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Reebok JJ 2 Review (JJ Watt Trainers)

The original Reebok JJ 1 turned out to be a surprise hit. Personally, I had a ton of great training sessions with the shoe, but it was never really enough for me to drop my Nano’s or Metcon’s for. Just because it wasn’t quite there for me, doesn’t mean it wasn’t for other people though. It became my staple recommendation for people looking for a more supportive shoe that they could also run and lift weights in. People that tried the JJ’s, ended up loving them, and for good reason – you could just do anything in them. For the meager $100 asking price, they were a bargain.

Like any other shoe, they weren’t without their problems. Sizing was based off of giants feet but didn’t initially come in larger sizes, they were a little tall and a little too bulky for some people. Depending on how you wanted to lift weights, the heel-toe drop could have been detrimental as well. Either way, they were an excellent training shoe that made for a great alternative CrossFit shoe. The JJ’s are a shoe designed to the exact specifications of JJ Watt and as far as I know, he doesn’t do CrossFit, so Reebok hit the nail on the head with the JJ’s.

Reebok’s new JJ 2’s attempt to fix some of it’s predecessors shortcomings by giving the shoe almost a complete overhaul while maintaining some of the features that made the original so good, but did they go too far?

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Looks/Construction

I didn’t mind the way the original JJ’s looked, but I didn’t love them either. The first colorway was pretty basic, but almost every one after that looked pretty good with the exception of the icing on the cake one. The only colorway for the JJ 2’s at the moment is black with a white midsole and translucent grey outsole, which is safe, but looks good enough to wear from the gym to the street without anyone hating. The silhouette doesn’t have any dashing lines or panels so the shoe overall in black is pretty unoffensive, but boring. If you like black (who doesn’t), you’ll love this colorway.

Other than any shoe in their CrossFit line, Reebok usually puts out shoes that kind of feel cheaply made; this is not the case with the JJ’s. The JJ 2’s feel like tanks built to standards on par with Reebok’s flagship Nano series shoes. Not to be confused with NanoWeave, the JJ’s sport Reebok’s patented FlexWeave (LenoWeave?) upper giving the shoe an even higher quality feeling than the previous JJ’s. Why the difference in name, I have no clue, because they’re pretty much the same exact thing. Like the NanoWeave found on the Nano 7’s, the FlexWeave upper moves with your feet extremely well. Unlike the Nano 7’s, the midsole and outsole combination also does as well. The FlexWeave upper also leads to virtually no hotspots or bunching up, giving you a much more comfortable, seamless feel inside of the shoe. They also feel much less bulky than its predecessors but still feel like a big shoe in comparison to a lot of other training shoes. If you’re on the bigger side like JJ Watt, I’m sure you won’t notice this much at all.

Other tidbits like the tongue have been changed for the better. The once anemic tongue is gone and now there’s a nice padded one that stays in place a lot better. The lacing system is different as well, but I didn’t think the previous one was bad in the first place. Probably the best change to the construction of the shoe is that it’s a low instead of a mid cut. The ankle collar actually has a little more cushioning, it just doesn’t extend down into the shoe as far. Don’t fret, your ankles still feel nice and secure inside of the JJ 2’s.

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Fit

Sizing the JJ 2’s is a little bit more normal now, the sizing feels much more true to Reebok training shoe sizing than the original model’s titan sizing. They’re still very much a wide shoe, but the length is akin to typical running shoes so size them accordingly. Personally, I wore a 9.5 with a fair amount of space in the previous models but now a 9.5 fits me snug, yet comfortable enough to workout in, depending on what socks I wear; I actually think I could probably get away with wearing a 10. The shape of the toe is more pointy like a running shoe, so it does accommodate Morton’s toe pretty well.

My sizes for reference:

  • JJ1 – 9.5
  • Nano – 10
  • Metcon – 10
  • Speed TR – 9.5
  • NoBull – 10
  • Converse 9.5
  • Oly Shoes – 9.5

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Performance

There are a lot of things that you wouldn’t think the JJ 2 would do well, but actually does. Everything, actually. 

