Begun in the fall of 2001 as a part of a 161,000 square feet athletic complex, the Falcon Athletic Center (FAC) weight room opened in January of 2003. The FAC weight room, at 23,000 square feet, nearly doubles the size of the varsity weight room, which previously served all varsity teams at the Air Force Academy. With the opening of the FAC weight room all premier sports (football, hockey, men's and women's basketball, volleyball and baseball) train in the new facility while all other athletic teams continue to train in the varsity weight room in the Cadet Gym.
Located on a knoll above the football practice fields, the FAC weight room is two stories high and has floor to ceiling windows on the west and north walls looking out onto the practice fields and on up to the front range of the Rocky Mountains, where the Academy is located.
The strength and conditioning staff was involved early in the design process of this facility and provided feedback to the architects on a regular basis as the project progressed from the design to construction phases. Coupled with this was the long and thoughtful process of selecting equipment for the facility, which created a strong sense of ownership by the strength and conditioning staff towards the facility.
Outstanding strength and conditioning facilities are a requirement at the Academy, where we compete at the Division I level in all sports despite the fact that many of our athletes would be considered deficient in some areas (size, speed) by typical DI standards. The challenge we face is to take these athletes and develop them so that we can compete successfully at the DI level, and superior facilities play an important part in this challenge.
Building the new weight room provided us the unique opportunity to design the strength and conditioning facility based on the type of training we perform, rather than designing the strength and conditioning programs based on the limitations of the facility.
Typically when a strength and conditioning coach designs a training program he or she has to consider the limitations of the facility. In contrast to this we designed the facility and selected equipment for the room based on the training philosophies we adhere to. The philosophies we adhere to and considered during this project include:
a. Emphasize Olympic-style exercises each workout. With 48 multi-station platforms and 48 dumbbell platforms the facility is large enough that all athletes can begin their training by performing the prescribed Olympic-style exercises and still limit the number of athletes on each platform to 2-3 per station
b. Develop as much power and speed capability as possible. The large number of platforms allows us to emphasize the Olympic-style exercises and related movements. The track and plyometric training area provides the opportunity to focus on speed and power training
c. A secondary goal is to develop as much athleticism as possible. The facility is spacious enough to provide us the opportunity to employ a wide variety of training activities meant to enhance athleticism
d. Dumbbell training is a priority. As previously mentioned the facility includes 48 specially designed dumbbell platforms. These platforms allow performance of a variety of dumbbell Olympic-style exercises, lower body training, and more traditional dumbbell exercises such as bench and incline press
e. Free weight training is an area of emphasis. The facility is spacious enough to allow a large number of athletes to safely train with a variety of free weight equipment
f. Training movements rather than muscle groups is a focus. We want our athletes performing standing free weight training as much as possible, and the facility allows that opportunity
g. Make significant use of water as form of resistance. In addition to the equipment already mentioned we want our athletes to perform a variety of exercises using water filled implements because of the advantage of training with an active resistance rather than a static resistance. A specific area in the weight room has been dedicated to this purpose
h. Training the core is a priority. The facility includes a large number of decline benches, back extension/glute ham benches, medicine balls and various other equipment that allows a focus on functional core training.
All athletes training in the varsity weight room or the Falcon Athletic Center weight room train between 2:30 and 6:30. The size of the new room is based on facility demands, not on a desire to have a 23,000 sq ft facility. For example, the football trains as a team in the off-season, starting in January with 160+ athletes. On Monday and Friday the entire team is in the facility together (on Tuesday and Thursday all skill position athletes perform speed/plyometric training, on Wednesday and Saturday all offensive linemen, tight ends, fullbacks, defensive linemen and linebackers participate in speed and plyometric training). To train over 160 athletes at one time, and allow them to go through the workout in the proper sequence and a timely manner requires a significant amount of equipment and a large training area.
The primary feature of this facility, in terms of the resistance training equipment, is the 48 multi-station platforms and 48 dumbbell platforms located in the facility. It was decided to purchase 48 of each of these stations because with the football team training as one large group, rather than training in small groups throughout the day, 48 of each of these platforms are required to maintain a ratio of ideally 2 and no more than 3 athletes per platform. All workouts begin with at least one Olympic-style exercises (with either a barbell or dumbbell) and we want our athletes to start each workout by performing the assigned Olympic-style exercise(s). Because we wanted no more than 3 athletes per platform it was determined that we would need 48 of both styles of platforms to accomplish this goal on Monday and Friday when the entire team lifts together. Each multi-station platform was spaced so that there is a minimum of 36" between ends of the bar.
Using the 48 multi-stations the athletes can perform all of the Olympic-style exercises, plus squats, bench and incline press and additional auxiliary exercises. On the dumbbell platforms the athletes can perform the same variety of exercises with dumbbells.
