Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Pull Up Rack and Effective Equipment Layout

At the cornerstone of today's popular commercial facilities is the Pull Up Rack.  Call it what you will - Affiliate Rig, Pull Up Rig, Squat Rack - any gym owner and coach will tell you that the majority of their strength and conditioning programming centers around this highly effective piece of equipment.

And whether it's installed against the wall or it takes place right in the center of the gym, 99% of programming will have athletes moving in, on and around the rig doing a host of different exercises.

With the pull up rack taking center stage, it's important to maximize it's effectiveness and usefulness in conditioning and strengthening the athlete.

Proper equipment layout in the commercial gym space is paramount to the success of the gym as well as safety of the athletes during programming.  A gym space without effective layout such as over-crowding of equipment infringes on an athlete's ability to move efficiently through a workout program and can have an adverse effect on safety and timing.

Bird's Eye View Diagrams - One of the most important assets to the aspiring gym owner to maximizing the effectiveness of the space in any facility is pencil and paper.  We strongly suggest obtaining a plan view diagram of the gym space from the building owner or leasing agency and creating a few copies.  As you begin to plan equipment layout, draw several different equipment arrangements to see what looks and functions the best to maximize floor space while keeping as many movement options open as possible.  Be sure to plan for expansion and equipment additions as well.

An Athlete's Personal Space - Keeping all athletes and equipment safe during workouts, consider that the most space an athlete would need is about an 8x9 foot area.  That amount of space will allow for burpees, double unders, and moving a bar from ground to overhead for example.  Begin all programming and gym layout with this in mind first as your overall square footage in the gym will limit how many members can effectively and safely work at any one time.

The Pull Up Rack - As the centerpiece of your gym, layout and positioning is critical.  As the largest piece of equipment in the gym, begin all equipment layout with the pull up rack first and be sure to keep a 9 foot perimeter clear all the way around it so that athletes can work safely.  And whether you opt for Wall Mounted or Free Standing, build in plans for expansion, especially if your gym's footprint allows for more athletes than you currently have equipment for.  Once installed, moving the pull up rack is still an option, but a little pre-planning will take away those expansion headaches.  And moving a pull up rack can effectively shut your gym down for 1-2 days.

Gear Tip:  If the pull up rack is the showpiece of your gym, maximize it's effectiveness with attachments that keep your athletes progressing.  Our Pole Extension Kits, increase the height of any of your rig poles by three feet.  With poles at 12 feet high, you can now add:

Ring Muscle Up Stations - suitable for either Wall Mount or Free Standing Rigs, add single or dual stations which allow your athletes more options when it comes to gymnastics rings.  Pull Overs, Skin the Cats and Muscle Ups are just a few movements that they can now do.

Climbing Rope Stations - The added benefit of the Ring Muscle Up Station is that you can easily add a few climbing ropes to keep your athletes challenged.

Vertical Storage - As much as is possible, store your unused equipment vertically.  Wall space and floor space alike is extremely valuable and effective equipment storage can turn even the smaller 1200-1500 square foot gyms into open, safe training areas.  Consider barbell storage for a moment.  At 7 feet long, the barbell stored horizontally on the wall will take out at a minimum a 7 foot wide area on your wall.  And storing barbells higher than 6 feet can make them unreachable for many athletes.  Instead of storing on the wall, consider the vertical barbell storage unit.  In as little as a 2 foot square space on the floor you can store up to 12 barbells.  That's effective and smart space management.  And our barbell storage unit has no bottom so your barbells land softly on your rubber flooring rather than pounding into a steel platform.

Plywood Makes a Great Wall Covering - Drywall wall coverings just aren't gym friendly, especially when you program Catapult Situps [throwing a medicine ball against the wall as you sit up] or Handstand Pushups.  We've seen some pretty ugly walls and costly damage.  And chances are, damage to drywall and re-painting costs and time is on you as the gym owner.