Making a return is the Liquidfoam midsole, but only in name, because it feels a bit different than the original model’s did. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s anything but liquid-y or foamy (Who comes up with these names anyways?). Previously, the JJ’s had a pretty solid and responsive ride with decent amount of support, they just lacked any kind of energy return or bounce. The shoe was also really tall for a training shoe. The new retooled midsole “gives” a little bit more, but is every bit as stable and responsive not to mention, lower to the ground (still tall though). That extra bit of “give” translates into a shoe that has better energy return and just overall feels less clunky. I set my PR mile in the previous JJ’s and I thought they were excellent for running, but I think the JJ 2’s are even nicer to run despite them weighing in at 11.54 oz.

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Given the fact that there’s still a ton of midsole, you wouldn’t think that power delivery would be all that great. I didn’t, until I actually put myself under some weight and moved it just as well as I did my comparison Metcon 3’s, which are my preferred squatting everything shoe. The support pillars inside of the midsole actually do their job in keeping it from compressing too much and the heel counter keeps you from shifting around providing great lateral stability.  Slow lifts are fine, but these would not be my go-to Oly lifting shoe because of the 7mm drop, which happens pretty aggressively around the ball of your feet. The JJ 2’s are still a generally flat shoe and for most weight you’ll find in a WOD, they should be okay.  I sometimes found myself on my toes with Oly lifts, but it’s not too hard to adjust to – and like I said, I wouldn’t be shooting for any one rep maxes.

Traction was one of the best features of the original JJ’s and still is with the updated model. I’m not entirely sure why the pattern was changed from the star pattern to the oval pattern, but either way, it works just as well. The style is more like a turf shoe, but grips pavement and rubber flooring just fine; I’ve never found myself at a loss of footing in any situation.

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Value/Conclusion

After all the inflation that’s going on, I still can’t believe these shoes only cost $100. The JJ 2’s are a well built, high performing, excellent quality shoe that can hang with most shoes that cost about half more than Reebok is asking. It easily trounces most shoes in it’s price range, save for the Speed 2.0’s. To say that the JJ 2’s are the bargain of the year would be an understatement. On top of that, these are the shoes that JJ Watt actually wears to work out, not just to make money.

Are the JJ 2’s the perfect training shoe? No, I would love to see them a little bit lower to the ground with a slightly lower cut around the ankle. Still, the JJ 2’s are one of the best training shoes for people that need a little bit more support while retaining stability and don’t want to break the bank. They’re comfortable to spend the day in, look good enough to wear with jeans, and perform well enough to be your one shot training shoe. As an overall shoe, you’d be hard pressed finding anything that outperforms the JJ 2’s for the price.

The Good

  • Flexible, easy to run or jump in.
  • Stable enough to go heavy in.
  • Cheap for a high quality training shoe.

The Bad

  • Could be a little bit lower to the ground still.
  • Still a bit bulky.
  • Oly lifting isn’t great in them.

The Ugly

  • Boring colorway.
  • Sizing will confuse people.
  • 7mm drop

Get your JJ 2’s here!

Rogue Fitness Matt Chan Barbell (Boneyard Bar)

The Rogue Chan Bar – I finally got my hands on one of the most popular barbells that Rogue makes, that I haven’t reviewed yet. The bulk of the barbells Rogue puts out nowadays are just a variations of the Ohio bar with coating differences. For the most part, they all use the same 190k PSI tensile strength shaft, bronze bushings (though many are going composite), they’re 28.5mm in diameter, and they all have the same knurl pattern; though some might disagree on that last one. There are a few things remain the same with the Chan bar, but it also has the biggest differences from the Ohio, enough to make it my personal favorite Rogue “multi-use” barbell.

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Construction/Build Quality

Like all Rogue products, the Chan bar feels over-engineered. Almost no other equipment in the world have the polish that Rogue products do. As previously mentioned, the shaft is the typical Rogue 190k PSI tensile, 28.5mm diameter shaft forged right here in the US of A. With that, you get Rogue’s limited lifetime warranty against bending or breaking, which I honestly don’t think you’ll ever use; I’ve never heard of any of their bars bending. Hell, even my older Rogue bars that had imported shafts are all straight as arrows.

