Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Turn Your Garage into the Perfect Home Gym

Setting up the perfect garage gym isn't always about how much equipment or how much weight you have.  It isn't about having that latest gadget either and the all in one gyms are becoming the thing of the past.

Equipment that expands the way you can move your own bodyweight is by far the most popular and effective and what's more, nearly all of the equipment that fits into this category is low cost and doesn't plug into the wall.  And that translates into less stuff that breaks.

Since when did treadmills and ellipticals trump running outside in the fresh air?  So maybe you've got to throw on another layer when the weather drops below 50, but is it all that bad?  Who hasn't rooted for the athlete that's running on the side of the road getting after it when the weather is less than ideal.

It's for reasons like this that old-school grass roots fitness equipment is back in style and we think it's here to stay.  Many are realizing that tools like kettlebells, pull up bars and plyo boxes are taking over garage gyms around the country because it's all about unplugging the machines and plugging yourself in - to your workout.

The Pull Up Bar is undoubtedly one of the most versatile training tools that not only is a platform for building great upper body strength, but it's also great for building your core.  And if the pull up is just out of your current strength, resistance bands can easily and safely pull it back within reach.  

And when you are finished with that set of pull ups or knees to elbows, slide on a set of gymnastics rings for ring dips or ring pushups.  The pull up bar makes a great mounting station to hang the rings from and you can push them out of the way when you're done.

The Plyo Box is another great 'no-plug-in' piece that gets you moving your body on your own terms.  And whether you choose to jump on one of the three heights or use it as a platform to elevate your feet for push ups, it's a great tool.

Borrowing it's name from "Plyometrics", this six sided wonder not only imparts a great set of lungs to the consistent user, but swapping weight for speed with this tool is a great game changer.  What's that mean, you ask?  Instead of jumping on and off the box, next time hold a kettlebell or bumper plate overhead and step up on and then off.  When you lower the intensity that speed brings, the added weight steps that intensity right back up.

As with anything, improvement and change only comes about by putting together a training plan and sticking to it.

And keeping that training varied yet intense is the secret to keeping your interest and when you're interested, you'll keep at it.

It's never about how many tools you own, how new, how expensive or how unique, it's about using the tools you do own consistently.  We'll wager that with even four great pieces - such as the pull up bar, gymnastics rings, plyo box and medicine ball you can put together over 100 different training plans.  Keep it varied and keep it intense.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Value of Non-Standard Gear

     Having a variety of styles of equipment in your home gym or box is valuable for many reasons.  Primarily for scaling workouts, or varying technique in the workouts.

     We all know the CrossFit standards.  Box jumps are 24" or 30" for the guys, and 20" or 14" for the ladies.  Kettlebells are 35lb and 55lb.  I certainly do not need to go through the whole list.  If you work out in your garage, or own a box, my guess is that you are well versed on all of the Rx weights and movements.   

     Most athletes do not start out performing movements as Rx.  Unless they are a high level athlete when they walk through the door, it is unreasonable to think that they would go Rx.  Even high level atheltes need to learn the standards.  Any good coach or experienced athlete will know when to scale the weight or movement to prevent injury, and to maximize the effectiveness of the workout.  It may not be beneficial to do Grace Rx if it takes 25 minutes (though you have to start some where).

     Now, in addition to the decision / need to scale or not to scale, it is great to change out equipment to vary your standard workouts.  Changing your grip, adding variable resistance, and many other techniques can add variety to your workouts.

Let's start with the Rx discussion.

Mini Plyo Box 16x20x24     Plyo boxes.  The 20x24x30 is the standard.  But look around next time a 30" box jump is programmed in a WOD.  What percentage of athletes will go Rx at 30"?  There will always be a few, but typically not the majority.  That got us thinking, is there possibly a more useful configuration of the box?  We have developed a 16x20x24 three sided box.  It still has the 20" and 24" standard heights, but also a 16" height for newer athletes, or ones who are building confidence to get to the 20" height.  Additionally, stackable boxes are a great alternative.  Start with a 12" box, and add 4" with each subsequent box.

     Kettlebells.  These may be too obvious to mention.  Most boxes have kettle bells from 20lb to 55lb in 5lb increments.  Then jump right to 70lb.  15lb is a big jump, even if they are proficient at the 55lb weight.  Adding a 60lb and / or 65lb bell will help your athletes transition to the higher weight.

         Pull Up Bars:  You will have athletes performing toes to bar, bar muscle ups, and of course kipping, strict, and jumping pull ups.  What height it proper?  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.

Non Standard Exercises;

The use of resistance bands with barbell exercises have become more and more popular.  In the previous post on incorporating resistance bands in training we covered the concepts used to get the most out of our band training.  For fun, the first person to send me an e-mail at matt@hammerheadfitness.com with "band" in the subject line with their shipping address and a quick note to say hello will get a free blue band.  Many people are using heavy chains on the ends of the barbell it change the resistance over the exercises range of motion.

Many of us have been watching American Ninja Warrior.  Grip strength is one of the main components of the competition.  Peg boards, Door Knobs mounted on the wall, and the salmon ladder are great variations on developing upper body pulling strength.

We would love to hear your alternative exercises, and non standard gear that gives you a change up in your workout.


