Equipping a High School Weight Room

Over the past few years I have been lucky.  I have got to work with a lot of high school athletes in several different settings.  During 2009, I had the privilege of coaching the linebackers and helping design the strength and conditioning program for my alma mater Penns Valley Area High School in Spring Mills, PA.  After that, I began working as a strength and conditioning coach in a private setting, but most of the athletes I worked with were from local high schools.  It’s amazing to watch kids become more confident and come out of their shells as they see their physical attributes improve.  Without a doubt, it has been the most rewarding part of my career thus far. 

It’s shocking to me when kids aren’t given the tools that they need to succeed.  That might be because I worked at a high school and training facility that were equipped to the T, but either way there is absolutely no reason to be dangling at the other end of the spectrum.  Of course, the first counter argument is always budget cuts, but if you really want to make something happen you can.  Especially considering that these are kids.  As adults, we aren’t supposed to create dangerous situations for them by allowing them to use lack luster equipment.  We are supposed to try to alleviate unnecessary risks.  During the high school years, especially the early ones, teenagers are learning to use their bodies, they shouldn’t have to do that on 1980s cable machines.  That being said, here is a list of the things that I deem necessary for all high school weight rooms.

1) Quality Squat Racks- Go to Elitefts, order a squat rack and when it comes in, bolt it to the floor.  High school strength and conditioning programs should be built around squatting and deadlifting in some shape or form.  Give them a solid place to learn how.

2) Quality Barbells- There is no reason to have a cheap barbell in a kid’s hands.  I have seen bent barbells in high school weight rooms, and 9 chances out of 10 that’s not because someone had some sick weight on the bar.  It’s because the bar is garbage.  A high school athlete should never have an unsafe bar in his hands.  Buy 4 or 5 Texas Power Bars.  They are built very well and will last a long time.  They are also much safer than cheaper alternatives.

3) Quality Benches- Same logic as above.  Elitefts sells some great benches.  Buy one from there and you know that you’ll get good quality.

4) Prowlers or Dragging Sleds- Prowlers and sleds offer a great way to build posterior chain strength and conditioning safely.  Building strong hamstrings, glutes and calves leads to explosive athletes.  The posterior chain is also where deceleration takes place, so building strength there reduces the likelihood of injury to the lower extremity. 

5) Medicine Balls- Throwing things is fun.  Kids like fun things.  Give them med balls to throw!  Using medicine balls to build explosion is a great idea, but they are also a versatile conditioning tool.  Core is a great catch phrase these days, and medicine balls are great for core conditioning.  This paragraph has been extremely segmented.  Buy med balls, PeformBetter sells some great ones!

6) The Kids Themselves- The strength and conditioning program and equipment doesn’t matter if there are no kids coming out to play sports.  Getting kids interested and involved is half the battle today.  Also, their bodies can be a strength and conditioning tool.  The main goal of high school strength and conditioning should be to teach kids to move more efficiently.  There’s no better way to do that than to teach them to use their own body weight.  Body weight exercises are great and should also be an integral part of a high school strength and conditioning program.

Get Stronger,

Todd (2151)

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Chris Merritt

Strength Coach/ B.S. Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University/ FMS/ Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist/ Certified Kettlebell Instructor/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance and Beyond Strength Performance NOVA

1 Comment on Equipping a High School Weight Room

  1. Todd, im just starting to help a local high school football team put together a weight lifting program…offseason, during season, etc. If you have any further insights i would be much appreciated.

    We are a smaller school, but the boys have a great passion for the gym. Q: Do you generally lump everyone together within the same routine or have you been calculating separate programs per age and position?

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