Learning to Respect the Equipment: A List of Things NOT to do

The next time you step foot in the gym – take a look around. Take special notice of the equipment… Most all of the equipment is made from durable rubber, steel, or wood… and they are designed to take a beating. This ain’t no prissy environment where we’re going to act like our equipment is made of fine China. The bumper plates are MADE to be dropped. The dumbbells have rubber coating to be more forgiving when they do drop. The Kettlebells are made of solid steel.

Of course, the equipment is still destructible… and it costs money to replace (money we’d rather spend on more cool toys, or coffee… or pretty much anything other than replacing broken equipment).

So I came up with a list of things to avoid doing, to help protect the equipment (and in many cases, to also help keep you and other athletes safe).

  1. Don’t stack more than 2 (25#, 15#, 10#) bumper plates on the barbell.
    When you drop the barbell, most of us don’t drop the barbell perfectly and one side hits before the other side. Of course, the bumper plates are meant to flex to absorb the impact… however, when you stack more than a couple of these smaller plates at the end of the barbell, it distributes the weight further from the center of gravity, which increases the load that’s going to be absorbed. When a plate absorbs too much force, they get weaker and will break. These smaller weights aren’t meant to absorb that much load, and need a larger bumper plate next to them to help capture/protect the outer plate from absorbing all of the impact.
  2. Don’t Drop Wallballs from the top.
    We’re all guilty of this… We throw the ball up there, wishing/hoping/wanting it to hit the target, and being exhausted and letting it drop all the way to the ground. The wall balls are built to be dropped and to take impact… However, every time they drop, that puts stress on the stitching and after repeated drops the stitches will break (or in some cases, the material will rip), and you now have a wallball that spits out tiny rubber pellets and becomes unusable. Wall Balls are fun toys (for me at least), but still quite expensive. If you’re going to drop a wall-ball, drop it from chest height.
  3. Don’t Drop Empty Barbells.
    If you want to see me cringe in horror… Drop an empty barbell around me. Don’t even drop one side of the barbell while you’re taking plates off… Our barbells are meant to handle years of intended abuse… but letting one side of the barbell hit the ground puts a LOT of stress on the barbell where it was not intended… And steel DOES have a breaking point. Although I’ve never heard of a barbell breaking while in regular use, I have seen many photos of barbells breaking (snapping in half) from being dropped. Don’t be that guy/girl that breaks a barbell.
  4. Don’t Drop Kettlebells.
    Kettlebells are solid steel… I’ve never seen one bend or break. I’ve never seen photos of one bent or broken. However, dropped kettlebells tend to do a lot of damage to the area that they are dropped, and because we have rubber floors, they could also bounce and land on someone’s foot. And if you get used to dropping one thing… you may develop a habit and drop something else.
  5. Don’t Drop Dumbbells.
    Dumbbells aren’t quite as indestructible as a kettlebell. If you drop them enough, one of the bells will break off. And because we like to use the dumbbells for overhead movements (jerk, press, snatch, etc), the last thing I want is a dumbbell that has a loose bell on one side (from being repeatedly dropped) going over one of my athletes heads.
  6. Don’t Drop Loaded Barbell from above the shoulder.
    Yes, Bumper Plates are meant to be dropped, and yes, there are times when you will NEED to drop the loaded barbell from above the shoulder (for safety/bailing reasons). However, for regular use… let’s wait until the barbell is at shoulder height before we let go of it. The less stress we have to put on the smaller bumper plates, the longer they’ll last, and when you drop a weight from way up high, it also builds up speed as it falls to the ground which will project the barbell to the side… potentially ramming the end of the barbell into a wall, someone’s leg, etc.
  7. Don’t put more than 50# on the Trainer Bars.
    These trainer bars are made of Aluminum and weigh 15#. They can hold more than 50#, but they WILL bend. (I’ve personally bent one, and I felt awful about it). They aren’t meant for WODs, they are meant for training and technique work. For new members, we’ll probably encourage them to use trainer bars in a WOD, but the bar will probably be loaded with less than 50#.
  8. Don’t be a chalk monster.
    Chalk is meant to help your grip. Too little, and sweat will make you slip, too much and the actual chalk will make you slip. If you pull a LeBron, and accidentally clap up a bunch of chalk in my face… I’ll be tempted to squirt you with the water bottle after I wipe the chalk out of my eyes and spit out what went in my mouth. Aside from the humorous side of things… chalk dust floating in the air does get in people’s eyes, and that’s pretty frustrating during a workout. And chalk also is tough to clean, and costs money to replace… Please just be kind to the chalk.
  9. Don’t leave plates laying around in your lifting area.
    If you leave extra bumper plates laying around in your area, that makes your area a bit cluttered. Of course, that’s just my OCD talking… The real issue isn’t cleanliness, it’s making sure that there isn’t an uneven surface around for a barbell to be accidentally dropped on. Because if you do drop a barbell on an uneven surface… it’s going to project the barbell in another direction REALLY fast. Most of the time, it ends up slamming the bar into your own shins (ask Coach Jeremy how that feels). Save your shins, and keep your blood inside your body.
  10. Don’t use a loaded barbell without clips.
    When you use a barbell without clips, especially on a movement where the barbell could be dropped to the ground, you’re allowing weights to slide out (away) from the center of gravity. This means that when the barbell does get dropped, you’re isolating the outer plates to absorb ALL of the impact… it’s bad for the plates.
  11. Don’t Jump Rope on the concrete.
    Jump ropes are metal wiring with an outer plastic coat. This plastic coat takes a beating (literally being slammed against the ground at a high velocity EVERY time you jump). The rubber floors won’t do much damage, as they aren’t an abrasive surface. However, concrete… concrete/asphalt will completely destroy that plastic coat, and start to fray the metal wiring. Getting lashed by a regular jump rope when attempting double-unders is rough enough as it is… we don’t want to turn a miss into a lashing from a “cat of nine tails.” If it’s your personal jump rope, feel free to destroy it on the concrete. If it’s a gym jump rope, let’s keep them inside the gym (or on a rubber mat).
  12. Don’t let the handle snap back on the rower.
    This is more common sense than the rest. The rower handles are made of plastic. They’re durable, but they’re meant to be pulled and not to absorb direct impact from being let go. I don’t know how much rower handles cost to replace… but as with any “machine”… it’s probably an infuriating amount.
  13. Don’t drop any equipment on the wooden plyo boxes.
    Plyo boxes are not snatch blocks. They are not jerk blocks. Yes, they can handle 300# of force being applied (distributed via 2 feet), but they aren’t meant to handle the direct force of a kettlebell, dumbbell, bumper plate, etc being dropped on them. It’s made of wood… they will crack, and they will break.

There is an exception to EVERY rule above… and that is in the case where your own personal safety depends on it. I want to see every athlete showing the equipment the proper respect, but I also want to make sure that you guys stay safe and realize that I’d rather see an empty barbell hit the ground than to see an empty barbell come down on your head.

If I (or any of the coaches) see someone consistently dropping equipment, I’m going to assume that you’re unable to control the weights and therefore need to drop down to a lighter weight. If you jump rope on the concrete, I’m going to assume you want to purchase that rope. If you crop-dust half the room with chalk, I’m going to assume you are in fact LeBron James and I will get your autograph as I sign you up for expensive personal training. You get the drift. 😉

Now, let’s get back to the regularly scheduled programming,

In Strength & Love,

Coach KPO