elitefts™ Sunday Edition

Last article, we focused on your mission statement and program philosophy. I hope those of you who started writing your own “blueprint for success” got a sharper image in mind and on paper of what you and your program is all about. Remember: there are no wrong answers in this venture. It is only wrong if you are not true to your program and what you believe in as coach day-in and day-out. Anything else is cheating. Again, this is about you and what you do. It is not about what you think you should do or be writing about. Hopefully your mission statement is complete—clear for both you and everyone associated with your program. I know that your program philosophy will take some time to write. In turn, the longer you have it and the more we cover, the more you will add and subtract things from it...from now until you retire.

Right now, however, we should be done with the mission statement and the program philosophy. (Remember, it’s always a work in progress). In this next section, I want to start breaking down the various building blocks of strength and conditioning. Strength training, agility work, speed work, conditioning, etc. are all things we do every day, but have you ever asked yourself why we do them? How or why did we pick these exercises over any of the others? Why cleans over the leg press?  Why 110s over 40s? These are questions that you have the answers to, you just have not looked at them in detail. I will start with strength training first. This is the way I break it down, and again, it is not right or wrong—just my version. You may be 100% different than me, and that is cool. Some guys can wear boxers, others briefs. Just be honest and be true with yourself, and really look into and research your program in order to come out with your final product.

Strength Training

The goal of our strength training program is to develop optimal muscular strength and power. Strength is the foundation of all other trained components (power, speed, agility). Proper strength training has two goals: 1) performance enhancement and 2) injury prevention. It must be done in a physiologically sound, safe, purposeful, and productive way. There aren't any secrets or shortcuts for achieving maximum strength gains.

A physiologically sound program is one that includes in its design the fundamental principles of training the correct energy system, using the correct rest ratio, and maximizing recovery with proper nutrition and sleeping guidelines.

A safe program is designed, first and foremost, with the execution of properly performed repetitions. Our emphasis for our beginners is focused on how the repetition is performed rather than how much weight is lifted. Every effort should be made to minimize biomechanical loading (bouncing, recoiling) on muscles, joints, and connective tissue and to maximize muscular tension. Each repetition should be lifted under control in a deliberate fashion. We also begin to work on the athlete's work capacity and body composition.

A purposeful program is one with a training protocol that has a systematic plan of increasing resistance/repetitions that will produce results. Once exercise technique is performed to our satisfaction, the weights begin to increase and the player must perform all the reps prescribed in that workout without assistance. This is where athletes are introduced to both mental and physical pressure. Loads, work capacity, lean body mass, and the number of movement patterns increase.

A productive program is one that is designed with the athlete’s best interest in mind. The athlete's inner drive is to be successful, and he is willing to pay the price no matter what it takes to succeed on the field. The program is designed to include the latest research, personal trials, team experiences, and common sense. Our goal is to help the athletes achieve their optimal strength potential both in the weight room and on the playing field.

Our strength training philosophy incorporates all components of strength training and is not particular to a certain genre. We go with what works and we get rid of what doesn't. We believe that all divisions of strength training (powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, strongman) have their place and are valuable when used correctly. It is also our belief that combining the various styles provides maximal stimulation to the athlete, while keeping the athlete from becoming overtrained, bored, or stale. It makes all weight training sessions a positive, rather than a negative, experience for our athletes.

Strength and Conditioning Program Design

Types of Strength Training

  • Weightlifting (Olympic movements)
  • Bodybuilding
  • General conditioning
  • Rehabilitation
  • Powerlifting
  • Metabolic (Strongman training)
  • Strength training

Progressive Overload

Super-normal stressors should be progressively applied and adequate restoration needs to be allowed in order to improve fitness. The quality of both workload and recovery has priority over quantity, and it is optimized via cyclic increase in training intensity and decrease in volume.


As fitness improves, adaptation becomes increasingly specific to the imposed demands. Generalized tasks should be progressively replaced with specialized ones that dynamically correspond to the biomechanical, coordinative, and metabolic demands of the sport. The exercise menu should be prioritized such that the most functional movements (i.e., those yielding the greatest training/learning effects) are emphasized. Learning and training effects are optimized by making tasks progressively more challenging to control, direct, and stabilize (where appropriate), as well as by increasing workload.


