Every fitness enthusiast and every coach is dreaming of it: a gym with optimal conditions. And many even go on the hunt for the ‘holy grail’ of training. How about you? Have you found your perfect gym? Or have you even equipped it yourself with everything you ever wanted? This Tutorial Thursday is centered around the question whether there can actually be the perfect gym and gives you 5 keys for an awesome functional training gym!
If you take a look at the fitness market you can’t help but notice the increasing presence of functional training into already established gyms and boxes of several fitness chains. In many gyms, machines are being sacrificed to make room for soc-alled freestlye, cross, or functional zones or areas.
In those areas, the clients are supposed to train three dimensionally and work on an athletic body with small tools like med balls, sandbags, and sling trainers. You can also often find this as a gym-in-a-gym solution and the leading German fitness discounter has recently opened specialized local affiliates only for barbell or functional training. So the trend is already here for a while now. But are these chains only freeloading and trying to get their share of the growing functional fitness market? Or can they really deliver optimal conditions for an honest, real, and functional training?
First of all, we have to establish what optimal conditions really are. Functional training describes a broad field of possibilities. What is functional for one could make no sense for another.
Point 1: you need free space!
In the end, this leads to the fact that the perfect location has to offer as many options as possible. But this doesn’t mean that every inch of the training area should be occupied by loads of training equipment, training frames, and shelves. Quite to the contrary: space should remain space. For a holistic training on all levels and dimensions you need one thing the most, namely space. And if you want to accommodate different athletes from different sports with different training plans, exercises, and goals you should keep the training area as virginal and shapeable as possible.
Here, you can use battle ropes, med balls, barbells, and even a sled. Don’t stuff your gym with big machines that train only one movement but let it be like clay in the hands of a child (that knows a little bit about functional training).
Point 2: you need a pull-up bar!
Furthermore, you should definitely own a pull-up bar or a similar piece of equipment. For one, this should give you one place to hang your sling trainer, gym rings, or climbing rope. And then, of course, you can train pull-ups and pull-up variations. There is no functional training without pull-ups. There are pull-up bars that can be mounted to the wall or to the ceiling. Special rigs, racks, and frames are mostly bolted to the floor (or additionally to the wall). The advantage that these steel frames have is that they are also a barbell rack and can be expanded by dip bars and other tools.
Point 3: choose the right flooring!
If you want to offer the aforementioned barbell training or use free weights in general your gym should have a special gym flooring. This can be made of rubber or other synthetic materials and consist of puzzle pieces, rolls or other interlockable pieces. Look for an easy to clean, grippy, and durable. You don’t want to have to change the flooring, it is supposed to last. The main criteria for choosing the right flooring should be the training. In a gym that has hundreds of people coming and train every day a hard, abrasion-proof flooring is your best choice. If you place great value on weightlifting and the barbells get dropped from time to time, the flooring should be a bit softer and thicker.
Point 4: use small equipment in open spaces!
Looking at the training itself, it can be designed in different ways. Your own bodyweight complemented by small equipment form the base for a functional training gym. To have as many options as possible you should consider buying:
- sling trainers
- med balls
- battle ropes
- power bands/minibands
- Bosu balls
- plyo boxes
- prowler/weighted sleds
- Blackrolls/fascia tools
- coordination ladders
- a bench
- add more if you want something that the above tools can’t give you…
Point 5: have enough storage space!
Your equipment should always be well-stored. Nothing is more annoying than stuff lying around in the training area. This is also a big security issue. When I do a 1 rep max back squat set I don’t want kettlebells lying around me. Especially bigger gyms suffer from this ‘never ending story’ of clients being strong enough to lift but too weak to put the weights back. A mostly open freestyle training area certainly has enormous potential to get messy. You can only prevent that with sufficient storage space and conscientious trainers.
A question of goals
You might have realized that the perfect gym could look very differently depending on your goals. People that want to go the CrossFit path could be satisfied with a rack, a barbell, and only a small selection of other tools. Personal trainer, on the other hand, that come from a health sports background and want to train their clients holistically might need a broader range of equipment. The most important aspect for a functional training gym, however, is space. A functional training gym definitely needs open spaces and I would recommend rather going without some tools than giving up space.
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