable, disposable and incredibly good at what they do.  Buy in bulk at the local store.
  • Soft Bristle Brush - An absolute must for removing chalk from knurling, you've got to own a few of these.  Caked on chalk makes your bars and dumbbells look unkempt and dirty.   Even if you outlaw chalk in the gym, it still can find it's way in there.
  • Spray Bottles - These are your new best friend.  
    A few of these filled with general purpose cleaner and disinfectant make short work of staying on top of keeping your gym spotless.  Buy a few, fill them up and keep them labeled.
  • 200-400 Grit Sandpaper - Really?  Yep.  Having a few sheets of sandpaper at the ready is a must.  Wood Gymnastics Rings, which are superior to plastic because of their non-slip surface, can get grimy and chalk bound within a few months of use.  2-3 minutes of sanding the rings remarkably brings them back to as-new condition and resorts their non-abrasive but grippy texture.
  • Flat Black Spray Paint - Anything made out of metal, be it sleds, wall mounted pull up bars, pull up racks, kettlebells or even bumper plate storage units all can see wear after time.  With a commercial gym operating at 100-150 clients, that's a lot of hands on those pull up bars and eventually event thickest and most durable powder coating will wear.  Armed with the sandpaper above and a can of flat black spray paint you can return any of those surfaces to like new condition.
  • Wrenches - It's never a bad idea to keep a few open end or crescent wrenches on hand, too.  Pull Up Racks either the Wall Mounted version or the Free Standing Rack are chuck full of nuts and bolts.  Once every two to three months you should take a wrench to every nut and bolt on the racks to keep them well aligned and to keep their stability to a maximum.
  • Storage Racks - naturally, the dirtiest surface in your facility is the floor.  Since all dirt
    eventually finds it's way there, storing your equipment on that surface is convenient but equipment that comes in contact with the floor will tarnish fast.  Investing a a few storage racks either for bars, bumpers, kettlebells or medicine balls will help keep your equipment looking and operating in the best condition.  And storage racks not only help to maximize the floor space in your gym, they also add a ton to your curb appeal which can mean more clients.
  • Bathroom Supplies - Never popular but always necessary is continual maintenance on the bathroom area.  For the aspiring small gym owner, make it a point to find a space that has both men's and women's bathroom spaces.  It's double the work but higher on return.  At all costs, be sure you duck your head in there after each and every class to be sure there aren't any issues.  Keep a month's supply of toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, toilet bowl cleaner, windex, etc all handy to cut down on trips to the store.  And wet mop often with floor cleaner.  It keeps the bathroom smelling fresh.  Unclean and unkempt bathrooms are a sure fire way to underwhelm your clients and bring negative comments.
Hire It Done - If you don't have the motivation but have the resource, hire some or all of that maintenance or cleaning of your gym out.  It's an investment in the growth of your gym and the life of your equipment so it's worth it even if it hits the wallet harder than you like.  Offer that maintenance in trade for a discount on a membership and invite more than one person in on the deal.  And at first, hire that cleaning done only 1-2 days a week.  That keeps your cost down and gives you a break too.  Reward your gym's success [additional memberships, t-shirt sales] by investing in more hired out cleaning days and soon your time investment will shrink to zero.

With a small time investment continuous throughout the month, you can keep your gym in top shape and prolong the life of your equipment.  And that initial curb appeal stays high to keep clients knocking at your door.  Sometimes it's not about having all the latest, new gadgets as much as it is positive, friendly atmosphere in a super clean and well kept facility.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Pull Up Bar and CrossFit Rig - What Height is Right?

Here at Hammerhead Strength Equipment, we get many questions on equipment, and proper installation.  One common question is the how high do I install my wall mounted pull up bar or affiliate rig bars.  The Pull Up bar, either in a garage or a CrossFit / Functional Fitness gym, is a fundamental piece of equipment.  Pull ups, toes to bar, and bar muscle ups, are just a few of the basic movements.  Having the correct height is crucial for full utilization of the bar.

So, how high do I put the bars?  Well, there are a couple of thing to consider, and the answer varies depending if it is a home gym, or a CrossFit / Functional Fitness gym.

