Knowledge & Advice Gym Owners Advice

How to Create a School Gym

How to Create a School Gym

The fitness industry is constantly evolving, this includes the education sector and school gyms. There is an ever-present need to keep students and staff engaged but strict budgets, varying user ages, and limited accessibility during term time can make it difficult to apply the necessary changes required to make a good school gym a great school gym. 

Whether you're building a new facility or are simply improving an existing layout, we know it can be difficult to get every aspect of the project right and keep your vision on track. We will look at assessing current gym equipment, budget planning, servicing needs, and the trends we are seeing on the horizon.  

By the end of this article, we aim to provide you with all the tools you could need to set up or refurbish your school gym. If you have a specific query about a school gym then get in touch with our sales team today. 


School Gym


The Big Picture

Whether you are starting from scratch or are making small improvements to an existing facility, have a clear result in mind. A clear vision will help you break up the project into smaller, bite-sized pieces to keep it moving forward.

To create a vision, consider all elements currently influencing the project. Focus points will be unique to each facility, so to help you move from your current situation to the ideal end scenario, we have included some questions to help you map out where you want to go.

  • What type of equipment does the school/university currently have?
  • What condition is this equipment in (how soon will it require replacing?)
  • What size of space are you working with?
  • What budget size do you have at your disposal?
  • What type of training would you like to offer the students?
  • What age range do the users fall into,
  • Does age range impact the type of equipment you are looking to install?
  • How many users does the space need to accommodate at once, and how often is it used?
  • What time restrictions apply to the project? (school holidays, financial year end, etc)


Kenilworth Academy Gym Wide Shot


Assessing Current Gym Equipment

The first step in creating a great school gym is to assess the current equipment available at the school. If existing equipment was purchased within the past three years, and has received regular service visits, alongside routine maintenance, the equipment will probably be good for another few years. This is assuming the latest report provided by your service provider declares the equipment safe to use.


Equipment Lifespan

As equipment starts to age, it becomes more expensive to run. This is especially true for motorised equipment and larger pieces of kit as warranties run out against crucial parts which cost a lot of money to replace. Keep this in mind when plotting the lifespan of the kit. 


Prioritise Replacements

Next, we recommend prioritising equipment replacements based on pieces that won't serve their purpose for much longer. Depending on the style of school gym you're working towards, you might choose not to replace equipment like-for-like.

If keeping a treadmill is no longer an option, why not replace it with a curved self-powered alternative such as a Curved Treadmill. If you have the space, you could even offer students a sprint track with a central turf for sled work.


Plan Ahead

Finally, if you are setting up a new school gym from scratch, keeping existing equipment may not be an option for you. Instead, keep in mind the expected lifespan of any equipment you are considering. Students are not the most careful members in the world, so make sure you fill the space with durable equipment and arrange for regular service visits to keep it in top condition.



School Gym Size

Physical space limitations will play a huge role in the development of your PE department. When sizing up a facility, don't just consider the width and length of the space, but height as well.

Many schools are now choosing to include racks and rigs in their gym halls to support an increased demand for weightlifting as part of a general PE curriculum. To see this in action visit our case study at Dollar Academy

If you are working with a rectangular space, consider installing a sprint track along the length of the room, or wall-mounted suspension training systems to offer students the ability to experience functional training methods.

Should you be working with a generous space, we recommend approaching the design and layout of the gym the same way a commercial fitness facility would. This means creating easily identifiable zones for each type of training. This immediately lends itself to a "bite-sized" refurbishment approach, meaning you can tackle the project one zone at a time.


school gym 3


Budget Planning

We find that most education clients receive their funding from one of several sources including Grants & Awards, councils, private funding, or from leasing. A key consideration for you will be staying within budget. Where Origin can help, is ensuring you maximise what you have available.

If you are unsure of how to secure the budget you need for your school gym, suppliers can often provide guidance, helping you find the right funding or leasing provider for you.

Once you know where your budget comes from, you’ll want to divide it into sections. Creating “bite-sized” refurbishment projects not only gives you a structured plan – it can also help you when the financial year ends and your school’s budget experiences some underspend.

Having several smaller projects in your back pocket, ready to action, may just give your proposal an edge over other departments looking to get their hands on any extra finances. Initially, most of your budget will be dedicated to the physical elements of your gym - meaning the equipment and flooring

After the physical elements of the gym have been established, you should shift your focus on to the other, less obvious but equally important, details such as training and maintenance.



Service and Maintenance

With school gyms, it is particularly important to invest in the aftercare of gym equipment. These spaces are used by young people, who frequently have a more reckless attitude towards the equipment they use. Making sure your equipment gets properly looked after is vital in this environment.

Ask your equipment supplier about a preventative maintenance contract, and make sure to schedule these visits well in advance. The summer holidays tend to be a popular season for school gyms to get their equipment serviced. Leave time between the service visit and pupils coming back, to allow for a return visit to take care of any urgent repairs.


commercial grade fitness equipment service


Training Support

Budget planning does not only involve yearly services and maintenance of the equipment. It includes training staff to be knowledgeable on how to use and teach with the new pieces in your gym. A truly exceptional school gym offers more than just great equipment - it's the entire package surrounding the exercises that will allow pupils to learn and enjoy their training.

While you may have chosen to create a new functional training or weight-lifting zone in your facility, both students and staff will need to be properly inducted on how to use the equipment. This makes sure you get the most out of new equipment whilst staying within the guidelines of health and safety. 


fitness training and support


The Trends

While it is good to stay on trend and use the latest fitness techniques, always keep in mind the age ranges of the pupils. If you are dealing with young children as well as near adults, make sure to include stretch areas and lightweight accessories. Remember to plan sufficient storage solutions, so that you can create a safe and clutter-free environment.


Functional Training

As training methods evolve, we've seen a general shift in the type of facilities we are asked to design. In the past few years, we've witnessed a pull towards functional training-style gyms, which are not only very flexible spaces but also incredibly budget-friendly.

The education sector follows these same trends, offering students and staff an exceptional gym experience. This means that we are seeing many schools and universities investing in more free weights, lifting racks, platforms, functional training rigs, and accessories


Traditional Gyms

This is not to say that there is no place for traditional fitness equipment. Due to age restrictions, cardiovascular machines, and fixed resistance equipment can be a safer and more accessible alternative to the functional and free-weight equivalents.

Most commonly though, we find that due to the gradual nature of gym refurbishments in the education sector, fitness suites are often mixed, offering the best of both worlds.


school gym 5



Taking on a large project such as the establishment or refurbishment of a school gym is no small task. We hope that the points above have given you some actionable advice to start planning your fitness project this year. 

However, the best guidance comes from those who have done it before, which is why we would recommend you approach one of our experts to receive tailored advice on your unique project. Get in touch today.

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