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Discover the Power of Play

DISCOVER THE POWER OF PLAY

Mike Daley CPT, CPPS
Head Strength Coach
Newell Strength

BOOM! Like a bat out of hell I took off.

Maximum force is being imposed into the grass through my right leg; ankle extension, knee extension, hip extension – I am generating every last watt of power possible. I continue accelerating toward an apparent opening ahead, reaching maximum speed in the process. My legs are now in a cyclical rhythm, propelling me farther and farther from my attacker and closer to freedom.

I swiftly approach the opening … It’s a dead end.

Without thinking, I begin to decelerate. My center of gravity quickly lowers and my feet begin to chop rapidly until I can safely stop, plant, and adapt (plan my next escape).

TAG – I’m it.

Little Jimmy just tagged 8-year old me. Game on.

THE POWER OF PLAY

Gone are the days of unorganized sports. Early sport specialization is the downfall of today’s youth. Meeting up with friends to play tag/manhunt, pick-up basketball until mom calls you in for supper, the garbage can strike zone for stick ball – All activities of the past.

But, why?

“If my kid wants to have a future in, (Insert Sport Here), he/she MUST begin high level sport-specific training immediately!”

Here’s the TRUTH…

All sports are played in a chaotic environment. No, I am not referring to crazy parents screaming at their kid. I am referring to not knowing what stimulus is going to be thrown your way.

Consider the following:

* A football safety tracking down a running back to make a tackle.
* A center fielder running down a fly ball to make a catch.
* A goalie making a diving stop to win a game.
* 8 year-old me avoiding Little Jimmy’s tag.

All four scenarios task an athlete with reacting to a stimulus they cannot predict (a chaotic environment) and seamlessly moving their body through space.

There is no way to predict the future, but there is a way to set athletes up for success via sound fundamental movement patterns and exposure.

LET THEM PLAY!

For a young athlete to stand out, the deciding factor will be their ability to seamlessly combine fundamental movements through space. Rather than organized sport, expose your athletes to chaotic environments and let them learn how to move.

Fundamental movement patterns begin with variations of crawling, walking, and running and evolve to squats, hinges, pushes, pulls, and carries. The ability to execute these tasks fall under one of four categories:

1. Unconscious Incompetence – You don’t know any better, or what is correct.
2. Conscious Incompetence – You know you can do it, but don’t know how to do it.
3. Conscious Competence – You know you can do it, but have to think about doing it.
4. Unconscious Competence – You can accomplish the task, without thinking about it.

Take walking as an example. When you were a baby you had no thought of walking. You were perfectly content with the ability to crawl, until you became aware of walking (#2). You became conscious of what walking is, but had no idea how to execute that movement. Once you reached a certain amount of exposure to walking, you began taking your first steps. While taking those steps, you had to focus on every movement to ensure you didn’t fall (#3). Today, walking is a non-event. There is primarily no thought put into executing the skill of walking and you excel at it through years of practice (#4). The more you do something, the better chance you have at mastery.

The more situations kids can be exposed to, the more adaptable they will become in chaotic environments. A one-on-one basketball lesson will not elicit the same benefit as a pick-up game in the backyard. Is there a benefit? Yes, of course, but let’s look at the bigger picture for YOUTH development. Learning a crossover move through a cone and driving in for a lay-up looks GREAT to a parent. But what happens when reality sets in? The cone (player) has a mind of its own, a mind that is dead-set on keeping you from making that crossover move and scoring that basket.

Bring back unorganized sports.
Empower kids to create their own games.
Let kids witness The Power of Play!

 

Nenaber, B Differences in Training

DIFFERENCES IN THE TRAINING OF COMPETITIVE OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTERS AND ATHLETES IN SPORT
By Brett Nenaber MS, SCCC, USAW

The goal of any athlete’s training program is to help them realize their full potential in the sport they compete in. Before we as strength coaches can design a program for an athlete we must understand the demands of the sport that they play.
How do they move?
What demands are place on the athlete’s body?
What are the qualities that are necessary for success?
These are questions that need to be asked before we can design a functional training program that has the primary goal of enhancing performance. Fundamental qualities such as strength, speed, and power are found to be common essential qualities needed for success in almost all sports (aside from endurance sports). This statement holds true for both competitive Olympic weightlifters and any other sport athlete who is competing on a court or field. Even though these two different types of athletes are striving to improve on the same qualities, the demands of competition vary greatly between the two and so must their training programs. This article will highlight the necessary differences in exercise selection and program structure for both a competitive Olympic weightlifter and a sport athlete and will close by providing an example of a typical training session for each of these types of athletes to show how these differences can be put into application.