Home Gym: 
The first thing to think about is who is going to be using the pull up bar?  As long as the ceiling height allows, think of the tallest person who will be working out with you.  What we recommend is to stand on your toes and mark the height on the wall of your fingers when your hands are extended above your head.  That height should be the bottom of the pull up bar.  That will be high enough for kipping, toes to bar, and the rest of the exercises that you will be using your bar for.  (as a disclaimer, bar muscle ups are contingent on your ceiling height.  We are not responsible for holes in drywall or lumps on head if ceiling is not high enough!)  If you have a mix of athletes using the bar, you may need to use bumpers or a plyo box to allow shorter athletes to get their hands on the bar.

CrossFit Box:  Now, there is no "correct" answer here.  I have had a couple of conversations about Pull Up Rack bar height with quite a few box owners, like Daniel Davidson at CrossFit Mainline in Ardmore, PA.  Here is what it boils down to....  We typically recommend two basic heights.  (and with our offset bars standard, you really get four heights).  As a gym owner, you can set half of the bars to a height that works for you, and one for someone who is not quite as tall as you.  You will probably not want to put them in the lowest height (you may knock your head if you forget to duck) or at the max 9' height (unless you have a few 6'9" athletes).  But, here is what we recommend.  Put the bars at "reasonable" heights.  As the athlete base grows, you will of course get a wider range of heights needed.  It is very simple to change the height of the bars as your needs change.  Multiple heights can alleviate the need for bumpers or boxes to get your athletes on the bar.  Nobody wants to worry about tripping on a bumper during Fran.  There is enough to worry about.

We hope this helps.  Please feel free to call us any time with any questions.  Also, please comment below with any thoughts that you have.


Hammerhead Strength Equipment



Friday, May 15, 2015

Common Questions on the Pull Up Rack

The Pull Up Rack has proven time and again to be the cornerstone of today's gym.  And whether you're building a Garage Gym or looking for that next piece for your commercial facility, adding a pull up rack is a wise investment.

And just why is the Pull Up Rack is a smart investment for any gym owner? You and your athletes can perform all these exercises and more:

  • Pull Ups [the number one programmed exercise in CrossFit]
  • Dips [either from Gymnastic Rings  hung from the bars or from attaching Dip Stations]
  • Bar Muscle Ups [using single bars or the offset stacked pull up bar]
  • All Bar Rack movements - Squats, Presses, Flat Bench - with multiple positions for the barbell J Cups [which are often included with the purchase]
  • Medicine Ball Throws [if you are short on wall space, adjustable targets can be mounted to any of the poles]
  • Bar Muscle Ups, Front Levers and Back Levers - for those athletes that just love gymnastics work
  • Rope Climbs - with Pole extension kits, you can crank up the height on the rack and even hang ropes for athletes to climb
  • Toes to Bar and Knees to Elbow - isolating your lower body has never been easier.
Convinced yet that the pull up rack is an essential piece to any gym?  The amount of programming variation it allows will keep everyone coming back for more.

But there are choices to make before you jump in and since the rack will be one of the most popular pieces in your gym, it's best to do a little pre-planning before you order.  With that in mind we've published below some of the most frequently asked questions regarding styles, location selections and installation tips.

How Do I Decide on What Style - Wall Mounted or Free Standing?  This has got to be one of the most popular questions we get and with good reason.  Here's the bottom line - neither choice is a bad one.  Both styles allow for exactly the same type of movements so there's nothing you or your athletes will miss out on if you choose one over the other.

The Wall Mounted Pull Up Rack is most normally best suited for the gym that is starting out on a tight budget and has a narrow space.  For all that it brings in terms of available exercises, the Wall Mounted option takes up a surprisingly small footprint.  In many cases, the 2000 square foot gym can start with a 6 Pole Unit that only gobbles up 144 Square Feet of space.  That's a cheap date.  And since it's mounted against the wall it frees up more center spacer your athletes to move barbells and kettlebells.

The Free Standing Pull Up Rack is great for the gym that has a bit larger floor plan.  Mounted in the middle of your space, you and your coaches will gain the best viewpoint for all your athletes to make sure they are getting after it with great form.  And since the rack is situated in the center of your facility, you've got plenty of wall space for equipment storage.  The other popular equipment items like bumper plates, barbells, kettlebells and medicine balls need a home and they'll take up a fair amount of space when not in use.

