What Makes a Great Weightlifting Gym?

Great bars and bumpers are a given. But what other factors should be considered when opening your own weightlifting gym?

When we first began planning the new Takano Athletics gym, we did so entirely with the intention of putting together the best weightlifting facility that we possibly could. Of course, equipment was a primary consideration, and it should be in the planning of a gym, but there were other important considerations, as well.


I’m bringing over the equipment we were using at CrossFit Pasadena. It consists of four sets of DHS weightlifting training barbells. We have five men’s and three women’s bars of competition grade, although they lack the IWF stickers. Each set has four 20kg, two 15kg, and two 10kg bumpers. Each set has two metal plates each of 5kg, 2.5kg, 2kg, 1kg, and .5kg, as well as two collars. I’ve also got a Schnell men’s bar, a Mavrik women’s bar, an Eleiko women’s bar and an odd assortment of Mavrik and Eleiko bumpers.

In addition to that, we’re adding six sets of American Barbell equipment with a men’s bar and a women’s bar for each set. We’ll also be buying ten sets of squat racks and ten flat benches. We’ve already had two sets of jerk blocks constructed, and we will have ten platforms put together.

The quality of the equipment, especially barbells, is important if you are planning on training weightlifters who are quick and explosive. The durability is important if you are planning on training lots of them and for extended periods of time.

I probably know more about bars and bumpers than a lot of coaches as my coach was Bob Hise, the manufacturer of Mavrik Barbells. We spent a lot of time discussing the merits of the various bars available on the market in those days, and his knowledge of metallurgy was especially pertinent. That experience has been put to good use over the years and it certainly came in handing while shopping for the new equipment.

Now What?

But once you’ve got great equipment, what other factors will come into play? There has to be a certain stable management pattern in the gym. One of the top considerations will be a regular time for the competition team to train together. Working backwards from there, we put together a schedule that would include both beginner and intermediate classes.

We didn’t need as much time per session for group classes, so we planned our daily schedule with one-hour blocks being set aside for these. We wanted to make sure the class sessions were short and scheduled during those time periods when available traffic would be the greatest. Overall lesson plans for the classes had to be developed so that we could hit the ground running and our teaching staff had a framework on which to base instructional goals and pacing. I’m currently involved in developing the course manuals.


The athletes that come to train will have such an influence on the psychic environment of the gym. For this reason we are presenting our facility as being one for serious athletes, and I’m hoping my reputation will help in this conveyance.

Athletes that understand the mindset and lifestyle of athletes will set the tone that younger athletes will assimilate. This will make the atmosphere much more productive and industrious. Such an atmosphere is transformative and will have much to do toward eliciting great performances out of the athletes.


Initially, I will be doing most of the coaching and teaching, but we have plans to bring in other personnel to take over some of these duties. Inquiries about teaching and coaching opportunities have begun to flow in, and because of a lot of previous networking, the inquiries are coming from experienced athletes and coaches.

Part of my responsibilities will be to mold this group into a cohesive, collaborative team that will be interactive and assist each in professional growth. Eventually, I would like to see a situation in which every coach could cover for each other and there would be no drop-off in the level of instruction.

We are also planning on developing an internship program for young and developing coaches to teach and coach while building their skills in a supervised environment. We feel that this will be an unprecedented opportunity for coaching development.

Coaching Instruction

Another aspect of coaching and development that is rarely addressed is the education of coaches. We would like this gym to be a coaching resource, and as such we are planning on presenting a series of monthly seminars that local coaches can attend and learn about not only developing athletes, but the mechanics of organizing and running a weightlifting program. We will also encourage them to attend team training sessions to observe how our best lifters train and the coach-athlete dynamic.


I’m not a big fan of comic book art, so that won’t be up on the wall. However, I’d like a good portion of the walls dedicated to club records and ranking lists – the goals to which my athletes must aspire.

I also think the décor must speak to visitors, especially those from other serious weightlifting gyms around the world. An international reputation will do much to elevate the status of the gym and the atmosphere must contribute to that perception. Posters of great lifters, great photo sequences, and even other gyms will be a part of the décor.

If all of these factors can come together in the right proportions I think we are on our way to developing a great weightlifting gym. Actually, I’d like to hear from other gym owners to see how they’ve organized their facilities. That information could be helpful to all of us.

Please post your thoughts and experiences regarding equipment, schedule, staffing, and décor to the comments below.

Photo 1 courtesy of American Barbell.

Photos 2 and 3 courtesy of Bob Takano.

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