Ive gotten several messages lately about facility design and items needed outside of your traditional items of racks, DB's etc... Budget obviously dictates a lot of these purchases. However regardless of budget these are a few things I would look at either over time or all as one. When picking items for a facility I think of two main things. Technology and bang for your buck type items.
There have been so many advancements made in the technological side of training that someone could spend 100 grand and still not have every item available. While technology is great its important to remember that it is simply a TOOL do promote your training. There are plenty of great coaches and programs who have minimal technology and win a bunch of games. I enjoy the technology side of things mostly because of the ease of data collection and the intent it drives. First lets look at data collection.
Ive used Teambuildr (above) for two years now, to put it simply it takes what used to take me two hours each weekend and now cuts that down to 30 minutes or less. While it used to could take 3-4 hours to write a 12 week training block can now be cut to 45 minutes. While I used to have to take my computer or Ipad and enter data after each rep I wanted to track Teambuildr allows me to have the athletes enter this data and then I can simply review the data theyve put in to find any errors. Aside from progrma design and data collection its various leaderboards feature is awesome. If you have TV's in your facility it auto updates every 30 seconds and spits out the current numbers for whatever leaderboard you are running that day. If you dont its still awesome for printing off and hanging around the facility. It takes a matter of 15-30 seconds for it to make a top 10 leaderboard for whatever event your tracking. Teambuildr runs on a yearly subsription models with various price points ranging from 500-1200 dollars annualy. I would reccomend doing a multi year option, getting the discount and then not having to fill out the PO and sell it to your administration each year.
Timing systems are huge for driving intent and effort within your speed training program. The biggest benefit of it is the elimination of user error. What I mean by this is if im a coach and im timing 40 yard sprints with a stop watch theres no way at all to be 100% accurate. I may time an athlete at a 4.87 one day and a 4.85 the next but in all reality because of user error they may have not gotten two 100ths of a second faster. However say I do this same event with the freelap timing system (above) and see this improvement then that athlete got two 100ths of a second faster no doubt about it. We can line up our athletes and tell them to "sprint" or put them in scenarios where they compete without being timed but in these cases many dont run their true full speed. Say your running a race with your 5 best athletes, you may have one who can run this and win WITHOUT giving their max effort or acheiving their max speed. The athlete who is behind them may throttle down because they know they have already lost. With a timing system it allows the athlete to compete with themself each time they step on the track or field. Freelap systems range from 800-1800 dollars depending on the system you go with and amount of chips you have. We have 5 chips and four cones. I would reccomend atleast 4 chips and preferably 8 but we used four for many years with groups of 40+ and had minimal wasted time.
Jump mats have been around for 25+ years since the just jump system came out. I prefer a jump mat over say a vertec because of the fact that an athlete simply has to step up and jump. With a vertec you have to adjust and measure the rod to each individual athletes limb length. The best jump mat on the market today is the Plyomat (above) @plyomat on twitter. I am not endorsed by them, I do not work for them I simply purchased three for our district and they have been phenomenal for all sports. It is essentially the just jump mat with FAR more features. Probably one of the coolest features especially for court based sports like volleyball or basketball is the RSI mode. You simply have your athlete get 10 pogo style jumps as high as they can and as fast as they can and it gives them a score. This score goes with a chart and shows you their strengths and weaknesses. This is an especially cool feature for these sports because they often require sustained repeated bouts of power versus a single bout of power with a rest period. Jumping high in volleyball is definetly important but the ability to do it repeteadly is also highly important. This RSI mode allows you to measure this. It also has the traditional vertical jump modes as well as many other awesome features. The mat is essentially the same price as the just jump mat, around 700 dollars but built much better with 10X the amount of abilities. Rich is an awesome guy and will answer any questions you have, he is also extremely smart so you will learn alot simply by having conversations with him.
