Articles & Resources
by Shelby Turcotte
“The one thing that is consistent with high school athletes is inconsistency.”
I can’t tell you the number of times that my perfectly constructed training programs have been derailed by kids missing workouts. Here is a short list of some of the reasons my athletes have missed sessions last minute or had to adjust an entire session: broken tibia at football practice; keys locked in car; stayed late for a test; mom had to drop off brother; practice went over; recruiting visit; I have to pick out my Halloween costume because there’s a dance tomorrow. Yes, a Halloween costume…I’m not kidding, needless to say I was less than impressed. There are literally thousands of reasons an athlete may not be able to complete your training program as prescribed.
It’s time to periodize for the next generation of athletes
I am aware of all of the research that supports undulating periodization and I do use it in certain instances. However, after seeing hundreds of athletes come through, I am more than convinced that the best form of periodization is less of a structured plan and more of a system with guidelines. In reality it is conjugate periodization-ish, but even with less science and more art. You see, the two biggest issues that I have with most periodization programs is that 1) They don’t adjust or adapt very well for missed session(s) or partial sessions; and 2) they don’t factor in for good days and bad days. You see, kids being kids, nothing about them or their life is all that predictable.
A typical day may consist of getting up at 6am after about 5-6 hours of restless sleep. Head to school where they will quickly finish their homework that is due during the next period (perhaps getting some “assistance” from the back section of their book, odd answers are still in there I believe). By the time 9am arrives they’ve realized they didn’t eat breakfast, so a bagel or cereal bar should do the trick. Their day continues in this fashion until they go to bed. Throw in a practice for a couple hours, some studying, homework, food, and possibly a shower (if they have time) before doing it all over again. If I’m lucky enough to see kids somewhere in that busy day, it may not be for long, and who knows what kind of a day they’re having—might be a great one, might be a tough one.
There is no way to have an exact plan for training an athlete or athletes in a situation like this. Don’t waste your time finding percentages based on max effort lifts; things change too frequently to know what a given kid will perform like in the weight room on any given day. I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place for more structured periodization, but what I am saying is that for about 95% of the high school population they will be much better off with a loose set of guidelines which you will manipulate as the coach.
Next Generation Periodization Guidelines:
- Work in 3 week blocks. Forget 4 week blocks—and don’t structure a week for deloading. Why 3 weeks? Well, 4 weeks will often make kids bored, and 2 weeks isn’t enough time to get any growth and development. I’m not saying you can’t push a given movement for longer than 3 weeks, but you have to do it strategically.
- Don’t build in deload weeks. If someone needs a deload week you will know it. Typically the athletes will deload themselves. There are a few names they use for deloading: homework, vacation, games, and laziness. All are used and used often. You will know as a coach when you need to add in a deload week because kids start to look “messy.” If you’re a coach you know what I’m talking about.
- Follow the simple linear format of a volume phase followed by an intensification phase for your resistance training. Both should last in 6 week blocks (as stated above). Change the sets and reps according to your phases (volume or intensification). Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be. Get your athletes to put more weight on the bar and lift it more times.
- Push a given movement for 6 weeks at a time. After 6 weeks (2 3-week cycles), either switch the movement up or simply switch stance, grip, etc. The only exception to this is if you someone is really lacking in a given area and is still making progress. Other than that switch it up, kids get bored easily.
- If it’s important do it everyday. I got this one from Dan John’s book Never Let Go. I can’t make this point enough. We will do each of the following movements everyday in some capacity: vertical push, vertical pull, horizontal push, horizontal pull, knee dominant, hip dominant, total body explosive, anterior core, rotational (anti-rotational) core. There is something to be said for practicing a skill everyday—lifting and movements are no different.
- Always work different rep ranges. As stated above we will work all movements everyday in one way or another. This is also how I consider this structure a variation of conjugate periodization. An example of this would be warming up with a squatting variation for higher reps (12+), doing some reactive work for nervous system activation, and in the resistance portion of the workout working in the 5-8 rep range.
- Always do lower body movements first in the workout. Forget the science behind more motor units, hormone release, blah blah blah. You do lower body first because kids hate it and will always skip it if they have the opportunity. Put it this way: if you just finished a two hour basketball practice would you rather squat heavy or bench? This includes doing legs first…even on bench press Monday’s!
