Training Athletes: A Matter of Balance

TAGS: highland games, coach, high school, sport, football, athlete, strength, training

The title of this article is a little misleading. It’s not about the balance that most trainers think about such as standing on one foot on a Bosu ball. It’s about building a physically and structurally balanced athlete. These ideas and qualities are what form the exercise selection of our strength program. Our staff has five major goals in mind for our strength program—increasing power/explosiveness, increasing speed, increasing strength, increasing lean muscle tissue (size), and preventing injury.

We believe that if all five of these goals are trained as equally as possible, our athletes will have a better chance of succeeding compared to those athletes who have worked in a different manner. We have studied many programs from coaches who are much smarter than us (Tommy Moffit, LSU; Johnny Long, Tennessee; Joe Kenn, ASU and Louisville; Ethan Reeve, Wake Forest; and
Jim Wendler, EliteFTS). One thing that stands out in all of these coaches is that they strive for balanced musculature in their athletes. Every program focuses on making sure the muscular groups are balanced. One group is rarely worked extensively more than another.

In this article, I’ll discuss how we at Haynesville High School select exercises for our athletes. Our selection comes from six main categories—whole body movements, lower body strength movements, upper body press (horizontal or vertical), upper body pull (horizontal or vertical), posterior chain, and abdominals and neck.

Whole body movements

These include power cleans, hang cleans, and clean and jerks. We do these movements and varieties of them twice a week in the off-season and once a week during the season. We believe in these movements and work to teach good form. We know these exercises work well along with plyometrics. We averaged 29 inches in vertical jumps in the last couple of years, and this spring we had 32 out of 43 varsity players running a 4.8 or better in the 40-yard dash. This year we had 28 players power clean at least 205 lbs or more with body weights ranging from 140 lbs to 230 lbs. We can tell from the game films that the stronger we are in the power clean, the better we play. Our kids beleive in these exercises.

Lower body strength

This group includes parallel squats, low box squats, jump squats, and trap bar deadlifts. We squat twice a week in the off-season. One day we’ll perform parallel squats and another day we’ll perform either low box squats or jump squats. During the season, we will parallel squat once a
week. We mainly work in percentage ranges from 65–85 percent on parallel squats for 3–6 reps and various sets. Jump squats are rarely over 135 lbs and are dependent on an athlete’s max parallel squat. These are done for various sets of 2–5 reps. Box squats are usually performed at 75–95 percent of the parallel squat max. The sets vary with 3–6 reps and the focus is on explosiveness. Trap bar deadlifts are used for some variety every 3–4 weeks.

Upper body press

The primary exercises are the bench press, close grip bench, and flat and incline dumbbell bench. In the off-season, we will press twice a week, and during the season, we will press once a week. We do the same set and rep variations as for lower body strength (see above). For the second press day, we’ll do a movement such as dumbbell bench variations, push-ups, and dips for various sets of 8–15 reps (repeated effort.)

Upper body pull

These include all forms of lat pull-downs, seated rows, and dumbbell rows. We will do some form of an upper body pull for every day that we lift. These are usually done for three sets of 8–15 reps. This helps build balance in the upper body and stabilize the muscles and joints. If we press, then we will pull. Since using this train of thought, we haven’t had a shoulder or elbow injury in three years (knock on wood). We rotate about 4–5 different variations of pull-downs and rows to keep things interesting and to help fix imbalances.

Posterior chain

The primary exercises used are glute ham raises, straight leg deadlifts (from the floor and boxes), single and double leg curls, and back extensions. Every day that we walk into the weight room, we will perform a posterior chain movement. These exercises not only increase speed, but they help raise the numbers for the squat and power clean and prevent injuries. Since incorporating these movements every session, we have decreased hamstring and groin injuries. We haven’t had an injury to these areas during football, baseball, or track seasons in roughly two years. Also, our power clean, squat, and vertical jumps have improved each year as well. We mainly use three sets of 8–12 reps due to time constraints.

Abdominals and neck

The primary exercises are weighted sit-ups on an incline board. These are done twice a week for 2–3 sets of 10–15 reps. Dumbbells are held on the chest. The four-way neck machine is used twice a week irregardless of the sport. We’ll perform about 10–15 reps. Since adding weighted abs, our stability and agility is better on the playing field. Other coaches comment on how hard it is to tackle or knock down our guys. That’s a great indicator right there.

The basic premises of our exercise selection are to train whole body movements, have lower body strength movements when an upper body push is used, be sure to perform upper body pulls, train the posterior chain every time in the weight room, and train the abdominals and neck. Again, sticking to these ideas, we have dramatically reduced time consuming injuries and we have increased power and strength. We have had good luck with injuries, but I truly believe that our strength program has helped tremendously. For us, if we can keep all starters playing as healthy as possible, we can have a greater chance of victory. You might not agree with our thoughts, but this is working for us. And for us, the bull’s-eye on our backs gets larger every
year.

Elite Fitness Systems strives to be a recognized leader in the strength training industry by providing the highest quality strength training products and services while providing the highest level of customer service in the industry. For the best training equipment, information, and accessories, visit us at www.EliteFTS.com.

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