How to build a competitive weight room


Why compete in the weight room? To build a culture of accountability and hard work across your entire program.

Competition is what separates an “OK” weight room from an “elite” weight room. It is what brings out the absolute best in all of us and even more so for athletes.

Carlson_Ryan_MUG_RGBCompetition is where you find out a lot about an athlete, about his or her character. Competition is how you learn about your team. You know that everybody in that session truly got better, not only as an athlete but as a person. Some of the best training environments have been created in my weight rooms when we incorporate competition.

Make them compete in the weight room. Their desire to get better increases. Their motivation to train increases. The comradery of your team or weight room improves. Their desire to learn proper technique and new exercises improves.

The end result? Well-developed, stronger, faster, more explosive athletes who have learned how to compete, to push their teammates to become better and to enjoy the thrill of competition.

Do’s and don’ts of weight room competition

  • DO use caution. Sometimes in the heat of competition an athlete’s form can start to break down because all they are thinking about is winning. For that reason, certain exercises should not be used for a competition.
  • DON’T use complex exercises. For example, if you choose a max rep deadlift for your competition, you can definitely expect rounded backs and broken-down form. I would recommend avoiding complex exercises like this for competitions. Instead, pushing a prowler for a particular distance for time would be a much safer option.
  • DO hold regular competitions. At my weight room, we hold one competition per week, typically at the end of the training week. We incorporate circuits for time, strongman implements for either reps or time, farmer’s carries for distance, bodyweight conditioning circuits and tons of other fun stuff.
  • DO recognize winners. We post names on a leaderboard at the end of the workout. The athletes enjoy it.
  • DON’T forget to have fun. They are having such a good time competing with one another, they forget they are working out at a great intensity. And that’s the key.

You have to make your challenges not only tough and unique, but also fun. It is as simple as that: Choose exercises that are beneficial to the athlete’s goals and be creative with how to incorporate them.

So as a coach, how do you incorporate competitions into your program so your players have a true burning desire to get better every day? For more ideas, contact Sanford POWER.

Ryan Carlson, CSCS