Evolving Your Weight Room Space – Primitive to Practical

Evolving Your Weight Room Space – Primitive To Practical

The phrase “weight room” brings a thought to most that have passed through their high school years of a dark dungeon of a space. This space could have been located in a basement, a closet off of a dilapidated gym or an old classroom. A space that, when you entered, you were struck by the smell of dense concrete and iron mixed with body odor. A space that blared loud AC/DC echoed with grunts, yells, and plates crashing. 

The sad part of this is that the description above hasn’t changed for most. With the vast changes in high school academic structure, turf fields, technology, and the daily life of our student-athletes, most high school weight rooms still sit as though they are a time capsule from our parent’s era.

In today’s world of strength & conditioning, the weight room is a space that can help athletes develop and enhance performance. But the space needs what today’s world of sports performance requires. 

There are some very simple and effective ways to update your space, whatever it currently is, to make it someplace that will work for your goals. And better yet be a desirable place for your athletes to work out. 

#1 – Add some color

Most weight rooms have concrete walls that are chipping with dull off white paint (I’m sure there is some fancy name for its tone). Those same walls are covered in marks from years and years of abuse. They tell the story of repeated contact with destructive young athletes and the wear and tear of weights. 

Well, a simple fix for this is some paint. This is not only a simple fix but cost-effective. Most hardware stores are willing to donate a 5-gallon bucket of paint to local schools with a simple letter. 

With some time and energy, you can have the room looking fresh as the day it was handed over to you when the space wasn’t good enough for anything else. This simple yet effective way will allow you to market your room to your athletes as a space that offers something to them. In today’s world of “Generation Why,” we need to be our own best salesman. 

Want to see how schools partner with PLT4M as they continue to evolve their weight room?

# 2 – Get rid of clunky old equipment 

During the golden years of athletic development, most weight rooms were looked at as extensions of YMCAs in our high schools. This is not the worst identity to have, but when it comes to athletic development and S&C, space is key. 

With racks and platforms still having a place in the strength and conditioning world, the single purpose machines have outgrown their use. There is still undoubtedly a place in this world for single-use equipment, but in the grand scheme, they consume more space than their inherent worth. 

Most machines can be replaced with simple band work. Get rid of the clunky and get yourself an array of bands with different resistances. 

Open space has allowed us to change how we conduct classes completely. Now we have the open space for our kids to do basic movements with plenty of room even in large groups.

# 3 – Add multi-use equipment 

Building off of #2, getting the right equipment to use in the space in the key. Finding “cheap” equipment that can be used in bulk in your space is the last way to truly enhance your space. 

Equipment such as bands, rollers, boxes, and hurdles can go so far in their own right, while also enhancing a program in its versatility. These pieces of equipment can add to the dumbbells, racks, bars, and plates that are those more expensive “nuts and bolts.” 

Being able to use bands to resist sprinting, work mobility/flexibility, add resistance to weighted movements or even add light resistance to foundational calisthenic movements. You can use rollers for self-myofascial work and mobility. You can use boxes for plyometric work, sprint mechanics, resisted/weighted movements. 

All of these pieces of equipment are “cheap” in comparison to adding new racks or attempting to make your room like the next collegiate powerhouse. And it can also allow for more flow through your room with being able to all work at the same time safely.

Why Bother? 

Over the last few years at Queensbury High School, these small steps have been our focused project. Doing so has completely changed our program not only for the strength and conditioning side but for PE as well. 

Any of these changes are not small in size. Changes such as these take effort and support from above. But when done correctly, can turn the clunky weight room into an efficient classroom. 

Looking at today’s world, don’t let your weight room continue to slide deeper and deeper into yesterday’s vision. 

John Martin, CSCS, FMS

  • Physical Education Teach and Sports Performance Coordinator at Queensbury High School (NY)
  • 2019 NYS NHSSCA Coach Of The Year
  • Former Head Football Coach at Mt. Anthony (VT) and in charge of weight room there
  • Former Intern at Duke Sports Performance under Coach Sonny Falcone and Football Coach Noel Durfey
  • Check out Coach Martin featured on Chalk Talk 

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