As a strength coach who has had the opportunity to work with hundreds of athletes over the past 6 years, I have had the privilege to work with high school state champions in multiple sports, region champion teams in each of the major team's sports, as well as successful individuals on both the state and national levels. The key to the implementation of proper strength and conditioning programming is an open-minded coaching staff with goals and aspirations for greater success. This has been the case with all the teams I have worked with in the past. If the athletes are excited about the program and but in, they will work harder, thus creating greater attendance to your program. This becomes contagious, and the "legacy" of a team is built. Below are 10 of the common mistakes I have seen in high school strength and conditioning programs.
1. Following the same program year round: As a coach you know your sport has different times of the year and your strength and conditioning program should be no different. You need to train for the different phases in your season. Most sports contain an off-season, pre-session, and a competitive period. Your goals for training will be diffident in each phase. You want to be as strong as possible for the playoffs and championship games.
2. No In-Season Strength and Conditioning Program: Some of the best programs still to this day do not have an in-season strength program. What is the purpose of having your teams come in all summer and bust their butt's to lose all those gains during the season? A lot of coaches would call their In-Season program their maintenance phase. Go ahead and maintain I am going to improve and increase so I can beat you in the playoffs. This requires I high understanding of periodization and your teams work capacity.
3. Forgetting Eccentric Training: When you are doing resistance type training there is a concentric (shorting of the muscle) action and an eccentric (lengthening of the muscle) action. In the eccentric portion of movement is where we see most injuries (example: a jump followed by a landing. More times the injury occurs with the landing not the take off). So to keep our programs fresh and our athletes off the bench try tempo training to help with injury prevention. Tempo training is using a set time for the concentric, bottom and eccentric portion of a movement or lift. Try a 3-2-1 tempo and work to a 4-1-0 tempo. This will help your athletes in controlling the weight on the way down.
4. Following Bodybuilding Program: In the Off-Season you will have a time to get big. That time is not Pre-Season or during competition. Your typical body building program has a sets/reps scheme of 3-5 sets at 8-12 reps with very little rest. When you are training in this manner you're making your muscles bigger do to the high volume with little recovery. The problem with this is that most sports don't follow this regiment. First find out the demands of your sport to properly train the right energy system.
5. Improper Technique:
Below are a couple of the exercises and technical flaws
a. Power Cleans: We are looking for triple extension of the hip, knee and ankle joints on this exercise. The lifter should get as tall as possible and pull themselves under the bar.
b. Squats: We want to have a flat back with the bar resting on our traps (not neck). We want to break at the hips first then the knee and ankle. Make sure we are going through a full range of motion. On the upward movement make sure we push through our heels keeping our core tight so we don't collapse.
c. Deadlifts: We ant to push through the floor doing the deadlift. Most lifters want to do just that lift the weight. We want to use out legs to left the weight, not our upper body. At the start make sure you can see your chest (Big Chest). Pushing through your heels and standing tall on the way up.
d. Bench Press: We want to use our whole body when we bench to achieve a better sports crossover. Have a slight arch in your low back. Feet flat on the floor and keep your elbows in. Flaring your elbows out you loose power and develop shoulder problems
e. Pull-up: Most people cannot do a proper pull-up so use bands to help your self up to achieve full reps. Concentrating on the getting to the top of the pull-up.
f. Bent Over Barbell Rows: You want to be in an athletic position with most of your weight on the balls of your feet. Do not round your back or stand up to lift the weight. Instead put pressure into the floor and try to touch your elbows behind your back.
6. Not Going Through a
7. No Emphasis on Functional Strength Training: this has become the new great buzz word in strength and conditioning circles. It is nice if you have all the bells and whistles in your weight room, but remember you still have to be able to take your training to the field or court. That is what is great about functional training, it's closely relates to your sport.
8. Lack of Unilateral Training: Without unilateral training, structural imbalances may never be corrected and in some cases made even worse. For example, if an athlete has a hip/weight shift toward the right side when squatting, mildly unloading one limb while rotating at the spine or pelvis, acute or chronic pain symptoms may become present during or after each session of squats. If the athlete chooses to continue squatting as well as adding more resistance, this imbalance may eventually cause an injury or lead to greater potential for injury. Without proper unilateral training such as split squat variations, step up variations, unilateral hamstring exercises, or lunge variations, the musculature necessary for performing squats correctly may never activate properly.
9. Forgetting to Train the Low Back: This is the main area of dysfunction from young kids to adults. Low back pain or lack of low back strength is the main cause of a lot of sport injury. Take the time to put in low back training into your core work either during the workout or post workout. This is the missing link in most young athletes.
10. Lack of Proper Progression: Below is a basic example of a periodization model. Pay attention to the months and phases the athlete is in.
March-Mid August (Preparation Period)- March=Basic Strength, April-Mid May=Hypertrophy, Mid-May-Mid July=Max Strength, Mid July-Mid August=Convert to Power
Mid August-Mid January (Competition)= Maintain Max Power and Strength
Mid January-February (Transition)= Active Recovery and Basic Strength
With proper attention and knowledge of a good, quality program you can help avoid any unnecessary set backs in your training. The best way to ensure you are getting proper training advice is to ask a trainer who is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the NSCA. Trainers with this certification have the proper educational background and are required to stay up on new and improved methods of training.
By Eric Reed CSCS*D
Foothills Sports Medicine FAST Director