There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

- Mark Twain

The time has finally arrived for me to summarize how I train high school athletes in my quaint, but aesthetically unappealing subterranean gym. I will focus on two high school athletes that I worked with last summer and early fall for their upcoming basketball season. I had previously not worked directly with youngsters in my gym and I generally had only devised workouts for track and football players, so this was a unique challenge that I gladly undertook. My training approach is to focus on the basics while also constantly changing exercises to avoid stagnation .Teenagers tend to have short attention spans and get bored with the same old same old. My aim is to do what works based on experience and feedback. One could debate ad infinitum with the boys in white coats over various programs and scientific studies regarding protocols, however, I personally believe that form and technique is priority number one. I believe it was Lou Simmons who said that there is no such thing as a bad exercise, just a bad or wrong way of doing it. People ask what I do to train high school athletes and my reply is that it is essentially the same as what my crew and I do in order to get stronger. Why wouldn’t I? The biggest thing is just to get them to do it and do it right. Simple.

Before any weight training actually began, I requested that each athlete provide me with a week’s worth of their dietary practices. That’s just a fancy way of asking what shit they were shoving down their throats. This simply meant that I wanted them to keep a daily diary of not only what they ate, but also at what time during the day they consumed it. I also had them record what they drank throughout the day. You’re probably not going to be shocked as to what an average day was like for a “typical” American teenager, but I have provided below a sample day for one of the athletes.

6:30 AM- water and a pop tart

12:00 noon- triple cheeseburger, fries, a pie, and a coke

6:00 PM- 2 hotdogs, 1 cheeseburger, and 2 cokes

As I previously stated, you are maybe not surprised by this because most of us still have enough brain cells to allow us to reminisce about our own wayward youth and the bad habits that accompanied it. I am by no means a nutritionist, (although I did spend last night at a Holiday Inn) but I quickly encouraged the athlete to make a few basic changes to his nutrition plan. First, I requested that he carry around a gallon jug of water and drink it throughout the day. He was working outside, so he was chronically dehydrated and was mainly consuming carbonated beverages. I suggested at least one ounce of water per pound of bodyweight. That meant that this individual had to go from little or no water consumption to drinking the equivalent of twenty 8 oz. glasses of water per day. This may sound like overkill, but he was working an outside summer job, playing basketball in the evenings, and training. This change alone proved to be quite beneficial for this particular player. Next, I conversed with the parents and suggested a good quality protein drink. They were ready and willing to help, so a powdered protein was chosen along with some protein bars that are specifically made with ingredients that allow for a more stable blood sugar level throughout the day. Our goal regarding protein consumption was to ingest a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. Two shakes coupled with the bars put this athlete at approximately 140 grams plus whatever protein was in the foods he was eating. I knew he would probably not always do two shakes and two protein bars, but even if he did one and one he was much better off than his previous amount of protein per day. Liquid fish oil was later added to the mix because the athlete complained of inflammation to the right knee and hip. This is the extent of my input for the nutritional aspect of this individuals plan. The boy’s mom after consulting with me and reading some books and websites began making meals that were healthier and more nutritionally sound. Anthony Ricciuto’s recipes were a mainstay in the family’s diet. This athlete came in late May weighing 172 lbs. at a height of 6’3”. He weighed a robust 189 lbs. when he left in September. The metamorphosis was slow, but he emerged as a stronger and more confident young man. The other youngster I trained was afforded the same plan of attack, but was not nearly as dedicated in his adherence to it. He gained a mere 5 lbs. during the same training period. I have never met someone who could create so many excuses for not drinking a protein shake. If everyone despised drinking as much as this kid, there never would have been a Jonestown Massacre. If the drink would not blend itself, shimmy over to him and pour itself down his gullet, then the chances of him partaking in liquid protein were about as slim as this boy was.

A round man cannot be expected to fit into a square hole right away. He must have time to modify his shape.

- Samuel Clemens

The boys I train had various obligations during the period of time they spent with me. For instance, basketball camps and family vacations. Sporadic would be a good word to define their attendance. My plan was to ensure they had a day centered on the squat (lower body day) if that is what you want to call it and an upper body day. So, I planned on them being in the gym at least two times per week on average. Sometimes, they actually worked out four times per week, but I will focus on the two day approach here.


Band good mornings/ w superman drill
• Rail line sumo dead
Sots squats with the bar or a light kettlebell
• Band pull through
• Bench mobility drills
• Over/under drills in the power rack

At least three exercises were chosen for warm-ups. As you can see, the exercises focused on the core and hip flexibility.


