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Getting a Taste of the New Army Combat Fitness Test: A Way for Soldiers to be “More Fit and More Lethal”

 

ACFT Army Soldiers

With the recent announcement of the new, more physically challenging Army Combat Fitness Test (https://www.army.mil/article/208189/) (ACFT), thousands of soldiers are getting a chance to test their mettle. Beginning October 2020, all soldiers will be required to take the new gender and age-neutral test. Before that, field testing began in October 2018 to allow the Army to refine the test, with initial plans for up to 40,000 soldiers from all three components to see it.

"The purpose of ACFT, first and foremost, is to make sure our soldiers are ready for the rigors of combat," Army Secretary Mark Esper told Military.com. "We do have to sort through all the policies that come with a physical fitness test. I will tell you though ... at the end of the day, if you can't pass the Army Combat Fitness Test, then there is probably not a spot for you in the Army."

Training With the Equipment Used in the Test is Critical

Because it is a radical departure from the previous Army fitness test, the ACFT requires soldiers to strengthen those muscles that may not have been used for years. It also involves getting used to the equipment, such as kettlebells, 10-pound balls, 90-pound sleds and the other testing equipment.

 In response to the changes in the Army fitness test, Rally Fitness has developed an Army Combat Fitness Test Equipment Package. This package was developed by Rally Fitness, a company known for its rugged CrossFit and high-use fitness facilities, to help soldiers train for the test and test administrator to assess the fitness of these soldiers. 
For more information on the Army Combat Fitness Test Equipment Package, just click here.

Even veteran soldiers, who work out regularly, are challenged by this new Army test. According to this article, Staff Sgt. Rebecca Alvarez, a 31-year-old military police NCO at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, was one of hundreds of soldiers who volunteered for the pilot test with no knowledge of the events.

"I was already in shape because I was a drill sergeant. So, I knew that I was going to perform well," said Alvarez, who now works in the S3 shop with 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, supporting the basic training companies at Leonard Wood. "For me personally, the event that was the most challenging was the standing power throw, only because I didn't really know what part to exert my energy on, at what phase of motion; it was just a little awkward."

Future Soldiers are Also Getting Ready for the ACFT

ROTC kids workout

Those college students who may have put on the “Freshman 15” and are members of the ROTC will soon be shedding some of those pounds as they begin training for the new Army fitness test.

According to the Army’s website, Maj. Gen. John Evans, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, said he wanted to provide his ROTC instructors an opportunity to see and experience the possible challenges the new test will bring with it.

"Our soldiers need to be more fit and more lethal. The legacy Army Physical Fitness Test was not encouraging or motivating us to train the right way. This test incorporates a total body fitness aspect, it works all of the muscle groups required for combat tasks. So it really replicates some of the challenges that we have seen soldiers go through over the last 17 years of combat," he explained. " It's really a combination of what we've learned over the past 30 or 40 years from a physiological standpoint, taking those things we know Soldiers are going to have to do in combat, and combining those to build a training regimen that will support better overall fitness."

"What we are trying to do with the test is drive a culture of fitness in the Army. It's not changing the test for the test's sake -- it's changing the test so that we can drive change toward fitness," Evans added. "We are trying to change the culture, which is extremely important for Cadet Command because we are the people who bring in the bulk of the Army's officer force."

“This test is about how well you do against the Army standard”

According to Michael McGurk, director of research for the Center of Initial Military Training, the organization overseeing the new ACFT, when Army leaders announced that the ACFT would do away with gender and age scoring, "It kind of gave a wake-up call to everybody,"

“When you go in harm's way,” McGurk said, “The standard in combat is the standard for everybody. The old test, because it was normative-based data and male and female and aged, it was basing you on how well you do against your compatriots, your peers. This new test isn't about how well you do against your peers. This test is about how well you do against the Army standard."

The Army recently published the "Field Test Manual, Army Combat Fitness Test" and the "Army Combat Fitness Training Guide" to help leaders and soldiers understand how the ACFT will be administered and how best to prepare to meet the standard.

The test manual addresses the upcoming ACFT field test, involving 60 battalions, to finalize the test standards, uniform, preparation, equipment lists, event procedures and grading guidance.

The training guide offers soldiers alternative exercises to prepare for the ACFT to help strengthen the muscles needed for each event.

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The Rally Fitness Army Combat Fitness Test Equipment Package has everything needed for this new test, and it is priced right at $2,498.00. Click here to order.

The New Army Fitness Test (ACFT) Has Rally Fitness Reporting for Duty

ACFT soldiers

After 20 years of research, the U.S. Army has announced a new, more strenuous fitness test. It is designed to better prepare soldiers of both genders for combat tasks, reduce injuries and lead to ample cost savings across the service. The six-event readiness assessment, called the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), will replace the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, which has been around since 1980.

According to media reports and the U.S. Army website, this storied military branch “researched the baseline physical readiness requirements of high physical demand tasks soldiers perform in combat. The Army asked experts from the Army, combat veterans, active and reserve Soldiers, NCOs and officers, from all branches and backgrounds, for their knowledge and expertise on what it takes to be a soldier.”

Additionally, Army fitness researchers met with military fitness leaders from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, the Netherlands and many other fitness experts from civilian universities and centers to discuss U.S. Army soldier fitness. They consulted sister services such as, the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard and worked with the Department of Physical Education (West Point); U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine and U.S. Army Public Health Center and the Army Physical Fitness School.