- Forget the whole “maintain” strength while in season. Move weight and get stronger. Sometimes I use the same terminology to explain that kids won’t make as much progress as the off-season, but let’s be honest—is there really an off-season anymore? Also, kids continually get stronger. If you push the weights in season you’ll be amazed at how strong they can get.
- Don’t change your rep schemes in season. Lift heavy. You don’t need tons of volume in season, especially on movements that kids will get in practices (i.e. if it’s basketball don’t program 20 minutes of plyo’s in the weight room.) They just got done doing 120 minutes of plyometric movements in practice…
- Kids recover amazingly fast. I am always astonished that you can push a kid hard in the weight room and the next day he’s in practice having the best practice of his life. That doesn’t mean bury a kid in the weight room, but it also doesn’t mean that you should plan to go “light.” If a kid isn’t recovering, you will know it (see above).
- Lift the day before games. I hear a bunch of bologna from parents and coaches alike about not lifting before games. Here’s the deal: you don’t tell your kids to not practice the day before a game because you are worried about their legs right? As long as the athletes have been in the weight room a couple of days a week they will be fine. It’s better to lift the day before a game than it is to miss a lift.
Shelby Turcotte (MS, PES, YCS) is southern Maine based high school strength & conditioning coach and the owner of Finer Points. For more information please visit his website: www.finer-points.com or visit his blog: www.shelbytrained.com.
by Brijesh Patel
In-season training may be the most confusing and misunderstood component of the year long training cycle. Everybody knows that it is important and must be done but getting better at your particular sport should be the main goal during the season.
That being said, I think in-season training might be one of the most important time of the year to train. Sure the off-season and pre-season are important, but the goal should be to be at your physical peak for the end of the regular season and post-season tournaments. To attain that peak means that the correct steps must be laid down prior to the conclusion of the season.
My philosophy of in-season training might be quite different than others but I believe it to be extremely simple and easy to implement.
DO THE OPPOSITE OF THE SPORT
Huh? What does that mean? Shouldn’t we be doing things specific to make them better at their sport?
I strongly disagree that we should be doing the similar patterns on the sport – this can lead to overuse type injuries that we are trying to prevent against. We want to keep the athletes as healthy as possible so they can be at their physical peak for the end of the season.
Most team sports have the following similarities in-season:
1. High Volume of Activity
2. Low Loads being used – typically just their bodyweight
3. Low Amplitude of movement – never experience full joint range of motion during most sporting activities.
So according to my statement above of DO THE OPPOSITE OF THE SPORT we have the following guidelines of in-season training:
1. Low volume of in-season strength training
2. High Loads to stimulate higher threshold motor unit activation for strength maintenance and/or gains
3. High amplitude of movements to restore and enhance joint mobility.
These guidelines help to direct how I write training programs and progress them throughout the season so we are ready to peak near the end of the year.
Other common sense guidelines that can be used are the following:
1. If your sport is inherently anaerobic, train the aerobic system for extra conditioning
2. If your sport involves a lot of impact (running, jumping) – don’t run and jump them extra.
3. If your sport has a dominance of the anterior chain, train the posterior chain to balance things out.
4. If your sport has a tendency towards kyphotic postures, hammer thoracic spine extension.
5. If your sport has a tendency to lose mobility in a certain area (i.e. ankles, hips), address those issues.
6. If your sports practice structure doesn’t include much conditioning, then this must be included to conditioning levels do not decrease in-season.
By now, I think you can get the point of how in-season training can be accomplished.
These are extremely general guidelines but simple and tends to make a lot of sense.
Hopefully they can help you and feel free to share what your thoughts are.
by Alan Stein
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach
DeMatha Catholic High School Basketball
In order for you to reach your true potential on the basketball court, and have an edge on your opponent, you must maintain the strength you built throughout the off-season. Keep in mind you are not an Olympic lifter, Power lifter, or bodybuilder, so you don’t need to train that way. A safe, time efficient and productive in-season program can take as little as 20 minutes, twice a week!
