Gym Must-Haves for Advanced or Athletic Training

When outfitting your facility for advanced trainees or athletic training, you want to be sure you have certain pieces of equipment to ensure an inviting atmosphere for their goals.

The following list is recommended as the most important pieces of equipment (in no particular order) to have when a trainee is seeking to improve their fitness performance.

Power Rack

This is one of the most important pieces of strength equipment one could buy to outfit a university gym. A power rack is a useful training tool because of the training variations it can provide. Accommodating users of all fitness levels, trainees can work multiple muscle groups on one piece of equipment.

A quality power rack will be where your trainees squat, bench, and press. It is encouraged to buy a rack with safety bars-either in the middle of the rack or extending out from one end. This will reduce the risk of injury if a lift is missed. Also, be certain the rack is bolted to the concrete; this is important because heavy weights will be racked and un-racked and it would be very risky for the trainee if the rack is sliding or wobbling.

Quality Lifting Accessories

Having high-quality Olympic bars and Powerlifting bars is essential. High quality Olympic bars will have a less aggressive knurling with no center knurling break and will have a bit more “whip,” meaning they flex more under heavy loads, but do not permanently bend, even if dropped.

Powerlifting bars, however, will have a more aggressive knurling, along with a center knurling break, and will be a bit stiffer to handle heavier weights. With research, a hybrid of such bars can be found, fulfilling any need of any trainee.Both bumper and steel plates are also gym essentials. Bumper plates will be used for all Olympic lifting while steel plates are for power lifting. Steel plates also take up less room on a bar and therefore in the gym, providing challenge for serious trainees and maximizing storage space within a facility.

Lifting platforms and dip bars are also key accessories in lifting, as well. A lifting platform will prevent damage to the gym floor when weights are dropped while dip bars can be attached to the power rack to save floor space. Dip bars are used for dip motions that help in development of chest and tricep strength. If trained appropriately, the dip aids users in progressing to drive in a bench press or overhead press.

Flat Bench

Although a simple piece of equipment, you will need a flat bench to bench press in the power rack. The bench should be fairly hard and very stable. The bench press is one of the most dangerous movements because of the bar being over the face. Eliminate the risk of a shifting or moving bench under a load of weights by buying a bench that has firm padding and a stable frame.

Key Conditioning Pieces

To also keep a facility ranking among the best for conditioning, a rower, incline trainer, and treadmills are essential pieces. A rower is great because it uses your lower and upper body, which produces a more robust training effect.

Similar to a rower, incline trainers are also known to deliver high cardio results and a lower body workout simultaneously. Because the rowers and incline trainers utilize multi-body movements, they will get your heart rate up faster and will have a better response to HIIT training. A treadmill’s importance in athletics and recreation can’t be overlooked; distance running and sprinting (both inclined and flat) are necessary to any training regimen.

Whether for endurance, stamina or agility, a treadmill is a staple piece in all gyms. If given the space, a sled or prowler that trainees can drag or push is a great tool to have. Most sleds and prowlers for purchase will be plate loaded, and your facility will already have those for lifting. Prowlers are great for HIIT training because they can be pushed with maximal effort for short distances while the same goes for sleds with pulling across a distance. These tools can also be used as a warmup for training sessions, as well as being used for recovery or on a non-training day.

Stretching Equipment

Stretching equipment holds great importance in any facility. Some gyms opt for floor mats to allow trainees to choose how to stretch and stretch bands also serve great function in pushing the limitations of a user’s mobility. Other gyms, however, opt for stretching stations that eliminate the need for floor stretching by providing users a structure that has many sources of foot and hand placement for users to stretch how they like in a more comfortable, standing position. Stretch bands also serve a dual purpose- when looped around the bar and a band peg on a power rack, extra resistance is applied to the barbell making lifting motions more difficult.

Miscellaneous Training Tools

Other tools that can be used for functional exercise (but stored easily when not in use) include training tools such as plyo boxes and kettlebells. Plyometric boxes are boxes of varying height for trainees to jump on or over as a conditioning drill for novices and athletes alike. Kettlebells, medicine balls and free weights are also examples of miscellaneous tools used by many of varying levels and are able to be used as sources of progression throughout training.

Though you want to make your gym a haven for the most serious athletes, it is also important to be inclusive of those working to get to that level. In the time spent at your facility, one person may come in performing overhead presses with a medicine ball and may leave swinging kettle bells at the heaviest weight offered in your university’s fitness center or training facility.

About the Author
Mike Grillo is a NASM-certified personal trainer for TRUE Fitness in O'Fallon, MO, with 11 years in the fitness industry. Grilling holds a BS in Exercise Science with a certification in CrossFit Level 1. For more information, please contact TRUE at (888) 491-2307 or email at