Hammerhead Strength Equipment

Friday, September 18, 2015

Keep Your Gym Looking Better Than the Competition

There is a lot of competition out there in  the world of CrossFit.  Boxes seem to be opening and expanding everywhere.  There are 20 boxes in the greater Rochester, NY area alone.  How do you make sure that you keep your athletes, or potential new athletes from heading down the road?  There are two very basic components:  excellent training and excellent equipment.  We are not trainers, and will not help with skills, techniques, or programming.  We can help your box with equipment.

You have spent a significant of money on your equipment to open your facility.  Therefore, it is extremely important to protect your investment.  And since visual impact of your gym can play a big role in potential clients signing on, keeping your equipment in great condition goes a long way.  There are some simple things that you can do to keep your equipment safe, performing well, and looking good.  Here are a few tips that we have come across over the years that require a small time investment but reap big rewards.

Steel Products: 

Barbells:  Barbells get used almost every day in a CrossFit box.  Barbells are dropped, chalked, sweated and bled on, have plates and collars constantly on and off, are racked, and abused in multiple other ways (even though you probably have penalties for these actions!)A quick wipe of the bar with a light solvent / oil and thoroughly wiping any excess off, will keep your bars looking good and feeling good in your hands.

Kettlebells:  I know, a kettlebell is a steel ball with a handle on it.  What is there to maintain?  Well, they do experience wear and tear on the handles and the base.  Paint and powder coat have a tendency to wear off over time.  Simply take a piece of sand paper or steel wool to the worn area, then grab a can of flat or gloss spray paint (depending on the finish) and touch up the bare areas.
Pull Up Racks and Squat Racks:  The pull up rig is the centerpiece of the gym.  If it is well maintained, it can last virtually for ever.  But, they do experience wear, especially when you've got 100+ athletes using it everyday (think how often pull ups are programmed).  

The squat stations have barbell hooks and barbells constantly moving in and about the posts.  Additionally, bands and gymnastic ring straps are constantly on the bars.  Just like the kettlebells,  a little steel wool and paint go a long way to keeping your pull up bars and posts looking like the day you bought it.  You could even look for a local powder coating shop to do a few pieces at a time.  Prices are usually reasonable, and you will get a new finish.

Truly any of your steel products will benefit from a fresh coat of paint.  Sleds, bumper stackers, and storage racks all take a lot of abuse and wear.  It is just the nature and the expectations of the equipment.  I have seen the difference with a sled at Victor CrossFit in Victor, NY.  Taking 15 minutes to add a fresh coat of paint, and a few new decals, brought that 4 year old sled back to new life!
There are other pieces that can use a little TLC to keep your gym looking top notch: 

Med Balls and Bumper Plates:  Like kettle bells, typically very little maintenance.  But, wiping them down periodically with soapy water will keep them looking good.  It is also an opportune time to inspect the bumpers for cracks or loose collars and the med balls for tears or ripped seams.

Plyo Boxes:  You jump on, you jump off.  That is the life of the plyo box. Most of the damage to a plyo box does not come from actual plyometric use.  The damage comes from an athlete dragging the box across the floor (I know, even though you tell them not to do it under penalty of burpees).  When dragged, the edges of the plywood can splinter and fray.  If you don't catch it early, it can spread and make the boxes look worn beyond their years.  As above, a good dose of light sanding on the worn areas with a hand sander or small orbital sander can make fast work of returning your plyo boxes to a great look.

Gymnastics Rings:  First and foremost, it is important to continually inspect the straps and buckles for wear.  Frayed straps or wearing springs in the cam buckles can cause serious injury to your athletes.  If they are frayed, or the buckles are not working properly, they need to be replaced.  And although we vote for wood for gymnastics rings over plastic, heavy use can turn the wood color to dark brown/black after even a few short months.  The easy button for getting your wood rings back to like new condition is that sandpaper which once again comes to the rescue.  A couple of minutes for each ring with a coarse sand paper will bring them back to new (or close to it). 

Also with rings, look at how you are hanging them?  Are they over rafters, in eye bolts, or dedicated brackets?  Well, it may be minor, but the different ways to hang the rings from the ceiling will impact the life of the straps, and the look of your box.

Rowers:  The Concept2 rower is extremely popular now.  They are very durable, and a very effective piece of training equipment.  But, over time parts can wear out or break.  Simply call Concept2, and you can order replacement parts, many under warranty.

In Summary:  It really does not have to take a lot of time to maintain and inspect your equipment.  The more often you do it, the less time it takes.  If your equipment is not maintained, malfunctioning, or dangerous, your athletes will find another place to work out.  It's just like the maintenance on your car - you change the oil, take it out for a wash and from time to time have to get new brakes and tires.  The good news is that with periodic maintenance, your equipment will continue to perform well for you and your athletes for years.  And the more often you set aside time to maintain, the better your equipment will perform.  

There is a lot of competition out there.  Prospect athletes are looking not only at where your gym is in relation to where they live, but they evaluate your training, your personality and making a great first impression visually also can be the difference between getting a few more clients every month or not.  We're here to make sure that your equipment stays on top.

So, if you are ready to expand or start a box, garage gym or simply buy some new equipment, visit Hammerhead Strength Equipment or call 585-298-1718 any time.