Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rants and Raves

Yesterday I walked into our local recreation center to discover a large sign in front of the ONLY room not completely overtaken by machines reading, "NO FREE WEIGHTS IN THIS ROOM". Now mind you, this may not be an issue for many recreation centers or YMCA's but for ours it is major. The weight equipment and cardio machines were recently rearrange in the most ridiculous fashion, eliminating any available space for free weights and now THIS. Needless to say I was ticked, so I set out to do a little research concerning proper weight room arrangement. After completing my studies I wrote a letter to the our local recreation department. Here it is.

Recreation Department,

I am currently finishing up my schooling to be a NCFS (National Council on Strength and Fitness) certified personal trainer. My studies have covered a broad range of health and fitness aspects, from nutrition to legal issues. As I’ve learned I’ve had a few concerns for the city's Recreation Center. I know that this isn’t a large community and our Recreation Center is not a large facility, but that doesn’t disregard the need to take into account the safety and effectiveness of the Recreation Center and its patrons. In light of that, here are a thoughts and insights.

Reports show that in the U.S. 60,000 hospital visits each year are on account of weight training injuries. Often safety only gains attention after an injury or possibly a law suit. However safety is not something to be considered as an afterthought. It should be preventative and not reactionary. Injuries are often caused by an athlete’s own inexperience or misuse of weight room equipment. And still many other injuries are caused by overcrowding, improper equipment placement and lack of maintenance.

I highly value having a facility to workout in during the winter and I would hate to see anything happen to the City Recreation Center. For that reason I’m concerned about some safety issues in the weight room and aerobic machine room. In the past month or so the floors in the 2nd room where refinished and the equipment was rearranged. There are numerous hazards in this new and current placement of equipment. Allow me to note a few key aspects to weight room and machine arrangement:

- All pieces of equipment should be placed at least 6-8 feet from the doorway of the room. This will prevent anyone from being injured when entering or leaving.

- Weight machines should be grouped by muscle group if possible.

- Where you place equipment is important for improving safety. Overcrowding and improper spacing of equipment can lead to injury and also inefficient movement of athletes from station to station.

- Proper equipment spacing means that it is placed in a way that maximizes movement and minimizes the possibility of injury. It does not necessarily mean that it is evenly spaced. If there is not enough space between equipment athletes may bang into some part of the equipment causing injury to themselves or others. Moreover should another athlete drop a dumbbell, bar of another piece of equipment, the adjacent stations should be far enough away to avoid having a falling object hit someone else

- A good way to arrange things is in pairs, allowing adequate space to safely walk by on each side of the machine.

- An effective way to lay out an exercise room is to divide it into sections. It reduces the chance of athletes involved in one type of activity from interfering with those doing another.

- Free weights and barbells should be dedicated to the majority of your available space. These exercises are not controlled and require a large range of motion. Weights are often dropped, and should be for safety reasons, and the risk of getting hit with something is much higher.

- The walkways should be open and clear, with non-skid surfaces and easy access. Open walkways can also serve as buffer zones between free weight areas and other machines.

- Treadmills, aerobic machines and other weight machines can be placed closer together since their movement is controlled and confined to a specific area.

- It’s is important to note however that there should be at least 3-4 feet of open space (minimum) behind treadmills in the case that someone falls off the back.

These are just a few of the specifications that many Fitness associations recognize and follow. I have attached some more specific guidelines from the NCSA (National Strength and Conditioning Association).

The current arrangement of weight machines, treadmills and free weights negates these guidelines. The walkways are unstable as they are covered with unsecured padding, there is NO room for free weights, one must turn sideways to access much of the equipment to avoid running into another person or piece of equipment, there is not adequate buffer space behind the treadmills, and the arrangement is not efficient and quite confusing for most weight lifting routines.

The risk of a patron getting injured and possibly filing a law suit is very probable. That would be quite a misfortune and I would hope that some safety issues could be addressed before that were to happen.

Please take this letter into account and consider the risk involved in improper weight room arrangement. Read through the attached article as well as it will provide more detail.

