Thinking about opening a CrossFit gym?
There are plenty of different exercise styles that integrate into CrossFit, which is why the list of equipment is longer than a traditional weights-and-racks kind of gym.
We’re going to walk you through everything you need to start a successful CrossFit gym.
You’ll be ready to get CrossFit affiliated in no time, and you’ll meet the needs of your clientele on multiple fronts. Let’s not waste any time.
This is what everyone expects as the base level of pretty much anything that a gym would have.
If you go to a gym and they don’t have these basics, then there’s a big problem and you’re not going to get anything done. Make sure you have these checked off of your equipment shopping list first.
Weights are essential for resistance training, and if there’s one major aspect of CrossFit, it’s resistance training. There are so many different categories of weights, and it’s one of the first things that you should cover.
We’ll talk more about barbells and dumbbells later, which are your most common types of weights, but you should also include weight collars, bumper weights, medicine balls, and pushing sleds. You want to be dynamic with the types of weights that you bring into your gym.
Many don’t often think of a gym floor as being in a list of equipment, but it’s something you need to buy so that you aren’t just using a concrete floor (it’s a safety hazard, anyway).
You want a high qualify flooring, preferably with an anti-slip coating, and mats around to put your equipment on top of to provide traction for your members while they’re using various machines.
Alternatively, you can get an entire padded floor for specific rooms that are designed around particular activities. Consider that you need decent flooring and floor padding and mats in the right areas before you build up the rest of your gym.
Weight lifting benches are a staple in any established gym. You’ll have utility benches, which are completely flat with no additional benefits other than being sturdy seating. There are also angled seated benches, and benches specifically designed for barbell use.
It’s important to focus on quality here. It’s easy to tell a cheap bench from a quality, weighted bench just by sitting on it. Your gym patrons will use it for multiple exercises in different positions, which you need to account for to avoid issues.
Kettlebells operate differently from dumbbells. You don’t use kettlebells to do curls, but you do use them for swings, reverse lunges, single-arm rows, and tons of other exercises.
These should be with your other weights and will not be the predominant weight that you offer in your gym, but they are helpful for a range of clientele apart from the hardcore bodybuilding crowd.
The great thing about kettlebells is that it’s really difficult to mess them up, and they don’t require any maintenance other than cleaning, so it’s relatively autonomous for your gym operations. As long as the handle isn’t damaged and the interior weight isn’t exposed (if it’s a coated kettlebell), it’s usable.
You have two options with dumbbells. You can go with an adjustable dumbbell set that comes with its own weight plates, that way your users can contour their exercise based on their individual exercise goals, or you can go with traditional single-weight dumbbells, meaning separate 10 lb weights, 20 lb weights, etc.
You could even go for both if you really wanted to. While adjustable dumbbells save space, it makes it look like you don’t offer as much for weightlifting, and they can be expensive when you need to have a high volume of them.
Adjustable dumbbells are great for CrossFit, but for a traditional gym environment, you want weight racks with tons of dumbbells to accommodate multiple gym goers at the same time.
These are the bars that you put weight plates and covers on to make them into barbells. However, in CrossFit, it’s not uncommon to use bars without the added weights on them for certain exercises. Bars will come with their own weight rating and provide their own utility. There are multiple types of bars you should consider.
There are standard weightlifting bars, olympic weightlifting bars, trap bars, and yoke bars for squatting. You don’t have to have every single type of bar in your gym, but it is important to know about them, as well as cambered bars, swiss bars, and curl bars as well. In our post about creating the best questionnaires for your gym, we talk about having a suggestion box so that users can request specific types of equipment.
Sometimes referred to as the power rack, a squat cage is an expensive, large, and experienced piece of equipment. You absolutely need a few of these in your gym so that CrossFit athletes can bulk up and exceed their goals.
Squat cages take the place of free squatting, which is when a gym member will hold the barbell over their shoulders and squat, but without anything as a failsafe for cramps and performance issues.
