Your High School Weight Room Is Inadequate

Coaches, don't take it personally, but your high school weight room is probably inadequate. STACK Expert Rick Scarpulla tells you why and suggests what to do about it.

Weight Room

Don't take this personally, coach, but the weight room at your school isn't cutting it. I know you're doing your best, and that you're working with the resources available to you. But you probably have too many athletes and too little space with not nearly enough equipment for them to work efficiently and productively. You probably cannot provide enough one-on-one instruction to teach your athletes how to do things correctly so they can get the most out of each rep.

You're also probably not having them do the best exercises for what they need to accomplish, but we'll get into that later.

Don't worry, I'm here to help (you can thank me later). There are changes you can make within your weight room—some to the equipment, others to the ways things operate—that will allow your athletes to get better results. And there are resources outside your facility that can put your players on a faster track to success.

Equipment Essentials

The Basics

If you are on a tight budget, it's critical to focus on a few pieces of effective, versatile equipment. The clear winner here is a power cage and the associated weight. It can be used as a bench, squat rack or deadlift platform. Ninety percent of all exercises performed in my gym—which is fully equipped—use these basic pieces.

Do your budget a favor and avoid "cutting-edge" machines that only serve a single purpose. This equipment takes up too much space and is generally inferior to basic gear in terms of the exercises that can be performed with it.


If you already have the basics and still have money in the budget, you have an opportunity for improvement. Upgrades include resistance bands (light and heavy), kettlebells, prowlers, heavy ropes and chains.

Personnel/Instructions/Rules to Enforce

Designate a Leader

Have someone on your staff with strength & conditioning knowledge dedicate himself or herself to leading the weight training program. Learn why and how elite coaches do what they do.

Find Good Models

Follow workout routines used by other successful teams. Your athletes should always be active. A good strategy is to form groups of five. One athlete performs the primary exercise, three others spot (back and sides), and the remaining athlete is on deck.

Establish a rotation with your groups so that every athlete is busy and constantly working. Groups one, three and five should do lower-body exercises, while groups two, four and six focus on upper-body movements. You can program your schedule so that each group uses different pieces of equipment to maximize efficiency.

Outside help

Do you really think weight-room bonding is what makes your team better? Do you believe having your players stand around and talk—and every so often do a rep or two—is better than having some of them train in a superior facility with other athletes pushing them?

  • Bring in outside experts to help your strength and conditioning program.
  • Attend clinics and seminars on weight training.
  • Visit other top weight-training facilities.
  • Have your athletes attend a professional facility, even for just a limited time.

My advice is to let some of your athletes train at a real speed facility for part of the year. I know about all the bonding and stuff you are trying to do by keeping the team together, but realistically, it is not the most efficient way to go.

Your school facility and fellow coaches probably can't compete with a private facility loaded with proper equipment and a professional coaching staff. Many of the top high school teams in the nation make it mandatory to train at a speed facility.

As for you, coach, you need to attend a quality speed and strength seminar or clinic and listen to, and talk with, real strength coaches. Find people who can provide current cutting-edge knowledge and advice.

Even if you have no budget, and the administration is cutting everything at your school, most of the speed and strength coaches I know are happy to help high school coaches. Many (myself included) host seminars for not a whole lot of money. They can help you make your athletes better and will help your team win more games.

You will still be the coach, and it will still be your team—it just might be a little better.

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