In This Issue:
INSTALLATION SPOTLIGHT: McKinzey Middle School - Mansfield, TX
FEATURED ARTICLE: How Flow Factors in to Weight Room Planning
Charlene McKinzey Middle School - Mansfield, Texas
On Saturday, August 14th, 2021, a dedication ceremony and ribbon-cutting took place at Charlene McKinzey Middle School, a new addition to the Mansfield Independent School District in Texas. Coach Kathryn Otwell, the girl’s athletic coordinator, had been giving students and parents tours through the gymnasium and weight room.
Kathryn said that, “the highlight of pretty much every parent and student athlete’s tour was coming out to see the weight room and the gym which is pretty remarkable considering the entire school is beautiful.” She saw their faces light up as soon as they turned the corner to see the dramatic space. “These are young ladies who have never even seen or thought about lifting a weight. They’re so excited for the first day of school. It’s all I’ve heard: ‘Coach, when do we get in the weight room? When do we get to lift weights?’ That has been a joy to see.”
The excitement of students, parents and teachers for the start of this school year at McKinzey goes beyond just the weight room. That’s not surprising considering what the middle school will be offering, both with its facilities and its curriculum. “It’s absolutely the most amazing middle school facility I have ever seen, as far as the school as well as the athletic facility,” Coach Otwell said.
She explained that McKinzey is a STEM school in addition to being a comprehensive school. For her, being able to link their athletes to STEM programs really perpetuates their athletic motto: Bold, Brave, Fearless. “It’s just such a unique experience in Mansfield,” she said. “McKinzey has STEM on campus and also provides the opportunity for athletics within the STEM program. It's providing so many unique opportunities for kids, it's unbelievable.”
Coach Otwell has over 18 years of experience at the collegiate, high school and middle school levels. She had already been a coach with the school district and accepted the girl’s athletic coordinator position at the middle school back in April. Her experience has taught her that, regardless of the student’s age, the basic role of coach remains the same. “You’re always wanting to grow kids—that’s always the same. Getting to coach the Xs and Os and the skill-specific things is different, but loving kids, helping them grow into successful adults and life-long learners remains the same at all levels. The experiences these kids are exposed to at a middle school level really helps us be a little more successful as coaches in preparing them for the high school level. At each level they are all kids, they just get a little taller, that's all."”
The school was already starting to plan the weight room when Coach Otwell came on. She became involved once plans had advanced to ordering of equipment. The school district’s high school strength and conditioning coaches also lent their support in the planning. The 3D room layout renders first went through the athletic directors for approval, then flowed down to the coaching staff so they could determine what would work best for the middle school athletes.
“Our goals are always to build the most well-rounded athlete, which obviously involves the weight room,” Coach Otwell said. The biggest challenge was how best to manage large numbers of students. In particular, Coach Otwell explained, was understanding that they were, “building an athlete from the ground up with regards to their skills-specific training as well as the strength conditioning side of it.”
One fantastic feature of McKinzey’s weight room is the two large glass doors that make up the exterior wall. These open up like garage doors out to the athletic field. Coach Otwell said, “It gives us the opportunity to spread those kids out a little more and take advantage of the fresh air and some agility outside as well as within the weight room. Being able to manage all those kids from one area is outstanding.”
The ADs and coaches at Mansfield ISD worked with Dynamic Fitness & Strength Texas Territory Manager Coach Kevin Yoxall on the facility planning. “It was really a joy to work with Dynamic and Coach Yox,” Coach Otwell said. “Yox was a great communicator throughout the entire process and just a joy to talk to. He obviously wanted things done correctly. His attention to detail is superb.”
Yox orchestrated Dynamic’s team to provide McKinzey the solutions that would best fit their program. “The school is simply amazing and we needed to follow suit with our facility planning and equipment,” Coach Yox said. “We ended up laying out a room with 12 Titan half racks in three rows of four. On the four center racks we also added our combo hi/low lat pull attachments.” Between the racks are sets of hex dumbbells, with ample shelving against the far wall for kettlebell, ball and band storage.