The implementation of the Olympic lifts (Snatch, Clean, Jerk, and their variations) into any athlete’s strength program provides a multitude of beneficial adaptations. First and foremost, the use of the Olympic lifts is paramount in the development of explosive power. There are no better movements that can be performed in the weight room for an athlete who is looking to improve their power output. On top of this, an athlete who is coached to perform these lifts correctly will also see dramatic increases in postural strength, flexibility, range of motion, as well as overall body control and athleticism. With all of the benefits that the athlete receives from training the Olympic lifts that have a direct transfer to the field of play, it understandable why so many strength coaches choose to use them as a staple of their programming. That being said, these lifts are just a part of the overall program that is necessary for the development and injury prevention of an athlete who is going to compete in a sport other than weightlifting. It is too often a common occurrence for strength coaches to fall into the trap of solely revolving their programs around the training of these lifts, leaving vital holes in the development of the sport athlete.

The exercise selection within the training program of a competitive weightlifter and a sport athlete must take into account the demands placed on the athlete in competition. The main difference lies in the use of unilateral and multi-plainer movements. In competition, a weightlifter is only performing bilateral movements using a barbell. This eliminates the functional need for a weightlifter to train using unilateral and multi-plainer movements. Most all assistance exercises that a weightlifter will perform in training will be done in place, on two feet, and using a barbell unless rehabbing an injury or working on a specific deficiency. The athlete who’s sport takes place on a court or field has to be able to move, react, balance, and generate force with each limb independently. This necessitates a difference in exercise pools for the development of the programs. Although it is beneficial for a sport athlete to use many of the same exercises that would be found in the exercise pool for an Olympic weightlifter, a sport athlete’s training program must also utilize unilateral, multi-plainer, as well as body weight movements to increase single leg/arm strength, core stability, and functionality. The goal of the sport athlete’s training program is not just to increase strength, but to increase functional strength. The key factor is that the training for the sport athlete must remain functional for the sport that they are competing in. This demands a multifaceted program that can incorporate all aspects of training, combining unilateral, bilateral, and multi-plainer movements.

In a typical 3 day a week, total body training session for a sport athlete, as is found in the Tier System designed by Coach Joe Kenn, the athlete will perform a total body lift (typically an Olympic variation), a lower body lift, and an upper body lift within the first three tiers of the workout where the order and emphasis of the program will rotate throughout the week. Tier 1 is comprised of the priority movement emphasis of the session followed by Tier 2 being a major movement emphasis and Tier 3 being the minor movement emphasis. The typical rotation of the priority emphasis of the program throughout the week is as follows:

With Tier 1 being the priority movement emphasis of the day this is typically programmed as a foundational bilateral exercise. Tier 1 is then followed by a major assistance and supplemental exercise in Tiers 2 and 3 where unilateral and hybrid type movements can be performed within their respective movement categories. Tier 4 and 5 of the program will incorporate additional supplementary lifts which correspond respectively to the movement categories found in Tiers 1 and 2 of the day’s session. It is important to keep in mind that the exercise chosen in Tiers 4 and 5 should complement the movements performed in Tiers 1 and 2. This can be accomplished by choosing exercises that are performed in a different plain of movement and perhaps also alternating a bilateral movement from an earlier tier with a unilateral movement in the later tiers or vice versa. Tiers four and five are then followed by a posterior chain movement, posterior shoulder movement, and neck work to round out a well-balanced training session that covers all aspects necessary for a sport athlete’s athletic development. Throughout these tiers the coach must utilize bilateral, unilateral, and multi-plainer movements in the design of the program to maintain functionality with the underlying goal of enhancing the athlete’s competitive abilities as was discussed previously.

