There is no denying the fact that the single most influential fitness trend of the past decade has been Functional Training. Training the body for the activities performed in every day life can have a positive impact on your general health and fitness.
With the rise of functional training, the fitness industry has focused on producing equipment for home use, gyms and in CrossFit boxes. This Functional Training Rig Buying Guide will take an in depth look at the core piece of equipment that have become so prevalent in modern gyms and CrossFit boxes, and is more often than not their centrepiece: the training rig.
Functional Training Rig Features
The popularity of functional rigs can be attributed to their versatility. They open up the possibilities of creating unique and exciting workouts, allow coaches to be creative and encourage users to perform simple, natural, body weight exercises that utilise complementary functional training equipment. This makes them attractive to CrossFit affiliates and gyms with this type of focus.
Given that there are such a wide range of features available on functional training rigs today, we can’t go in to everything in detail, however we thought it would be worth covering them under the two sections, primary and secondary features.
Calling the below four items 'primary functional training rig features' doesn't necessarily mean they are the most important features on a training rig, or that they are always essential (although some sort pull up functionality will always be present).
- Pull Up Bar - essential for pull ups and many other functional exercises. These also form the anchor or frame from which many other accessories are attached.
- J Hooks or Half Rack - these allow the rig to function as a weightlifting station letting the user adjust the starting height of the bar when heavily loaded for users of all sizes.
- Spotter Arms - spotter arms are a safety feature that goes hand in hand with the presence of a half rack feature that makes heavy squatting and isolation movements safer and easier.
- Monkey Bars/Wings - monkey bars and wings allow progressive pull up and hanging exercise progressions but also provide another space for anchoring accessories and attachments.
At the more simple end of the training rig spectrum you have a variety of options that consist of metal structures, somewhat resembling scaffolding which provide a secure pull up bar that can accommodate up to 10 even 20 individuals using it at once.
Another particularly common feature is the use of the uprights that support the horizontal bars as half racks or squat stands through the addition of J-hooks. This maximises the space available and removes the need for multiple stand alone racks and squat stands, which can be key in a busy functional gym that has trainers working at multiple stations around the floor. With CrossFit’s focus on Olympic lifts, J-hooks are crucial for squats, front squats and any shoulder to overhead presses or jerks. The key companion for the half rack features that many rigs include, is a set of spotter arms. These are a great safety feature that can be really important when working with groups and also during open gym time when a coach isn’t always available to spot for members.
These secondary features are what really brings the high level of versatility to functional training rigs. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives a guide to what rig attachments and accessories to consider when kitting out your box.
- Dip Attachments – usually these come as an additional attachment that hooks onto one of the vertical parts of the rig structure, sometimes in a similar way to a J-hook.
- Plyometric Platforms – like dip attachments, these often hook into the upright beams that make up the rig with the height being adjustable to suit users of different heights.
- Gymnastics Rings – attached to your rig using straps and a buckle, these let athletes perform challenging gymnastics and bodyweight movements like ring muscle ups and ring dips.
- Boxing Bags – as part of HIIT programmes boxing drills can be a great conditioning tool. Therefore the option to either add a boxing bag or a boxing bag attachment is offered.
- Cable Strength Machines – functional cable strength machines like, a dual adjustable pulley, are becoming more popular components of rigs simply because they are extremely versatile and save taking up any other gym floor space with resistance machinery.
- Rebounders and Wall Ball Targets – Medicine ball and wall ball exercises play a large part in CrossFit WODs all around the world, so two of our favourite additions to functional rigs are overhead wall ball targets and ground level medicine ball rebounders.
- Battle Rope Anchors – We often see battle ropes being used looped through kettlebell handles and around plyo boxes, but a far more secure option is a fixed eyelet or hook through which the rope can be securely threaded at the base of your rig.
- Pivot Attachments – Pivot points are great core trainers and are a strength training tool that can allow coaches to teach scalable versions of key compound and Olympic movements. These can often be found built in to the feet of your rig or attached close to the ground.
- Storage - In smaller, busier gym environments every foot of space needs to be used effectively to allow the gym to work at capacity and storage can often be an issue. Many rigs build in storage shelves or hooks to give gym owners a convenient place to store items like medicine balls, power bands and kettlebells.
Small and Partial Functional Training Rigs
In smaller facilities, it’s not always possible to install a large 12 station rig, especially with the growth of 1 to 1 training and small group PT studios in the market. With limited space to work with partial rigs, small training rigs and accessories are your only option.
Wing Attachments and Pull Up Bars
Often found bolted straight on to the walls in a facility where space is at a premium. These are great for saving space and for hanging one or two TRX or body weight suspension systems. Smaller rigs are commonly found bolted to the wall to maximise the rest of the floor space in the gym by placing the rig alongside a wall.
Alternatively, if suspension training is a focus for your facility and you do not want the hassle of attaching and detaching straps, there are special suspension training frames that offer multiple anchor points for TRX and CrossCore 180 systems.
Bespoke Functional Training Rigs
To make the most effective use of the space you have available at your gym or studio, one option to consider is the production and installation of a fully bespoke functional training rig. The fairly simple nature of CrossFit rigs means that there has been large growth in the number of bespoke training rig manufactures. Through this increase in availability and demand the price of bespoke training rigs have also been driven down making them an affordable option for most facilities.
Your bespoke rig can be measured and fitted to non-standard sizes in order to maximise the use of the space available. This includes meeting any specialist requests, requirements or features you may have. The other advantage of bespoke rigs is that you’re able to customize and add your own branding to the equipment which, is always a nice touch in a new or refurbished facility.
Origin Fitness is able to deliver this type of functional training rig for clients and in the past have coordinated the install of bespoke training rigs at Functional Fitness Dundee CrossFit, Linlithgow RFC, Linwood ON-X and to name just a few.
Standard Functional Training Rigs
Most other ‘off the shelf’ rigs would fall into this standard category. While every manufacturer will have a slightly different take on the production and marketing of their products, the principles with all the top brands remain the same: Quality equipment that will withstand very heavy use over a very long time.
Standard rigs are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some manufacturers are creating rigs shaped like cubes, hexagons or octagons aimed at open spaces where the functional structure will form the centre of the gym or area. Alternatively, there are rectangular options which are suited to long/thin spaces and come in increasing lengths eg. 2, 3, 4 squat stations etc.
Another unique type of ‘off the shelf’ functional training rig that has seen huge success is the portable or deployable box. These products, championed by Beaverfit are ideal for either bootcamps or mobile military and emergency services operations.
Modular and Gym Friendly Rigs
Our final section looks at modular and what we’ve called, gym friendly functional rigs. These are rigs that have various stations that you can choose from in creating a product that is suitable for your needs in terms of shape, size and functionality. The reason we say they are more 'gym-floor-friendly' is simply because the Origin Fitness range we have linked to below is increasingly popular with high street, local authority or private gyms who wish to incorporate more functional training into their offering without installing the stripped back CrossFit style equipment.
The Origin Fitness functional training rigs are made up of a selection of stations and storage spaces which use overhead connecting bars and ladders to create up to 55 different rig configurations which can be added to and expanded over time. This range is also appealing to lots of PT studios and small gyms because the stations include a half rack, dual adjustable pulley, rebounder, punch bag arm and ample room for suspension systems, pull ups and other functional exercises.