Coach Otwell couldn’t be happier with Dynamic’s service and installation. “Oh, man. The customer service could be compared to Chick-fil-A! The crew Dynamic had here had this entire weight room built in two days. They were here when I arrived and worked long hours to complete the job. Dynamic's attention to detail and their communication was just wonderful.”
The Dynamic Fitness & Strength team was honored and thrilled to design and build the strength equipment that will help Charlene McKinzey Middle School build better athletes from the ground up.
Wrapping Up an Amazing Event Season
As we begin to wind down the summer, we find ourselves finishing up some of our biggest events of the year and looking ahead to next year. After 2020 and the lockdown, we’re reinvigorated after getting out and reconnecting with our amazing athletic and coaching community again.
The Texas High School Coaches Association conference was incredible, and we also took part in some fantastic regional events through the NHSSCA-Texas, North Carolina Athletic Directors Association, and the South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association, all of which Dynamic helps to sponsor. We feel like 2021 was a winning year for us as far as connecting with more associations, schools, dealers and opportunities.
Speaking of winning, we want to congratulate several winners from past events!
Congratulations to Sam Martinez, athletic director at Jubilee Brownsville High School in Texas. He won our THSCA Conference giveaway of a Gladiator home half rack. We hope you enjoy it, Sam!
Congratulations also to Mike Duehring, Director of Performance & Fitness, Marquette University High School in Wisconsin (Badger Power Bar) and Michael DeRoehn, health and fitness coordinator at Two Rivers School District in Wisconsin. Both of them won Dynamic Fitness & Strength barbells. Way to go, guys!
Finally, congratulations to Pete Traynor, director of strength and conditioning at Urbandale High School in Iowa. He won the NHSSCA prize of $5,000 toward any NHSCCA partner’s equipment and Coach Traynor chose Dynamic! Thanks, Pete, and hope you’re loving whatever you chose!
Next up, we’re looking forward to the MLB Winter Meetings in December, then the AFCA National Conference and NSCA Conference in January. Hard to believe how fast those are approaching already. Here’s hoping your summer finishes strong!
How Flow Factors in to Weight Room Planning
There's only one right way to design a weight room--the way that's best for your program
By Craig Sowers, Vice President of Sales
The main function of any weight room should be focused on three areas: Reducing the occurrence of injury, building strength and increasing power. In planning a weight room, however, there’s countless ways to achieve these goals. So, what is the best weight room layout for your program?
One question you can ask that will help guide your weight room layout is this: Do you want movement in the room, or do you want each athlete or student fixed to a location?
Depending on your programming philosophy, the size of your room and the number of students and athletes you are coaching at a time will help answer this question to ensure your weight room will help achieve your program objectives.
Where we came from
In the “old” days of the ‘80s and ‘90s, high intensity programs were one popular philosophy of strength training, and it was almost entirely machine-based training. The thought at the time was to avoid potential training-related injuries, while still being able to build large amounts of strength. If you had walked into The University of Michigan, Penn State or the Washington Redskins’ weight rooms or other HIT programs during that time, you would have seen athletes constantly on the move from one machine to the next.
It wasn’t just HIT that saw movement, though. When I was at the University of Akron in the mid ‘90s, our weight room was set up with designated stations—flat benches, incline benches, squat racks and platforms all in different areas. We rotated through the room and didn’t think anything of it.
That changed for me in the late ‘90s when I coached at UCLA. I was fortunate to be there after Los Angeles hosted the Olympics and the weight room there was turned into an Olympic training hall. Coach Yox had wood platforms built from the front edge of the platform, all the way to the wall. This resulted in one continuous training surface all the way around the weight room. We bought utility benches that could be rolled into and out of the racks. Athletes were kept at the racks, fixed to a platform, and did 95% of their workout there. It was totally different than what everyone else was doing at the time.
Room to Move
Today, the idea of keeping your athlete at the rack as much as possible continues to be a popular strategy in planning your weight room. It is my belief, however, that movement from location to location when unstructured and unplanned is inefficient and wasted training time. My goal was always to get the most work done in the short amount of time we have with our athletes.
