Adding Turf in the Weight Room, From Start To Finish
Here is Pt. II of our video series with Wayzata HS Head Strength Coach Ryan Johnson. In our first video here, we covered their new weight room and the how and why behind it’s design and function. Today, we’re digging deeper into The Wayzata Strength Program’s application of turf in the weight room. In the video, Ryan addresses the following:
- The added versatility provided by turf in the weight room
- How specifically has the turf altered the way their athletes can train
- An average day of classes and after school training using the turf
- How they trained specific movement-patterns and exercises prior to the turf addition
- Working with administration to approve a turf installation
- What advice he’d give to coaches interested in adding turf to their weight room
- Has the new facility design changed the way student-athletes view their weight room
If you’re interested in adding turf to a new or existing facility this video is a must-watch. Ryan’s account gives coaches the tools they need to successfully plan a turf addition from the initial planning stages, convincing administration and architects, to programming.
How is turf beneficial to a weight room?
“This allows me to train movement and just lifts. When we had just platforms, and we had plenty of platforms and racks, then it was more about training certain exercises or lifts. Now with this turf we can line everybody up and I’m training movements. As opposed to starting the term out with teaching everyone a front squat, and we could do like goblet squats to a certain degree. Now though, we can line everybody up. We can take them through our teaching progressions of, say the squat movements, in a much more unified manner. And this has been a huge game changer for that. The biggest change in what I’m doing as a coach is probably because of this turf down the middle and what that allows us to do.”
How does this affect individual students training?
“When we teach kids the lifts and the exercises and the movements we put them in progressions. Now I can take kids and move them through progressions much quicker. We’ll have one group that’s still working on hip hinge, for say. And in addition, we’ll have the kids actually doing something else. So it’s very common to walk in here and see one group of kids say maybe they’re going to be doing goblet squats here, the next group is doing front squats, inside the racks will be back squatting. So it allows for that differentiation so I can meet the needs of the athletes better as opposed to training 100 kids at once and we’re all squatting today. We can break those movements down to where they need to do those based on mobility and strength and other factors.”
How is the turf used in an average day?
Throughout the class period, kids will come in, the first thing they’ll do is we’ll use it for dynamic warm-up. Then we’ll use it for certain teaching and certain exercises, and then we’ll use it for some finishers. Based on what group of athletes we have in here, so after school training for a lot of the athletics teams they’ll come in use it for a dynamic warm-up and then we’ll go into some teaching progressions and lifts but then we also do we’re doing a lot of speed agility quickness stuff. we’ll do bounding, plyos, our lateral work, hamstring injury prevention, things like that. So it’s very functional. The turf is the most used piece of equipment in this room.”
How did you train these movements before having this space?
“With our other facility, which was right outside the lunch room, we would take the kids out in the hallway. Try to set ladders down. Try to set cones down and have kids work on the tile floor. Which gets very slippery, especially over the lunch period. so now that we have the turf we have a surface that’s much more similar to what a competitive surface would be for our field based athletes. And it’s also brought that into the room and it’s not something you go out into the hallway to do.
Or a side note, it’s kind of raised the importance of that being in the workout that we put it kinda front and center right in the room. And it helps me with visibility to be able to watch all athletes doing everything, not have to have one group outside or try to get them into a gym space. Which gym space is a premium in high schools especially during the day in gym classes. So having everything under one roof has been the biggest game changer for us.”
How did you work with the school administrations to install the turf?
“The vision to put the turf in here was easy. I saw it, looked at a couple other facilities. Realized what I wanted to do. Getting it in the blueprints and the design was very difficult. We had a lot of different angles of opposition, I would say. First of all, the architects were concerned because they’d never done it anywhere. They hadn’t seen it anywhere and kinda gave us the, well no one else is doing that. And to which we replied well we want to do it and this is why. So the architects were a little bit slower to warm up to it. They came around.
This next opposition we had was actually from our buildings and grounds. Their first concern is is it going to wear out? Do we need to replace it and how do we clean it?Through a lot of discussions we were able to come together and show them that okay what we’re doing is new to a lot of places but this is what it’s going to be. This is the future of a lot of these facilities. Along with that, we were able to show our buildings and grounds that it’s not the turf with the rubber pellets. Their first thought is rubber pellets are going to be everywhere. Now, that’s not the case. It’s not that. This is more of an astro-turf tied to our outdoor carpet. In fact, we ended up kinda calling it an indoor/outdoor carpet that seemed to ease people’s minds on what it was.”
What advice would you give to coaches interested in implementing turf?
“The advice I’d give to coaches trying to implement a free weight open weight room is that educational piece. I tell my students all the time. My goal for you in strength one, is that you’ll never have to hire a personal trainer ever. I’m going to teach you all the movement patterns, all the sets and reps and volume schemes. I’m going to teach you all of that so that you can come in here and go through the movements. And I think that’s what separates educators in the fact that we’re doing this in the phys. ed classes is that we’re teaching skills. Hands on skills.
We’re coaching and teaching all of these kids and machines don’t necessarily allow you to teach moving parts. You know you can sit down, grab, pull, pedal but with what we’re doing with movement based education we can teach these kids skills and we can also differentiate and kids that have excelled or have been in these classes before can move up and do some more advanced movements whereas some of our beginners can start out at the basics and work their way up hopefully towards some of those high end things. So it comes back to that educational piece that we want to teach kids how to move and move well.”
Has this layout changed athletes perception of the weight room?
“You know what we’ve really worked on here is the movements and the training. its not about how much weight anybody lifts at one given time. It’s about how you can just get stronger from where you’re at. And I know that the facility has helped out with a lot of our female athletes and some of our female coaches as well. They see that this is more of a strength and conditioning program as opposed to maybe what they might have thought was a weight lifting club. Not that it was, but when your room is just weights and racks, sometimes it’s hard to envision how that’s going to relay out and work in your sport. But it’s really helped out with the female athletes. They’re certainly not intimidated to come into this room and they’ve excelled.”
Johnson is a graduate of Normandale Community College, Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota, playing football at both NCC and Augsburg. “RJ” teaches physical education at Wayzata High School and is the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for Wayzata Public Schools, a position he began in 2000. Wayzata Athletics have captured 52 team state titles in histenure; Johnson works directly with the three-time state champion football program as Director of Operations and Player Development. He is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist as well as a Registered Strength and Conditioning Specialist – both certifications with Distinction and is the Minnesota NSCA State Director. NSCA awards include Minnesota High School Strength and Conditioning Professional of the Year 2010; State Director of the Year 2013; Strength of America Award 2015; and 2017 National High School Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year. In 2017 he became a founding Board Member of the National High School Strength Coaches Association (NHSSCA); and serves as a Regional Director for the organization. A former volunteer firefighter, he also received an Award of Merit from the Minnesota Department of Health and Safety for participation in a lifesaving CPR/AED effort to revive a player that suffered sudden cardiac arrest while at practice. Johnson is a frequent clinician, speaker, author and his Wayzata Trojan Power program has been visited by over 50 other high school and small college programs. He also volunteered his time in the Rockford School District where he and his wife and four children reside by serving as the Rockford Area Youth Athletic Association President and Youth Football Director.