CrossFit R5 in Ardmore, PA lined many of their open walls with plywood.  Not only is plywood super strong, it gives your gym that industrial feel which is super popular.  And painting is always an option too.

Your gym's decor will also contribute to your success so having a space that is friendly to the programming you know you'll be putting your athletes through all the while looking great will pay off dividends.

Whether you're just getting started with your gym's design or getting ready to expand, we'd be happy to talk through layout ideas and expansion options.  Call us or email for a free, no obligation consult.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Building the Garage Gym on a Budget

Everyone's got a budget, whether its for weekly grocery spending, clothes, entertainment or gym membership.  Budgets are smart to have because they keep us on track while still allowing some indulgence.

And if you're in the process of starting your own garage gym, even a modest monthly budget can get it done.  In this week's blog we'll offer some suggestions on how best to build your garage gym even over one to two years time with smaller, but effective investments in equipment.

Everyone has a bias, a natural tendency to prefer one type of exercise over another.  The naturally slender, smaller build athlete might prefer bodyweight movements such as the pull up, muscle up or rope climbs whereas the medium to heavier build athlete may favor heavy back squats and deadlifts to burpees.  We've got plenty of choices in our Garage Gym Equipment Packages line up to appeal to all different types of athletes.

What we'll propose below is the most well-rounded equipment selections for the beginning level athlete to grow their garage gym with a suggested progression of pieces, starting with the equipment that any level athlete can use.

The Pull Up Bar - Coming in at one of the most highly programmed and effective bodyweight exercises is the pull up.  Our wall mounted pull up bar makes a smart first investment for the beginning level athlete because of the popularity of this exercise [you'll use it all the time] and the fact that the pull up bar also makes a great mounting station for gymnastics rings.  So, during that first month or two, start with a pull up bar and focus on pull ups, knees to elbows, toes to bar, burpees, pushups, air squats and running.  The Deck of Cards Workout is one of our favorites and it's easy to work with minimal equipment.

Gymnastics Rings - If we could get a set of our Gymnastics Rings in every aspiring athlete's hands across the US, we would.  For the tremendous amount of benefit, scalability and effectiveness of this tool, the price just can't be compared.  Combined with our wall mounted pull up bar as a mounting station, you can now add movements like ring rows, ring dips and ring pushups for starters.  Since our pull up bar is over 30" away from the wall, you'll have plenty of room to move.  And for those that might be wondering if a garage gym without heavy weights might not be as effective in building a chiseled body, seen any gymnasts lately?

Gymnastic Ring Hanger - Monthly budgets sometimes get smacked by surprise costs that come up.  We've all had the unplanned expenses like car and home repairs.  It happens.  And there are some low cost options in the way of equipment that can still make a big difference in your garage gym setup.  One of those pieces without a doubt is - the gymnastics ring hanger.  Hanging your rings up high in the gym opens up all the exercises that gymnastics rings have to offer like skin the cats, static ring holds, ring turn outs and muscle ups.  Our ring hanger is all welded construction and comes with all the hardware you need to install right out of the box.  And with the Ring Hanger's small price tag, that unexpected monthly expense that came up won't cause you to rule out adding something to the gym this month.

The Kettlebell - Ideally, a well-equipped garage gym should have at least three different sized kettlebells.  That's because the kettlebell travels to three different parts of your body - to the hip as in the deadlift, the shoulder as in the kettlebell clean and overhead with the press.  There's no need to get all three at once.  We'd suggest starting with the mid-weight to light weight kettlebell first.  That will keep the largest number of exercises open.  We're confident that you could use that kettlebell at least a dozen ways and that's why it ranks high on our must haves for the Garage Gym.  Keep it varied and you'll stick with training for the long haul.  Repetition leads to boredom and can stall gains.  Need some inspiration on movements?  We wrote a blog on nineteen great kettlebell exercises that anyone can do.