Rally Fitness: A Long History Serving the Military

Military exercising with kettlebells

In response to this change in the Army fitness test and the training that will be necessary for soldiers to meet these rigorous requirements, Rally Fitness has developed an Army Combat Fitness Test Equipment Package. This package was designed by Rally Fitness, known for its rugged CrossFit and high-use fitness facilities equipment, to help soldiers train and test administrators to accurately assess the fitness of Army soldiers.

If you would like more information on the Rally Fitness Army Combat Fitness Test Equipment Package, click here for more information.

These Six Events Will Test the Combat-Readiness of Army Soldiers

According to the U.S. Army, “While the ACFT still keeps the 2-mile run as its final event, it introduces five others to provide a broad measurement of a soldier's physical fitness. The events are completed in order and can take anywhere from 45 to 55 minutes for a soldier to finish.”

The six fitness challenges of the new ACFT include the following:

Strength Deadlift

With a proposed weight range of 120 to 420 pounds, the deadlift event is similar to the one found in the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, or OPAT, which is given to new recruits to assess lower-body strength before they are placed into a best-fit career field. The ACFT will require soldiers to perform a three-repetition maximum deadlift and the weights will be increased. This event replicates picking up ammunition boxes, a wounded battle buddy, supplies or other heavy equipment on the battlefield.

Standing Power Throw

Participants will toss a 10-pound ball backward as far as possible to test muscular explosive power. This replicates that which is needed to lift themselves or a fellow soldier up over an obstacle or to move rapidly across uneven terrain.

Hand-Release Pushups

In this event, soldiers start in the prone position and execute a traditional pushup, but when at the down position they release their hands and arms from contact with the ground and then reset to do another pushup. This is designed to build additional upper body muscles.

Sprint/Drag/Carry

ACFT Sled Workout    ACFT Kettlebell workout

As they dash 25 meters, five times up and down a lane, soldiers will perform sprints, drag a sled weighing 90 pounds, and then hand-carry two 40-pound kettlebell weights. This test simulates pulling a battle buddy out of harm's way, moving quickly to take cover, or carrying ammunition to a fighting position or vehicle.

Leg Tuck

ACFT Leg Tuck

This test is similar to a pullup, Soldiers lift their legs up and down to touch their knees/thighs to their elbows as many times as they can. This exercise strengthens the core muscles since it doubles the amount of force required compared to a traditional sit-up.

2-mile run

This is the same event as on the current test. In the ACFT, run scores are expected to be a bit slower due to all of the other strenuous activity.

The Army notes that “the ACFT gauges soldiers on the 10 components of physical fitness: muscular strength and endurance, power, speed, agility, aerobic endurance, balance, flexibility, coordination and reaction time. The current test only measures two: muscular and aerobic endurance.

While it still being fine-tuned, scoring will likely be 100 points for each event for a maximum of 600. Minimum scores, however, may change depending on a soldier's military occupational specialty. Soldiers in more physically demanding jobs may see tougher minimums, similar to how OPAT evaluates new recruits.

Get Started Now!

The Army Combat Fitness Test Equipment Package has everything needed for this new test and it is priced right: $2,498.00

Army Combat Fitness Test Kit (ACFT) - Ideal for Military and Army combat fitness testing, include all the following fitness equipment.

Want to Burn Fat? Here are the 10 Best WODs to Get You There.

High Energy CrossFit workout

Different people have different objectives for taking up CrossFit. Flexibility, stronger muscles and stamina are on many wish lists but burning fat is pretty much at or near the top of everyone's goals. Why? Because fat sucks.

It can cause death, chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart attacks and, unfortunately, it suggests that the person carrying around that spare tire is a lazy couch potato. Of course, this final point is unfair, but life is unfair. So, deal with it and start shedding those pounds.


CrossFit: A Direct HIIT on Fat!

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a part of every CrossFit program and it is a pretty simple concept. According to this website, HIIT allows the participate to work harder, not longer. "You exert maximum effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise followed by short recovery periods. These intervals get your heart rate up and burn more fat and calories in less time—and more effectively—than Low Impact Steady State (LISS) exercise."

Studies published on this site show that HIIT improves insulin sensitivity by anywhere from 23-58%. This is crucial because insulin sensitivity helps boost fat loss.  Dr. Len Kravitz, explains, "HIIT increases post-exercise energy expenditure because oxygen consumption and caloric expenditure remain elevated as the working muscle cells restore physiological and metabolic factors in the cell to pre-exercise levels. This translates into higher and longer post-exercise caloric burn.”

CrossFit trainers are experts in planning workouts of the day (WODs) that use HIIT to burn fat. However, even if you work out alone, you can still reap the benefits of this weight loss regimen. It's not easy and it won't happen overnight, but with some tenacity it will help you drop those pounds that can eventually kill you.

Let's see...living versus dying. Which do I want to do?


The Ten Best WODs For Burning Fat

#1 Tabata Mania

This WOD comes from Muscle and Fitness and Ariel Fernandez a CrossFit regional competitor.

Tabata pullups
Tabata pushups
Tabata situps
Tabata squats

You do as many reps as possible for 20 seconds, and then rest for 10 seconds for four minutes total (that's eight sets total). You can try each movement on its own—or combine them all.

 

#2 Nancy (Don't let the girly name fool you!)

