Awareness for the field of strength and conditioning is on the rise, and as a result I have seen a significant increase in the number of high schools requiring mandatory lifts and training programs for their athletes.
As a Performance Specialist in the private sector I have mixed feelings on this shift. On one hand, high school athletes may be exposed to exercise and training that they otherwise wouldn’t. This is a good thing.
However, on the flip side, I have seen how most of my athletes train at their school. More often than not, I find that these programs are designed by high school strength coaches that have no expertise in the field.
Some may point fingers at the coach and blame them for being unprepared, uneducated, inexperienced, or lazy.
I see this as unfair.
The reality is that most high school strength coaches are not professionals. Most coaches are organizing these programs at the request of a superior or for the benefit of their own athletic program. Furthermore, the strength program is not typically the coach’s primary responsibility at the school. It’s no surprise that the training programs aren’t “elite.”
I think there are three problems that high school strength coaches face.
- Information Overload. The internet pumps too much info at us for us to realistically receive, filter, and implement anything. We become victim of paralysis by analysis.
- Equipment Limitations. Every single weight room is different. What works for some high school strength coaches may not be viable for others, simply because the weight room is equipped differently.
- Workout Structure. This is a problem even the best coaches in the world can debate. What lifts work well together, and how do you logically fit 20 athletes in a single session?
This article addresses all of these issues.
Hopefully I can provide a resource for high school strength coaches that simplifies the programming process, allows room for you to expand your program, enables smooth individual sessions with no “bottleneck,” and fits any weight room layout.
Problem 1 – Information Overload
Even as a professional I can get caught up with this. There is so much training information floating around, but unfortunately most of it isn’t worth much more than the effort needed to click “post” in the first place.
I can only imagine what it must be like as an unseasoned coach looking for training guidance. I feel you!
For high school strength coaches, my biggest piece of advice is to be cautious of the training “information” you absorb. I am confident that you probably know more than you think you do, you aren’t going to miss anything from skipping most of the articles you’re reading.
If you are a relentless reader then I suggest reading from Eric Cressey. He’s a monster in the industry, and receives equal respect from other performance coaches and by academic scholars as being one of the top coaches in the game. Most of his material concerns baseball training, however his methods can be applied to athletes of all sports.
You’ll learn plenty from his blog. Trust me. Check out Eric Cressey’s Blog here.
Problem 2 – Equipment Limitations
Since high school strength coaches need to be efficient, I’m going to reveal a bulletproof programming concept. This one might blow your mind. You’ve been warned.
I’m going to give you the very complicated (kidding) task of building a list for each of these three categories:
- Barbell (BB) Exercises
- Dumbbell (DB) Exercises
- Body Weight (BW) Exercises
This is going to be the backbone of your training structure. For example, here is a quick list to get you started:
Barbell Exercises – Back Squat, Front Squat, RDL, Deadlift, FWD Lunge, BKWD Lunge, Bench Press, Glute Bridge
Dumbbell Exercises – RDL, FWD Lunge, BKWD Lunge, Lateral Lunge, Bench Press, Incline Press, Reverse Fly, Step-Up
Body Weight Exercises – (Strength Exercises) Push-up, Pull-up. (Plyometric Exercises) Box Jump, Lateral Bound, Single Leg Hop. (Core Exercises) Plank, Shoulder Taps, Reverse Crunch. (Stretches) Hamstring Stretches, Quad/Hip Flexor Stretches.
I would assume that almost every weight room contains barbells, dumbbells, and space to perform body weight exercises. By ONLY thinking about these three categories, you have already simplified your training process. You may also notice that many movements can be performed with both a barbell and dumbbells. That’s okay, you can fit some exercises into multiple categories. Keep building your lists.
*If you do happen to be training in a gym that has additional equipment such as bands, med balls, physio balls, or cables, that’s great. You are one of the lucky Chosen Ones. I’ll show you how to include those in the next section.
Problem 3 – Exercise Structure
Okay, we’ve got our categories. Now, we are going to build a structure of circuits using these categories. This sequence allows us to design programs that are effective AND that provide flow for our athletes’ sessions.
- Barbell Exercise
- Dumbbell Exercise
- Body Weight Exercise
Choose ONE exercise from each category. This is your first circuit.
It would be recommended that you group athletes into groups of three. Each group of three will then be assigned a barbell or a rack, or however your weight room is designed. The group will return to the same barbell during each round of the circuit. I would have them knock out the barbell exercise, then walk to the DB rack for their DB Exercise, then walk to open space to perform their BW Exercise.
The BB, DB, and BW exercise categories will allow you to choose high quality exercises that ALSO allow your athletes to easily move through the circuit. There is no “bottleneck” in the circuit, as your athletes are seamlessly flowing from one area to the next, even if there are 20 kids simultaneously training.
Typically, I would have the athletes complete four sets (rounds) of the first circuit, and then three sets of a second and possibly a third circuit.
*If you do have access to additional equipment, I would recommend that you substitute it for a Body Weight Exercise in one or two of your circuits. For example, you can switch out a BW Exercise for a cable, med ball, resistance band, suspension trainer movement, etc.
Because I know you will complain if I leave this out, and that this article wouldn’t be much of a resource for high school strength coaches without an example week, I’ve built a full example week for you below.
What does a full week look like?
BB – Squat
DB – RDL
BW – Quad/Hip Stretch
BB – Jump Squat (light)
DB – Lateral Lunge
BW – Side Plank
BB – Bench Press
DB – Reverse Fly
BW – Shoulder Taps
BB – Bent Over Row
DB – 1A Incline Press
BW – Chest Stretch
BB – Glute Bridge
DB – Reverse Lunge
BW – Pull-up
BB – Wide Grip RDL
DB – Bench Press
BW – Plank
Bonus * If you want to read more about one of my most effective exercise sequencing methods, click to read about the benefits of an Upper/Lower Training Split here.
Hopefully this streamlines your high school strength training program, and gives you a template that is easily modifiable, expandable and practical.
Read up on Eric Cressey, expand your categories of exercises, and ALWAYS record your current circuits. Before long you will have an endless variety of programs in your bank, and the title of High School Strength and Conditioning Coach will no longer be overwhelming.