When Athlete “Strength & Conditioning” Goes Wrong?


If you're a pitcher, do you need to run 2-3 miles after a game to "get rid of the lactic acid in your arm"?

If you're a shot putter / thrower, do you and the entire spring track team need a 5K warm up? Every Day?

If you're a freshman in high school and play Football, should you train the same as the upperclassmen and get tested on your 1 RM for the Squat, Bench and Clean?

Training doesn't need to be complicated but people are making it complicated simply by NOT using common sense and refusing to learn and evolve. As much as The Russians (Soviets) and eastern Europeans were credited with great training, I believe they were truly just thinking.

Yes. THINKING. What makes sense? What doesn't make sense? If I didn't have a brain and you told me that you're gonna send a shot putter out for a daily warm up of 2-3 miles I'd be able to say that just doesn't sound right.

Training MUST have a purpose.

This purpose must match what the athletes is ready for, aka training age / experience and what does this athlete NEED?

Technique is #1. The greater your technique, the better opportunity you have to get stronger. I often say that better technique IS better strength. Strength is Technique.

If you're a parent of an athlete, you should certainly be asking, Who is Training my Child?

Many mistakes I see with training athletes does not require a background in strength & conditioning.

I have long believed the phrase strength & conditioning is incomplete. I call myself a Strength & Performance Coach. Strength + Conditioning are only 2 pieces of the puzzle.

Strength and GPP tends to be the first thing I work with an athlete.

Conditioning? That tends to not be an issue when trained properly. Do I want to spend 20 minutes getting my Baseball team to go and run 2 or 3 miles or can I spend that time more wisely? Some Jumps, Trap Bar Deads, Carries, Band Work for Shoulders, "Core Work", etc.

All around "performance" is an umbrella with many facets, some of them are:

  • Coordination / Athleticism
  • Self Confidence (under many circumstances: physical or emotional stress, fatigue, during heavier strength exercises, in social circles, etc)
  • Power
  • Speed
  • Building Muscle

The basic issue I see is many different athletes, all with different needs and experiences getting lumped under one "training plan" - which I use this term loosely.

I think if we get back to common sense, we can help athletes more so. For example, if a wrestling team finishes practice, 75-90 minutes of drilling and live wrestling, they've essentially engaged in circuit training.

They have engaged in some repeated bouts of explosive training IF they drilled hard and IF they wrestled hard. The last thing I want to do with the wrestlers on top of their circuit training (practice) is more circuit training.

They will likely do some submax strength work at a low volume. I won't add more conditioning on top of their conditioning.

A tennis player practices for 2 hours, then they go to a "Tennis Fitness" class and ONLY work their legs via sprints. The tennis player has already sprinted for 2 hours all around the court. Instead, find something to compliment all the training they did in practice. Find something to work on their weak area vs over working what was done in practice.

Hopefully this article / video will get passed around enough to help someone STOP hurting the athletes they train.

Some factors to consider (I will post more as I come back and revisit this blog):

  • If the athlete already engages in a high volume or aerobic or anaerobic work during sports practice, do not pile more on top of more.
  • If you train athletes in a group, you can and should still individualize as much as possible. Take into account injuries, mobility issues, personality traits, belief systems of the athlete, athlete weak areas vs strengths and more.
  • I have a saying, There is always plan B, even if there isn't plan B.

What I mean by "Plan B" is you should always be thinking. Today the plan was benching with mini bands but 2 guys have shoulder issues. Those 2 guys did banded shoulder work and light BB floor presses with more chains to focus on stability vs raw strength.

Today's plan had power cleans but 2 guys have busted fingers. Those 2 guys perform clean pulls instead.

Don't just think science. Use common sense. The way to get to thinking fast on your feet is to get on the floor and train yourself, coach others and be open and willing to learn and evolve!

Till the next time.

Live The Code 365,


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4 Responses

  1. Gary Larrison says:

    Zach, you are spot on about training any athlete. My grandson who is a shot put/ discus thrower trains two things almost exclusively…that is strength and technique. His coach and dad are relentless on honing technique for both throws and heavy, and I mean heavy strength basic movements…i.e. a 600 lb. legit (not partial) squat, 350 lb. bench for reps and heavy power cleans. The result, as sophomore and junior he won both state titles in the shot and discus. Now as a senior in March he went to the New Balance National High School championship in New York City where he won the shot put and placed third in the weight throw. Sounds like a brag fest Zach but It goes to show how the right training and complete discipline to your sport pays dividends, he has accepted an offer from Kansas University and of course we are proud. I as a coach recognize talent will take only so far, from there it takes heart and commitment…train with purpose and intent.

    1. Gary congrats to your Grandson!

      Imagine how the kids are confused or maybe simply have NO clue, why am I not throwing far? Well, you can’t throw far if you’re busy running far which has nothing to do w/ throwing a 16 lb shot!

      Common Sense is a great thing 🙂


  2. Brian DeFiebre says:

    Rock solid as always, Zach!

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