The Medicine Ball - Another fabulous, effective and reasonably priced piece of garage gym equipment is the medicine ball.  After a few months of air squats, pull ups and ring dips, you'll be getting pretty good at moving your own bodyweight.  So much so that you might want to add some weight to keep it challenging.  The medicine ball makes a great companion on many bodyweight movements as in those listed above as well as many abdominal exercises like the sit up and kayak.  Dynamax Medicine Balls are one of the oldest names in the industry and are backed by a 5 Year Warranty.  They've got a non-slick, tough vinyl shell that takes a beating and their weight stays centered.  Did we mention they're made in the USA?  There's way more to this little gem that the wall ball movement so keep thinking outside the box and grab it.

The Plyo Box - With our intention of making a new piece affordable every month so far, the Plyo Box is another outstanding choice.  Only for jumping on?  Well, sure there's that.  The Plyo Box is a great cardio conditioning tool and box jumps are great at burning lungs and at developing explosive power but there's more you can use them for.  We like to use them as platforms to raise the feet with ring rows and pushups too and propping your feet up on top of the box while performing sit-ups adds an interesting twist.  And performing weighted lunges with your back foot resting on the top is brilliant at developing leg strength and stability.

Once you've filled your gym with all these essentials, you are more than on your way to a great garage gym.  And the great thing about some of these tools is that they are mobile.  You can take a few with you if you're headed out of town on vacation.  If you're still missing something heavy, we'd recommend a few more kettlebells at this point.  Double kettlebell thrusters and cleans can tax even the most advanced athletes and in the long run they'll cost you far less than a set of bumpers and a good bar.  And with all of these different pieces, you can keep your workouts varied.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Building Equipment for Your Gym Facility

Whether you are the owner of a CrossFit Box or building a workout area in your garage or basement, you have to make many decisions on equipment.  How do I get the most for my money?  How am I going to program WODs?  With these thoughts in mind, there are many types and brands of equipment (bars, bumpers, kettle bells, ect) that you may want and need for your facility.  

But, on some pieces of equipment, there are other factors.  Do you buy pre-fabricated equipment or do you make it yourself?  Two of the most common pieces of equipment that fall into this decision making process are the pull-up rack and the plyo box (chances are you will not forge a kettle bell or build a barbell!).

So, how do you decide.  Well, it starts with your personal abilities and equipment, or the skill and equipment of your friends and clients.  If you have the resources to do it yourself, then that may be the best option.  But, on these two pieces of equipment, there are considerations:

The Plyo Box
Although building your own equipment will save money, it won't save time.  And if you're not skilled enough, it might spell trouble.
Equipment - Buy or Build Your Own?

So, to build a plyo box all you need is plywood, a saw, tape measure and screws.  Sounds like it should be an easy task.  When you are first starting a gym, it sounds like a great way to save some cash.  Plywood is relatively cheap, right?  How long can it take to build a box?  Head to the hardware store, grab materials, take them home and begin fabrication.

Well, you may miss out on some of the features of a prefabricated box.  For example, you may not think about routed edges, multiple hand holds, and fabricating with a puzzle pattern for strength and ease of assembly. 

A quote from Jason Walsh of Iron Core CrossFit in Rochester, NY:  "My time is valuable.  By the time you pay for all of the materials and then spend hours building the boxes it doesn't make financial sense not to buy plyo boxes.  One box takes about 10-15 minutes to put together".  This is from a guy who has the skills and tools to do it himself! As your box gets busier, you will want to spend your valuable time developing your business and training clients and less time on fabrication.

The Pull Up Rig

This is a bigger job to take on.  Talk about specialized skills!  But again, if you have the skills and tools (or access to them), then by all means build your own rig.  But, again there are a few thing to think about. 

Expansion:  What do you do when you out grow your rig?  All of a sudden your class size is doubled, and you need more pull up stations.  If you have the time, get some steel and break out the welder.  For some, that is a piece of cake.  But, a rig like ours is infinitely expandable.  It is very simple to bolt on additional sections as needed. 