This one comes from Pat Vellner and consists of:

5 rounds, as fast as possible, of:

Run 400m

15 overhead squats at 95lbs (65lbs for women)

The workout combines two grueling movements: a 400-meter run and an overhead squat. After each lap around the track, the last thing you'll want to do is snatch the bar from the floor and start squatting but that's the deal!


#3 Helen

From "Men's Fitness," Helen features a combo of cardio and strength. It’s done for time, with the idea that you’ll beat your previous record in subsequent sessions. The combination of running and kettlebell swings really revs up metabolism. The pullups add some multi-joint strength work to build calorie-burning muscle.

WOD Kettlebell

Three rounds for time:    
400m run
21 kettlebell swings at 53 pounds
12 pullups (band-supported if needed)


#4 Kelly

This workout involves more running than the average lifter is used to but getting up the heart rate is a great way to cut body fat.

5 rounds, as fast as possible, of:

Run 400m

30 box jumps — 24” (20” for women)

30 wall balls with a 20-lb medicine ball (16lbs for women) shot at a 10-foot-high target (9' for women)


#5 Jackie

This workout comes from Conor Murphy, a coach at Reebok CrossFit One and a member of CrossFit HQ’s seminar staff. If done right your basal metabolic rate will be elevated for hours after you finish.

As fast as possible:

1000-meter row

50 thrusters (45lbs)

30 pullups


#6 Newport Crippler


Backsqauts

According to Men's Journal, "This WOD actually gets easier(ish) the more pounds you drop. It’s a great benchmark as you’re losing weight, as the squats get lighter as you do. There’s nothing like a brisk run after a heavy leg workout to make you feel light on your feet, right?"

For time:
30 back squats loaded with your body weight equivalent
1-mile run


#7 Burpees for (gulp) 7 Minutes

Nothing harder than burpees, so let's do seven minutes worth!

In 7 minutes:
Do as many burpees as possible


#8 Kettle-Hell

This WOD comes from Sam Orme who owns CrossFit Virtuosity in Brooklyn. It lives up to its name!

Kettlebell workout

5 rounds, as fast as possible, of:

16 double kettlebell swings at 24kg (16kg for women)

14 double kettlebell front squats

12 double kettlebell walking lunges (6 per leg)

10 double kettlebell push presses

80m double kettlebell farmer’s carry


#9 Balls to the Wall

This one is grueling and simple, or simply grueling. It's 150 wall balls.

For time:
150 wall balls at 20 pounds with 10-foot target (stopping before complete failure)

Target times:
Level 1: 8:00-10:00
Level 2: 5:00-8:00
Level 3: 4:00-5:00
Elite: < 4:00


#10 Murph

This WOD comes from Dan McCarthy owner of Brooklyn's Crow Hill CrossFit. It this one doesn't kill you, you will lose some serious weight.

For time:    
1-mile run
100 pullups
200 pushups
300 air squats
1-mile run


Do these WODs and you will soon be lean and mean. Fat? What fat?

Don't forget to check with your trainer ensure that you are physically prepared for them.

Do you have a favorite CrossFit WOD to burn fat?
Contact us and we'll share with our readers.

Design the Ultimate Home Fitness Strategy

Home fitness equipment setup

Depending on your fitness and workout goals, a home-gym might be good solution for establishing your home fitness strategy. You can start assembling your home gym for under $100. The key to maximizing the use of your home gym is in how you craft a home fitness strategy. Whether you’re working out a few days after work or hitting your home gym hard every morning before leaving the house, your success will be tied to establishing a consistent home workout routine. To get you started, here are the most important things you’ll need to take your home fitness progress to the next level.

Gather essential home equipment. First things first. You’ll need to have the right equipment in your home gym to make sure you’re working out the right way. If you’re looking for a complete home gym package, then these Rally Fitness equipment packages are a great place to start. Even if you’re not ready for a complete home gym, getting smaller items like medicine and wall balls can be just what you need to begin your own home gym regime. But, if you’re an experienced fitness buff and are looking for a more intense at-home workout, then adding plyometric boxes to your at-home gym could help you get the most out of your exercise time.

CrossFit wall balls for purchase

Add in variety to stay motivated. Mix in a healthy dose of cardio and weight training throughout the week to be sure you’re working all of your core areas. Adding weighted ropes and kettlebells to your home gym arsenal are great ways to get a variety of exercises in your daily routine. Yoga and Pilates added in with consistent weight lifting and cross training are great ways to tap into other exercise methods without tiring your body out. Learning to leverage a combination of physical activity can be the best way to maintain an at-home workout routine.

Day off after workout

Don’t be afraid to take a day off. Just because the gym is in your home, doesn’t mean that you have to use it every day. It is important to be consistent with your workouts, but it is equally important to give your body the time to recover, heal and repair. To avoid overworking yourself, try writing your weekly workout goals down and keep track of how often and what exercises you do. This way you can be sure that you are not overdoing it with some exercises and not doing enough with others. With a home fitness strategy, “slow and steady” will always pay off big in the long run.

If you’re considering creating your own at-home gym or want to add a few must-have fitness tools to your existing home workout routine, click here to browse Rally Fitness’ selection of fitness equipment.

Food Confessions of a Fitness Fanatic: "I Cheat 2 or 3 Times a Month!"

Burger Time

It's been said that "men and women do not live by grilled chicken and vegetables alone." Actually, nobody ever said that, but they should have!

