At the United States Air Force Academy
By Allen Hedrick, M.A., C.S.C.S.*D, Coach Practitioner
Begun in the fall of 2001, a new athletic complex recently opened at the United States Air Force Academy. This new facility, which is 161,000 square feet, includes a weight room, sports medicine facility, locker room, team meeting rooms, academic study lounge, equipment issue and storage area, athletic administration, athletic hall of fame and football coaches' offices. The facility, which was a federal government project, was part of the U.S. Air Force's budget.
The weight room, at 23,000 square feet, nearly doubles the size of the previous athletic 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. The purpose of this article is to discuss the process used to create this world class facility.
Located on a knoll above the football practice fields, the new 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 Air Force Academy is located. The strength and conditioning staff was involved very 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 play at the Division I level in all sports despite the fact that most of our athletes would be considered deficient in some area (size, speed, athleticism) by normal DI standards. The challenge is to take these athletes and develop them so that we can compete at the DI level, and superior facilities play an important part in this challenge.
VARSITY WEIGHT ROOM
This new facility, officially known as the Falcon Athletic Center weight room, compliments the existing varsity weight room, which will stay open and continue to serve a portion of our athletic teams. The varsity weight room became operational in the spring of 1993. The facility is over 12,000 sq ft in size and is housed in the cadet gymnasium, which was built in 1958, three years after the Air Force Academy's inception.
Teams using the varsity weight room include:
Among the features of the varsity weight room is:
Nontraditional equipment includes:
While the varsity weight room may be the second best strength and conditioning facility on base we feel it is still one of the outstanding facilities in the Mountain West Conference and the nation. The goal is to continue to upgrade and improve this facility to maintain that status.
FALCON ATHLETIC CENTER WEIGHT ROOM
Having the new weight room built 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 program based on the limitations of the facility. Since meeting with the architects early in the design phase the strength and conditioning staff has had the opportunity to be involved with the project during each stage of the project.
Typically when you design a training program you have to consider the limitations of the facility. We designed the facility and selected equipment for the room based on the training philosophies we adhere to. It is important to define and list these philosophies to guide the design of the facility and equipment selection process. 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 on the days the entire football team is training at one time all athletes can begin their training by performing the prescribed Olympic-style exercises and still limit the number of athletes on each platform (either barbell or dumbbell) to 2-3
b. Develop as much power 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. 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 is a focus. We want our athletes performing standing free weight equipment 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 (as will be explained below). 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. Teams using this facility include:
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.
Per federal government requirements all of the equipment purchased for the facility was put out to bid with justification required on any item purchased as a sole source item (from a specific vendor). 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 (Essentials Text)
Using the 48 multi-stations the athletes can perform the entire 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, depending on whether they are performing a barbell or dumbbell emphasis workout.
Table 1. Design features and specifications of multi-station platforms
1. Platform is designed with a steel frame. Underpinning consists of steel tubing, two sheets of ¾" plywood, and 1 sheet ¾" rubber diamond pattern. Platform has no trip points for safety of user (has no retaining angle). Platform sides are square and platform is 3½" high x 96½" wide x 96½" long. The weight of the platform is 735 lbs.
2. The steel main frame is constructed of 2½"x 2½" 7 gauge and 11 gauge square tubing.
3. An adjustable chin/pull up bar that moves into position and stores such that it does not interfere with overhead area of other lifts.
4. 12 weight storage pins provided (6 on each side of frame).
5. Vertical storage racks for scoops, safety bars and bar yokes.
6. Bench attaches to the platform ad swings up and locks out of the way when not in use when adjusting position bench travels with linear bearings and 60RC center less ground case hardened shafts and locks into place.
7. Front leg of bench is designed to collapse down and lock in place when bench is lifted on end.
Because of the emphasis we place on dumbbell training a decision was made to have dumbbell platforms created. 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.
Table 2. Design features and specifications of multi-station platforms
1. Platform is 52¾" wide x 76¼" long x 23/8" high. Total weight of platform is 543 lbs .
2. Frame is constructed of 2"x2" 7 gauge steel square tube
3. 11 gauge steel under pan
4. 1 sheet ¾" 4'6' plywood sub floor
5. 2 sheets ¾" miniature diamond pattern rubber for maximum shock absorption
6. ¼" x 3 retainer plate drilled and taped for 5/16"-18 flat head Allen screws.
7. When not in use the bench folds up to a 95 degree vertical store position and is locked in place by a steel handle.
8. When the bench is in the store position the front support foot swivels downward to provide the user unencumbered use of the platform.
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 like equipment we use in the training programs of our athletes. Included in this equipment are the following items:
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.
Creating and maintaining a safe training environment is a priority for us as a 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. For example, in one of the original designs proposed by the architects the assistant coaches' office was placed in back of the head coaches office, rather than side-by-side. Because of this, if the assistant coach was in his or her office, that person would have had very limited visual access to the facility. Instead we placed the offices side-by-side with large windows to allow a clear view of the facility (Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, chpt 24, Mike Greenwood).
Another significant feature of this facility 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 far 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 (ref) decline of 3-5 degrees.
In addition to the features just listed the Falcon Athletic Center weight room includes a number of amenities. Professional standards and guidelines were adhered to in each relevant category (Essentials of Strength and Conditioning):
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.
The wall between the strength coaches offices and the weight room is a half wall (desk high) with window above to allow visual access.
Controls for temperature, sound system, and window shades are located in head coach's office.
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 Falcon Athletic Center 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.