On the contrary to what the Rogue website says and what people think they know, the Chan bar has the same knurl pattern as all of Rogue’s 28.5mm barbells. To be fair, I think all of the other bars adopted the Chan bar’s knurling when they all switched over to the 190k PSI shafts. Personally, I think Rogue’s knurling is more on the medium side of things; it’s definitely not as deep and coarse like a power bar but it can for sure give you some hot spots on your hands. You don’t need a ton of chalk to get a sure grip and it’s still probably the most well rounded knurling I’ve used for everything you’d possibly want to use this bar for.

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The sleeves are typical Rogue sleeves, one inch shoulder with 16.5″ of loadable space. The surface of the sleeves have a very fine machining to help keep plates on, but I would still make sure to use clips when loading. Each sleeve has two cast bronze bushings, not sintered Oilite bushings, but ones that are made in house. Spin is smooth and there isn’t a ton of play when you try to move the sleeve side to side, giving you a nice solid thud when the bar is dropped.

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Performance

Because Rogue uses the same shaft in all of their multi-use barbells, if you’ve used one of them, you’ve used them all. Don’t take this as a bad thing though, Rogue barbells are the most reliably performing bars on the market. They don’t excel in one area, but they’re very good all around. If you just want to squat, bench or dead, you’ll probably want to look into a power bar. If you want to improve your oly, maybe check out their training bars. If you want to do all of those things, get an Ohio bar variant. The 190k PSI shaft has good enough whip to satisfy most weightlifters, without being overly dynamic for the slow lifts such as your press or squat. Spin, once again is smooth and more than fast enough for oly, but not over the top for presses. Some might hate that I use the term “CrossFit barbell”, but Rogue’s multi-use bars are the quintessential CrossFit barbells.

Practical features are what differentiates the Chan bar from it’s brothers. This bar has a smaller clean grip knurl area and passive center knurling. The purpose of cutting the clean grip knurling short is so that when you pull, your shins are free of any knurling, potentially saving you from racing stripes up your shins. It also makes for quicker setups, assuming you use the same width grip that Matt Chan uses; which most of us probably do. The only instance this was a little bit of a problem for me was for my deadlift grip, which is typically right at the start of the knurling. I’d take adjusting my grip a little bit over tearing my shins up any day though.

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Center knurling is a taboo subject in the CrossFit world, but when done correctly, I’d almost always want a bar that has it. The Chan bar has some of the best execution of center knurl that I’ve come across; it’s not even a quarter of the depth of the grip knurling, more like a light texturing to the middle of the bar. It’s light enough to not tear up your collar bone, but substantial enough to give you added stick to your chest or back when cleaning or squatting. Don’t be scared of center knurling folks, it can be a good thing.

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Value/Conclusion

The Chan bar only comes in one flavor at the moment, black zinc shaft with black zinc sleeves and retails for $295. At one point they had a satin chrome version that retailed for $350, but I’m not sure we’ll ever see that come back. Sure, you can get the Ohio bar for about $10 less, but personally I’d pay the difference for the thoughtful grip knurling and center knurling, not to mention the awesome end cap. You can get this bar for a real steal if you’re patient enough to keep checking out Rogue’s boneyard section. I picked up my Chan bar for $195+$15 shipping and tax leaving me at about roughly $230 out the door. You’d be hard pressed to find any defects (I couldn’t), but sometimes you might not end up with coating in some areas. As long as the shaft is zinc, I wouldn’t worry too much about the sleeves being bare steel. In that case, I think this is one of the best deals in barbells at the moment.

I wish I didn’t wait so long to get a Chan bar, it actually could have been my first barbell ever if I wasn’t scared of the center knurling. The adjustments to the knurling and addition of center knurl make it, in my opinion, the best of the Ohio bar clones and the best “CrossFit” bar that Rogue makes. Remember with any barbell you get from Rogue, you can’t go wrong.

Get your Rogue Matt Chan Bar here!

Vulcan Strength Bumper Plate Sale!

Vulcan Strength Bumper Plate Sale!

Vulcan is selling their bumper plates right now at a discounted rate! It depends on how much you buy, but the average is around $1.5/lb, which is pretty sweet considering you also get free shipping. South and Northwest customers add $65 to ship.

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