The same method(s) and/or techniques(s) elicit(s) unique responses in each athlete due to genetic differences, training status, and environmental factors.

Exercise Selection

  • Provide a full range of motion
  • Facilitate eccentric and concentric muscle actions
  • Focus on multiple joints/muscle groups working together in coordination
  • Focus on leg-initiated exercises
  • Provide all types of strength (specific to the demands of the sport)
  • Train movements specific to the sport being trained

Types of Strength

  • Absolute strength
  • Absolute strength endurance
  • Strength-speed
  • Strength-speed endurance
  • Speed-strength
  • Speed-strength endurance

Development of Physical Qualities

  • Strength
  • Power
  • Speed
  • Flexibility
  • Stamina
  • Specific endurance

Order of Exercise

  • Speed movements
  • Strength movements
  • Complimentary movements
  • Specialty movements

Components of Periodization

  • Duration
  • Frequency
  • Duration + Frequency = Volume
  • Repetitions
  • Sets
  • Intensity

Repetition Volume

  • Total number of repetitions performed per day/week /month /year
  • Total training period

Zones of Intensity

  • 50–59%: Warm up
  • 60–69%: Perfect speed qualities and prepare neuromuscular system
  • 70–79%: Develop speed and strength qualities
  • 80–89%: Develop strength and explosive power
  • 90–99%: Develop psychological readiness
  • 100%+: Maximal strength development

Strength Training Principles

Training the Kinetic Chain Through Core Development

The foundation of all power and strength in the human body originates in what is termed the core. The core consists of the following muscle groups:

  • abdominals
  • obliques
  • multifidus
  • quadratus lumborum
  • spinal erectors
  • gluteals
  • hip flexors
  • upper hamstrings
  • upper quadriceps
  • adductors
  • abductors

The muscles of the core work to produce the following movements:

  • hip extension
  • hip flexion
  • adduction
  • abduction
  • abdominal flexion
  • back extension
  • torso rotation
  • lateral trunk flexion/extension

The human body should be envisioned in three separate kinetic links: 1) the upper body, 2) the lower body, and 3) the core. An athlete will only be as strong as the weakest kinetic link. Any deficiency in strength or flexibility in the core region will give an athlete little chance to maximize his or her athletic potential. The core is the coordination, stabilization, and power center for all ground-based movements. Focusing strength training on developing the core is of great importance. Training the core in the standing position and through ground-based exercises will enhance the athlete’s ability to transfer training to sport performance.

Train for Power

Power = Work/Time


Power = Force exerted on object and distance that object moves in a given direction/Time

In recent years, athletic success has been dominated by speed. The best and most successful teams have been those teams that possess great team speed along with good skill and mental toughness. It is the duty of the strength coach to develop athletic qualities inherent to speed and power sports, especially speed of movement. Increasing speed of movement against external resistance will ultimately result in increased power. By using Olympic-based movements in addition to squats, agility drills, medicine ball throws, and sport-specific speed drills, you can increase an athlete’s potential for force development and power.

The Olympic movements— the jerk, power clean, power snatch, and their derivatives—are all lifts that exceed velocities greater than one meter per second. Thus, these lifts provide the greatest potential to train the central nervous system and develop powerful athletes. Competitive Olympic lifters, on average, have vertical jumps exceeding 36 inches. They also are among the fastest athletes in 25-meter sprints.

Train Athleticism

It is the duty of the strength staff to train athletes for maximal performance in athletic competition. The best performers are often the most athletic. Athleticism can and must be trained. The qualities of a superior athlete are power, speed, strength, agility, flexibility, coordination, kinesthetic awareness, sport-specific condition, rapid reorientation from disorientation, balance, skill expertise, mental toughness, and goal orientation. It is the goal of the strength staff to maximize the athletic potential of each athlete through well organized training programs developed to address team and individual deficiencies.

Single Limb Lifts Versus Double Limb Lifts

Many sports are acyclic in that athletes are required to change directions and utilize different body positions to play the game efficiently and effectively. Oftentimes, an athlete will be required to transfer weight from one limb to another. To successfully exhibit athleticism, it is important that athletes possess strength, balance, and coordination on one or two limbs to complete sport-specific tasks. Training in a manner that occasionally utilizes one limb at a time allows postural control and core stabilization to come into play. Examples of single limb exercises include single arm snatches, single arm jerks, single leg squats, lunges, step-ups, single arm rows, and single arm bench presses.

