Training young athletes is my passion. I LOVE helping skinny, weak kids go from Boy to BEAST..... not just physically, but mentally as well.
But, I feel HORRIBLE for the athletes who are forced to train with a Coach who has NO clue as to WHAT the hell to do with regards to Safe AND Effective training. Some Coaches do NOT want to learn. They use their EGO to control the kids and force them into training in shitty conditions.
NOTE: For those who want to learn about training athletes, I HIGHLY recommend THIS Book.
These kids end up getting injured and perhaps even worst, they are unable to reach their true potential because they are NOT maximizing their ability to get stronger, more explosive and adding necessary muscle. I have PERSONALLY been there and done that, this is why you see me getting fired up when I get into the topic of training athletes.
I figured I would address a few tips for training high school athletes as I get these questions on a frequent basis. By no means is this a complete, exhaustive list, just a few tips......
1) Should an inexperienced high school lifter be doing power cleans, squats, benching & deadlifts?
NOT even with a light weight, the coordination is simply NOT there..... yet. It takes TIME. Train for the long haul, not for today and tomorrow only.
Build up their coordination with VERY simple exercises that yield a fast return in strength and coordination. Movements such as push ups, pull ups, bodyweight squats & lunges, sled drags, light Kettlebell farmer walks, ab exercises, high handle trap bar deadlifts, grip exercises and tons of band pull aparts.
2) Should young athletes max out every month for 1 rep?
Instead of using only the 1 rep max as an indicator, why not see if they get stronger from month to month or week to week on specific movements, or as Dave Tate calls them, indiciators.
Once you begin testing 1 Rep Maxes with young athletes form goes out the window.
If you keep a training long or simply remember in your head what you did for Trap Bar Deads 3 weeks ago for 5 reps, see if you can get a lil' stronger for your 3 - 5 rep set today.How many pull ups did you get last week or 2-3 weeks ago compared to today?
Every workout is an assessment and every week you are testing yourself to see if you're stronger as a young athlete.
Strength is NOT always in number of reps or amount of weight. It could VERY well be a greater demonstration of body control or control over the weight.
For example, an athlete does 5 pull ups but his legs are swinging up on each rep and he squirms his way to the top. 2 weeks later he bangs out 5 TIGHT reps, abs and legs are rigid, upper body pulls in a straight line with NO wiggle room. THAT is a Legit increase in strength. The reps are the same, but each rep looks 20 x better, you dig?
Don't forget, make these workouts FUN... not just the style of training, but the atmosphere AND environment must be FUN and Competitive.....
I was in a high school weight room when a Football team was testing their 1 rep max on squats. I could NOT believe what was going on in there and how anyone with half a brain couldn't see from a mile away that this was some seriously dangerous stuff! The weights being used were waaaaaaay beyond their control and even the exercises selected were too advanced for these skinny kids.
NOTE: If you need to add a BIG Ass Pad to the bar when doing squats you need to get OFF the squat bar and focus on building your body up to handle a heavy bar across your back with OUT the BIG pad. Instead, build up your back, traps, legs, trunk / ab stability and entire body FIRST. EARN your way to the squat rack, that's the bottom line!
This is also why I am NOT a fan of timed workouts.
I have found that NO matter how much you tell an athlete to stick to form and technique during a timed workout, the form goes to shit.
Shitty form = shitty results.... and soon enough, injury, especially if timed workouts are with added resistance.
Watch the video below, and even though only bodyweight training, watch how a timed workout alters the focus on technique and quality to a focus on racing others and achieving a better time.
As you can see..... even with repeated coaching and even threatening their life the form of these bodyweight exercises went OUT the window.
We deleted ALL times from this entire challenge at the gym & told the athletes that if technique is legit, NONE of it counts.
There are OTHER occasions where time can be implemented safely and effectively.
Here are a few of those times where we've experienced success doing so.
1) Running - You can't half rep the runs! Race for 400 - 800 or 1600 meters! Race for 40 yd dash......
2) Underground Sandbag Challenge - The bag MUST touch the ground each and every rep and the bag must get ON top of your shoulder each and every rep.
3) Bench Press Your Bodyweight x Max Reps - Touch the chest every rep and lock out the arms every rep, leave 1 rep in tank for technique. This is cut and dry. The bar must touch the chest every rep, lock arms every rep.
As you can see, I am on the constant improvement of my training methods for my athletes.
On the flip side, adding competition to workouts fires these kids up, so you MUST find a way to incorporate competition within workouts but focus on technique. If technique wasn't up to your standards (and you should push for HIGH standards) then it doesn't count.
Should young athletes take their set to max effort or failure?
Even experienced lifters are learning more and more, optimal workouts WIN, NOT Maximal Workouts.
Listen to Louie Simmons talking maximal training VS optimal training.... He encourages lifters to leave with energy in the tank. Athletes even more so should leave with energy in the tank because the reason behind their training regime is to improve their sports performance.
Check this freshman wrestler out, 14 years young. He started with us exactly 3 months ago, trains here 2 x week. He began weighing 105 lbs and got to 117 lbs, adding 1 lb a week for 12 weeks. He'll wrestle at 113 lbs this season.
He attacks the basics:
- Kettlebell farmer walks
- Pull Ups / Push Ups / Handstand Push Ups
- Back Extensions / Swings
- 1 Arm DB Rows
- Dumbbell Benching
- Kettlebell / Dumbbell Clean & Press
- Trap Bar Deadlifts
As you can see, ATTACK the basics!
By the way.... beginner or NOT, you need to attack the basics for LIFE. The movements listed above are regulars in my workouts as well. Why? Because they are LEGIT for producing results. Period. End of Story. DO Them.
But... Here are a few CRITICAL elements of a training program for high school athletes in addition to performance improvement:
- Improve Mental Toughness
- Increase Self Confidence
- Teach Discipline / Commitment / Intensity / Passion
Remember, we want to train these young kids for LIFE both on AND off the competitive sports field. People nowadays are soft, always whining, crying, making excuses and overall, are mentally weak. F**K that, some of your workouts need to be hellish (once they are ready for them) so these athletes understand what it means to go through a battle and fight to come out on top.
QOD (Question of the Day): How did you train when you were a teenager? What do you WISH you knew back then that you know now?