Squat cages offer safety, which is why they’re preferred by gym owners. It makes it easier and safer to deadlift, perform squats and shoulder shrugs, and bench presses. You want to uphold maintenance on these very closely.
It’s important to understand that these are mostly offered by commercial gyms, but you can offer a few of these as an accommodation to your CrossFit community and gym culture.
Calisthenics revolves around using your own body as the weight for your resistance training, building up muscle control, balance, and getting a near-perfect center of gravity (among other things).
Serious calisthenics athletes will expect more than free weights to keep their interest in your gym, so let’s give it to them.
We’re not talking about those $20.00 pull-up bars that you hang in your bedroom doorway. Pull-up bars are often affixed inside of calisthenics rooms, so you can have them installed in concrete or affixed to the walls (provided you install them properly).
Your gym needs to offer more than what any search result on Amazon for “pull-up bars” would yield. Sometimes dips stations—which we’ll talk about next—are installed in place of pull-up bars simply because they include some at the top, but this isn’t the best idea if you want to really appeal to the calisthenics side of your CrossFit athletes.
Dips are one of the many building blocks of calisthenics. Dips stations will have their own pull-up bars on top, like we talked about earlier, but they’re not the point of using them. These vertical stations look like half-finished squat cages, and they allow you to use your own body as a counterweight, which is one of the fundamentals of calisthenics exercises.
There’s so much pressure from a user’s body on these, so they have to be anchored properly and positioned right. Thankfully, they don’t take up a lot of room, but you still want to place them strategically. It’s unlikely to see a dozen athletes all doing dips at the same time, so depending on the size of your gym, you may only need a few of these.
Sit-up stations may look like slightly broken weightlifting benches, but hey, they’re still useful. All joking aside, sit-up stations and weightlifting benches are interchangeable, since many benches have the ability to lean the back down to become an elevated sit-up station.
But some users might be a little more experienced, and need a higher weight capacity/more durable sit-up station if they’re powerful athletes. These are inexpensive additions to your gym, and you can consider getting hybrid benches and sit-up stations, just make sure they don’t take more than a minute to convert so that gym goers can change them when necessary.
These differ from push-up bars, which we talk about later on in this detailed list. A push-up station is typically a bar with two poles on either end that go into the ground, usually cemented in. These are often found in outdoor gyms, but can be used indoors as well. You can have multiple push-up station bars with varying heights. These suit calisthenics athletes and CrossFit athletes as well.
Serious push-up stations do have in-ground mounts, and that can be a labored process to get these installed if you’re doing it on your own. The bars themselves need to support a lot of weight and pressure, so they’re not cheap, but they are accessible (and won’t cost you the same as a new treadmill).
Cardio is often referred to as a form of exercise that plenty of people don’t want to do. Some bodybuilders will claim they never bother with cardio, but this section of your equipment list isn’t for them.
Cardio equipment attracts the weight loss demographic, runners, and those who want to reap the rewards of cardio exercise. These are the machines that you need.
Treadmills are still one of the most popular ways to lose weight, and a great cardio machine that doesn’t take up a ridiculous amount of space. While you don’t normally think of treadmills the second you think of CrossFit, you can definitely see their benefit to other aspects of your gym. These are big with the weight loss clientele, and will serve multiple purposes for you in your gym.
Just like with exercise bikes, this is something that you need to buy with quality in mind. Look for online reviews of cheap and inexpensive treadmills, and you’ll quickly find disgruntled customers that want a better experience. Your gym is that better experience, so long as you have the machines there that they want to work out with.
Exercise bikes are a generic umbrella term for any stationary bike. You can use upright, recumbent, and spin bikes, but each of these are used for different purposes. You should know which kind of exercise bikes you want to use before you fully commit.
Spin bikes are some of the most revered, since spin bikes classes can also help you bring in more money for your gym (nobody really goes to recumbent bike classes). You want to be sure that you understand the maintenance schedule and requirements for exercise bikes, and choose which ones best suit your capabilities.
