Why Weight Room Safety Improves Performance?

“Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”

Weight Room Safety can improve performance many ways. First I want to share a story with you…

General Electric (GE) is one of the largest manufactures in the US today. But years ago this wasn’t the case. They were struggling to find their way going through CEO after CEO trying to find a leader that could break through and build a company that would last. Jack Welch was responsible for this turnaround. When asked,”What are you going to do to turn the company around?” He answered, “My #1 Goal is to have a company free of employee injuries.” Shocking right?! Many people thought that he would land on his face with this strategy. But this single goal reconfigured a company. Why? Because he know that if he got the systems of communication in place with his key people then they could prevent 99% of the problems they were having as a business. Teams are ran the same way.

Weight room safety can improve performance because safety is one of the indicators of planning. If things are planned and coordinated correctly nothing is left out. And weight room performance is no stranger to these characteristics.

To understand why weight room safety improves team performance you must know a few key ingredients in the weight room. Today it seems like most coaches and weight rooms don’t have general safety practices that keep coaches and athletes healthy. Most of the time it is the small things that get looked over. Putting collars on bars and making sure there is enough space between the racks to remove and add plates are the details of the “big picture” safety plan of the strength and conditioning coach.

We divide weight room safety into 3 categories. First, is the physical environment. Second is the administration of the weight room. And third is staff and athletes. This will be a brief overview of them and why it is so important to your future as a coach and how performance is associated with safety.

Keys To Improving Performance Through Weight Room Safety

There are many parts of the weight room that we all usually inherit. But there are some things we can do to help us increase safety and performance at the same time.

1. Design of the weight room.

  • Are the racks in a position that can optimize the square footage and decrease visual impairment? Most of the time there will be a group that finds that spot furthest away from the coach and hidden in the corner. Make sure that those corners are inaccessible to athletes.
  • Line of Sight (LOS) should be optimized for the coaches benefit. We can all find the place that coaches can benefit from. It is important to stay on the move but make sure that there is a place that you can see the whole weight room.
  • Designated spacing with equipment will help keep your athletes safe. For example, within a workout there will be something that athletes need to do on the floor (push up or plank etc) along with explosive lifts like a Snatch or Clean. Many coaches DONT think about where those athletes that will be doing the floor exercise need to be. So most of the athletes end up between the racks or in front of the Olympic lifts.  Have a designated area that athletes can go out of the way to do there lifts or movements safely and in sight.

2. Rules posted and reviewed.

Rules need to be posted in a place where athletes enter the weight room. The fewer the better. Remember, many things in the weight room can be used as a deadly weapon. It’s not good to think of it like that but if you do you will remember to keep students and athletes out of the weight room unless supervised.

  • weight room rules 1Athletes must be supervised! The #1 Rule I always recommend is #1 seen on the Weight Room Rules. Notice the other rules have to do with safety. That is important. If you only have 1 rule it should be all athletes must be under faculty supervision to lift weights or enter weight room.




3. Cleaning and preparation.

There must be a job list done by all the coaches to clean and sanitize the weight room. The weight room is the place where athletes spend most of their time so its important that it gets cleaned daily and sanitized once a week. This means all the equipment, benches, bars. And don’t allow your athletes to take off their shirts. Most coaches have a dress code and wash their athlete’s clothes daily to help prevent the spread of MRSA and Staph infections. A uniform code can also help prevent very loose clothing from getting tied up in equipment.

Cleaning Checklist

4. Equipment Check

Equipment Checks are great. There are 2 primary uses for equipment checks. The first is to keep the weight room safe. Check the bars, dumbbells, benches, racks, flooring, platforms, and all machines at the beginning of using it and 6 months after. The second reason for using the equipment check is to use it as leverage to get more equipment with administration. There is something in writing that you have reported as a safety standard violation and can be hazardous to student athletes and should be replaced. Make sure all of these equipment checks are kept in writing on a clipboard for all coaches to use. If all coaches see this equipment as a problem there is a much better case it will be replaced. It also can raise awareness with the other coaches to educate them on proper safety techniques.

Here is a free equipment checklist

5. Spotting Techniques

This is the least coached lift in the weight room and could end up being the most costly. Spotting techniques are the most mismanaged way to run a weight room.

  • Teaching athletes how to spot certain lifts is more important than the lift itself.  What lifts do they spot and what lift are not supposed to be spotted.
  • Teaching athletes how to fail at lifts is more important than spotting. Before we learn an Olympic lift, an overhead lift, or some type of movement that requires a lot of weight the first thing they do is practice dropping the weight in a safe manner.
  • Questions to ask yourself….

A. Is there a better way that we can do these lifts without using a spotter (which waste productive time in the weight room)?

B. Could I teach a way the athletes could manage themselves so they learn what failing feels like and how to drop the weight?

C. How do I teach these techniques that makes me confident enough to use them when it counts.

An example of this would be the bench press. Many coaches still use the bench press. Why? Because the athletes like it? If the athletes like punting on 1st down would you? Why not use the weighted push up or a Jammer machine or something that applies to the sport that is better so that athlete that would be spotting can participate in another lift.