Seven years ago, the Moscow High School weight room lacked top-notch equipment and was a “chaotic mess,” said Phil Helbling, varsity football coach and a weight training teacher at the school.

Now, he said the facility rivals all others in the area.

“I think it’s a top-of-the-line facility,” Helbling said.

The room, which is on the northeast side of the school, is comprised of 11 squat racks with a platform and bench as a part of each and new dumbbells, medicine balls, auxiliary bands and rubber floor.

When Helbling, who attended MHS and the University of Idaho, arrived back on campus eight years ago, he said there were three benches, two squat racks, a few dumbbells and some machines in one room. The adjacent room contained two Dance Dance Revolution music video games, a couple stationary bikes, medicine balls and jump ropes.

The makeover project has been pieced together slowly the past seven years.

Helbling estimated the entire project cost more than $80,000. He said the Moscow School District received a large, three-year federal Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant to fund improvements to the district’s PE departments. Some of the money was designated to the weight room renovation.

“My vision was, I want to make it a state-of-the-art weight room,” Helbling said.

Knocking out the wall separating the two workout rooms was one of the first orders of business. Helbling said the two separate rooms was a “liability nightmare.”

“It got to the point where I would just shut this door and I’d have a class of 25 kids in this one room and it was a complete, chaotic mess,” he said.

Bringing in better equipment was the next focus.

Five of the platforms in front of the squat racks have a red Moscow “M” painted on them. The other six platforms and racks were purchased from the University of Idaho, which was trying to get rid of them, at a discounted rate.

The facility is more than visually appealing, though.

Helbling said it is more efficient and safer than before. He said he can even see improvement from his players on the football field, attributing much of that success to the weight room.

One of those players, Bennett Marsh, a senior offensive and defensive lineman, said when the racks were installed a couple years ago everyone was excited to use them.

“When we first got it in, it was like everybody wanted to go lift in the new weight room,” Marsh said.

Prior to the improvements, students were forced to wait to use certain equipment because there was not enough to go around, Helbling said.

While the space is still small, students can move more freely around the room. In fact, Helbling said he can take 33 students (three per squat rack) in his weight class now, whereas 25 used to be a stretch.

The squat racks are safer, too. Helbling said sometimes the former squat racks would tip after students racked the weights because they were not anchored to the floor.

Marsh said the old racks were bench racks, meaning there was no safety bar to keep a squatter from falling and the weight slamming on top of the person.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to

Recommended for you