Within the program for a sport athlete it is optimal to combo the main movements of the first three tiers (typically at least through the warm up sets) with supplemental, movement specific exercises. To completely cover this aspect of the training program as in depth as is necessary it would require a whole other topic for an article, but in the example program provided you will see just one idea of how this can be accomplished. Adding these supplemental exercises to the main tiers of the training program is a great way to fit in movements that may focus on an athlete’s specific area of weakness or general “prehab” exercises that typically focus on hip and shoulder mobility/strength. This can also be a great opportunity to fit functional core work into the athletes program where the focus should be on flexion/anti-flexion, extension/anti-extension, and rotational/anti-rotational strength and stability to maintain functionality. Combining these movements will also keep the athletes constantly moving and working in between sets which generate a higher work capacity in your sport athletes and will help you as a strength coach make the most out of the limited time that you have to train them.

A typical “full training” session for an Olympic weightlifter will usually consist of a snatch variation, a clean and jerk variation, a pull variation, a squat variation (the order may vary depending on the intent of the day) and an occasional assistance exercise. All accessory exercises that are selected to be used in an Olympic weightlifters training program will consist of bilateral movements with the goal of enhancing the athlete’s weaknesses to improve either their snatch or clean and jerk. These assistance exercises can be used to improve both technique and strength (i.e. muscle snatches, clean grip snatches, overhead squats, drop snatches, snatch balances, deadlifts, RDLs, good mornings, lift offs, overhead presses, push presses, jerk recoveries, lifts with no hook, lifts with no movement of the feet, lifts from alternate positions, complexes, and plyometrics, just to name a few) all with the intent of improving a specific aspect of the respective lift. The more advanced the weightlifter is the less variation in the lifts and assistance exercises there will be, where as a lower level weightlifter will use a larger assistance exercise pool that focus on improving the classical lifts and may only perform a full snatch and full clean and jerk 2-3 times a week. This concept should be the opposite for a sport athlete. The younger the training age of the sport athlete the less variation in exercise selection is needed. They must stick to the fundamentals of your program until they have them perfected and have created the strength base that is necessary for them to move on to the next stage of their development. As the sport athlete begins to reach closer to their genetic ceiling there becomes a greater need for variation in the program so that they do not become stagnant in their progress.

For example if you are the strength coach for a college football team and have fourth year linebacker who is a 600lbs squatter, will getting him to squat 605 make him a better football player? Sometimes when working with a sport athlete we need to ask ourselves as strength coaches “How strong is strong enough?” In this example we now may need to look for other methods of training to continue to enhance this athlete’s productivity on the field while keeping them healthy, and it is our job as their strength coach to determine exactly what that athlete may need. With a competitive weightlifter there is no such thing as strong enough. Even the smallest increase in their strength levels may lead to a one kilo PR in either of the classical lifts, this could be the difference between bringing home the gold or silver in competition.

The differences in performance needs as well as the culmination of demands placed upon these two types of athletes lead to the necessary differences in their training program structure. The weightlifter’s program is ultimately designed with one goal in mind, to make the athlete a better weightlifter. The competitive weightlifter’s training sessions are essentially their “practice” sessions for the sport they compete in. Because of this it is common for a weightlifter to train up to 8 or 9 times in a week which would include 2-3 double days. Often times the double days are broken up by performing strength movements such as squats and presses along with clean/snatch pulls or power cleans/snatches in the am session followed by a pm session consisting of full snatches and clean and jerks and possibly an assistance exercise or additional strength movement. The ability to break up a high volume training day into two sessions will put less stress on the weightlifter’s body than having one large session and also allows for different points of emphasis in each session. In the AM session the focus is on increasing strength and speed, where as in the PM session the focus is on the competition lifts themselves. It can almost be thought of as a training session in the morning and a “practice” in the afternoon, very similar to the schedule of a training day for any other sport athlete. The weightlifter has the ability to train this way because they have no other outside physical stressors placed on the body, which is hardly ever the case when training a sport athlete.

The sport athlete’s training program must be structured to balance all of the physical demands placed on their body that are necessary to prepare them to for their sport (i.e. conditioning, speed work, mat drills, 7 on 7) or by the participation in their sport its self (i.e. practice and games). These outside physical demands may only allow the sport athlete to be able to get into the weight room to train 2-4 times a week, depending on the time of year, without running the risk of overtraining and possible injury. Do to these factors the structure of the sport athlete’s training program will vary greatly from the competitive weightlifter’s. However you as a strength coach decide to set up your training program for a sport athlete it must take into account all of the other physical demands that are being placed upon their bodies.

