Much has been demonstrated in regards to the efficacy of integrating various training methods into the training programs of high school athletes and power development/strength athletes in general.
What has failed to have been demonstrated in many instances, however, is sound and logical judgment in making the determination as to what means and methods of training should be optimally employed. An unfortunate observation which may be made in far too many high school weight rooms in America is the instance of athletes performing cleans, squats, deadlifts, rows, overhead and bench presses, etc., with such skill-less technique that it would appear as if they are attempting to perform the lifts while heavily intoxicated. Subsequently, the all too common scenario is that the strong athletes develop unbalanced strength levels through faulty motor patterns, while the weak and uncoordinated athlete compounds their lack of physical preparedness. In view of this unfortunate circumstance, it is no coincidence why many college and professional level strength coaches are faced with training many athletes who must be rebuilt from the ground up. Accordingly, it is the responsibility of the coach, and no one else, to assign appropriate training methods based upon each athlete’s level of physical preparedness.
Prior to determining which method of organizing training is to be employed, the coach must first evaluate the athletes’ level of physical preparedness. The results from this evaluation will allow the coach to classify the athletes according to their level of physical preparedness and initiate appropriate training methods.
A simple and effective testing battery, consisting of various bodyweight calisthenics, may be employed in an effort to identify the following motor abilities:
- Muscular coordination
- Local muscular endurance
- Relative strength
- Core strength
- Work capacity
- Dynamic flexibility
The coach may construct any tests which he/she feels are suitable for evaluating the motor skills listed above. At the high school level, calisthenic drills will tend to prove very useful as most young athletes have not been lifting weights for any appreciable amount of time.
Following is an example of a minimum requirement test for assessing whether or not a high school athlete is sufficiently prepared to engage in weight training.
Exercise – Repetitions:
- Push ups in 2 minutes – 60
- Sit ups in 2 minutes – 60
- Pull ups – 10
- Dips – 15
- Inverted Row – 10
- Bodyweight Full Squat – 50
- Walking Lunge – 60m
- Back Raise – 20
In view of this sample test, the coach would monitor not only the amount of repetitions but the athlete’s mechanics as they perform the various drills. The technical execution of the various drills will provide the coach with a substantial amount of information in regards to the athletes’ levels of physical preparedness.
The athletes test performance will allow the coach to accurately address the developmental requirements of each individual on the team based upon their level of classification.
For example: Most high school athletes who are capable of performing 70 push ups, 20 dips and 8 pull ups are more sufficiently prepared to perform upper body weight training than athletes who are only capable of performing 20 push ups, 6 dips, and 1 or 2 pull ups. Additionally, most high school athletes who are capable of performing over 50 full body weight squats (heels remaining on the floor, knees apart, and flat back/upright torso) are more sufficiently prepared to perform barbell squats than athletes who are unable to satisfy this requirement.
The number of classifications, due to logistical considerations, will depend on the size of the team. Accordingly, once the coach has placed each athlete in a group of other athletes with comparable physical preparedness, the coach may then conduct the concurrent training of multiple skill groups in a single workout. This will ensure that athletes are engaging in training methods which are appropriate relative to their levels of physical preparedness.
Once an athlete has received their level of classification he or she may then utilize the training methods which the coach has designated to be appropriate relative to their classification. Athletes who test poorly on calisthenic drills will benefit from workouts which consist of a predominance of bodyweight exercise. Alternatively, athletes who pass marginally will benefit from workouts which consist of a hybrid of bodyweight and externally resisted exercise. Lastly, athletes who pass easily will tend to benefit from workouts which consist of a predominance of externally resisted exercise.
By conducting periodic test days (e.g., every 8 weeks) the coach will have the opportunity to re-evaluate and re-classify the athletes according to their newly developed levels of physical preparedness. This systematic approach to training and evaluation will accelerate the athletic development of each athlete on the team.
There is a reason why many collegiate and even professional level athletes in the U.S. either possess disproportionate levels of physical preparedness, or are riddled with injuries at a relatively young age; the reason, in many instances, is that the training which these athletes are subjected to during college, and prior, is entirely inappropriate. Thus, at the high school level, at the latest, there exists a tremendous responsibility and opportunity to set the stage for a long, healthy, and productive athletic career for the athletes who are determined to go the distance.