Big city visitors to our small town Box invariably express surprise at the variety and quality of our equipment.
Our status as masters athletes is directly responsible for that wide selection. We have strength and mobility issues, so we choose equipment to address that. We also have pensions from previous careers, which makes it easier – and more fun – to invest profits into hardware.
But no matter age or skill level, athletes appreciate the versatility that comes with a well-equipped gym. We often drop in at Boxes around the country and we find that many of our basics — items our members and guests use daily — are not basics everywhere.
Here’s the equipment we find particularly useful when training masters:
It’s discouraging when you’re unable to perform basic movements because of strength or mobility limitations. You can address this with light loads, but for skills like an overhead squat, even an empty 35- or 45-pound bar can be too heavy.
Once an athlete has mastered an overhead squat with a dowel, for example, we progress to the ProBar. This 8-pound bar helps fine-tune any overhead squat, not only those of beginners. Its spring-loaded resistance forces the athlete to engage the shoulders, keep the arms straight and the load right where it should be.
We keep a supply of 15-pound aluminum and 10k steel barbells, along with a good selection of durable full-size 5- and 10-pound training plates, all of which allow athletes to dial in form before incrementally adding weight as skills improve.
For fine progression, we also have a set of fractional weights that range from 1/4 pound to 1 pound. Athletes of all skill levels use these to ease over a sticky limit.
Because our Box has many athletes over the age of 50, we have more 35-pound barbells than many Boxes. Arthritic hands of either sex, as well as those with wrist mobility issues, find the smaller diameter bars easier to grip, especially the hook grip, particularly for Olympic lifts or overhead work.
We think deadlifts are one of the most beneficial strength exercises. For athletes with issues attaining correct form with a straight bar, we employ a variety of trap bars, ranging from a simple hex bar to a 125-pound Monster Hex our strongest athletes use for heavy deadlifts and farmers carries. The 6-inch rise of a trap helps maintain a neutral spine for athletes who struggle to do so when lifting from the floor.
A padded yoke squat bar is appreciated by those with shoulder, elbow or wrist mobility concerns.
Our kettlebells and dumbbells start at 5 pounds and go up to 150 pounds, allowing athletes of all abilities to benefit from them. We find kettlebell goblet squats fix many an athlete’s squat, and kettlebell deadlifts quickly teach form to beginners.
Jumping is an issue for those with knee, foot or hip concerns. Six- and 12-inch boxes allow athletes to build skills and overcome fears of hurting themselves. For older athletes who struggle with rope jumping, Wiffle training balls help develop the timing and coordination needed for single unders, while more advanced athletes use them for double-under training.
Our latest splurge was an EndlessRope, an ingenious apparatus that allows athletes to develop the upper body strength necessary to climb a rope without their feet leaving the ground. Variable resistance helps novice to expert climbers build strength and skills without fear of falling. With the EndlessRope, athletes are able to spend far more time on the rope than from one hanging from a 14-foot ceiling.
We invest in recovery. Our masters athletes no longer need convincing that it’s essential to maintaining and building their fitness. They foam roll and do their Crossover Symmetry routines before their workout and finish up by stretching out to the day’s RomWod. Lines form when Dave brings out the TheraGun, a high-end neuromuscular therapy device.
Older athletes appreciate any help they can get remembering terms and movement standards. Investing in a simple set of CrossFit Movement Posters has saved us hours of (re)explanation, and they’re great reminders for us, too.
During classes, we play videos pertinent to the day’s skill work from the CrossFit YouTube channel. While we know what good movement looks like and how to coach it, it’s often more effective to watch young skilled athletes demonstrate it. At our age, sometimes we need help, too.