Smart nutrition is an important part of gaining strength and stamina from an aggressive training regimen like CrossFit. Nobody argues with this. Food is fuel and it takes some high-octane fuel – not empty calorie crap – to power a grueling workout and its recovery.

Having a diet that helps to regrow the muscles shredded by vigorous exercise and lifting is a given. However, this doesn't mean cheating on a meal of high-calorie foods is out of the question. In fact, some fitness experts feel strongly that this "cheat meal" is an important part of maintaining motivation to hit the gym 3 or 4 times a week and eating good-for-you food every day.

There are several ways to eat the foods you crave – pizza, pasta, hamburgers, ice cream and every other "bad" food you've ever been warned about – without blowing all the work you've been doing in the gym. It involves cheating 2 or 3 times a month.

Cheating to Win

We've all heard that maintaining a healthy weight is simple physics - calories in and calories out. Actually, it's not quite that simple. Part of the trick of getting leaner and (oh yes!) meaner involves maintaining a positive mental attitude. This is where a cheat meal can really supercharge the process.

To be clear, this does not mean you should binge on junk for days at a time. The best effects of this counterintuitive strategy come from cheating on ONE MEAL, a couple of times each month.

"A cheat meal is high in calories and all macronutrients—protein, carbs, and fat—and is not something that would normally be part of a proper diet plan," says BuiltLean nutritional scientist Eva Lana. "It's not to be confused with a cheat day, which is an eight- to 12-hour window in which you go outside of your diet and straight out binge."  

She notes that a cheat day is recommended for those who are serious, competitive athletes and body builders. A cheat meal is best for the rest of us.

According to an article in Men's Fitness, "When it comes to cheating (on meals, that is), there are two hormones you need to be concerned with: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is the 'hunger hormone.' It's mainly produced by fat tissue, and it regulates your appetite and energy stores. Grehlin is a hormone mainly produced by the stomach. It's an appetite stimulant that signals the release of growth hormone.

Periodic cheat meals that are higher in calories and carbohydrates can help raise leptin levels and lower ghrelin. "When your hormones return to normal, they can help reverse or even prevent any negative effects on metabolism, hunger drive, and energy expenditure. What's more, the piece notes, the increased calories may also help to increase thyroid function, further boosting metabolism. This means that a scheduled cheat meal may actually help optimize the body’s hormones to avoid weight loss plateaus and prevent chronic metabolism depression.

Again, it very much about motivation. Many nutritionists believe that looking forward to a few slices of pizza or steak and baked potato (complete with butter, sour cream and bacon bits!!) on Friday will help the athlete make better choices on Wednesday.

Tips for a Successful Cheat Meal

Healthy Lunch

#1 Stick with a Schedule

It is important to plan when the cheat meal is going to occur and then stick with this plan. This is often more difficult than it seems because food urges can sneak up on you.

#2 Indulge but Don't go Overboard...Especially if You are Prone to Binging

Eat your favorite food, for one meal but don't go crazy. If it is Mexican food, eat the enchiladas and stay away from the guacamole and chips.

#3 Continue Your Workouts

It's very important to work out before and/or after feasting; it can actually promote bigger, better gains.

CrossFit workout

"If I have a cheat meal, I know that I’ve consumed a lot of calories, and I want   to burn them off. So, I might want to go heavier metabolically—like going for a high-intensity workout or lift heavier that day, or throw in some extra   plyos to continue to burn calories after I’ve stopped.”
Rebecca Kennedy
Creator of A.C.C.E.S.S.


"I vary my workouts between HIIT, Olympic Lifting, heavy days of big muscle group training (bench press, back squats, front squats, pull ups, etc.) and kickboxing. Because I train with a lot of intensity, I'm not as worried about counting calories. I enjoy what I’m eating and move on. If I'm not training hard, I don't usually crave an ‘off’ day as much.”
Ashley Borden
Fitness and Lifestyle Consultant


#4 Customize Your Cheat Meal

People who are in large calorie deficit (more than 750 calories per day) need a cheat meal more often than those with smaller calorie deficit.

"Leptin concentrations (hunger hormone) typically reflect total body fat mass; the leaner your physique becomes, the less leptin your body produces, at which point eating cheat meals is more ideal. All in all, you need to recognize the changes in your body and how your body reacts to different cheat meals."
Eva Lana
BuiltLean


#5 Avoid Empty-Calorie, Sugar-Laden Nutrient Poor Foods

The best approach is to go for a well-balanced meal that is higher and carbs and calories than the normal (training) meal.

The Best Choices for a Cheat Meal

There are as many opinions on the BEST cheat meal food as there are cheaters. However, the fitness experts suggest the following as good choices:

  • Omelet with cheese, spinach and mushrooms
  • Cheeseburger with the bun
  • Bitter chocolate
  • Two slices of pizza
  • Pasta dish with protein source
  • Chicken or shrimp fajitas with two tortillas
  • Chick stir fry with rice or noodles
  • Nachos with extra cheese
Have you had success by incorporating a cheat meal in your workout diet? Contact us and let us know how you did it. We'll share with our readers.

Feeling Boxed In By CrossFit? Ready To Take Your Knowledge To Your Own Garage Gym Instead?

If the answer is “yes”, then you’re not alone! While CrossFit gyms exploded in the years 2011 through 2015, the once massively popular, cult-like, gritty exercise regimen has slowed down in popularity and appears to be in a consolidation phase, likely due to a confluence of events.

