Perhaps I’m not the right guy to write on this subject seeing as how I’ve never owned a callous scraper, compression gear or pair of Nanos. For me CrossFit was never about the gear, part of the initial appeal was in fact the lack of gear. But despite my raw beginnings, over the years I have picked up a cubby full of CrossFit gear to help me through workouts. And maybe that makes me the perfect person to write on this subject. As the guy who eschews gear for gear’s sake, you know anything that I grudgingly purchased to support my CrossFit habit was purchased not to keep up with the trends and not because I love gear but because it serves an important support role in my training. So what does a gear-averse CrossFitter keep in his cubby?
1. Sweat Band
Yes, I grew up in the 80’s but no, this isn’t a retro thing. If you can get through Double DT, Heavy 17.5 or the upcoming 50’s WOD without the stinging sweat blinding you then you obviously do not sweat anywhere near as much as I do. I don’t wear Sweat bands for every WOD but there are some that I could not get through without one. Luckily for me, Silk made us personalized, Empower logo sweat bands several years back that I haul out for competition. It’s my lucky sweat band and bestow upon me Sandman-crushing powers but when I don’t have it handy I just tie a spare wrist wrap around my head.
2. Wrist Wraps
This is my favourite piece of gear. I feel 30% stronger when I put my wrist wraps on, maybe because I grew up watching Lynda Carter transform into Wonder Woman to deflect bullets with her bracelets of power! But really, the wrist is a small joint and in CrossFit it can come under heavy load with handstand push ups, handstand walking, overhead squats or any overhead pressing. With a layer of athletic tape as a base and wrist wraps on top, my wrists are far more stable and protected and able to stand up to the high volumes and loads that I regularly subject them to. And I feel like a superhero.
3. Athletic Tape
In season Judo competitors often walk around looking like The Mummy. Over 30 years of Judo I rarely travelled anywhere without a couple rolls of athletic tape in my back pack ready to wrap up whatever joints were currently threatening to come apart. These days my body is in much better condition and I use the athletic tape almost exclusively to keep my wrists healthy and happy. The athletic tape is always the base layer under my wrist wraps for wrist support except when we’re performing ring muscle ups in which case I use only athletic tape to help me maintain my false grip on the rings as it provides better friction and protects my skin from the abrasions of the rings. In pre-COVID times tape was something you could just borrow from the gym but in these non-sharing times you need to carry your own. We keep a supply on hand available for purchase.
4. Chalk Block
Add another 15% power up. Motor knows what I’m talking about! You just can’t have enough chalk. Gymnasts have used it since the dawn of time for pull ups and ring work and lifters use it with kettlebells and barbells too. It absorbs sweat so your hands don’t slip. Why do you think Russel Crowe would dust up his hands with dirt from the Colosseum floor before combat in Gladiator? Also when you clap your hands together it creates a puff of powder that you can walk through like a champion stepping into the arena. I like the chalk block for lifting days when I need to reapply between sets. Like the tape, if you want chalk these days you have to use your own. Like athletic tape we keep a supply on hand available for purchase.
5. Liquid Chalk
I love old school dust-cloud creating chalk but the gym owner in me also loves the neatness of liquid chalk available in refillable individualized bottles. The athlete in me prefers liquid chalk for benchmark workouts like Fran, Cindy or Grace where the goal is to keep moving without interruption or delay. One application of liquid chalk will keep your hands coated throughout without the need to waste precious seconds dusting up your hands again. Our supplier Midnight Lightning is currently sold out of this product but do not worry, we are fully stocked up and have almost 40 bottles ready for sale plus a refill bottle if yours is getting low.
6. Bear Komplex
Do CrossFit long enough and your hands will toughen up like rawhide the way mine have. It’s not often I need to wear hand protection. But if the workout calls for high volumes of kipping chest-to-bar pull ups, kipping toes-to-bar or bar muscle ups, anyone’s hands are likely to tear. Over the years I’ve tried and discarded many different hand protection solutions mostly because they interfere with my ability to grip the bar. But the Bear Komplex hand protectors are the first product I’ve tried that actually make it easier to grip the bar. I don’t use them often but there are certain workouts where they have saved me from a lot of torn flesh and lost blood!
7. Long Socks
Talk about the return of retro 80’s fashions! Eventually you will have to climb a rope. You can do it without long socks but it will peel the skin right off your shins. If you are a CrossFitter, long socks are not a luxury but a necessity. You can buy compression socks, shin guards or whatever fancy gear you want to protect yourself on the rope climb but soccer socks are cheap, easily available and will usually do the trick.