What if My Membership Increases and I Chose Too Small?  No worries if you start finding your athletes fighting for space on the rack you started off with.  The Pull Up Rack is like an erector set.  It's easy to add on one or more sections as your membership grows.  And you can build on to either end so when you first layout and install, plan for expansion.  If you build it, they will come...

Gear Tip:  The best way to arrange multiple athletes on the inside of my pull up rack for pull ups:  When you've got a full class and are running out of room on the outside pull up bars for everyone to grab onto, here's our suggestion:  Before the start of the workout, have every athlete go to their pullup station of choice.  That way they can pick the best bar for their height and know that during the workout this is where they go.  If you've got athletes on the inside of the rig, make sure they are facing each other.  That will allow for the most room for kipping.

Frequently asked questions:
  1. How much room do I really need to allow for installing a Wall Mount or a Free Standing Pull Up Rack? Great question!  Before you start drilling anchors, consider that ideally you'll want to have 8 feet of clearance all the way around the perimeter of the rack.  That free space you leave will make it easiest for your athletes to move in and around the rack when transitioning from one exercise to the next.  Chances are, your programming will have them running outside, returning to the rack for pull ups then off to a bar or plyo box.  With that 8 foot of clearance you'll reduce traffic jams and keep everyone moving freely.
  2. I've got a rubber floor already put down.  Do I need to cut square holes in it to set the pole bases right on the concrete?  We get this question a lot, too.  Do yourself a favor and place the rack right on top of your existing flooring without cutting any holes in it.  That way you don't chop up your expensive floor.  There is no advantage to installing directly on the concrete floor so go ahead and put it on top.  We also recommend that if you are a bit short on flooring and are considering leaving it out from under the rig, that's not a problem necessarily but if there is no flooring under the rig, that portion of the floor becomes a dirt trap and can be difficult to clean.
  3. What type and length of floor anchors should I use?  There are two main types of floor anchors - the wedge anchor and the sleeve anchor.  The wedge anchor is the strongest for installation into concrete floors.  Use those.  And it's ideal to get a minimum of 3" of embedment into the concrete.  Most slabs are 4"-6" thick so an anchor any longer than that just won't do you any good.  It's the wedge or flared part of the anchor that grabs the concrete so ideally purchase them 4" in total length.  And If you are installing over 3/4" rubber flooring, be sure to take that into account when sizing up the anchors you will need.
  4. How high should I install the Pull Up Bars?  We've designed our pull up rack system to be extremely versatile and adjustable.  The vertical poles and pull up bar attachments allow for each one of the bars to be installed at different heights if necessary.  The double stacked pull up bar that runs in between the rig we call our Basic Cross Member and when it's installed at the highest position, the bottom bar is at 7'-6" center of bar from the floor.  This height is one of the most popular for athletes at heights of 5'-8" to 5'-11".  So run those interior bars all the way to the top of the poles.  For the outside bars, installation from 7'-4" to 7'-10" will keep your bars at the perfect heights for all your athletes.  Our Pull Up Rack poles have holes every 2" in them to allow for more than enough variation.  And not all pull up bars need to be at the same height.
  5. Does Hammerhead have single bars for the Pull Up Rack?  We sure do.  Just ask us when you get ready to place your order and we can swap out single bars for any of the pull up bars. We suggest changing out no more than 50% of the bars to singles to keep the rig as sturdy as possible - those double bars do a lot to keep the rig super strong.
Have other questions or comments?  Or if you are ready to outfit your facility see our selection of Free Standing Racks here and Wall Mounted Racks here.

It is our passion to outfit fitness facilities with great equipment and to pass along great ideas on how to use that equipment to its highest potential.  Let us know if we can help get your gym started or expand your current facility!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Barbell Building 101 - Save the Bumper Plates

We recently contacted a bunch of CrossFit Gym owners that have been customers of ours for years to ask them how they were doing. Over the past few weeks we surveyed them on a wide variety of topics including a question on which of their equipment is seeing the most wear in the gym.  And the consensus among them was that while nearly all of their equipment is still holding strong, their 10 pound and 15 pound bumper plates were experiencing the most wear.

Many of our customers are CrossFit affiliates operating 5-6 group classes a day with an average of 10-12 athletes per class or more.  That means their equipment needs to be on task for that high demand.  And since barbell movements are so popular and so effective, bumper plates are one of the most intensely used pieces of equipment in the CrossFit industry.  

