Essential Eight

What are the 8 essential items I would use to set up an effective training environment? 

 1. SPACE 

Without doubt this is the number one priority for me as a coach. S&C facilities in the UK always seem to be a bit of an afterthought in the planners and architects minds. The people in suits really should have the S&C coach in at the planning stages to ensure we don't end up with a broom cupboard with a ceiling height of 1.5m! Even when the facility is a priority they'll go and do something daft like sticking it on the first floor of the building rather than the ground floor (I always feel sorry for the people below the gym listening to the sound of olympic lifts taking place all day!). Some facilities do get the space issue right but even then theres still room for a cockup. So many facilities (commercial and high performance) are ruined because the coaches and facility managers get hoodwinked by the sales reps. Before you know it a fantastic training area has been overloaded with equipment, bars, balls platforms etc. Try squeezing you athletes into the mix and you have what was a great space that in all honesty is unusable. If you want to get a feel for the space required take a look at the NSCA's Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning or Designing Strength Training Programmes and Facilities by Mike Boyle. One facility that I always enjoy visiting is the weightlifting facility at Leeds Carnegie University. It's a great use of space (even if they do have the largest combination racks in the world - even the basketball players I work with can't reach the chin up bar!!!). What I like about it is they have sunken platforms so that the floor is all one level, a simple, effective and versatile room.   


I love these and I think everyone should get used to lifting from adjustable squat stands. Sure, combination platforms and multifunctional racks are great and look fancy but you can't beat a simple squat stand. They are portable (you can shift them out of the way if necessary) adjustable, affordable and above all else have a small footprint which as you know means we maintain space! 


Preferably wall mounted as this will save valuable space on the floor and it wall also allow you to hook bands, suspension trainers etc around. 


You need to have bumper plates so that you can perform the Olympic lifts. Do they have to be fancy dan coloured plates (only if you have a big budget!), if money is tight (and it usually is) just the regular black ones will do! Who do you use? Again, it's  matter of price, Eleiko, Werksan, Zhang Kong (I have these in my facility) all produce high quality bumper plates. 


Ideally you can stretch to having both 20kg and 15kg bars. Get the best bar that your budget allows (shiny bars that cost £20 won't cut it!). Get a bar from the same people that you purchase your plates from, that way you won't have any issues with plates not quite fitting the bars. Trust me, I've had some plates that always seemed to get stuck on the bar and it always happens when you are mixing and matching different bars and plates.


A must have in any facility. I prefer rubber, fixed dumbbells and you should try to get them in relatively small increments (2.5 increments max). Seriously consider how heavy you really need to go, will the huge 50kg set ever make it off the rack? Think about who you are working with and purchase accordingly! If you are pushed for space it's worth considering something like the powerblock.


Really versatile piece of equipment, great way to provide overload and a must have if you need to start developing speed-strength down at the bottom end of the force velocity curve. Make sure you get ones that can be slammed hard into the ground or wall without breaking (not all medicine balls are created equal!)


Big, heavy duty bands are really good to have around the gym. They can be used in so many different ways, from stretching, to overloading squats, to providing support during chin ups etc. 

So, there you have it, the essential 8 that always pop up on my wish list when I'm putting together a training facility. Sure I'll look at other items if I can but this is where I start.

Have I missed off your 'must have' piece of equipment? 

Let me know what it is and why you think it should make it into my essential 8.