Deadlift Tips

The deadlift is much like a squat. The weight is resting on the shoulders. (The hands attach to the arms, which attach to the shoulders!). The load is through the core, hips, legs and feet into the ground. The hips are higher in the start position of the deadlift than in the bottom position of the squat. The deadlift uses starting strength where as the squat utilizes a somewhat elastic component in coming out of the bottom, unless one is doing pause squats. Those are the major differences.

The first tip is when doing the pull from the floor one should cue/focus leading with the heart. The hips and shoulders should rise from the bottom position at the same time. Novices and tired lifters tend to lift the hips first, which puts too much load onto the lower back. When leading with the heart is the focus and coaching point, the hips will follow in the optimal sequence if the one is strong enough in the core. If core weakness is present, then the core will collapse in front and the back will round putting undue pressure onto the discs of the spine.

A related tip is to focus on pushing the feet into the floor. When the focus is lifting the weight, novice lifters will tend to dip and attempt to jerk the bar free from the ground. This “technique” will tend to collapse the core and raise the hips. If, on the other hand, the focus is to first push the hips through the floor and then lead with the heart, optimal technique as well as the lowest risk for injury can be maintained while one pulls the bar to a full upright position.

The next tip is how to address the bar. The bar should be over the toe foot junction with the feet turned out at 7-15 degrees. An over under grip is used in order to lesson the chance of a weak grip allowing the bar to drop. Pull the hips low and the shins forward in order to pull with the hips and the back. When the focus is to “bend over” in order to deadlift, the hips tend to start too high. When the focus/cue is to “pull yourself under the bar” the hips tend to be in an optimal position.

The chest should be “big” with the shoulders back and a large breath of air locked into the lungs in order to create pressure within the core in order to resist core collapse. Just like in a heavy squat, a heavy deadlift needs big intra-core pressure in order to resist core collapse and possible back injury.

Over all, the deadlift is a safer lift than the squat as the bar is in the hands and can be dropped at any time. The big risks occur when the hips rise first or the bar drifts away from the shins as the load is lifted. If this happens it is very common to feel a shift in the low back and the back will spasm with the muscles locking in order to protect the spine from injury.

Speed Development: Front Side vs. Back Side Emphasis

Over the past several years of emphasis in speed development the concept of training a linear day followed by a lateral day has become well established. A linear day is nothing more than straight ahead speed while a lateral day is agility and mobility drills. Another concept that is also a staple is the idea of assisted and resisted drills. Assisted drills are towing or downhill sprints and starts in which the athlete is assisted which enables the athlete to actually run faster than they are capable. Resisted drills are exercises in which the athlete is made to put more force into the ground than they normally would by the addition of a parachute, sled, partner in front or running up a hill. The final concept that is somewhat newer (at least to me) is the idea of front side and back side mechanics. Front side mechanics are drills that emphasize the lift phase of sprinting such as the knee-toe punch and front side arm drive. Back side mechanics are drills that emphasize the push phase which include hip-knee extension, glute contraction and back side arm drive. Naturally, backside mechanics are much more difficult to coach and master.

When designing a speed development training progression I believe all of these parameters should be factored into the equation. How much of each is determined by the individual needs of the athlete. Let’s consider the linear days first. For sake of discussion, Monday is going to be the Assisted Linear day (AL) and Thursday will be the Resisted Linear day (RL). Sunday is a full recovery day in which no activity is planned. Wednesday is a recovery day in which active regeneration activities are scheduled. Each training session will begin with dynamic warm – up which will have activation and integration exercises, technical warm – up drills, loosening activities and build – up sprints. At this point, the athlete is turned on, warmed up, loose and ready to go full speed. A word of caution, the hamstrings must be prepared to go full speed. To begin a training block with an athlete that is not prepared with several days of basic speed training foundation is begging for a hamstring injury. The athlete must be in condition, having done quality backside chain training (RDL’s, One Leg Good Mornings, Glute Hams, Reverse Hypers, etc.) and been in a stride/sprint running program. Finally, this is speed development, not conditioning. The athlete must be allowed, encouraged and made to recover for 3 – 5 minutes between reps for optimal speed enhancement. Let the fun begin!

Assisted Linear Day

Assisted drills will be assigned in both starts and overspeed sprinting. The tools used to assist the athlete can be a slight downhill grade (no more than 3-5 % grade, less is more for the beginner), tubing and other specialized tools designed for assisted drills. Another word of caution, tubing breaks, strings can tangle in the sprinters feet; athletes can stumble and fall if they are towed too fast. It will take at least one session to become familiar and somewhat comfortable with assisted training. Remember, speed is month to month (according to Tudor Bompa and I happen to agree), so you will not see results for 4 – 6 weeks of quality, intensive drills.