Continue Reading → View full article →

The Business of CrossFit: How to Hire a (GREAT) Trainer for Your Gym

CrossFit trainer

Many, if not most CrossFit gyms are started by fitness professionals who have that entrepreneurial gene in their DNA.  Typically, before starting their gym, they have been personal trainers or coaches and have decided that the CrossFit philosophy and potential for business success is worth their investment – in time and money. Then, the pressure begins for expansion.

After a start-up period, the owner of the box often realizes that running a business requires more time and energy than someone who is also in charge of leading several classes each day has. The owner/trainer has to then decide if they want to spend their entire day training members or use some of that time to build the gym’s membership, plan promotions, scope out new locations, plan the sales and marketing for the gym and about a hundred other critical tasks for growing the business.

It’s at this time when the owner has to make the most important decision he will make as a CrossFit entrepreneur – hiring another trainer.

What to Look for in a CrossFit Trainer

Great fitness trainers, even those who have owned their own gym, are not always great judges of potential employees. There’s a reason why big companies have HR departments. It is very difficult to pre-judge talent and employees can make or break any company of any size. More importantly, in a CrossFit environment, a trainer (s) is the pretty much the heart and soul of the gym.

Finding an trainer who will (1) show up for work every day with a great attitude, (2) has the training and certification required to properly and safely teach newbees and veterans who are throwing heavy weights around, running, pulling and struggling (potentially hurting themselves and their fellow CrossFitters), and (3) has the personality to actually LEAD a group is a challenge. However, there are a few considerations that can help an owner find a trainer who can help the business continue to grow.

Are They Certified?

The first criterion that every trainer must have is a Level 1 Certification from CrossFit. This is common knowledge for gym owners who started out as trainers or coaches. However, for investors or owners of gyms with no background in training, this is very important.

According to the CrossFit.com training page, the Level 1 certificate course is “an introduction to CrossFit’s methodology and foundational movements. The course includes classroom instruction on these topics, as well as hands-on small-group training for the movements. These group sessions are conducted under low intensity with a focus on improving mechanics. Students’ movements are observed and Students’ movements are observed and corrected, and they engage in dialogue concerning effective coaching techniques. Large group CrossFit workouts are conducted as an example of bridging the gap from theory to practice. These workouts provide examples of how to:

  • Conduct a class.
  • Hold a standard of effective technique at high intensity.
  • Achieve relative high levels of intensity for each individual.
  • Scale for any ability level.

The Level 1 provides introductory education on the fundamental principles and movements of CrossFit. It is structured to meet two goals: 1) Provide attendees with the knowledge to better use CrossFit methods for themselves; and 2) Provide attendees with an initial and foundational education to begin training others using CrossFit.”

This training and certification is not cheap. The prices for this two-day training and certification are:

  • Course (and test): (US) $1,000 if registered 14 days or more prior to the course date or (US) $1,200 if registered within 14 days of the course start date.
  • Revalidation (course and test): (US) $500.
  • Retest only: (US) $150.

These two-day training and testing sessions are conducted around the United States and other countries. For locations and dates, just click on the training page.

Where to Find Your New Trainer?

This question has two choices. The new trainer will either come from within your gym or outside your gym and there are advantages and disadvantages of both.

According to Journal Menu, When you hire from within you will already know if your potential hire has the right personality and fit for your gym, since you will have observed them in numerous classes under a wide variety of situations. However, it’s important to realize that a cool person, one-on-one, may not have the chops for full class responsibility, you'll have to throw them into the mix before you can make that determination.”

The article noted other benefits from hiring within, including:

  • Reduced/no costs associated with advertising the job opening
  • No time spent creating job postings

The article advised putting this new hire through an internship for several months, in return for no membership dues, to see how they handle the leadership role. As noted earlier, before they take on the full-time trainer role, they must go through the Level 1 certification, and depending on how great of a prospective trainer they are, the owner can opt to pay for this training and testing.

The other choice is to hire the new trainer externally. The Journal Menu notes, “Hiring externally will require some more footwork, but will also allow you to find specialized coaches to fill in a void you currently have. You could require all applicants to already have their Level 1 as well as other specific certs, like gymnastics or Olympic lifting. 

“Hiring externally might allow you to get one of the best skills related coaches around, something that your internal prospects might not have been able to put on the table. This would allow you to make a few strategic hires that would drastically increase the potency of your program.

“When you externally hire, you will not need to worry about the transition from member to coach. This transition can be very tricky since members might not view an internally hired coach as a ‘real’ coach for as long as a year or two.

“If you hire externally you will need to advertise the slot. You can advertise through a blog post, a Facebook post or even a post on the CrossFit boards.

CrossFit WOD

There are many job boards where CrossFit trainers and wannabe trainers share the thoughts about their profession. This one from “Thomas” is an interesting insight into how he got his job as a trainer and what he thinks is important.

“How I got my job was pretty much like an open tryout. My resume impressed them then I had to go in for two weeks, non-paid and prove myself as a leader and my ability to program and coach every movement and exercise I claimed to be proficient in. I like the format of hiring as an open tryout (because) you find out who really wants it. I like the Idea of finding someone you trust and grooming them too, if you have relevant knowledge to pass on and instruct people on giving instruction. Don't hire anyone based on a resume and pay them until they are proven.