Room size can significantly influence the flow of your room. The larger the room, the more luxury you have to designate stations and move your lifters about the room if you plan to pull them away from the racks for dumbbell movements or machine work. Storage can be specialized to each station and your weight room can become a systematic, progressive flow through your program.
In the case of North Carolina State, we set the room up to have easy transition from the racks to the dumbbell stations. The platforms and racks were on the outside of the room and dumbbell racks ran down the center just a few steps away. This is an example of structuring movement and making it efficient.
If you have limited space, you will need to find ways to optimize your setup and make sure to avoid bottlenecks. Minimizing movement by allowing your lifters to accomplish more in one area is one way to accomplish this. For me, the rack can become the hub for a high school athlete’s full routine. I like to have three people to a rack because it tends to result in two-and-a-half to three-minute rest ratios, as well as a spotter during heavy sets.
One option to maximize space is to run double half racks down the center of the room. This bisects the room, creating two zones and allowing you opportunities such as assigning less-experienced lifters to one side and more experienced lifters to the other. This reduces the amount of time wasted swapping out weights by partnering lifters at similar weight levels together.
Going with double-half racks down the center, however, will require additional coaching staff since it will break your line of sight and you won’t be able to monitor the entire room at any one time. If coaching the room on your own, you may instead want single half racks tight along facing walls so you can walk the center and see all activity.
Rack accessories and attachments—from dip stations and plyos to athletic training arms and landmines, can provide any number of additional routines to a program. You can also put storage between the racks, such as our Annex storage, which can keep dumbbells, kettlebells and other equipment your athlete’s may need within easy reach. Keep in mind, however, that storage between racks could restrict access from one area of the room to the next.
Accommodating a diverse Type, Size and Frequency of Crowd
In the high school environment, weight rooms typically aren’t just for athletics anymore, but also for physical education classes. I’ve seen incredibly effective layouts with this in mind where they essentially designed two different rooms in one.
At one high school, when first entering the weight room, there was an entire line of selectorized machines. PE students could easily move up one side and back down the other in a steady circuit. This is great for a physical education teacher who needs to introduce a large number of students to entry-level strength conditioning because there’s less need to focus on technique. Beyond that area and through a second set of doors was the athletic training facility where the racks, platforms, turf, plyo boxes and all other strength conditioning equipment were located.
Even with collegiate athletics, you may have different sport teams working out at the same time, which may adjust how you set up the room to accommodate different teams in the same space.
The amount of time you have available with a group can also influence how much you want participants moving in your room. If you only have 40 minutes with a group, you don’t want to eat up a lot of time moving them from one area to another. But, when you have more time with your athletes, and when space is larger, you may see programming that starts their athletes at one area for a routine such as the squat, then move them to another area for machine work, then to another area to do dumbbell work.
Flow can also be determined by whether or not you’ll be receiving large groups all at once or have a continuous flow of athletes due to situations such as staggered practices, such as track and field. If dealing with a large group all at once, you may be more likely to restrict movement and keep each lifter in place as much as possible. This would contrast to an entire team coming into the weight room at once.
One thing that may not immediately come to mind if you are fortunate enough to be designing a new weight room for your school—especially a college or university--is to keep the next coach in mind. When I was at the University of Texas at El Paso, I was given the opportunity to plan out a new weight room. Knowing that the average stop at one school is in the neighborhood of 3-5 years, I tried to keep the next strength coach in mind when making decisions about the layout. In the end, I wanted to build the best weight room for UTEP as well as accommodate my program, but not heavily restrict others.
I’ve been asked before: what’s the best way to set up an Olympic weight room, or the best way to lay out a high school weight room vs. a collegiate weight room. My answer is always the same: It depends on your program, room size, philosophy, and budget. There is no one right way to set up a weight room, but there is one BEST way to set up YOUR weight room. Hopefully things I’ve covered in this article will help get you YOUR best weight room.
And what is your best first step? Talk to the Dynamic Territory Manager in your area. Our team is made up of professionals with a ton of experience. They’re not going to tell you what you want; they’re going to listen to what you need and work with you to find the optimum solutions for your program based on your location and student body. That’s how we’ll build you the best room with the best equipment.