Exercise bikes are definitely something that people can buy for at-home use, especially if you look at the five-figure reviews on Amazon, but that doesn’t mean that they should. Your gym should offer better bikes in a better environment than they have in order to make it worth their time and money.
Rowing machines are in a weird place between cardio machines and full body workouts. You can work out your biceps, deltoids, triceps, hamstrings, abs, the list goes on and on.
These emulate the motion of rowing a rowboat, but there are big distinctions between the different types of rowing machines that you’ll find when you go to buy them. You have water rowers, air rowers, hydraulic rowers, and magnetic flywheel rowers.
Each has their own different feel and benefits, but water rowers are among the best (and most expensive) with a scaling level of resistance depending on the user’s input. Rowing machines are fairly compact and don’t take up a ton of space, but they’re a major draw for new members to your gym.
Air bikes are some of the best pieces of cardio equipment that exist. If you could cross breed a spin bike with an elliptical, this is what you would get. Air bikes, as the name suggests, use air as the primary form of resistance, so the harder and faster the user pedals, the more resistance they receive.
These are amazing for cardio because they can be entirely scaled by the user. You don’t have to turn a magnetic flywheel’s dial to change the level of difficulty, so there’s less maintenance for you as a gym owner, and it creates a better exercise for your members. On the same subject, it also makes the gym more enjoyable for your members who are on a weight loss journey (which will be the majority of your cardi clientele), because the resistance doesn’t make them feel defeated—it’s contoured to their current skill and endurance levels.
Now that we’ve covered some of the major working pats of CrossFit, let’s talk about the additions to your gym that are most commonly paired with the idea of CrossFit. These are unique and require a good amount of space, but they’ll really sell the idea of your gym being CrossFit-friendly (or CrossFit affiliated).
At this point we’re pretty sure that jump boxes are used to promote CrossFit more than any other piece of equipment. Jump boxes are exactly what you think they are: boxes you jump on.
These help you extend your muscles, enhance your flexibility, and work out multiple muscles from your calves to your glutes. They’re a quintessential part of any lower body workout for a better butt and stronger legs.
Be sure that you know where your jump boxes are going to end up, and how to secure them properly. The force of landing and the weight of the athlete can tip over a jump box if you aren’t careful, you just definitely want to be prepared with a dedicated space.
Rope Climbing Wall
Rope climbing is insane for your core, your obliques, and basically your entire body. This is something that’s on a higher level for more dedicated athletes, but it’s definitely something you should consider. There are some safety precautions to keep in mind, so you don’t want this to be a ridiculously tall height, but it can be great as an addition to an outdoor section of a CrossFit gym.
You don’t need a craggy ABS plastic wall like you’d find with a rock climbing wall. Instead, you can have the rope run completely vertically against the wall of your gym or exterior wall for an outdoor gym setting.
You don’t need a crazy amount of height to make these worthwhile—you can work out a lot of muscles in a short amount of time by using these ropes. Even if it’s a short fall, you should still have safety gear nearby just to err on the side of caution.
Battle ropes require a lot of space and a few anchors to help with different exercises, but they’re quintessentially CrossFit. These come with different sizes, rope thicknesses, and can have different grip types. You won’t need an absolute ton of battle ropes, but it’s good to have those for varying degrees of expertise so that everyone has a chance to use them at every step in their CrossFit journey.
Thankfully, battle ropes aren’t difficult to maintain apart from keeping the handles clean and sweat-free after client use. Most brands end up being pretty similar in terms of quality, so you shouldn’t have to sink in a ton of money to include these in your gym.
Having CrossFit tires is perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of a CrossFit gym. Look at any video of tire exercises in a certified CrossFit gym and you’re going to see vertical racks of tires all along the walls.
