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Inclusive and Equitable Training Options - Are Your Fitness Facilities Meeting the Need?

In high schools and colleges all across the country, training athletes of all types is a year-round commonality. What has been spotlighted recently, is that the training facilities for different types of athletes (specifically different genders of athletes) might not share the same commonality.

Male and female programs, even for the same sport, often have different coaches, but is the training divide so significant that the athletes can’t share the same facilities? Physically, are male and female bodies and muscle systems so different that the equipment needs to be specialized for each? Top athletic trainers and sports performance experts say no, but facilities need to be equipped with a wider range of equipment options to accommodate both genders with equal access.

The debate over differences in male and female training options was thrust into the national spotlight during last month's March Madness tournament when the inequity in training equipment went viral on social media. The male and female teams were in different cities for their championship games, but the disproportionate treatment between the fully-equipped men’s strength training facility and the women’s paltry stack of mats and single dumbbell rack called the equity issue into question.

When the tournament needed to create a top-quality, championship weight room for women’s college basketball teams to train during and throughout the biggest competition of the year, and they needed it FAST -- Advanced Exercise and its San Antonio teams helped make it happen. Not an ideal situation, with only 24 hours to quickly pull a solution together, but it speaks to the larger issue of making sure that both male and female athletes have equitable facilities and equipment.

So, what are the differences in necessary training equipment to meet both male and female athletic training needs?

“There are only a handful of things to adjust, as females have slightly larger hips, which can cause destabilization, making female athletes more susceptible to knee injuries,” says Erich Priest, Director of Development for Elite Speed Sports Performance at the UCHealth Steadman Hawkins Clinic south of Denver, Colorado. A performance specialist for the last seven years, Priest is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) who works extensively with high school and college male and female athletes, so he knows first hand the training differences.

“Males and females train very similarly,” added Priest. “The biggest thing is giving females the same accessibility to train at the same intensity as male athletes, using the same equipment. Inequity is an issue in many schools and training locations. Females often out-train the guys, but they sometimes don’t enjoy the same opportunities to train.” The March Madness equipment disparity pointed that out, rather painfully, on a national scale.

Ensuring that your fitness facilities can serve the needs of all athletes is relatively simple. You need an array of dumbbells at lighter weights for a start, as female tennis players train with lighter weights than male football players. Olympic bars too, come in smaller grip sizes and weights to better fit female athletes’ hands and upper body tolerances. Priest points out that “Thirty-five pound Olympic training bars make a difference for female athletes, so that they can lift with a grip that fits their hands. It’s safer and more effective with the right training tools. Facilities also need smaller plate weights – more sets of 10s.”

Beyond the right types of equipment, quantity matters so that equipment is available for female athletes to train simultaneously with male athletes. Being able to have enough racks to do squats, power lifting exercises, etc. when programs are training at the same time is important.

Other than female-friendly weights and bars, the majority of the strength training equipment is exactly the same for training male and female athletes. Take the Hammer Strength Glute Drive, one of the most popular strength-training equipment pieces for muscle. Stability, and power development – its equally effective for both male and female athletes, as glute development has been shown to drive performance throughout the body. “Glute and hip development can help drive performance of everything else,” says Priest. “It addresses the issue of knee stabilization and injury prevention, which translates into speed, agility and overall better physical performance.”

Movement-specific equipment has become much more sophisticated over the years, mimicking the movements that athletes perform on the field/court, just focusing on those movements, and strengthening those movements in the weight room, which lends to performance when you take that work out of the weight room and put it back out on the field.

Athletic training programs are responsible for ensuring that the right training equipment is both available and appropriate for all athletes to use, and equipment specialists can help programs explore product that is versatile for both male and female programs to make school and campus weight rooms more inclusive.

“We work with dozens of high schools and colleges that may have initially designed their athletic training facilities for the football team, but who are now looking at inclusivity and equity issues to make sure that all athletes have equal opportunity to be their best in competition,” said Bruce Schlagel, Vice President of Sales for Advanced Exercise. “We’re helping in the only way we can, by trying to get the necessary equipment into schools.”

To help do its part, Advanced Exercise is running a special on all Troy Barbell products until the end of May so that schools can purchase any dumbbells, plates, bumpers and bars they need to better equip their weight rooms. This 30% discount cannot be added to other offers, though it gives clients the lowest price on these commonly needed items. Order by May 14th to maximize savings, taking advantage of 2020 pricing before the new 2021 pricing goes into effect. Just reference code AE+TITLE9 to get this 30% discount from your local Advanced Exercise sales consultant.

It seems obvious that male and female athletes should have equal opportunity and access, especially if the solution is relatively painless. According to Priest, changes in mind-set around how to train athletes, regardless of gender, is a driving force. “Higher level buy-in is the biggest difference,” he says. “We are starting to see more strength coaches working with programs and teams in schools, who know more about how different athletes train to be at their best. Schools are utilizing the tools and equipment available, applying newer training options, and seeing the results. It’s not just jumping jacks and body weights anymore.”

The Advanced Exercise team is dedicated to helping athletics performance programs not only provide equitable training options for all athletes to train at the top of their game, but also to do it safely and within today’s public health guidelines. With strong expertise in designing and equipping fitness spaces for any and all interests, Advanced Exercise consultants can help redo the flow and spacing in your fitness facilities and provide sanitization options to keep training safer and public health risks minimized, alongside offering a full range of training equipment options to keep athletes and programs moving in the right direction.

About Advanced Exercise
Founded in 1986, Advanced Exercise is a leading fitness equipment and facility design resource, combining more than 30 years of design expertise with access to top fitness, wellness and recreation equipment brands to help clients create fitness experiences specific to the needs of their distinct communities. Advanced Exercise fitness consultants work with clients to maximize the use of available space in any facility, sourcing the best new or used equipment solutions for diverse ranges of fitness amenity end users. For more information on fitness equipment and facility design services, visit or call 800-520-1112 to connect with one of Advanced Exercise’s experts.

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