Efficient, Organized, and Intense Training Sessions

There are many training methods utilized to train the world’s elite athletes. The most common traits found in all methods include a high level of organization, a short duration, and high intensity. It is the duty of the strength staff to provide logical, progressive, and safe training protocols for each athlete. Through proper periodization, athletes should be provided programs that are designed on a yearly basis with directives and goals that must be attained at set points throughout the training year. Each year that plan should be evaluated and a new plan for the following year should be developed to increase the athlete’s work capacity.


Teams that lift together are provided an opportunity to develop chemistry, teamwork, and leadership in a competitive environment fostered by the strength staff. Training sessions should be run like sport practice where there is an atmosphere of structure, competitiveness, and a common purpose, and where the strength staff can control the intensity and pace of the workouts in an effort to facilitate positive results. It is the role of the strength and conditioning staff to deal with athletes who do not always possess the “winning attitude.” Any patterns of weakness, such as negative verbal, facial, or body language, must be eliminated from the weight room, as they allow weakness to permeate the team. Although team training sessions are integral to team building, the success of an individual athlete will have much to do with his commitment to excellence and how that athlete deals with time between training sessions. Recovery is one of the most important factors in training.

How an athlete deals with habits like sleep, diet, alcohol consumption, drugs, academics, and social life play a huge role in athletic development and success. An athlete with a “winning attitude” will make sacrifices in order to improve. The athlete with a “winning attitude” will also evaluate himself for both physical and skill-related weaknesses and engage in extra workouts to fill deficiencies. Training sessions will be developed in order to maximize athletic potential, not to run athletes into the ground. Therefore, athletes should always have the energy and desire to do extra workouts on their own. This allows athletes to develop creativity, individuality, leadership, and the responsibility to take ownership in their own development. The strength coach and/or the sport coach will never “make” an athlete into a champion, nor will they prevent an athlete from becoming a champion. It is up to the athlete to decide if he will develop the “winning attitude” and strive to become a champion.

Free Weight- and Olympic-Based Training

As with any philosophy, there must be a rationale for its implementation. Our strength and conditioning program is based on scientific research, biomechanics, physiology, and logic. Research and experience have provided us with the following reasons for free weight- and Olympic-based training.

Why free weights?

  • Free weights provide for intramuscular coordination and co-contraction inherent in all sport activities.
  • Free weights allow assistant muscle groups to work as stabilizers and synergists.
  • Free weights force athletes to exhibit body control.
  • Free weights teach synchronization of movement.
  • Free weights teach athletes to absorb external forces.
  • Free weights allow for rapid acceleration.
  • Machines eliminate all the above factors and many compel athletes to initiate exercises in vulnerable limb and joint positions.
  • Some machines limit range of motion and place greater stress on adjacent joints (i.e. leg extension).
  • Machines eliminate ground reaction forces which occur naturally in sport.

Why Olympic movements?

  • Olympic movements develop strength, explosiveness, speed, coordination, timing, balance, spatial awareness, and elastic energy simultaneously.
  • Olympic lifts require rapid high force output along with high contraction velocities.
  • Olympic lifts are total body, multi-joint movements involving over 50 percent of the body’s muscle mass.
  • The neuromuscular demands of Olympic lifts transfer to the demands of sports.
  • Of all types of lifters, Olympic lifters exhibit higher rates of force development and better utilization of stored elastic energy (which is very important in speed and power-dominated sports).
  • Olympic lifts have been shown to have a high correlation between the vertical jump and sprint acceleration.

As you can see, it has been broken down to the smallest detail. The only other factor that I have in strength training is an exercise reference guide. In other words, I have a list of all the lifts I can choose from, and I'm always adding new ones that I see but that may not fit in this particular training phase (but will perhaps down the road). I have over a thousand (and counting) different ones listed in my book. I take all this information before any training cycle, construct the goals of that cycle, find the information I have on strength training, and use the sections that will maximize what we are trying to do to accomplish these goals. I hope all of this is helping you on your journey to writing your own “blueprint for success.” Next month I will cover conditioning.

Blueprint for Success: A Strength and Conditioning Coach's Manual