While not truly technology in the terms of electronics it is an advancement on the traditional barbell. Safety squat bars play an integral role in our program. In fact going forward we may switch away from traditional barbells with regards to squat all together for our athletes. The safety squat bar allows the athlete to maintain an upright torso much easier and is less stressful on the shoulders. Another cool feature about them is the fact that they can balance on the athletes shoulders and the athletes dont even have to hold the handles they can hold handles on the rack and perform a variety of hand supported squat variations. You cant do this with a traditional barbell. We have the Elite FTS SSB Yoke bars (above). I also have two Kabuki Strength Version 2 Transformer Bars. In the team setting the Elite FTS SSB Yoke bars cant be beat, in a more individual setting the Kabuki Strength Transformer bars would be a great option. What are the benifets of these variations? You can put a ton of speed into the bar when you do your hand supported variations and you can really overload the lower body. Rarely is lowerbody strength the limiting factor when it comes to someones squat max, its often trunk/lower back strength that limits them. With the safety bar hand supported variations it takes that out of the equation. I regular bar back squat 500lbs, I safety bar hand supported backsquat 700+ lbs. The lower body adapts as if its squatted 700lbs it doesnt know that there was a safety bar on my back or a regular barbell. You can do this same thing for say box squat, RFE split squat etc... The elite FTS SSB Yoke bar is around 450 dollars and is an extremely well built product, Id reach out to Nate Harvey on twitter if interested.
Again in the same regard of not being really electronics but an advancement squat wedges are fantastic for improving the pattern of an athletes squat. They are especially benificial for younger populations of athletes or your taller athletes. Its simply an elevated angled platform that lifts the athletes heels. We have done this for years as coaches with plates under their heels but this allows the athlete to push through all of their foot rather just elevating their heel and causing them to push through the ball of their feet. We have 18 of these, 6 in each weight room. They go from 5-30 degrees but id reccomend going 15 degrees in terms of being more universal for all your athletes that may need them. The wedges cost around 125 dollars each.
Single leg squat stands are also a great option. If you want to buy once and only once the peform better adjustable single leg squat stand is a great option. Titan fitness also has an "adjustable" one but it isnt near as well made or user friendly. After two years of use with our titan stands they began to bend and wouldnt have been usable. We then purchased the perform better stands (above) and they are built much better, they are also more expensive but worth the price increase IMO. So much of sport requires being strong on one leg but weve rarely trained in this manner these allow you to isolate one leg and train accordingly. Yes you can simply elevate the athletes back foot on say a bench but I look at it in terms of equipment oppurtunity cost. If I buy stands I can now use my benches for another station as to where If I use my bench as a stand I now cant use that bench. The perform better adjustable stand cost around 250 dollars and is an extremely well built product.
Wind driven bikes are AWESOME for tracking power and conditioning. We have both rogues echo bike and the assault fitness bike and the Echo bike is 100% better for around the same price. I do maintnence on our echo bikes once a year, I do maintnence on our assault bikes once a week. They are beneficial for tracking the amount of power an athlete can produce in a short amount of time. Simply give the athlete say 10 seconds and see how many watts of power they produce or how many miles per hour they acheive. They are also great for driving competition within your team. Have a challenge where your athletes all have 10,15,20 calories etc and you can have them track who got the fastest time, even better you can pair this with teambuildr and track it that way. They are also a great conditioning tool, the average football play is 5 seconds with a 25-30 second rest period between each play. With these you can literally mimic the game of football (or whatever sport you play) by programming the bikes in this manner. The echo bike cost around 800 dollars with two packs available that get you a discount.
When purchasing items for a weight room I look at how much use can this item get by all our athletes. There are AWESOME machines out there however if im training a group of 50 athletes and I have one awesome $5,000 machine then im going to be wasting alot of time. All the above items allow you to run alot of athletes through them at one time and have a better flow to your training sessions. With most of the items above I would reccomend buying in increments of 3,4 or six for better flow in your facility. In addition to these items if you dont have them I would highly reccomend a various selection of kettlebells, you can do hundreds of exercise variations with these and they are a one time purchase. Same with medballs, bands etc...
I hope this helps provide you some direction in your facility design or your purchasing of new equipment. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
Deerick Smith CSCS