In our box we don't shy away from heavy lifting so peoples’ lives are literally in our hands and it has to be treated that way. Safety is #1 period, and knowledge is key. I feel like you are robbing people of their money if you aren't giving them the whole enchilada of CrossFit in which I see as including heavy lifting. I’ve had people threaten to walk out of the box when I introduced heavy lifting. They said that didn't want to be football players. Month down the road, these people are thanking me for their new strength gains and notice in power output in there other activities, especially the few cyclists I have at the box."

What is the Pay Scale for a Great Trainer?

Many trainer/entrepreneurs who have run one-man-band in the beginning, will have many questions about what to pay these new hires.  As with every business, it’s all over the road and depends on many factors, including: experience, range of teaching skills (i.e. can they deal with weight training, gymnastics, nutrition counseling, etc.) and the city where the box is located.

Fortunately, there are several online resources for helping an owner to determine a competitive compensation package for a new trainer. One excellent resource is PayScale Human Capital. This site also offers a cool compensation calculator which will help an owner get a better starting point for this subject. Unfortunately, CrossFit trainers are like any other employee in that their personality is very important for the job and a trainer with interpersonal gifts is worth more (in the long run) to the growth of the gym than someone who is a just great athlete or coach.  

There’s Paperwork…Lots of Paperwork!

Running a business and hiring more people can be worse that tire flipping in July! In order to do this right – meaning the avoidance of state and federal taxes violations and employment commission violations – it is important to get good legal and accounting advice. Anyone who is serious about growing a business should get competent help in both of these areas. Don’t make the mistake of thinking these tasks can be done by a high school intern or your cousin Vinny who went to junior college for one year!

There are also reams of paperwork to deal with! This blog post is a good place to start your hand-to-hand combat against the forces of bureaucratic evil. There are also a couple of helpful sites from IRS and The Small Business Administration.  

Go for It!

Sure there are challenges to expanding your CrossFit enterprise, but if this more than a hobby for you, hiring GREAT trainers along with other talented staff members is worth the grief. Go for it and let us know how you’re doing.

The Business of CrossFit: What Kind of Equipment Do You Need to Start a Gym and what does it Cost?

CrossFit class in session

Fitness entrepreneurs are drawn to the CrossFit business model because the outward appearance of a typical CF gym or “box” is decidedly industrial-looking (i.e. cheap) and the antithesis of the fancy schmancy chrome and glass franchises (i.e. expensive) such as “LA Fitness” and other well-known brands. It looks like a great business opportunity and it is!

The affiliate fees are modest ($3,000) as is the training certification cost ($1,000) and there is no revenue sharing required. Of course, there are expenses for rent, insurance, utilities, legal and accounting, but when an entrepreneur sees these converted warehouses, packed with die hard fitness fanatics who are paying $150 per month he/she thinks: “Hey. I can make some money doing what I love to do - helping clients get fit – with a CrossFit gym!”

It’s true about the modest accommodations of a typical CF box. However, all of those CrossFitters who show up at 6 a.m. ready for the workout of the day (WOD), demand great trainers and commercial quality equipment, both of which require initial capital investment and in the case of equipment, ongoing replacement.

When starting up a CrossFit gym, nothing is more important than the investment in excellent trainers. Finding these professionals is a very challenging task and this subject will be treated in greater detail in an upcoming post. However, this post will deal with what equipment is needed to open the doors on a CrossFit gym.

Location, Location, Location

Choosing appropriate equipment for a gym is partially dictated by the location of the workout facility and the clientele an owner wants to work with. A box on the Upper East Side Manhattan might require more modern and brand name equipment than one found in the warehouse district of New Orleans or Dallas. Plus, a smaller town may have fewer competing CrossFit programs and can survive and even flourish with very basic equipment.

According to this planner, “CrossFit is an ever-changing field in fitness, meaning there will be times when every affiliate box will need to include new equipment to keep up with the latest workouts. For example, the Assault Bike is an up and coming affiliate gym trend that not every fitness equipment company has available. Choose companies that are aware of and are able to accommodate these trends.”

It further noted that many boxes follow what they call the “Rule of Three,” meaning that a class should be able to be broken into three groups. For example, a class of fifteen individuals can be broken into three separate groups, therefore you would only need enough equipment for five individuals for each WOD. If the decision is to hold larger group sessions, each member of the group will require the same piece of equipment. Needless to say, this can be very expensive for a startup venture.

Equipment Investment Costs

According to many websites on the subject, outfitting a new CrossFit box with commercial equipment can run from $5,000 to $100,000 dollars. The types of workouts that are planned, the number of people in each session, the training strategies contemplated, location of the gym and other factors will dictate how much investment in equipment is required.

tire flip exercise

Some equipment, such as used truck tires which are used in workouts geared toward building explosive lower and upper body strength are cheap and readily available at any tire store. While the state of the art commercial grade, “Big Grip Kettlebells” from Rally Fitness cost about $85 each.  If the plan is to use these Big Grip Kettlebells in a group of 15, the investment will be $1,275 (and change) plus tax for this equipment.

big grip kettlebells

Most gym owners benefit from researching “package” deals from equipment manufacturers. Each company offers a little different package, composed of different pieces of equipment. Rally Fitness has a competitively priced package it calls “The Captain.” This includes:

The price for this package is $2,399.00 and most gyms would want to purchase at least three and perhaps five of these packages in order to accommodate the “groups of three” noted above.

