Every coach has his own philosophy. We all have our own bread and butter lifts that we believe deliver the best bang for our buck and put our athletes in the best position to compete at the highest level in their sport. Too often, however, we are too busy picking apart what is wrong with other coaches' programs that we neglect to see what could be useful to our own. I’m guilty of this, too. If I had to classify myself, I’d have to say that I’m an “Olympic guy.” I use the Olympic lifts and want all my athletes to squat until they’re sitting on their calves as long as mobility and body type allow for it. I’ve watched videos of various things other coaches do, said to myself “this is stupid,” shared it with other like-minded coaches, and had a good laugh. We all do. Certainly there are things out there that deserve this response. However, many times even though we may disagree with another coach’s philosophy, we can take bits and pieces and implement them in certain phases of the year and certain situations to stimulate and challenge our athletes in a different way.

Below are several ways I’ve used aspects of other philosophies within the framework of my own programs:

HIT: While I’m never going to completely abandon squatting for leg pressing or free weights for machines in general, there are aspects of high intensity training that I like in certain situations.

First, principles like drop sets, forced reps, negatives, and manual resistance can be great during phases of the year when hypertrophy is a priority such as regaining muscle mass that may have been lost during the grind of a long season. While these things aren’t going to form the backbone of my program, I will use them sparingly on accessory exercises at the end of workouts to increase volume and stimulate growth.

Injured athletes can also benefit from this type of training. For athletes with injuries to their hands, wrists, or feet who can no longer do compound movements like squats or presses while they recover, HIT methods can be useful in isolating specific muscles and maintaining muscle mass and strength while working around the injured area.

Lastly, few things will give you a glimpse into the mental makeup of an athlete more than a brutal drop set or excruciating manual resistance work. If making your athletes tough and mentally strong is important to you, there could be a place for HIT-style training somewhere in your program. While you may argue with the methods of HIT coaches, there isn't any debating that their athletes work hard and push themselves to great lengths.

Westside: Like I said, I’m a deep squat guy. I’ve used the box squat in certain situations in the past though. First, I think it’s useful as a teaching mechanism. For athletes who have trouble staying back on their heels in the bottom of a squat, the box squat can help teach them to sit back from the start.

Its use as a power development exercise is also appealing to me. Dynamic box squats generate extremely high power outputs (higher than a snatch in my own experiments). Because the speed of movement of the box squat is slower than the Olympic lifts, however, it shouldn’t be categorized or used in place of these exercises. Rather, use the dynamic box squat as a strength-speed exercise to complement your plyometrics and Olympic lifts (which should be considered speed or speed-strength exercises). During a phase of the year when speed and power are the priorities, such as when a track and field athlete is trying to peak for a conference or national meet at the end of the season, I’ll substitute dynamic box squats for free squats in an attempt to stimulate greater gains in speed and power.

Another aspect of Westside that I like is the use of max effort work for the upper body. The best improvements I’ve ever seen from my athletes in the bench press came after a semester when I had them perform one max effort day and one repetition effort day each week. Max effort work is about maximal motor unit recruitment. The fact that an athlete may not move through a full range of motion in a floor press or board press isn’t much of a concern so long as the athlete is straining and the nervous system is getting better at coordinating maximal muscle recruitment under heavy loads.

The best benefit of max effort work may be the psychological impact it has on athletes come test day. After handling as much as 110 percent of their bench max while doing a board press or reverse band bench in training, they are less likely to have a 'holy shit this is heavy' moment when they unrack a new PR on test day. I’ve found that having handled a weight in the past gives kids tremendous confidence when they attempt that weight on a full range bench for the first time.

Lastly, max effort work is just plain fun. Athletes will get fired up and compete with each other, bringing the energy and excitement in the weight room to another level. As coaches, we have to remember that many of our athletes don’t attack their training with the same passion that we do. They love playing their sport but are sometimes less enthusiastic about things like strength and conditioning that help prepare them to play their sport. Anything you can do to improve your athletes’ motivation should be explored.

CrossFit: CrossFit is hated on more than any other style of training and frequently with good reason. Should your athletes perform kipping pull-ups? No. Should a strength and power athlete run a 5K or row 2,000 m on an erg? No. Is there any reason for anyone to do a set of thirty clean and jerks like in the workout “Grace?” God no! There is a difference between an athlete accumulating fatigue as a result of quality training and getting someone tired for the sake of getting them tired.

That being said, you can’t argue with the fact that CrossFit athletes are in phenomenal overall shape. At certain points in the year, full-body, CrossFit-style metabolic circuits can be useful for increasing work capacity in athletes. During a GPP phase, exercises that are frequently used in CrossFit like wall balls, burpees, thrusters, and various kettlebell exercises can be paired together at the end of a workout to build general fitness during a time of the year when you aren’t doing much specific conditioning with your athletes.

Additionally, there are smaller things you can take away from CrossFit. CrossFit-style pushups, where the athlete lays on the ground and picks their hands up for a split second, are a great way to ensure that your athletes don’t cheat on pushups.

Functional training: Like CrossFit, there are aspects of functional training that don't have any place in the weight room. Squatting on a Bosu ball is dangerous and ineffective, and the huge emphasis some coaches place on “core” can be a bit overdone. However, the general idea of getting an athlete to move well and eliminating deficiencies can be huge when it comes to preventing injuries.

Whether you choose to implement a functional movement screen or simply evaluate your athletes as they warm up and work out doesn’t really matter as long as you're evaluating them. Bringing up weak points and eliminating deficiencies is an essential part of training and preparing athletes.


As a strength coach, you will work for and with and talk to and read articles by numerous coaches who have very different philosophies. While you won’t, and shouldn’t, agree with everything they do or say, it’s important to stay open-minded enough to figure out what you like and what you don’t like about their philosophies. It’s even more important to find a way to implement what works into your own philosophy and the training of your athletes.