8. Cycling Sleeves
Shins aren’t the only body part subjected to friction during workouts. Do enough ring dips, ring push ups and ring muscle ups and you’ll discover that the ring straps rub away all the skin on your arms. It’s painful and messy. You can wear compression sleeves, long sleeved Under Armour shirts or just pick up some cycling sleeves from Mountain Equipment Co-op like I did. I think I paid about $12 which is reasonable considering they only get used at best once per week. Totally worth it.
9. Neoprene Knee Brace
There’s a lot of knee flexion in CrossFit and a lot of knee flexion under load. I’ve never actually injured a knee but at 48 years old I notice that my knees can get grumpy and irritable after too much squatting or lunging or running from time-to-time. I was surprised to discover that a pair of generic neoprene knee sleeves from London Drugs were enough to keep my old joints happy. I don’t use them every day but if we have high-volume loaded squats or heavy squatting to do then I put them on to give my joints some extra support. They’re especially useful when we’re doing heavy weighted lunges or weighted box step ups.
10. Lifting Belt
I resisted this one for a long time but after one too many back tweaks on the back squat I bit the bullet and shelled out $400 for the industry leading Pioneer Belt. This is a high quality product and since it cost more than all the other gear on my list combined, I expected a lot out of it. I have not been disappointed. Custom made to my measurements, my Pioneer belt has made lifting heavy safe and fun again. The added protection allows me to lift significantly more without having a sore back the next day. I save the belt for my heaviest sets. It was a steep price to pay for a cheap guy like me but I am 100% satisfied that I got my money’s worth. Pioneer is one of the few commercially available belts that meet all competition requirements (though many claim to) I purchased their Power Lifting belt. If you want to understand the difference between lifting belts, this video by Pioneer will tell you all you need to know and explain why Best and Pioneer are your top options. I did order the custom option which was more expensive and took longer because it was hand made to order in the USA. Once again, totally worth it!
11. Skipping Rope
Most people who have been CrossFitting for a few years eventually acquire their own rope. It’s nice to have your own rope customized to your dimensions, it’s portable and in COVID times, no sharing. Personally I never would have bothered to buy my own except that you are expected to bring your own rope to CrossFit competitions. When I qualified for the CanWest I ordered a rope from RX Smart Gear along with an extra cable in case of disaster. It comes with its own carrying bag. Again, not something I think is essential unless you plan to compete in CrossFit but many members enjoy having their own rope so go ahead, indulge if you like.
12. Foot Wear
As a proponent of barefoot training I am probably the least qualified to speak to this subject. I’ve never owned lifting shoes, Nanos, Metcons or No Bull. If it weren’t for rope climbs and running I don’t think I’d even own a pair of gym shoes. The best I ever owned were the now discontinued Vivo Dylans. They were great for everything inside and outside the gym but since I bought and wore through the last pairs available in BC in my size I’ve struggled to find a comparable replacement. I’ve heard good things about the Nanos and No bull so you might be better served talking to Empower members who own those shoes for advice. I’m holding out for the resurrection of the Dylan.
For wear around the gym (not during WODs) I have really enjoyed my Adidas flip flops. When I first saw them I did not like them but the duct tape holding my old flip flops together had disintegrated and these were the only thong-less flip flops in the mall in my size (we checked every store!). I bought them so I wouldn’t have to walk barefoot through the mall but ended up really liking them. They now rate as my favourite flip flops ever despite their strange appearance. There is a method to their design. I’ll let you discover it for yourself – or maybe you won’t – but it is brilliant! Avoid flip flops with thongs between the toes. Really bad for your feet! I tried wearing these and suffered for it.
That’s all I can tell you about footwear.
So, that’s it. My complete list of essential CrossFit Gear. Except for the flip flops, it all fits in my one small gym cubby with room to spare. The priciest items are my belt and skipping rope.
Wednesday Make Up Day
2 minutes of sit-ups
2 minutes of squats
90 seconds of sit-ups
90 seconds of squats
1 minute of sit-ups
1 minute of squats
30 seconds of sit-ups
30 seconds of squats
155 pound Deadlift, 12 reps
155 pound Hang power clean, 9 reps
155 pound Push jerk, 6 reps
4) Walk About
400m KB Rack Carry
400m KB Suitcase Carry
Change hands as often as you like but do not put the kettlebell down, score is weight used
5) Reset #12
1 Minute Belly Breathe Any Position
30 Seconds Head Nods In Any Position
30 Seconds Head Rotations In Any Position3 Minutes Frog Rolls W/ Feet Off Ground
30 Gait Bugs
10 Straight Leg Windshield Wipers
10 Elevated Rocks
20 Speed Skaters
1 Minute Side-to-side Crawl On Hands And Knees
1 Minute Side-to-side Leopard Crawls