We rarely hear of equipment failures, but when we do, we pay attention.  And it's in both our interest and the interest of our customers that the equipment investment they made lasts as long as possible.  It's good for us and it's good for them.  With that in mind, we've got a few ideas to keep that bumper plate investment working for you week after week and year after year.

As a gym owner or even as a member [you can make these recommendations to your coach or gym owner too] we've got a simple to follow, yet powerful idea that, when implemented, will greatly prolong the life of your lighter weight bumper plates.  

Replacing bumper plates every six months isn't what anyone wants.  We want phone calls about how great our equipment is and how well your gym is growing, not about having to replace equipment that is failing.  If you've bought one of our recommended equipment packages for your CrossFit affiliate, we'll guarantee that you've got everything you need right now to protect the life of your bumpers and you won't need any further investment other than some printer ink and colored tape.

We've wrote about it before that the Training Bar is one of the most important tools that could be in your gym.  And if your gym doesn't have 3-4 of them, it might be something to strongly consider.  And here's why:

Bumper math...that's the time you get to scratch your head to think about what bumper plates you need to get on the bar to get to that certain weight on the whiteboard.  And early in the morning is a big struggle for me.  I know, adding a few simple digits should be easy but something about 6AM does me in.  After the class warmup, it can be a mad dash to grab your favorite bar, think about if you're up for RX'ing the weight or not, and how to get the right bumper plates on the bar to add to that weight.  It's at that 'hectic' time when sometimes the bar just gets loaded with whatever gets you there the quickest.  But that mad dash can also mean that the bars are not loaded in a way that is most favorable to saving bumpers from an untimely death.  Believe me, I've been there.

I've been training with and talking to experienced gym owners for years and one of the best I've seen at having a great plan to save light weight bumpers is Joe Celso of CrossFit Rochester.  Joe owns the 156th CrossFit affiliate in the world so when it comes to having experience with what does and doesn't work, Joe knows.  And he developed a full proof plan for not only helping athletes with that bumper math, but with it in use Joe never has to call me to replace his 10 and 15 pound bumper plates.  And that's a good thing.

And here is Joe's wisdom on saving light weight bumpers in a nut shell:

"Failure of the lightweight bumpers occurs most often with bar weights of 95lbs or less."

When you are drafting up your programming for the week it's when the whiteboard has prescribed weights of 95lbs and less, that you've got to be the most careful.  Any weights higher than that and your bumpers are safe.  

Bottom line:  Light weight bumper plates just don't stand up well when they are the only bumper on the bar.  And with programming at 95 pounds and less, that's when single bumpers can find their way on the bar.  It's that simple.

All of our commercial gym equipment packages have three different weighted bars for your athletes - the 20kg [or 45lb] Men's Bar, the 15kg [or 35lb] Women's Bar, and the 15lb Training Bar.  

With a little prep work to color code each of those bars the Barbell Loading Diagram is easiest to use.  We promise that it will take no longer than an hour.  Run out to the local hardware store and pick up one roll each of three different colors of electrical tape - redblue and green.  Color code each of your bars right where the bar shaft meets the sleeve.  Training bars get blue tape, Ladies 15kg bars get green tape and Mens 20kg bars get red tape.  If you have multiple barbell storage racks, print out and tape one of the barbell loading diagrams in each location.

We know that drops from shoulder height and above are unavoidable, but by following Barbell Building 101 below, the life of the 10lb and 15lb bumpers will increase dramatically.   Only in two instances are the 10lb and 15lb bumpers allowed as the only bumper on the bar sleeve - for 35# and 45# total weight.  In these instances we strongly recommend the use of our Hammerhead Recycled Rubber Bumper Plates for commercial facilities.  The Hammerhead Bumper plate is thicker and more resilient than many of their high density counterparts.  For the 25# barbell, use 5lb steel weight plates on the 15# training bar.

Feel free to print our Barbell Building Guide below, laminate it, and post it up around the gym.
Save your lightweight bumper plates from an untimely death!  Print out, laminate and put this chart up in your gym.
Hammerhead Strength Equipment is a strength equipment manufacturer outfitting Commercial Facilities and Garage Gyms alike throughout the US and beyond.  Starting a new gym or expanding your current facility?   We can help!