Example Programs:
The following are two example single session training programs for both a competitive Olympic weightlifter and a sport athlete. First, some context for the reader on the following programs:
The first program is the competitive weightlifters program. It is designed for a high level female athlete who is nationally ranked in the top 10 in the 58k weight class and is prepping for a national competition
The second program is the sport athlete’s program (Warm Up Circuit followed by Session T). It is designed for a high school football team who is in the first session of their summer training program which has to be designed around available equipment and the time constraints placed upon each lift group. Because the high school football team had multiple lifts groups that needed to get through the workout in a very short amount of time, it is designed so that one group would start the programmed warm up while the previous group is finishing up their work on the platform and beginning to transfer to tier three of their work out before the next group rotates in. This also generated the need to implement most of their core work into the warm up circuit instead of combining it within the tiers to create a faster flow once they began the main session of the work out.
As you are looking over the programs notice the differences in exercise selection and program structure as they are applied into the two respective programs while keeping the underlying goal of helping these two different types of athlete to be able to realize their full potential in the sport they compete in.
EXAMPLE – OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING PROGRAM

EXAMPLE – HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM’S WARM UP CIRCUIT:
PRIOR TO SESSION T

Whole group starts warm up together with the “quick feet” drill of the day. The purpose of this drill is to generate increased levels of blood flow, increase body temperature, and help stimulate activation of the central nervous system.
The lift group is then broke into 3 smaller groups, with one group starting at each station (Core, Hip Mobility, and Med Ball). The movement emphasis at the Core and Med Ball stations will rotate throughout the week, as you can see in this training session the emphasis is on flexion and rotational strength/power.
Each station will take about 2-3 minutes with an emphasis on keeping the athletes constantly moving and working. Following the warm up circuit the athletes will head to their platforms to complete their bar complex and start Tier 1.
EXAMPLE – HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM’S TRAINING SESSION T

How to Train the Athlete Who Trains Everywhere

How to Train the Athlete Who Trains Everywhere
 
Rashad Roberts, MS
 
Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Pine Crest School
I recently attended a district meeting with other high school coaches for a “round-table” so-to-speak, where we were able to ask industry-related questions to others in our field.  The question that took center stage was, “how should we lift an athlete that plays on one or more school teams, trains outside of school, and may play for a club team as well?” In an increasingly competitive culture, this type of athlete has become the rule as opposed to the exception.
In my transition from coaching on a professional level, to coaching at a high-school level, this has been a new obstacle for me to navigate.  At a professional level; the athlete plays one sport, and trains with the teams coaching staff for the majority of the year.  This allows for centralized training practices and a more focused regimented program.  At the high-school level; athletes play multiple sports, train with multiple outside sources, and have not had the opportunity to utilize a strength and conditioning program until recently.  Below is a list of ideas that I put together and have implemented when programming for this type of high-school athlete:
* MEET WITH COACHES – With an athlete involved in various sports throughout the year, maintaining contact with their coaches will help you gain insight into the goals and vision that the coach has for the athlete/team.  If strength training is a relatively new program for your school, as it was for mine, this will also help facilitate a relationship with the other coaches who may feel threatened or are skeptical of what you are able to bring to the athletic program.  It will be much easier for the athlete to progress when you are on the same page as the coaches.
* COLLECT ANNUAL/QUARTERLY CALENDARS – Annual calendars are a great tool to use when outlining your schedule.  They include holidays and testing days that are in place helping you to see what days to work around.
* HAVE A VISION – It is important to keep your audience in mind when communicating this vision.  Your expertise will speak for itself when getting other coaches “on-board”, but it is always easier to communicate and execute a vision that is well-planned.
* SET GOALS – With a vision in place, set realistic goals for weight room accomplishments and communicate these with the athlete.
* DETERMINE WHAT OTHER TEAMS AND TRAINING THE ATHLETE PARTICIPATES – This allows you to supplement the other training and exercises with your own program.
* MAKE IT APPEALING TO THE ATHLETES – It is your goal to have the athlete/team buy into your program. If it’s not appealing to them, they will not be motivated to achieve their potential.
* HAVE TEAM AND INDIVIDUAL AWARDS – Awards are a great incentive to get athletes going and tend to encourage better effort and performance.  It will also provide a platform for healthy competition among fellow-teammates which may motivate each of them to work harder.
   While this list is not exhaustive, it has helped me navigate the new hurdle that high-school coaching has presented me, and will hopefully provide you with the same.  It is not until your program is set and the cycles have begun, that our jobs have too.   It will be at this juncture that the work you have put in will take shape and you will be able to determine how well your program fits your goals.  Big House (Joe Kenn) said it best, “We live in the age of REGURGITATION from books; put that knowledge into PRACTICE then tell me what you THINK.”