Thank you for your time in reading and considering these things. I believe in order have a quality facility they must be considered.


Audrey Ross

Hopefully this letter along with a petition will cause some much needed changes at the local Rec. Center. It may be slow painful change however. Small communities often fight change like it's there nemesis. I've also included the NSCA guidelines for weight room arrangement below, just as a reference.

I'm sure I'll post more about all of this later.

Strength & Conditioning

Professional Standards

and Guidelines

Approved July 8, 2009



Standard 4.1

Exercise devices, machines and equipment, including free weights, must be assembled, set up and placed in activity areas in full accordance with manufacturer’s instructions, tolerances and recommendations; and with accompanying safety signage, instruction placards, notices and warnings posted or placed according to ASTM standards (3,4) so as to be noticed by users prior to use. In the absence of such information, professionals must complete these tasks in accordance with authoritative information available from other sources.

Standard 4.2

Prior to being put into service, exercise devices, machines or free weights must be thoroughly inspected and tested by Strength & Conditioning professionals to ensure that they are working and performing properly, and as intended by the manufacturer.

Standard 4.3

Exercise machines, equipment and free weights must be inspected and maintained at intervals specified by manufacturers. In the absence of such specifications, these items must be regularly inspected and maintained according to the Strength & Conditioning practitioner’s professional judgment.

Standard 4.4

Exercise devices, machines, equipment and free weights which are in need of repair, as determined by regular inspection or as reported by users, must be removed from service and taken out of use until serviced and repaired; and be re-inspected and tested to ensure that they are working and performing properly before being returned to service. If such devices are involved in incidents of injury, legal advisors or risk managers must be consulted for advice prior to service/repair or destruction.

Guideline 4.1

Strength & Conditioning professionals and their employers should ensure that facilities are appropriate for Strength & Conditioning activities. Factors to be reviewed and approved prior to activity include, but are not limited to, floor surface; lighting, room temperature and air exchange (refer to Greenwood [Chapter 21, pp. 543 – 568] in Essentials Of Strength Training & Conditioning (7)).

Guideline 4.2

Manufacturer provided user’s manuals, warranties and operating guides should be preserved and followed (refer to item 6).

Guideline 4.3

All equipment, including free weights, should be cleaned and/or disinfected regularly as deemed necessary by staff. Users should be encouraged to wipe down skin-contact surfaces after each use.


Strength & Conditioning Facility Scheduling

Table D1. Calculations for space needs. Source: Greenwood (Chapter 21 [pp. 543 – 568], Essentials

Of Strength Training & Conditioning (7))

Area Examples Formula

Prone/supine exercises

Bench press; Lying triceps extension

Actual weight bench length (6 – 8 ft.) + safety space cushion of 3 ft. multiplied by suggested user space for weight bench width of 7 ft. + safety cushion of 3 ft.


If using a 6 ft. long weight bench for the bench press exercise (6 ft. + 3 ft.) x (7 ft. +

3 ft.) = 90 ft.2

Standing exercises Bicep curl; Upright row

Actual bar length (4-7 ft.) + double-wide safety space cushion of 6 ft. multiplied by suggested user space for standing exercise width of 4 ft.


If using a 4 ft. curl bar for the bicep curl exercise (4 ft. + 6 ft.) x (4 ft.) = 40 ft.2

Standing exercises from rack Back squat; Shoulder press

Actual bar length (5-7 ft.) + double-wide safety space cushion of 6 ft. multiplied by suggested user space for standing exercise from a rack width of 8 – 10 ft.


If using a 7 ft. Olympic bar for the back squat exercise (7 ft. + 6 ft.) x (10 ft.) = 130 ft.2

Olympic lifting area Power clean Lifting platform length (typically 8 ft.) + perimeter walkway safety space cushion of

4 ft. multiplied by lifting platform width (typically 8 ft.) + perimeter walkway safety space cushion of 4 ft.


(8 ft. + 4 ft.) x (8 ft. + 4 ft.) = 144 ft.2

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