The primary purpose of your strength training program is to reduce the occurrence and severity of injury. As you know, basketball is very physically demanding. Making your muscles and joints stronger will lessen your chance of injury (such as a pulled groin or rolled ankle), and keep you on the court where you belong. Strength training will also help you improve your performance. The stronger you are the more force you can produce; which means you will run faster and jump higher. However, strength is an attribute that can quickly diminish. In as little as 3 weeks you may have a noticeable decrease in your overall strength and power. If you don’t strength train during the season, you will be physically at your weakest come playoff time!
There are as many different strength training methodologies as there are ways to run a full court press or a secondary break. Regardless of what you choose; safety, time efficiency, and intensity should be the backbone of your strength training philosophy. Your main focus during the season should be to maintain your overall muscular size and strength. An in-season program should address your major muscle groups (legs, hips, core, and upper torso) as well as the most injury prone areas: ankles, knees, groin, and lower back.
You should only use the safest exercises available and perfect exercise technique. You should work within an appropriate repetition range (8-15 reps for most high school players). Since time is a precious commodity during the season, the goal of your in-season strength program should be to get the maximum results in the shortest amount of time. You should use a limited number of sets and exercises during each workout (1-2 sets per exercise), while minimizing rest intervals to induce an overall conditioning effect. This will make each workout brief, but intense!
Intensity is the most important controllable factor in determining your results. Below a certain level of intensity, strength training will have very little benefit. If you are capable of lifting 100 pounds 15 times on a given exercise, and you stop at 10, the exercise was not as intense as it could have been. Therefore, it is recommended that each appropriate set is taken to the point at which no additional reps can be completed (muscle fatigue).
Since you will be practicing and playing almost every day (at high levels of intensity), and will be in a constant state of fatigue from now until March, it is recommended you decrease the volume of each workout to reduce the overall wear and tear on your body. Do fewer sets and less total exercises, especially for the lower body, than you would during the off-season.
Sample In-Season Strength Workout
Perform 2 sets of each of the following exercises:
1 legged squat
Standing shoulder press
1 legged leg curl on physio ball
by Matt Herring, University of Florida
A few weeks ago I was discussing tri-planar mobility with my interns. During the discussion, someone asked about functional progression. The question was “Can you enhance a movement in a proficient plane before gaining mobility in all planes? Can we load a sagittal lunge before the athlete can perform a lateral lunge? Will loading of that one plane hinder the ability to improve mobility in the other planes?”
My CYA answer was “It depends.” I then rambled on about how no movement is purely single-plane and that movement occurs in all planes even if it appears to be dominant in one-plane. I think most of my interns nodded their heads more out of confusion than agreement, but it allowed me a second to gather my thoughts on the question. My first concern was why did my interns all assume loading was the next functional progression after mobility? Why was “enhance” synonymous with “loading”? Obviously I haven’t taught functional progression well enough for them to understand and appreciate “enhancement”. How better to appreciate a concept that to demonstrate. I decided that we would use their example of a sagittal lunge to demonstrate that “enhancement” doesn’t need to be external loading.
We first established that we all had full mobility in the sagittal plane. From there we progressed to using hand reaches while lunging -anterior at various heights, posterior overhead, frontal at various heights, and transverse at various heights. Next, we progressed to alternate reaches-one hand in one plane, the other hand in another plane. After just using hand reaches, their understanding of “enhancement” was changing.
We then progressed to different foot positions. First were frontal tweaks-a little wider than normal, narrow, or even crossover. Next transverse-toes slight internally or externally rotated. Of course, combining frontal and transverse was an easy progression. Wide with toes in, crossover with toes out. Suddenly, their appreciation was growing. I then challenged them to develop their own variations. Soon, they were combining foot positions with hand reaches to come up with a great variety of challenging lunges, and we never used an external load.
By now their heads were swimming with new ideas and movements to try, so I decided to call it a day. But before we adjourned, I briefly introduced other enhancements, like lifting the trail foot to finish the lunge balanced on one leg. How about looking in a different direction as you lunge to change your visual feedback? How about speed lunges? Or lunging off a small box to increase the eccentric load? What about bounding into the lunge? Now imagine all of those with the various hand reaches. Information overload had been achieved. But that was my objective. I wanted them to understand external loading is not the only method to “enhance” a movement. By using these methods, a movement can be enhanced in the proficient plane and mobility can be addressed in the other planes simultaneously. It is up to us to find the athletes’ individual level of success and build from there. The next challenge was finishing tri-planar mobility.
I think I’ll save that one for another day…