Tag Archives: crosstraining

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?

IMG_9959

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.

IMG_9963

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

IMG_9962

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.

IMG_9967

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.

IMG_9968

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!

Advertisements

Again Faster Klokov Competition 20kg Olympic Barbell Review

DSC02767

Dmitry Klokov.

The name says it all. World, national, and Olympic championship weightlifter and all around beast of an athlete.  Obviously, anything that has to do with weightlifting that has his name on it, you should probably want.  It feels like an eternity since it was announced at last years CrossFit Games, but finally, the Again Faster Klokov competition barbell (and bumper plates!) are here…and it was worth the wait.

DSC02761

Specification wise, this barbell is a beast, like the man himself. 264k PSI tensile strength steel is just ridiculous.  Seriously, don’t count on ever bending this barbell, if you tried.  All that strength though wouldn’t mean too much if the barbell was stiff like a powerlifting bar, but more on that later.  Like any legitimate competition barbell, the Klokov bar uses 5 needle bearings to keep the collars spinning for days, but they’re also paired up with bushings to enhance the durability making it functional fitness friendly.  The shaft is coated with a hard bright chrome finish; though not the prettiest of chromes I’ve come across as it looks more dulled akin to bright zinc, it should still serve it’s purpose of protecting against corrosion and scratches.  Of course the Klokov bar would meet all IWF weight and dimension specifications, but also includes IPF markings, making it even more all purpose.  Like most barbells that have been coming out, the collar has a groove for interchangeable bands for easy identification and looks.

DSC02762

The knurling probably one of the most important aspects on a quality barbell, is medium.  It’s not as deep as the Rep Fitness Excalibur, but not as light or fine as the Rogue weightlifting barbell either.  I find that it was comfortable enough to hit repetitive lifts without tearing up my hands.  Once again, I’m not a huge fan of aggressive knurling, as I consider myself a crossfitter.  A weightlifting buddy of mine commented on the barbell, wishing that it had more aggressive knurl.  While the center knurl is not as pronounced as the outside knurl, it’s still enough to provide a bit more grip while in your rack position, but also irritate your neck after repeated cleans.  If you’re not a fan of center knurling, sorry guys, the Klokov bar has it but it’s not anything I would consider to be detrimental to recommending the barbell to crossfitters as its not chew-up-your-collarbone sharp.

DSC02770

In the YouTube video of Klokov introducing the barbell, he talks about the whip really getting started at 180kg (396lbs!); most of us normal lifters probably aren’t going to be getting anywhere near this weight.  EDIT: While the bar has a decent amount of whip, it’s a bit more stiff than I would have liked out of this barbell.  I have used other barbells that were more whippy than the Klokov bar, and I think the super high tensile might hurt this bar more than it helps it. The way I clean, I end up hitting the bar mid thigh and it hurts like hell compared to other bars that ricochet off. I wouldn’t as far to say that this is as stiff as a power bar, but I think they could have sacrificed a little bit of steel strength for some whip.

DSC02764

Sleeve rotation is a big deal when it comes to lifting.  The smoother and faster the collars turn, the easier it’s going to be to get under the barbell.  Even after not cleaning for a good month due to an injury, I was still able to clean fairly heavy and not miss a single lift.  Since it is a needle bearing barbell, you’re going to get increased performance in this area compared to bushing counterparts, but they aren’t the smoothest.  In the spin test video with the weight on it, you can see the barbell rocking around on the J-cups while the plate is in motion.  I don’t know if this is just my barbell or a problem with the new design.  Construction is nice, what you’d expect from a higher end barbell; you’ll get a solid sounding thud versus clanging when you drop the barbell with any kind of quality weights.  There’s very little play when moving the sleeves side to side.  While the fit is great, the finish is just average.  As I mentioned before, the coating isn’t the most brilliant of all the barbells I’ve used, nor is it the most even.  This is something that I noticed on the bar at the CrossFit games when I first saw it, and really wasn’t corrected.  Not the bad at all, but I expected a little better.  I guess there has to be some trade-offs somewhere, as I get to the next point…

…the PRICE.  For the money, you will not find a finer barbell. The 15kg version comes in at $300 before shipping and the 20kg at $320.  Shipped to California, the price ended up being just south of $370.  I thought that shipping was a little much there and e-mailed Again Faster about it.  They gave me a $10 refund which was nice, but still that shipping is a little excessive.  Altogether though, it’s still cheaper than any other quality bearing barbell, and still a steal.

If there was another thing I could comment on, it’s that the quality of shipping packaging is pretty awful.  The tubing was pretty flimsy and arrived broken with one whole end missing; causing one end of the barbell to get pretty dinged up and scratched.  I know the shipping company has a lot to do with this, but I feel it’s up to the seller to provide adequate shipping containers, since you are paying good money for these things, and they’re not cheap.  My Again Faster Team Barbell 2.0 arrived in the same shape, as well, except since that one wasn’t chrome coated so the end of it got chewed up really badly.

“Demand the impossible!”.  A quote by Dmitry Klokov, and perfectly describes something that he and Again Faster were able to achieve with this barbell.  You won’t find anything even remotely close to this price point that is going to deliver you close to the same specs this bar will. If you’re an advanced lifter, this barbell is for you. General purpose and CrossFit, it’ll do the job but just be aware that it’s not going to be as dynamic with anything up to 100kg.  Minor issues and shipping containers aside, the Klokov competition barbell is one hell of a bar to beat.