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!