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The “Must Haves” for a Great Strength & Conditioning Program
A great way for the modern day “Warehouse Gym” to succeed is through Strength & Conditioning. Many of you have your base of adults doing Group Training, and that is great. However coaching young athletes is a great way to supplement your income, and there is nothing better in coaching than helping a young athlete reach their goal. Plus there is a huge need for youth programs in America, since most schools have either trimmed or completely cut their P.E. classes. Another huge need is that a lot of high school programs are poorly run, and the athletes simply need better training.
Now before all the high school strength coaches crucify me, let me clarify. There are several programs that are unbelievable like Buford High School in the Atlanta area and the Carroll County Dragons in Southlake, TX. If you are in those areas, then you are probably going to want to specialize in sprinting technique, vertical leap, and sport specific movements. There strength programs are on point, but you can still help improve the athletes. I am sure that there are plenty of great strength programs out there in the high schools. However, there are several that simply need some help.
One big advantage that most private providers will have is a better athlete to coach ratio. I have helped the local high school program here in my local county, and I will have to say that they have their hands full. One coach to 30+ athletes is very hard to manage to say the least. I recommend that you keep a 1:5-8 coach to athlete ratio, so that all athletes get your attention and see improvement. Most parents would rather pay a little extra for quality coaching versus a cheap price for minimal coaching.
A great Strength & Conditioning Programs should have the following aspects covered:
1. General Warm Up, Mobility, and Stability! During this time we start with something that will get their heart rates up a little like jump rope, an easy jog, or some get ups. Then we work on mobility that will allow them to perform the movements that we have prepared for the day which is normally going to be hip, thoracic spine, and shoulder. We are also going to fire the glutes, external rotators, and any other muscles that need to be turned on.
2. Mobility leading to Speed Drills! Normally we will take them on the turf, divide them into lines, and start walking mobility drills for about 15 yards each. This will turn into the traditional A-Skips, B-Skips, Shuffles, and more. We normally end each of these drills after 10 yards, and then sprint 10 yards.
3. Lateral Speed, Linear Speed, and Agility! We focus 70% of our effort on acceleration/deceleration work, since that is what most athletes are doing 90% of the time in their sport. I focus on technique first: start stance, forward lean, and full extension. Joe DeFranco has a great book on Speed, and we use a lot of his movements. I love using sleds contrasted with bodyweight sprints. Using Post Activation Potentiation has proven to decrease sprint times.
4. An Olympic Weightlifting Movement! I use Cleans, Snatches, push presses, and variations of the pulls for all of my athletes. This is where you have to be a coach. You have to assess each athlete to find out what the athletes are capable of performing. Science has proven that nothing beats the Olympic movements for power production, mobility, and kinesthetic awareness.
5. A Powerlifting Movement! I use the Squat, Bench, and the Deadlift. I will also include the Front Squat and Standing Press in this category. Absolute strength is absolutely important when it comes to producing force and strengthening the body for impact. Dan John calls it “bullet proofing” the body.
6. Relative Strength and Muscular Balance! Today’s kids can’t do pull-ups and push-ups, and that is a shame. These are basic bodyweight movements that are crucial to functional living. I am looking to balance the vertical pull with the vertical push (pull-ups with dips), and the vertical push with the vertical pull (standing press with upright rows). I am also trying to balance the horizontal push and pull (bench press and row). There are several other movements that come into play with muscular balance that you will want to focus on.
7. Conditioning- We use sleds, prowlers, and traditional met cons when it comes to conditioning. The key is to make the conditioning fun. You can add competition to the mix, and then conditioning becomes a game.
If all seven areas are covered in your program, you are producing an athlete that is mobile, powerful, absolute strong, and relatively strong. When you couple all of that together, you are producing athletes that move like deer on the field. There are other aspects that a solid strength and conditioning program must present:
1. Goal Setting- Unless you teach the athlete where they are going, they are doomed to fail.
2. Nutrition- It is never too early to teach young athletes the importance of nutrition. I recommend starting out with the basics, and slowly increasing from there. Remember, most of these athletes struggle with eating breakfast, so a little goes a long way.
3. Sport Specific development and Injury Prevention- I don’t use the word “Sport Specific” very often. I am in the business of making the athletes better by making them faster, jump higher, and stronger. It is up to their individual coaches to make them better at the sport, but some sports require a slightly different approach. I especially focus on softball, baseball, golf, tennis, and quarterbacks a little differently. I will give them exercises to improve rotational power production. I will also focus on T-Spine mobility and strengthening their eternal rotators.
With football players and soccer players, I will focus on strengthening their necks to prevent concussions. With basketball players and soccer players, there will be more of an emphasis on knee strengthening.
If you put a plan together that has all of these aspects present, then you have a quality program. You will affect the lives of these young athletes forever. At the end of the day, there is no way that they don’t become better athletes and better people. The magic to making this program complete is to love these athletes. When they see that you really care, there is no way that they don’t do everything in their power to improve!
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