Weight Room Design for Collegiate and Professional Athletics

As dynamic movement and functional training have edged out more traditional, machine-based strength & conditioning exercises, collegiate and professional athlete weight rooms are being redesigned or entirely rebuilt. Gone are multiple rows of specialized machines to create more open space for ground-based performance training.

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With open space in great demand, the challenge is having enough of it. And some S&C coaches claim that there is no such thing as “enough.” While bigger definitely seems better for athletic weight rooms, the reality is that, apart from a total renovation or major expansion, most institutions and organizations are limited to the current space allocated.

So S&C coaches and athletic directors must understand how to maximize available space to accommodate changing training modalities and needs. As a premium flooring supplier to many collegiate and professional athletic teams, PLAE consults with coaches to optimize productivity through smart design. Although each weight room is different, common recommendations exist for layout and space utilization.

  1. Know the numbers – Obviously, you must know the exact dimensions of the space, and take into account hidden, or extra, space, such as alcoves, corners and under stairways. Then calculate the number of teams and athletes who use the weight room each season, along with team training schedules, in order to determine how many individuals must be accommodated for simultaneous workouts.
  2. Assess equipment – Inventory everything you have, from racks to platforms to dumbbells, clips and accessories. Determine what you will keep, what should be discarded and what is on your purchasing wish list. In doing so, evaluate programming needs for all teams, including warm-ups and flexibility.
    Multipurpose or power stations facilitate several exercises versus a single unit, such as a bench press, and therefore are more space-efficient and enable athletes to train in one area versus having to move throughout the facility. If you have eight half-racks with attached platforms, for instance, you typically can run 2-4 athletes through each station. However, if racks are not attached to platforms, you now create 16 separate stations versus eight, thereby accommodating double the number of athletes.
    Consider using inlay platforms as opposed to above-ground platforms, because when not in use, they offer space that can be used for warm-up and mobility work and ground-based exercises.
    Also think about storage of weight plates, bumper plates, dumbbells, barbells and other accessories, and opt for weight horns for on-equipment storage, compact racks and wall-mounted or corner units. Take advantage of what might be considered “wasted” space, such as under stairwells, and use it to store accessories that don’t need to be adjacent to lifting racks, such as medicine balls, mats, balance trainers, etc.
    Regarding cardio, evaluate the condition and selection of machines, and upgrade as necessary, despite the cost, as they don’t typically last as long as strength equipment.
  3. Determine open space – Ideally, the more, the better, to facilitate sled pushes, sprints, battle ropes, agility drills, tire work, plyometrics and more. Using turf here is a way to separate and distinguish the area and manage traffic patterns and room flow. Turf also can be marked with grid lines, hash marks, numbers and custom logos. Ensure that you have some solid open wall space as well for medicine ball throws, vertical jumps and more.
  4. Layout specific areas – For ease of traffic flow and organization of training regimens, particularly when the weight room is crowded, create separate areas to enhance safety, ensure proper space around equipment and maintain sightlines:
    1. Free weight/Olympic lifting – platforms, squat racks, benches and more
    2. Weight machines – plate-loaded, selectorized, suspension trainers, etc.
    3. Specialty/functional – ideally, a turf area for drills, dynamic and functional training and stretching
    4. Cardio – locate away from strength equipment to allow adequate space and accessibilityYou can use equipment, such as the back of a dumbbell rack, to help create walkways and to separate the free weight area from another work space.
    5. Be creative – If space remains tight, look for areas that expand your options. Can you convert a storage closet, laundry area or office to usable space in the weight room? In temperate climates, can you create an inexpensive outdoor training area using turf and a variety of accessories?

Figure out how best to utilize every inch of your space for a purpose, and note that any wasted space is the most expensive area of your weight room because it represents unfulfilled opportunity.

A smart equipment mix and layout can substantially increase the capacity of your weight room, helping your athletes train smarter and perform better. Working with equipment and flooring manufacturers, dealers or designers can provide valuable guidance as to the most efficient equipment layout for your specific needs.

For more information about weight room design, click here.