Storage and care aren’t too big of a deal, it’s just actually buying the tires that can be a bit expensive. You also have to have a floor space that isn’t going to get destroyed by the rubber skidding against it as well.
The main difficulty with tires is having a dedicated tire room or space since they require a lot of room if multiple people are using them at the same time. Be sure to understand which sizes you should get before going all-in, but basically, you’ll have a lot of tires on your hand when you include this in your CrossFit gym.
These are seriously beneficial for CrossFit, because they target so many different muscle groups from the glutes to the triceps, your core to your hamstrings and beyond. You’ll need a lot of space for these, but they’re a major attractor for CrossFit athletes.
There are basic models that just have a pole in the middle to pile the weights on, and then there are more sophisticated sleds that allow you to put weights on different sections to balance out the sled.
There are different ways to use these sleds as well, which is why they’re such a good investment. You can push for power, for endurance, and for gamification (which is powerful in gym member retention, by the way) to help solidify your gym’s CrossFit image.
These both apply for CrossFit and calisthenics athletes. Ring workouts are fantastic for your back, upper body, and your core once you get stabilization down. These will apply to your focused and more athletic clientele, but performing exercises such as ring support holds, ring rows, and knee tuck inverts have major benefits for your total body strength.
It’s important to note that you’ll also need supportive ropes for these, and we’re not talking about battle ropes. Athletes may use these rings on pull-up bars and other calisthenics equipment as an anchor, so be sure to have these available or leave them near your calisthenics equipment in your gym.
Glute Ham Developer (GHD)
This is a niche machine, but one that you should include in your gym for CrossFit athletes. It’s not hard to see which muscles this machine works out when you look at the title, but it does come with a bit of difficulty to operate. That’s why it’s not the most common machine, and you’ll likely not need more than 1-2 for your gym.
These machines are far superior to a lot of calisthenic exercises designed to work your glutes and hamstrings, which can be difficult to properly exercise depending on your exercise style.
A GHD machine can be a little intimidating to use at first, so if possible, you should provide some information content to your gym members on how to use one properly to avoid knee or shin damage.
Miscellaneous Last-Minute Gym Equipment
We’ve covered almost everything, but there are a few miscellaneous bits and bobs that you can add to your gym for niche customers. These should be last on your priority list, but still something that you commit to adding to your gym when time and budget allows.
This is a courtesy. Typically, serious weight lifters who use belts will buy their own and bring them along for the ride when they go to the gym.
However, you never know who’s just entering your gym for the first time and if they came unprepared, or they just don’t know what weightlifting belts are. These come in handy, but as they’re a personal item, you shouldn’t need more than 4-6 of these on hand.
These are like really tall-looking push-up bars, but they’re actually used for gymnastics. Parallettes simulate full-scale aerobic gym parallel bars, but in a compact space.
These are small enough to keep behind the counter or in storage until a client requests them, but useful enough (especially for beginners in calisthenics) that they’re worth having around.
Try to keep tabs on how often these are being used to see if it might be worth it to install full-scale parallel bars (if the space allows).
Push Up Bars
While these are mostly an at-home gym item, they’re here for accessibility for those customers who want a weight loss-friendly gym where they can feel at home.
Push up bars are small metal bars with rubber feet that provide excellent traction on the floor, and push up support to clients that are just building their upper body strength so that they can do unassisted push ups. Having some of these handy would be beneficial.
This is something else you can have behind the counter and offer to clients if they wish to use it. Jump ropes are amazing cardio and help you build glute and calf muscles.
In fact, jumping rope is comparable to jogging and running in terms of intensity and wear-and-tear on your joints, but can burn more calories in less time, so this is something that the weight loss crowd will specifically look for.
Last Minute Advice on Miscellaneous Equipment
Have push up bars, weightlifting belts, and any other miscellaneous equipment ready on a list.
Consider putting a sign at the front desk that says “We have X available upon request” so that you don’t have to have a mountain of misc equipment just out on the floor, but it can still provide access to those clients who want it.