Six Types of Equipment CrossFit Affiliates Might Not Know They Need

There are certain pieces of equipment that are essential for every affiliate—barbells, bumper plates, pull-up bars, kettlebells, etcetera. But there are other pieces CFSBK has found extremely useful, though they weren’t as obvious and probably wouldn’t make the top of most affiliates’ shopping lists. Some are ancillary while others are basic, but even the basic pieces are absent from many gyms. Below, I’ll discuss the benefits of each and address why I think they serve significant value for us—and hopefully convince you to make the investments if you haven’t already.

2.5lb Plates, Hitechplates, and Fractionals
2.5lb plates should be considered as necessary as 45lb bumpers at any affiliate. I’ve come across a few gyms that considered them non-essential, which sort of blew my mind given that the ability to make at LEAST five-pound jumps in weight is critical for pressing movements and Olympic lifting, as well as for providing your athletes the tools they need to properly follow linear progressions. Limiting your members by making ten-pound jumps the minimum available option can quickly become both unsafe and counterproductive to serious training. Similarly, fractional plates allow jumps to be made from half-pound to two-pound increments. Again, these smaller increments are valuable in movements such as the strict press where even five-pound jumps can be beyond the capacity of some athletes.

Hitechplates also serve a valuable role in allowing people to pull barbells off the floor from a standard 9.5” elevation without having to go to the tens. These plates allow you to teach proper pulling mechanics to any athlete, regardless of their strength. Just don’t allow people to bail these because despite the demos and advertising, they do break and are too expensive to replace with any regularity. (If you’re a carpenter or motivated on a budget, you can also make plates like these.) Again, these plates are important, because as you’ll see, the more advanced your athletes become and the greater number of bodies that walk through your doors, the more nuanced your programming needs to become. Make sure you have the right tools to keep all of your athletes moving forward with weight.

15, 22, and 33lb Barbells

While barbells are a significant investment, having a variety of them should be considered a necessary expense for any serious affiliate. The 33lb barbell is considered the standard “women’s bar” due to its use in competitive Olympic weightlifting and given the smaller diameter of the bar’s shaft. If any of your female athletes are interested in competitive Olympic weightlifting, these bars will be essential for them—but their use is certainly not limited to women. Many men will require barbells much lighter than the standard 45lb bars for pressing and Olympic lifting movements. For this reason, we generally don’t refer to any of our bars or equipment as gender specific; they’re simply tools we employ for various situations.

You could probably get away with not purchasing a 22lb bar, but we find that overusing even decently made 15lb bars will lead to quicker warping and replacement. Barbells in general are not a place you should be looking to save money when it comes to equipment. I wasted a bunch of time and money early on with economy barbells that lasted for a few months and eventually needed to be replaced. Barbells should be considered life-long investments and high-quality barbells should be budgeted into any affiliate owner’s initial overhead expenses.
Want to learn more? Here is a phenomenal video from Starting Strength about checking how warped your barbells are.

Specialty Bars
The safety bar and hexagonal trap bar are clutch pieces of equipment you can use for injured or profoundly inflexible athletes. If you haven’t already, you will eventually come across someone who lacks the external rotation in their shoulders necessary for racking a back squat. While it’s on both the athlete and you as a coach to work on their mobility, safety squat bars provide a more ergonomic way for training their squat without either intense discomfort or lack of stability in the rack position. We also use the safety bar for athletes who may be rehabbing some sort of shoulder or arm injury. Draping the injured arm passively over a straight bar or only using one arm to support the bar compromises the stability of the bar, and thus the safety of the athlete. These particular bars enable injured athletes to rest the necessary parts of their anatomy while continuing to train their squats. Owning appropriate equipment to accommodate a range of situations is a professional responsibility of a mature gym.

Trap bars are similarly useful for people who have extreme limitations in hip mobility or that are slowly convalescing from a spinal injury. The nature of the bar allows more positional options in the athlete’s back angle set-up, versus a straight bar where there is only one ideal position based on their anthropometrics. Trap bars are also excellent for younger athletes who sometimes have spinal awareness issues and often default to flexion. We also use DC Blocks to elevate barbells for people who have a difficult time maintaining spinal extension at the bottom of a lift.

Ample Mobility Tools

Your athletes are tight. You know it, they know it—everybody knows it. Having enough tools for large classes and for people who want to DIY their mobility leverages your affiliate’s overall ability to triage their movement issues, and the mere presence of the tools establishes a gym culture that encourages mobilizing. CFSBK owns a ton of lacrosse balls, foam rollers, and 2” thick PVC tubes, each of which can be used to mash calves, triceps, and biceps, as well as other tight areas. We’ve recently become huge fans of the 7” Orbs and we purchased a boatload of them. They allow you to do almost anything you can with a foam roller, but the smaller surface area interface makes mashing significantly more potent. Furthermore, their smaller overall size allows more people to use them in the same footprint versus a traditional foam roller, which requires more space. (CFSBK obviously loves Active Recovery; if you missed our article about it, click here.)

Dip Bar
The dip bar is a great tool to help athletes transition from simple pressing barbell and callisthenic exercises to ring dips, and it serves as a valuable piece of strength training equipment on its own. We currently own only one Matador, and it gets regular love from our athletes. Most athletes don’t have the initial shoulder stability and strength to organize a ring dip properly, so having straight bar dip stations allows people to focus on basic pressing strength before complicating things with two rings moving across a frictionless plane.

(Though we use the Matador, I will note that I wish the arms were more adjustable or that it came in a smaller size, since many of our female and smaller-built athletes find it somewhat awkward given the length between the bars.)

Espresso Machine
I’m not sure a strong argument needs to be made for this as it sort of speaks for itself. We have a Nespresso machine available to staff for free and members for $1 per pod. Your 6am coaches and members will especially appreciate this amenity.

Are there any other non-standard pieces of equipment you’d consider essential at your affiliate?


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Reader Comments (1)

Well, since I'm opening my affiliate this week, it's good to know that I have most of the items on your list! Most importantly, The Espresso machine... NO good affiliate should go without one of those.. lol!

Great articles! Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences and insights..

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

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