Caution

It is tempting for an owner of a startup box to save money by purchasing cheaper equipment from a big-box retailer. This is certainly an option but it is a bad option.  

CrossFit athletes are much more serious about their workouts than any other, more casual, fitness enthusiasts. Because of their average income and professional standing they expect quality training and safe equipment. This is part of the reason they are not hesitant to pay upwards of $150 per month in fees.  

Don’t skimp on the quality of the gym’s equipment just to save a few bucks in the beginning. Buy quality and build confidence in the staying power of the box.

If you have questions about the type of equipment you need for your CrossFit gym, contact us and we will be happy to share ideas and financing options

Why Music Helps You Get Physical in Your CrossFit Workout

Listen to Music for CrossFit workout

Visit any CrossFit class anywhere in the world and there is a good possibility that the sound of music will be pounding through the room. In fact, many if not all organized exercise sessions use music as a stimulant. Why?

Music changes both the body and the mind during a workout. According to a 2013 article in Scientific American, “Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency. When listening to music, people run farther, bike longer and swim faster than usual—often without realizing it.”

In a 2012 review of the research, Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University in London, one of the world's leading experts on the psychology of exercise music, wrote that one could think of music as "a type of legal performance-enhancing drug." There are many reasons music has this effect on the human body.

The Rhythm Response is the Key

The SA article notes that since 1911 several hundred studies have been conducted on the effect of music on the body when it is involved in physical activities. Here are some conclusions of this research.

“Two of the most important qualities of workout music are tempo—or speed—and what psychologists call rhythm response, which is more or less how much a song makes you want to boogie. Most people have an instinct to synchronize their movements and expressions with music—to nod their heads, tap their toes or break out in dance—even if they repress that instinct in many situations.

“What type of music excites this instinct varies from culture to culture and from person to person. However, to make some broad generalizations, fast songs with strong beats are particularly stimulating, so they fill most people's workout playlists. In a survey of 184 college students, for example, the most popular types of exercise music were hip-hop (27.7 percent), rock (24 percent) and pop (20.3 percent).”

It’s All in Your Head!

Recent research noted in the SA article, points to how music encourages athletes to keep pushing ahead with their exercise regime. “Distraction is one explanation. The human body is constantly monitoring itself. After a certain period of exercise—the exact duration varies from person to person—physical fatigue begins to set in. The body recognizes signs of extreme exertion—rising levels of lactate in the muscles, a thrumming heart, increased sweat production—and decides it needs a break.

“Music competes with this physiological feedback for the brain's conscious attention. Similarly, music often changes people's perception of their own effort throughout a workout: it seems easier to run those 10 miles or complete a few extra biceps curls when Beyoncé or Eminem is right there with you.”

Dr. Karageorghis correctly surmised that "Given that exercise is often tiresome, boring and arduous, anything that relieves those negative feelings would be welcome," However, the intensity of a typical CrossFit session may work against this “distraction” tactic.

The research notes that “the benefits of distraction are most pronounced during low-to-moderate-intensity exercise. When up against high-intensity exercise, music loses its power to override the physical feelings of tiredness, but it can still change the way people respond to that fatigue. The right music elevates mood and persuades people to ride out waves of exhaustion, rather than giving up.”

Neuroscientists have noted that different regions of the human brain specialize in processing different senses—sound, sight, touch—and the brain uses the information it receives from one sense to help it understand another. The SA article on music and exercise added, “"We have also known for decades that there are direct connections from auditory neurons to motor neurons," explains Jessica Grahn, who is a cognitive neuroscientist at Western University's Brain and Mind Institute in Ontario. "When you hear a loud noise, you jump before you have even processed what it is. That's a reflex circuit, and it turns out that it can also be active for non-startling sounds, such as music."

Here’s Your Playlist, Now Rock It!

The intensity of CrossFit is constant. As such, a steady, driving musical beat is critical. Veteran CrossFit trainers also feel that the tune should be at least 130 beats per minute (BPM) in order to get that motivation and distraction from pain working together.

In a 2015 article for Shape Magazine, writer Chris Lawhorn proposed the Ten CrossFit Songs to Help You Crush Your Next WOD. While some of them might be a little more “R” rated than others, they all have one thing in common: They start and keep that adrenaline pumping.

Here’s the list, with the BPM for each song.

Drake's workout music

Rihanna - Bitch Better Have My Money - 103 BPM
Nine Inch Nails - Came Back Haunted - 131 BPM
Kanye West, Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom & Paul McCartney - All Day - 123 BPM
Afrojack & 30 Seconds to Mars - Do or Die (Remix) - 128 BPM
Metric - Breathing Underwater - 143 BPM
Breathe Carolina & Karmin - Bang It Out - 130 BPM
Taddy Porter - Shake Me - 131 BPM
Imagine Dragons & Kendrick Lamar - Radioactive - 139 BPM
Nero - Doomsday - 121 BPM
Drake - Energy - 86 BPM

If you think you need a little boost, some “legal, performance-enhancing drugs” as noted above, download these tunes and see if you can get your trainer to put them in music circulation at your CrossFit box.

Do you have a song that motivates you during your CrossFit workout? Send them our way and we’ll share them with the rest of the class.

When You're Ready to Explode, Grab the Kettlebells!

 

One of the most useful pieces of equipment found in a CrossFit gym is the kettlebell – colorfully described by some as a “cannonball with a handle.” This cast-iron or cast steel weight is used to perform ballistic exercises (those which focus on explosiveness) that have the unique advantage of combining cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training.


