elitefts™ Sunday edition

An elitefts™ Roundtable Discussion

With Sal Alosi, Jim Wendler, Rob Lowe, Mark “JackAss” Bell, James Smith, C.J. Murphy, Mark McLaughlin, and Dave Tate

We gathered some of our elitefts™ staff members and several others to discuss the top five lifts for football players. All of them have experience training football players, and all of them have some different ideas. We edited out some of the banter and the cussing to get to the meat of the discussion. If you’re a football coach or a strength coach for football, check this out. It may give you some ideas.

Dave Tate: What do you think are the five most important lifts for a football player?

Rob Lowe: I’m going to cheat here and pick five categories of important exercises. They are...

  • Multi-hip: squat, deadlift, split squats
  • Posterior chain: glute ham raise, semi-straight and straight leg deadlifts
  • Push: bench with multiple grips, dumbbell bench
  • Pull: chins, pulls, rows
  • Prehab/rehab: shoulder, neck, grip

If I had to pick five big exercises, I’d choose the squat, deadlift, glute ham raise, bench, and chins.

JackAss: That’s a solid group so I’d have to agree. With the five that you listed, there are hundreds of variations.

Sal Alosi: I will also agree—squat variation, posterior chain variation, horizontal push variation, horizontal/vertical pull variation, and prehab/rehab (shoulder, grip, neck, core). Yes, I cheated on number five.

Jim Wendler: I’m going to steal something from Dave on this one. My top three exercises would be the squat, bench, and deadlift. Now, you can choose 3–5 exercises that help build these three. For example, for the squat, you could choose lunges, glute ham raises, back raises, and various abdominal work. For the bench, you could do dumbbell bench, dumbbell incline bench, incline press, chins, and rows. And finally, for the deadlift, you could do the same exercises as with the squat.

Ok, so now on each variation, there can be other variations. But as a coach, I don’t want to have to teach someone a new lift every day. You can have many variables within a certain lift, but again, I don’t think you need to over complicate things. Remember that athletes don’t want to be strength coaches, nor do they care to know too much about it. When you start having problems with your computer, do you want them to tell you exactly what’s going on and all of the intricacies? Or do you just want them to fix the problem? See my point?

C.J. Murphy: I like to do other stuff for athletes all at the right point in the program. I’d break it down to traditional and nontraditional. Traditional exercises would consist of squats, pulls (deadlift), pressing, posterior chain work (glute ham raises, reverse hyperextensions, keystone deadlifts—similar to Romanian deadlifts), and rows. Nontraditional exercises include Atlas stones, tire flipping, weighted walking (farmer's, wheel barrow, super yoke), log pressing, and sled work (dragging, sprinting, arm-over-arm).

Gym lifts are the foundation; events are fun. Fun is cool. So is dip and iced coffee. Too bad dip, iced coffee, and Guinness won’t get me strong and jacked. I’d be the best athlete in the world.

Mark McLaughlin: Jim is correct. Keep it simple. If the athlete asks you what time it is, don’t tell him how the watch was built. Tell him the time and be done with it. My top five exercises are box squats, bench press, deadlifts, reverse hypers, and glute ham raises. For younger athletes, keep it simple and fun. Currently, we’re having a glute ham raise contest over three weeks for freshman, sophomores, and juniors who are new to the movement. After three weeks, we’re going to see who can do the most correctly executed glute ham raises over three sets. The winner will get a “Darkside” T-shirt.

James Smith: I’m going to go against the grain with some of the thoughts presented on this one.

Jim Wendler: That’s no surprise.

James Smith: With my athletes, I create an environment that covers the fundamentals of PASM—physical, psychological, tactical, and technical. The preparation of these components is key. I believe that within the context of GPP, tactical and technical mastery is highly dependent upon the athletes’ awareness in the weight room or wherever else general/nonspecific training occurs. So, I believe there is great significance in a derivative of PASM that must be directed towards GPP. This may be considered in terms of two PASMs being developed concurrently—one toward sport and the other toward GPP methods.

Of course, the two are mutually dependent to a degree, but I feel that coaches (who know what they’re talking about) owe it to the athletes to educate them. In my view, this MUST be done because too many coaches out there don’t know. I want my athletes to gain awareness so that when they’re under the tutelage of an idiot, they possess the capacity to “know what time it is.”

For every workout, I take about 3–5 minutes at the end and discuss certain aspects of the workout and the significance of certain methods. I keep it short and to the point, and I make sure that I impress the concept of transference to sport and why the athletes should consider the information highly valuable. I make it clear that I’m not trying to create a team of strength coaches, but rather a collective group of young athletes who have the growing awareness that will render them more “prepared” for the years to come.

I also stress that the athletes take time throughout the day and become more aware of their physiological “state.” The more in-tune with their organism they become, the more they’re able to assist me in individualizing their training for the day. This is highly effective and enables me to confidently manage 55 athletes by myself. We must never forget that a young and motivated athlete is much more receptive and open-minded toward any ideas that will serve to facilitate their development than an egotistical, self-serving, insecure, ignorant coach who would rather argue than admit that he/she has been doing it wrong all of these years.

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