Tolzman, Chris The Versatility of the Tier System

The Versatility of the Tier System

Chris Tolzman

Sports Performance Coach

Georgetown University

Every so often, in every field, an idea comes around and makes an immediate impact on the masses.  Compensatory Acceleration Training, Joint By Joint Approach, Linear Periodization, Triphasic Training, Conjugated Periodization have all contributed to the advancement of strength and conditioning protocols.  I believe that the development of the Tier System is one of these impactful ideas that has made a huge impact on our field and more particularly, on my own coaching philosophy.

At the beginning of my professional career, I utilized the template (fig. 1) that Mike Boyle has popularized in his famous book Functional Training for All Sports.  To this day the template is still used by many coaches throughout the nation.  I had much success using Boyle’s template, however I felt overly committed to the exercise categories and wanted more freedom which led me to venture out and find other methods to structure training.  Enter The Coach’s Strength Training Playbook by Coach Joe Kenn.

 

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4
Olympic Lift Olympic Lift Olympic Lift Olympic Lift
Lower Body Push + Upper Body Pull Upper Body Push + Lower Body Pull Lower Body Push + Upper Body Pull Upper Body Push + Lower Body Pull
Single-Leg Lower Push + Upper Body Pull Upper Body Push + Lower Body Pull Single-Leg Lower Push + Upper Body Pull Upper Body Push + Lower Body Pull

 

Fig. 1 Mike Boyle Training Template

Coach Kenn’s book really opened my eyes into what the possibilities were when it came to programming.  Needless to say, once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.  Every idea not only made sense but there was a valid explanation as to why Coach Kenn chose to do it that way.  From that day forward my thoughts about programming were changed forever.

Fast forward 6 years, I am currently a Sports Performance Coach at Georgetown University with previous experience at American University as an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach.  Those thoughts and ideas that were presented in Coach Kenn’s book are still present in my athletes training.  To this very day, I still refer back to Coach’s Strength Training Playbook and Push, Jump, Punch for programming guidance.  I believe the true beauty of the Tier System is its versatility to be utilized in whatever situation or circumstances that you have in your work setting.

While at American University, I had my first opportunity to utilize the Tier System to its fullest extent.  The training ages of all the athletes were low, so my progression into a complete Tier System Template was a slow process starting from ground zero. This allowed the athletes to get used to the tempo and my expectations.  At the time, the protocol at American University was the traditional Olympic Lifts [Total Body] first, progressing to your strength lifts [Upper and Lower Body], finally moving to your auxiliary work.  I followed this protocol by taking moving all Total Body Lifts at the beginning of the workouts (fig. 2).

 

  Session T Session L Session U
Tier 1 Total Body [Priority] Total Body [Minor] Total Body [Major]
Tier 2 Lower Body [Major] Lower Body [Priority] Upper Body [Priority]
Tier 3 Upper Body [Minor] Upper Body [Major] Lower Body [Minor]
Tier 4 Total Body [Auxiliary] Lower Body [Auxiliary] Upper Body [Auxiliary]
Tier 5 Lower Body [Auxiliary] Upper Body [Auxiliary] Total Body [Auxiliary]

 

