4 Ideas to Minimize Risk During Indoor Classes

As many states start to ease restrictions on gyms, we’ve had to figure out a few tricks to allow us to use just about all of the equipment we want while still keeping members socially distanced and safe inside the gym. If your members are like ours, the things they’ve been looking forward to are the things that require the most thought on a coaches part: squatting out of a rack, using the pull up bar and using a wall for HSPU. Our goal was to accommodate as many athletes in one class as we could safely hold (for us that’s 12 athletes each in a 10’ x 10’ square) while still programming like “normal”. After our first week of running indoor classes and incorporating the elements mentioned above, here are the things we’ve learned.

Misfit Gym Portland (Note: since this article was first published, we’ve safely added 4 slots for a total of 16.)
Pull Up Bar

As you can see in the image above, our rig is roughly 35’ long and goes down the center of our gym, serving as both a pull up rig and squat racks with work stations on both sides of the rig. The pull up bars are separated by uprights which are just wide enough to accommodate a racked barbell, meaning that from the center of one spot to the center of the next is not quite 6’ and certainly not 14’ (Maine requires 14’ of distancing during “intense exercise”). Because the rig separates our floor into two halves, we have athletes using both sides of the rig. On days when pull ups, toes to bar, or other bar movements are programmed, we have our classes split in half and stagger themselves by using every other pull up station. One side of the rig will use the “even numbered” pull up spaces (spots 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8) while the opposite side of the rig will use spots 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9). As an additional safety measure, athletes face outward so that if multiple athletes are on the bar at once, no one is facing another athlete. 

Squat Day

Our rig has 10 usable squat stations, but in the instance of a full 12-person class, we cannot stagger or do the even/odd setup safely and would prefer to not have athletes sharing a squat bar even if they are wiping it down between sets. This gives us a couple options. If the class has more athletes signed up than you have rig spaces, you can have half the class squat while the other half of the class does the conditioning work or a skill piece, then have them flip flop halfway through class. Keep in mind the group squatting second may need additional time to warm up their hips. If we have 10 athletes or fewer in class, we can use the clock to help separate athletes, saying that one side of the rack squats on the even minute while the other side of the rack squats on the odd minute. This ensure no one is directly face to face with another athlete while working. You can also mandate athletes face outward and that they’re careful to re-rack the bar after since they’ll be facing the other way. We prefer the first method just to maximize the distance between athletes. 


There are a couple ways to keep everyone safe when you still want to program things that require a pull up bar and are forced to have athletes move around the gym at different times.

  • Partner workout: with a partner workout you effectively cut your class in half, since only 50% of your athletes will be working at any given time. Have athletes pick spots on the floor that are closest to the spot they intend to use in the rig to minimize how much potential contact they have with other athletes in class.
  • Intervals: this is pretty similar to a partner workout, but here the workout may just be dictated by the clock. An example would be 2 minutes of work followed by 2 minutes of rest, where half the class is working and half the class is resting, then they flip flop. Again this is simply to minimize the number of athletes moving to and from their square. 
  • Dictate direction of movement: on another day, we re-introduced strict pull ups and a handstand hold against the wall. This meant that athletes needed to move between the rig and the wall every minute for 10 minutes. We safely accomplished this by doing two things. Before starting, we had athletes find their spot on the wall and on the rig, and ensure it was not the same spot as another athlete. Then we split the class in half so that half started on the rig and half started on the wall. Finally, we dictated how the athletes would go from the rig to the wall and the wall to the rig: by moving in a clockwise fashion almost like lanes on a track. Again, this effectively cut the class in half and allowed more distancing during execution. 
  • Dictate direction athletes face: this tip is specifically for conditioning pieces when athletes are breathing and sweating heavily. In the image above, the far left side will face the purple wall, the middle left column will face the rig, and everyone on the right side of the rig will face away from the rig. This reduced the chance that airborne particles from one athlete makes it all the way to another athlete.
Equipment Spacing

Our last tip is about setting up your floor to naturally keep athletes separated. As you can see in the image above, we created two plate stacks on the floor rather than having everyone get them from one central location. On days we use kettlebells, we will also pull those out on the floor and put various weights on both sides of the gym so athletes aren’t crossing paths. Our coaches are also coming into the gym a little early to pull most of the required equipment into our athletes’  squares so that the athlete doesn’t need to make unnecessary trips around the gym. On days when the athlete needs to get their own equipment, we ask the athlete to do so as they arrive at the gym since athletes naturally get to the gym at slightly different times. 

Written by Hunter Wood


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