• Safety bar squats
• Manta ray squats
• 1 legged squat
• Split squats with ssb
• Band hammies
• Manual hammies resistance
• RDLs
• Reverse-hypers
• Kettlebells
• Med ball drills- abs, etc.
• Strongman in alley

There are plenty of other things I did, but the ones listed above were consistently in my arsenal. The athletes were more comfortable using the SSB because it did not hurt their back. They simply do not have the thickness that power lifters generally possess. The manta-ray was used for the same reason. When squatting with the SSB we often refrained from using the handles, but instead free squatted in order to better mimic the athletic position. Look ma no hands! We always squatted off a box, but rarely used anything to accommodate resistance. They were consistently improving so I saw no need to add chains or bands unless I just wanted to spice something up or bring out a new toy for the boys. I built a small wooden platform that I occasionally implemented with bands. The lifter stands on top of the platform and the bands are wrapped around the structure and then draped over the shoulders of the lifter. This is quite a challenge for such tall athletes, but they genuinely enjoyed doing it. I was kettlebells when kettlebells weren’t cool. I love these and so does anyone I have introduced them to. The basketball boys used a 53 pounder. When they first arrived just picking it up caused them to be blue faced. When they exited for b-ball season they could perform sets of twenty. We routinely did kettlebell swings single arm and double. That is, twenty swings with the left arm, twenty with the right, and then twenty in the middle holding on with both hands. Timed crazy eights through the legs much like a basketball is done also served to heat up the lower back and abs. This is done by swinging the k-bells through the legs in an alternating manner from hand to hand. A secondary benefit from K-bells was the increased grip strength because of the oversized thick handle. Every once in awhile we would trek outside and do strongman type events in the alley. Granted, these guys were not behemoths, but I found scaled down implements to employ for these muscle challenged ballers. A favorite of mine to light up the posterior chain is to take a large tire that my crew usually uses for tire flipping but instead of flipping it I have the person grab onto the lip of the tire and pull it backwards. Momentum is gained by simultaneously pulling and performing a slight hop. The distance is around 20 yards per pull. I also hook a medium sized tire to the lads and have them sprint down the alley pulling the tire. The act is difficult because they go from a rock surface to a concrete surface and the abrupt change is brutal. They go from a sprint to having to excessively chop the legs when they arrive on the rough pavement. Hard to explain without a visual, but I can vouch from personal experience that it is effective. Again, typically the athletes enjoy these sorts of challenges. I realize common sense is needed to reduce the chance of injury. I could go on and on, but I believe most readers have a basic understanding of the other exercises listed. Below, I will provide a typical lower body day.


• Rail line 2 X 10
• Sots squats 2 X 10
• Bench drills 2 X 20 – 10 each leg- side to side and over the top


• SSB squats 6 x 2 timed
• SSB split squats 2 x8 each leg
• K-bell Turkish “get ups” 2 sets
• K-bell swings 2 sets
• Crazy eights 1 set timed
• Reverse –hyper 2 sets


Band pull aparts
• Face pulls with band
• Shoulder horn
• Band uprights
• Various stretches with bands

The warm-ups for the upper body day revolve around the pecs, shoulders, rotators, and upper back. Nothing fancy, but I emphasize these because of the leverages of b-ball players.


Bench press/ d-bell bench
• Icarian row machine
• Old row machine- different angle
• D-bell rows
• Shrugs
• Pull-ups
• Band triceps
• Modified fat bar curls
• D-bell shoulder presses off Swiss ball
• Med ball drills

The upper body day is again fairly basic stuff. When we bench I rarely allow them to touch their chest. I use a piece of foam I wrap around the bar that causes the ROM to be shortened by approximately 2 inches. Personally, I see no great benefit in having the players go full ROM. Their bar distance is already quite lengthy and I believe through personal experience that there is no merit in going all the way down. As with the lower body movements, we stick to reps. I have the athletes try to break rep records instead of doing singles. These guys are 16 and 17 years old and their focus is basketball, not Bench America. The one tall drink of water arrived benching 135 lbs. and left repping that same weight for 15 solid repetitions. Regardless of how you slice it, the boy is stronger. Nothing else I do on upper body day is unique or creative in my opinion. I really try to nail their backs because all they want to do at school or when training with their team are muscles you can see in a mirror. Another focus is hand and grip strength. Balls cannot be stripped and taken away as easily with strong hands and forearms which again are usually neglected in a standard high school weight room. An upper body day that I would use is below.


• Face pulls to the forehead and to the neck 2 X 15
• Band pull a parts 2 x 15
• Shoulder horn with 10 lb. d-bells 2 x 20


• Bench 5 X5 with foam
• Tricep Death with boards ranging from five down to one 5 reps off each board-close-grip
• 1 arm rows using the 53 lb. K-bell 3 x 8
• Icarian rows- 3 X 6- 3 different grips
• Negative only pull-ups. 12 reps with a 6 second tempo on the lowering- under grip
• Band tricep pushdowns coupled with fat bar curls- start with 6 reps and keep going up two reps until twenty and twenty are performed or just do this for a song. The band is usually a monster mini and the fat bar is usually just the bar.

Well, that’s about it. I realize I left a lot of info out, but this article greatly exceeded my self imposed word quota. If there are any questions feel free to e-mail me at

Why it is that Oskar Schindler could save so many during WW II, yet we cannot save one Schindler?