Fig. 2 Modified Tier Template

Coach Kenn’s Note:  On page 86 of the eBook, Athletic Based Strength Training – The Tier System, We introduce the coach to the Special Tier.  The Special Tier was use during our traditional conversion to power phases of the annual plan.  This was classified Tier 1A and was Total Body, which we started every session with after pre activity preparation.  In this phase the total body movement was generally a hybrid variation.  The hybrid always included the true total body movement first followed by part B which could have been a lower or upper body add on (snatch to overhead squat, hang clean to front squat, hang clean to press) or a secondary total body movement (clean to jerk, clean to push press)

The product of the program went very well with nearly 90% of all teams experiencing Personal Records during their Evaluation Period but the athletes experienced fatigued during their Lower Body and Upper Body Priority lifts from the Total Body exercises that preceded them.  Once fatigue set in, the athletes lacked technique and concentration towards their priority lift. This led to me using “The Template” that Coach Kenn presented in Coach’s Strength Training Playbook, which places the priority exercise of the day at the beginning of the session (fig.3). Immediately I began to see great efficiency with the athlete’s technique and concentration during our priority lifts.  I believe whole-heartedly that this was due to the fact that the athletes were fresh going into our priority lifts.

  Session T Session L Session U
Tier 1 Total Body [Priority] Lower Body [Priority] Upper Body [Priority]
Tier 2 Lower Body [Major] Upper Body [Major] Total Body [Major]
Tier 3 Upper Body [Minor] Total Body [Minor] Lower Body [Minor]
Tier 4 Total Body [Auxiliary] Lower Body [Auxiliary] Upper Body [Auxiliary]
Tier 5 Lower Body [Auxiliary] Upper Body [Auxiliary] Total Body [Auxiliary]

 

Fig. 3 Traditional Tier System Template

 

“The Template” is still being utilized to this day with all of the teams that I have direct responsibility for (Men’s Lacrosse, Men’s Soccer, Women’s Volleyball).  There are a couple ways that I manipulate “The Template” to suit both the sport coaches and my needs at the same time.  For instance, during the postseason our training becomes more restorative.  I single-out the Tier 1 exercises as our main priority lift as usual but Tiers 2-5 are performed in a circuit fashion (fig. 4).  In addition, Tiers 2-5 are exercises that are the least stressful on the body (i.e. bodyweight, machine, DB variations).  Also through the help of Coach Donnell Boucher and The Citadel staff, I’ve utilized what I consider “The Citadel Approach” which is a 3×3 with an auxiliary circuit at the end of the workout (fig. 5). This style of the tier system is utilized with teams who have a limited time frame to train (30-45 minutes).

  Session T Session L Session U
Tier 1 Total Body [Priority] Lower Body [Priority] Upper Body [Priority]]
Auxiliary Circuit x3-4 Rounds
Tier 2 Lower Body Upper Body Total Body
Tier 3 Upper Body Total Body Lower Body
Tier 4 Total Body Lower Body Upper Body
Tier 5 Lower Body Upper Body Total Body

 

Fig. 4 Traditional Tier System Template with Circuit Option

  Session T Session L Session U
Tier 1 Total Body [Priority] Lower Body [Priority] Upper Body [Priority]
Tier 2 Lower Body [Major] Upper Body [Major] Total Body [Major]
Tier 3 Upper Body [Minor] Total Body [Minor] Lower Body [Minor]
Auxiliary Circuit x2-3 Rounds
Tier 4 Total Body [Auxiliary] Lower Body [Auxiliary] Upper Body [Auxiliary]
Tier 5 Lower Body [Auxiliary] Upper Body [Auxiliary] Total Body [Auxiliary]
PC Posterior Chain [Straight] Posterior Chain [Bent] Posterior Chain [Straight]

 

Fig. 5 Traditional Tier System Model with “Citadel Approach”

 

Coach Kenn’s Note:  In early 2004 we started “Running the Hoop” [Circuit] with Tiers 4, 5, Neck, PC, PS at ASU.  In our upcoming Book, we will be discussing how we use the 5 Movement Tiers as “Session Specific Readiness” for the Big Three Tiers of the MAIN SESSION

 

These examples are just a few of the ways a coach can use the Tier System to their advantage and present situation.  Remember that nothing is set in stone and with the framework of the Tier System, a coach could apply the principles laid out in Coach’s Strength Training Playbook and see success.  The only limitations a coach will have with the Tier System, is their own imagination and creativity.