Attachments:  J-cups for squat stands, safety spotter arms, dip bars are all off the shelf and readily available with a simple phone call.  Not that these can't be fabricated to match a custom rig, but with expansion comes the need for more accessories.

In summary, we will never knock anybody who has the skill and desire to do fabrication of a plyo box or rig on their own.  We just wanted bring up a few things to consider.  You may have the time now, but as your box grows, think about what your time is worth to the business and your athletes.



Hammerhead Strength Equipment

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hanging Gymnastics Rings and Climbing Ropes

To get the most out of what gymnastics rings and climbing ropes have to offer, you've got to get them installed high overhead.  Mounting either too low and their usefulness is limited.


Height - Ideally, gymnastics rings should be able to be hung high enough so they are just out of arm's reach with at least three feet of clearance overhead.  Since each athlete is sized differently, here's a simple method to determine the ideal mounting height based on your height.  While standing next to a wall and your arms comfortably at your sides with fingertips extended to the floor, have a partner mark the wall with a pencil at the top of your head [Mark "A"] and also place a mark on the wall at your extended fingertips [Mark "B"].  The optimum height to mount the rings is at "A" plus the distance from "A" to "B".  If your space is high enough to allow the hanging point of your gymnastics rings to be at that point or higher, then you can take full advantage of all the exercises the rings can offer.

Width - And it's important to keep your gymnastics rings at a comfortable width.  Too close together and it can be difficult to get your upper body up through the rings for ring dips, skin the cats and muscle ups for example.  Too far apart and an increasing amount of strain is placed on the shoulders.  Optimum distance apart is about 20" and the rings should be hanging parallel.

Hardware - Hanging gymnastics rings from just any hardware is somewhat risky.  If you've got the rings installed well overhead, you might be performing ring dips, ring pull ups or even static holds at a point that you wouldn't like to fall from.  That's why it's important to think smartly about how to safely hang each gymnastic ring.  A mounting system that has only one point of connection per gymnastic ring is not ideal.  With one attachment failure you leave yourself open to serious injury.  Attachment hardware with multiple anchors per strap [redundancy] increases safety tenfold.

Gymnastic Ring Hanger - A hanging system such as the one to the right provides three or more anchors [up to five total] and greatly increases safety and support.  And with fully welded smooth, round eyelets properly spaced to hang ring straps from, the rings are installed at their most comfortable width and are not subject to fraying straps.

Whether your gym is in a basement, garage or in a full commercial facility, hanging gymnastics rings at the proper height and width maximizes their effectiveness.  And with multiple attachment anchors and a smooth surface for the ring straps to slide on means more safety for everyone.


One of the most effective tools to building raw pulling strength is the climbing rope and to get the full potential of the rope, it also needs to be installed well overhead.

Just like the gymnastics rings, the higher the climbing rope, the more effective this tool is.  For those that aren't quite ready to 'free' pull up the rope, pulling your body from flat on your back to standing is a great way to scale the movement while still providing benefit to your pulling strength.

Our Adjustable Ceiling Hanger System is ideal for the Garage Gym or the Commercial Facility for hanging both climbing ropes and gymnastics rings. With multiple attachment anchors over it's six foot span, our mounting system can be installed with confidence.  And multiple mounting positions along it's length allow you to install gymnastics rings and climbing ropes in any combination.

Take the guesswork out of mounting these tools in the gym with our easy to install, super strong hanging systems. We include all mounting hardware so you can get underway right out of the box.

Thanks to the athletes of Victor CrossFit. Equipment like our Hanger System is a great addition to any gym.

Ready to get your game on? Take a look at our hanging systems here.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Hammerhead Gymnastics Rings

Gymnastics Rings are one of the most versatile strength training tools. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced level athlete, gymnastics rings can bring about some amazing strength gains and can be used in many different ways. And keeping your training varied will keep you interested and improving.

Check out our product video!


Hammerhead Strength Equipment