While the popularity of these weighted balls has only recently taken off, kettlebells have been around since the 1700's. According to several online sources, including Wikipedia, the first kettlebells were used in Russia to weigh crops.


After realizing that their constant lifting and swinging of these weights made the farmers much stronger, they began using them for exercise purposes, leading to the development of a weight-lifting sport known as girevoy sport. The Soviet army used them as part of their physical training and conditioning programs in the 20th century and kettlebells have been used for competition and sports throughout Russia and Europe since the 1940s.


Big Advantage of Kettlebells: Flexibility



While this history of kettlebells is colorful, the real benefit of these weights comes from their amazing flexibility in an exercise program – particularly in a CrossFit environment. Typically, they come in weights of 12 kg., 16 kg. And 24 kg. These weights are chosen based on the participant's strength and flexibility.  


According to several online sources, “by their nature, typical kettlebell exercises build strength and endurance, particularly in the lower back, legs, and shoulders, and increase grip strength. The basic movements, such as the swing, snatch, and the clean and jerk, engage the entire body at once, and in a way that mimics real world activities such as shoveling or farm work, an homage to those early kettlebell devotees, the Russian farmers!


How Kettlebells are used in CrossFit Training


As with any piece of exercise equipment, the benefit derived from kettlebell training is directly related to the quality of instruction on their use. There are literally hundreds of exercises which employ these weights and all of them can either help or hurt the athlete using, or misusing them. Needless to say, it is important to obtain professional advice from a qualified trainer before starting to swing these cannonballs around!


Many think of using kettlebells in the same way they would use barbells or dumbbells. While this is intuitive, it’s also wrong.  According to CrossFit trainers, kettlebell exercises usually involve large numbers of repetitions. Kettlebell exercises work several muscles simultaneously and may be repeated continuously for several minutes or with short breaks.


This combination makes the exercise partially aerobic and but more similar to the high-intensity interval training of CrossFit, rather than to traditional weight lifting. Because of their high repetitions, kettlebell progression should start out slowly to build muscle endurance, support the joints and prevent injury. When used properly, these weights can improve mobility and range of motion which increasing strength.


The Six Best Kettlebell Exercises


There are probably as many exercises which can be done with kettlebells as there are CrossFit trainers and athletes. The simplicity of their design allows these weights to be deployed in an almost unlimited number of ways. However, no one has unlimited time, so it becomes important to get an opinion on the best exercises – for maximum return on energy (that would be “ROE” for you folks who enjoy acronyms!) expended on a workout.


Scott Iardella, is a strength and conditioning specialist, sports nutritionist, former sports medicine physical therapist, and former competitive bodybuilder with over 30 years of experience. He notes that his passion is helping people of all levels get stronger, improve performance, and discover their physical potential. He's also the creator of "The Rdella Training Podcast."


In a recent post on BodyBuilding.com, Scott picked “The 6 Best Kettlebell Exercises You Need to Do.” Here are the exercises this fitness expert recommends.


EXERCISE 1 THE SWING

“The Russian-style kettlebell swing, in which you project the weight to shoulder-height only, is an insanely effective exercise when executed with proper form. Hip power, hip hinging, and breathing techniques make it incredibly powerful. It's a two-for-one exercise, meaning you're able to combine strength training and cardiovascular conditioning into one efficient movement.

The swing is considered the most powerful kettlebell movement because it represents full-body power, extreme fat loss, and a high level of cardiovascular conditioning. It's also the foundation of all kettlebell ballistic exercises.”


Next up, Scott picked what appears to be a leg exercise, but is in fact a total-body challenge.


EXERCISE 2 THE GOBLET SQUAT

“Squatting is a fundamental movement pattern with many variations. The kettlebell goblet squat isn't just a leg exercise; it's another total-body juggernaut that offers more mobility—the ability to move easily so you can safely train with heavier loads—and improved conditioning.”


The next choice is designed to “bullet-proof your body.”



EXERCISE 3 THE TURKISH GET-UP

The Turkish get-up is a slow, deliberate movement that's been around for centuries. You start by lying on the floor, then stand up, then lie back down again in a specific sequence of movement transitions. The get-up will help you with functional tasks as well as higher-level exercises. It teaches you to move fluidly, and when you add the external load (a kettlebell), it requires strength, mobility, and skilled movement.”


The fourth exercise chosen by Scott shows the advantages of a kettlebell over a dumbbell.


EXERCISE 4 THE STRICT PRESS

“Once you can do the first three exercises—and have demonstrated appropriate shoulder mobility and stability—the kettlebell press is another exceptional movement to learn. While it looks like an overhead press, it's not just a shoulder exercise, as you use your entire body for maximum pressing power and strength.”


EXERCISE 5 THE CLEAN

Similar to the kettlebell swing, the clean is another explosive exercise for total-body strength and conditioning. The difference here is that the kettlebell finishes in the rack position as opposed to being projected horizontally away from your body.”


EXERCISE 6 THE SNATCH


“Just to be clear, it's nothing like the barbell snatch, except that it begins with the weight in a low position and projects the weight overhead. The kettlebell snatch is physically demanding and technical, but offers outstanding total-body strength and conditioning benefits. It can help transcend athletic performance to new levels, build explosive strength, and forge strong, powerful shoulders.”


What are your favorite kettlebell exercises? Leave us a message and we'll share with our other readers.