Roberts, Rashad Intro to Strength Training 9-28-13

Introduction to Strength Training for the Young Athlete

A Block Zero Model

Rashad Roberts, MS

Strength and Conditioning Director, Pine Crest School

Today, many high school strength coaches have been known to force training techniques through repetition when it comes to an athlete not being able to complete a lift. Either with proper or improper technique, repetitive movement with overexertion can become damaging, not only physically, but mentally as well. We as coaches must acknowledge and understand that coaching athlete’s with a training age of zero (Block Zero) “PATIENCE” is a key component to being able to get the best out of young athletes. There should be a realization that there is not a time limit on strength gains at this level, and there will not be any expectations of knowledge or experience.  The purpose of this article is to give strength and conditioning coaches another perspective of how to implement a Block Zero program into their methodology. Our goal is to give you an overview of how we progress our athletes when they enter our program.

 

From the middle school age (11-14 years old) through the high school development (ages 14-18 years old) the implementation of an introductory strength training program should not have massive variation. The vulnerability of a novice trainee obtaining an injury from improper technique is highly likely as repetition needs to be emphasized. The number one focus of strength training is injury prevention. I believe we sometimes miss that point. As you introduce athletes to strength training, “slow and steady” should be the training motto. Holistically speaking, core training and hip mobility are undervalued by many at this training stage and should be prioritized. Prior to any lifting, core stabilization is our primary focus. Whether we are emphasizing rotation or stabilization, core training is our number one focus during each training session.

 

Our first strength phase of Block Zero is bodyweight dominant until further instructed. The athlete’s duration of the bodyweight program will be determined by the coach. Athletic positioning is taught first followed by landing and jumping mechanics. Athletic positioning not only puts the kids at an advantage for sport but for advancing movements and lifts as well. Jumping not only teaches the athletes how to apply force through the ground, but it allows them to get an advantage on lifts that they will progress to such as deadlifts and squats.  As training progresses, your athletes may notice that many of the lifts may lead to or even coincide with the next.

 

Below is an example of a Block Zero Introductory 5 week cycle:

 

Week 1 = Introduction (Bodyweight) (Light Volume)

 

Introductory week (Week 1) – gives the coach a week to introduce the foundation     that will be instilled so the athletes can begin proper technique development. The basic fundamentals of athletic positioning and core training are taught.

 

Week 2 = Base (Bodyweight) (Light to Moderate Volume)

 

Base week 1 (Week 2) – opens the opportunity for utilizing external load by auto-regulation while volume may increase from the introductory week. As mentioned earlier, if the athlete is not ready to progress you have the ability to regulate what happens, it is easy to increase the volume without ramping the weight.

 

Week 3 = Base (Bodyweight-Lightweight) (Moderate Volume)

 

Base week 2 (Week 3) – typically, this is the first week where you will start to reap the benefits of your coaching. This is where you may see the athletes looking strong and stable in specific lifts and may even ask to utilize weights for these lifts. The volume is moderate, because this is a point in time where your progression needs to start advancing to allow proper strength gains.

 

Week 4 = Base to Load (Lightweight-Moderate Weight) (Moderate Volume)

 

Base to Load 1(Week 4) – Athletes may show the proper improvements to start advancing to different lifts. Although it is still listed as a load week, you may still have a few athletes that are not showing the proper strength gains needed to have an additional load, so we still keep a base week quantity with a moderate to high volume.

 

Week 5 = Base to Load (Moderate Weight) (Moderate to High Volume)

 

Base to Load 2 (Week 5) – the final week of the cycle. During this week, you as a coach have to make a decision if your athlete(s) are ready to transition into the next progression of lifts. You may have athletes who need an additional week of this introductory cycle.

 

NOTE: Remember; as a coach, we have the ultimate say so in auto-regulating the cycle. If an extra week of athletic positioning and bodyweight training is needed, keep the athlete at the proper week of the introductory cycle. PATIENCE!

 

As we reinvent the mindset of strength training, never allow pride to detour us from our ultimate goal in this field. Start with a positive goal in mind and stay true to it. Our number one priority should be our athletes and injury prevention, not trying to out lift our fellow strength coach’s athletes to prove a point. Large strength numbers are irrelevant at this level, especially if athletes are injured or ruined by improper technique because of our number chasing.

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