A few weeks ago I went over how we, at Force Barbell, assess the high school athlete and many of the things we see during that initial assessment. If you missed that you can find the article here, or here.
This is the second part of the series, which I am going to cover how we program for the high school athlete. I could talk specifics and all day about programming, but I am going to try to generalize while giving you the most information that I can.
First, when writing a training program, we have to look at the needs of the athlete and individual. Like I mentioned in the previous article, most high school athletes that come to us have no core stability (can’t connect their upper and lower half), and have absolutely no general strength. So, what do these athletes need? We start by building a foundation of strength in some very basic movement patterns. Movement patterns that the athletes are going to be able to control, but still have to work to control, and positions that they will have no problem building strength in. The first initial month we never go under 5 reps, because the athlete needs a lot of exposure to reps to build the foundation of muscle mass and general strength. An example of a 1-day program of this would be: (italic = superset)
Deficit Rear Lunge – 5×5
DB Floor Press – 5×5
T-Bar Row – 4×10
KB Deadbug Hold – 4x:30
Glute-Ham Hyper – 4×8
HICT Step-Up – 10 min.
As you can see, not very complex movement patterns, a lot of reps, and a lot of strength and capacity being built. This is what we like to call our base program or our general athlete development program. Some might refer to this as a GPP (general physical preparedness) program. After an initial month of something like this we start to introduce the athlete to some barbell movements, such as a back squat, bench press, and deadlift, and add more complex movements so the athlete is always developing. We will only do this if the athlete is ready. If the athlete hasn’t shown that he can stay consistent, then he or she will repeat the same base program until they earn the right to move on to the next program. The number one thing in order to keep developing as an athlete is to STAY CONSISTENT.
What To Do Once Strength Is Developed?
Develop more strength. No, but really develop more strength. High school athletes can always get stronger. Like I mentioned before, they come in very underdeveloped and the main thing that is going to benefit them on the field of play is to simply get stronger. Move well, get stronger. As simple as that.
As mentioned above, once a base phase of general strength is complete we will expose the athlete to more complex movement patterns challenging them to get strong in different ways. To give you some perspective, we might follow-up the cycle above with a cycle that looks like this:
Back Squat – 5×5
RDL – 4×10
1 Arm DB Row – 5×5/side
Plank – 5x:45
DB OH Press – 4×10
Sled Drag – 10 min.
As you can tell, there is a bit more work involved in this cycle and the movement patterns have evolved just a bit more from the first cycle. Some athletes are strong enough and move well enough to begin right at this cycle as opposed to starting at the previous cycle. That is where having a standard assessment process is crucial. You never want to limit the athlete, but you also never want to push the athlete past his or her current capabilities.
Once this cycle is finished, more strength has been gained and the athlete is really starting to move efficiently. The following cycles would be focused on maintaining the muscular strength we have just developed, while starting to develop more neurological strength, or maximum strength. Major increases in force output is what we’re looking to develop here. The following cycles may look like this:
Back Squat – 10×3 OTM
RDL (alt. sumo/conventional) – 6×6
1 Arm DB Row – 4×10/side
Push-ups – 4×10
Sumo Paloff-Press – 3×10/side
Suitcase DL – 3×10/side
HICT Step-Up – 10 min. (w/vest + DB’s)
Back Squat – 12×1 OTM superset w/box jumps x2
Single-leg RDL – 5×5/side
Side Plank – 5x:30/side
T-Bar Row – 4×12
DB Rear Fly – 4×12
KB Deadbug – 4×12
As you can see, movement patterns have gotten slightly more complex with each cycle and/or the intensity/load has increased. That is mainly how we push the envelope with athletes. As you can see with the programs above, it is nothing fancy at all. Your mind might actually be blown right now with how un-fancy it really is. That is all athletes need. Just because they are doing a back squat doesn’t mean they are doing it right. Make them work to achieve good positions in that back squat, and now 60kg feels just as hard as that sloppy 100kg felt. That will have the most direct effect with their performance on the field. Do you want to be quad and low-back dominant on the field, or do you want to be hip dominant? Then coach them and make sure they are efficient through the hips when they are in the gym. That’s what is going through our minds when coaching and writing programs at Force Barbell. Positions first, then load, then more load, and a little more load. Always keeping in mind what characteristics we are developing through the different rep ranges and intensities.
By now, the athlete is a complete stud compared to when he first walked in the gym.
But Seriously, My Athletes Are Super Strong, Now What Do I Do?
The athletes back squat has quadrupled since he first came in, and he is moving so well that you don’t have to give him a single cue the whole time he is in the gym. Movement quality has sky rocketed, maximum strength has sky rocketed (usually because high school athletes aren’t subjected to that kind of load/intensity, or are too broken to try), and vertical jump has gone up mainly because maximum strength has gone up. The off-season has gone significantly well, but there is still a month or two left to develop the athlete. What more can you do?
#Hashtag #Velocity BABY. I get excited when talking about velocity, because everybody wants to move fast, and moving fast is cool. However, most people go about it wrong. They skip to the top of the pyramid and try to develop velocity right away before any sort of base of strength, movement, and conditioning has been built. This is usually when athletes start to break down, get hurt, and can’t make the training sustainable. When going about it in the right way (like we do at Force), and developing velocity once the athlete is strong enough and ready, it is FUN. It is fun, because they are finally moving how elite athletes should be moving.
How to develop velocity? I’m not going to get scientific, but there are many ways to develop the velocity end of the good ole force-velocity curve. Below is one way we do at Force. This is also a time we get a little bit more “sport-specific.” This cycle is usually written as the last of the off-season cycles, because the season is about to start. One might call this a “peaking” cycle.
Speed Back Squat – 15×2 OTM (60% of 1-RM) superset w/ box jumps x3
Glute-Ham Raise – 5×5
Med. Ball Shotput Rotation – 4×4/side
MB Slams (Around the World) – 4×4
KB Hip Rotations – 4×15/side
Plank – 4×1 min.
Running Program at End:
Lateral Bound – 4×2/side
Crossover Step – 4×2/side
Sprint, Backpedal, Sprint – 4×5 yards
Shuffle, Crossover Step + Sprint – 4×5 yards
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This is what a typical off-season looks like for many of the high school athletes we are lucky enough to train at Force. This is by no means a one-size fits all program. This is a general outline we follow and we will definitely go off course to meet certain athlete’s needs. This is the general guideline as to how we progress the athletes and what we are looking to develop at certain times of the off-season. As one might assume, we are looking for athletes to be operating at their peak speed and velocity when heading into the season. As you saw from above, it takes a while to get there, and we might not even have athletes do a speed and velocity program if they aren’t ready. Everyone wants to do speed and agility stuff, but very few are willing to develop an athlete to the point when an athlete is certainly ready for a “speed and agility” program. We may only get athletes for a two-month off-season, and we are going to spend that time working on developing what that athlete needs most. It’s really about making the most out of the time we get with the athletes. You can’t waste time, but you also have to develop an athlete with the appropriate progressions. Like I mentioned earlier in the article, “you never want to limit the athlete, but you also never want to push them past their current capabilities.”
I hope this has helped give some perspective to off-season training and what it is really about. I am not shy to give out any of our “secrets,” because in all reality they aren’t secrets at all. When it comes down to it, it’s not the program that matters, it’s how you IMPLEMENT the program that matters.
If you are looking to take your potential to the next level, email Justin@ForceBarbell to set up a free initial assessment and get started![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]