Features of the multi-station platforms include:
- Pull-up bar slides out of position when not in use
- Attached bench slides forward to incremental marked positions when performing bench or incline press
- Spotter platforms provided for bench and incline
- Bench is adjustable from flat bench to military press with angle indicator
- Adjustable squat safety bars
- Adjustable scoops for performing box cleans and snatches
Because of the emphasis we place on dumbbell training a decision was made to place 48 dumbbell platforms in the room. On these 48 dumbbell platforms athletes can safely perform a variety of exercises (dumbbell Olympic-style exercises, dumbbell squats, dumbbell bench or incline plus auxiliary exercises with dumbbells). The dumbbell platform, similar to the multi-station platforms, is built with an attached adjustable bench. This bench can be adjusted from flat to incline or military press (angle indicator included) or can be locked up out of position to open up the platform lifting area.
In addition to the 48 multi-station platforms and 48 dumbbell platforms the facility includes the following types of standard resistance training equipment:
3 pairs of steel dumbbells, in 2.5 lb. increments, from 5 to 55 lbs, and one set in 2.5 lb. increments from 60 to 170 lbs.
15 standing leg curls
15 air resisted squat machines with capability to measure and display power
2 seated leg curls machines
15 back extension/glute ham machines
15 decline benches
1 leg press machine
3 leg extension machines
1 multi-hip machine
Various plyometric equipment (boxes, hurdles, medicine balls)
In addition to the equipment listed above we also have some non-traditional "strong man" competition equipment we use in the training programs of our athletes. Included in this equipment are the following items:
Creating and maintaining a safe training environment is a priority for us as strength and conditioning staff. Because of this industry standards and guidelines were adhered to during the process of designing the facility and placing equipment in the room.
- 4 large truck tires, each weighing about 300 lbs., fitted so that additional weight plates can be placed in the center of the tire so that the weight of the tire can be adjusted based on the strength level of each athlete
- 10 water filled logs, each weighing 110 lbs. unloaded, designed so that additional plates can be placed on the ends of each log so that the weight of log tire can be adjusted based on the strength level of each athlete
- Kegs ranging from 30 lbs. to 270 lbs.
- 3 sets of water filled dumbbells ranging from 60 lbs. to 170 lbs.
Another significant feature of FAC weight room is the 4-lane 60-yard long track, where the majority of our speed training takes place. To emphasize the importance of speed training, and to make the timing/testing process easier, an electronic timing system with a LED display system was installed. This allows the athletes to time themselves at their convenience, along with making the process easier during training and testing.
During the design process the architects determined there was a potential problem at the north end of the track, because of a tunnel that runs directly underneath this portion of the track. Because minimal clearance was required between the ceiling of the tunnel and the floor of the weight room, it was determined that a "dead space" would have to be created at this end of the track to accomplish this required clearance. However, we proposed to the contractor that a better solution would be to create a 15-yard long ramp at this end of the track, elevated at between 3-5 degrees. This would provide the necessary clearance and also provide us the opportunity to perform over speed training in the facility at the suggested decline of 3-5 degrees.
Beyond the features listed above the Falcon Athletic Center weight room includes a number of additional amenities. Professional standards and guidelines were adhered to in each relevant category:
- Astro-turf throughout the facility. This flooring has proven to be very durable in the varsity weight room and also provides the necessary cushioning in the speed training/plyometric area. In high use areas additional rubber mats are positioned to protect the floor covering.
- Stereo/PA system, including a portable microphone, with speakers distributed throughout the room
- Gymnasium quality ceiling lighting so that medicine balls will not cause breakage/damage.
- A shade system to prevent overheating in room from the combination of the afternoon sun coming through the west facing windows and body heat of 160+ athletes working in the facility at the same time.
- Air circulation capabilities to handle the body heat/odors of 160+ athletes working at the same time.
- Electrical outlets distributed throughout the room, both wall and floor mounted.
- 4 synchronized pace clocks that have the capability to serve both as a method to time rest periods and time of day clocks
- Drinking faucets distributed throughout the room.
- An exit only door placed in the southeast corner of room to allow easy access to indoor track/turf field.
- Built in video feed and projection capability, along with video screens throughout the room.
- Lane lines painted on track surface. Start and stop lines for 10 and 40 yard dash are marked. Every 10 yards are marked off.
- 15'x15" storage area located at end of track used to store supplements and speed/plyometric equipment
The FAC weight room provides athletes at the Air Force Academy a world class facility to perform their strength and conditioning activities. This is a significant but necessary addition to the athletic facilities at the Air Force Academy because strength and conditioning plays a huge role in the ability of our athletes to compete successfully, and because time constraints requires that our athletic teams perform strength and speed/plyometric training as a team rather than in small groups throughout the day