Why You Don’t Need More Equipment

I’ll never forget when I was shopping for equipment for my gym. Back then, there weren’t 39,000 places to compare options and costs. There were 3: Rogue Fitness, Again Faster, and Garage Gym. Ironically, the first couple pieces of equipment I ended up buying came from a gym I was going to at that time. I picked up two barbells and about 320 pounds of bumpers. We still have all that stuff today.

When we did finally open, here’s the equipment we had:

  • 8 barbells
  • About 1000 pounds of weights
  • 5 plyo boxes
  • 5 medicine balls
  • 5 kettlebells
  • A pull-up rig that only had 4 squat stations
  • And just a few each of ab-mats, jump ropes, gymnastic rings, foam rollers, stretch bands, PVC pipes, and lacrosse balls.

I’m sure by now, you’ve made a couple observations and have some questions about that list. Let me see if I can clarify…

No, we didn’t have rowers. Bikes weren’t even a thing back then unless you went to a spin studio…at the local YMCA.

We had no 35lb female bars. I knew they existed, and when drop-ins would stop by and ask “where are the women’s bars”, I’d pull them aside and say “Shhhh…they don’t know about those, LOL!”

All but two of our barbells were 45lb, and four of them actually had a 31mm diameter. You ever use one of those things? Why did I buy those instead of the regular 28mm ones that all gyms have today? Because they were the cheapest option at the time. The other two bars were the 15lb trainer bars.

No dumbbells.

No GHDs.

No reverse hyper.

No air runner.

Ski ergs? Pff…nope.

No bosu balls or balance boards.

Not a single Olympic bearing bar.

No colored bumpers.

Even the clips for our bars were the metal squeeze kind.

When we ended up out-growing that space, we did add a few more things to our arsenal. We have a few GHDs and dumbbells now. We’ve got more bars (even 35lb options!), boxes, medicine balls, and more barbell clips. They’re still the metal squeeze kind.

We had a reverse hyper. Its now in my garage…in pieces. Full of dust.

Here’s the awesome part though – in that old gym, with just a few of the basic essentials, we made massive progress in peoples fitness.

We had numerous people come off their diabetic meds.

Weight losses of over 100 pounds.

We also had a two-time Games qualifier.

Another athlete won multiple gold medals in Olympic Weightlifting.

And another was drafted in the 27th round of the MLB Draft.

Still a few more got full ride scholarships to play their sport of choice in college.

All the same things that our gym is doing today.

Here’s the punchline you already knew was coming: it’s NOT about the equipment you have…or don’t have. It’s what you do with what you have.

If you find yourself pining for more equipment, it’s time to zoom out and rethink how you are trying to get your clients closer to their goals.

Ran out of weight and they need to continue getting stronger? Change up the tempo of their lifting. Put a 5s eccentric requirement into their squats and deadlifts.

Want to challenge their balance and glute function but don’t have a balance board or bosu ball? Have them stand on one leg with a slightly bent knee and toss a lacrosse ball to them for 15-20 reps. They can’t use their other leg for balance and the stance foot needs to stay flat.

Want to run a class of 18 through a workout that has rowing but you only have 7 available? Use the row as a buy-in and stagger start. Or three groups of six people at different stations and you tell them when to switch.

Or take the row out completely and pick a different movement.

*GASP* Did I just say to change the programming for that session? Blasphemy! No…not a bit. Your job is to deliver the stimulus of the workout that fulfills the clients goals, period.

If your effectiveness as a coach depends on the equipment you have available, that’s a problem.

When you rely on a specific methodology for helping your clients achieve their goals, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the tools you have in front of you. They become the limit.

When you understand principles, you are only limited by your imagination.

What are some ways you work around equipment limitations?

(The obvious caveat to this is if you have broken or unsafe equipment)

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