The key to the training program is the mind. The coach must get the athlete to focus on a certain technique on each and every rep. When prescribing absolute speed drills on AL day it is relatively easy to create front side focus on the hands for front side arm drive. The athlete can see them, people are naturally very hand dominate and can readily attune to the cue that hand speed will improve foot speed. Knee punch is also relatively easy to cue for an athlete. The knee is so large it is easy to be aware of and focus on knee punch. The difficult focal cue is the toe. If the knee is up and the toe is down, the assisted front side mechanics are poor at best. Front side mechanics focus will encourage better quality assisted speed drills as they will create focus on the part of the athlete and improved quality of efforts. Only when the mind and body are focused together on quality repetitions can the efforts prove to be optimal in performance enhancement training. One more key coaching point when prescribing assisted drills. Have the athlete run at 90 – 95% of full effort and the coach will add the additional 7 – 12% of assistance to take the athlete just over 100%. Remember, be quick, don’t hurry (John Wooden) and be smooth, because smooth is fast (Ray Evernham). When prescribing assisted starts on AL day, the cues include hand punch toward the finish line, knee punch, toe up, short – quick first step and chest up – flat back for posture.

Resisted Linear Day

Resisted linear days will be assigned on Thursday in our mock training week. Resisted linear exercises can be accomplished by prescribing hill running (up an incline about equal to a parking garage ramp), parachutes, sleds, harnesses, rubber bands or partner resistance drills. This day is dedicated to back side technical emphasis. The focal points are hammer drill with the hands, glute extension, power into the ground and heel up action during the recovery phase. The hammer hand drill is very similar to the front side arm drive drill but the emphasis is all on the down stroke of the arm drive phase which corresponds well with the impulse into the ground on the support leg during the drive phase. Glute contraction, hip extension and power into the ground are very difficult to quantify and master. A partner holding a harness and requiring the athlete to march and then skip will begin the process of teaching the athlete how to impart force into the ground. Posture and body lean are critical to acceleration. To engage the center of mass and provide kinesthetic feedback to the athlete a belt harness or giant rubber band at the waist is an excellent tool to encourage glute contraction and corresponding hip extension. A sled with 35 – 50% of the athletes bodyweight loaded on it will create additional mass for the athlete to overcome in the start and acceleration phases. As the athlete becomes more accomplished, more resistance can be added, as long as the form continues to hold true, technically. The heel up coaching point is relatively easy to master for most athletes. This is the glide or stride phase as opposed to the strike or power phase of sprinting. The athlete is not focused on imparting force to the ground as much as maintaining stride length and turnover. In the start drills the focus is on arm drive back, flat back – chest up posture, heel extension – big toe push off, power into the ground. The three steps in five yards and 5 steps in 10 yards drill is a key testing component to acceleration starts.

Contrast Training

Contrast drills start with assistance or resistance and then the help or hindrance is removed in order to “trick” the nervous system into imparting maximal force impulse (force into the ground in very short time) and optimal turnover during the ground contact and recovery phases. These drills are prescribed as sprints uphill onto flat or slight downhill surfaces; chutes, sleds and harnesses with release mechanisms applied during the start or sprint; tubing or tow string that will fall to the wayside at max velocity.

How do I create focus on front side and back side mechanics?

These cues are emphasized beginning with the execution of the wall drill. Front side drills of the lower body knee and toe punch are executed by cueing the athlete to focus on the knee and then the toe during the drive phase on the wall. Backside technique emphasis comes in response to cueing of the glute contraction and corresponding hip extension and power into the ground are much more difficult for the athlete to master. The total complexion of the drill will change as you coach the athlete to change their focal point. If the coach cues the athlete to contract the glute for hip extension, the coach must palpate the glute to determine if the glute is indeed contracted. It is excellent feedback for the athlete and nine times out of ten the glute will be flaccid in beginners. Full extension at the hip knee and ankle joint are much more difficult to master. Many times the athlete will lack knee extension and will be unable to dorsiflex the ankle as the drive leg contacts the ground. Often times the support legs will be unequal in their distance from the wall as the athlete has imbalances in their flexibility or proprioceptive feedback mechanism.

The key to speed is to determine if the athlete is more front side or back side focused and coach them accordingly for optimal acceleration mechanics.  It is very important to coach the athlete to cue their backside mechanics for power and front side mechanics for turnover in order to optimize their mechanics.

It’s All About the Jump

It can be argued that everything in sport training, development and competition can be related back to the jump in terms of the lower body and movement.  The squat is a jump – type movement, only in slow motion.  The clean, jerk and the snatch are jumps with weight.  Most sports possess some type of jumping action in the normal course of action.  Plyometrics are a variety of usually linear jumps that come to us from the discipline of track and field.  Agility and mobility drills are just multi – directional plyometrics developed by sport coaches over the years to mimic the demands of sport.  Even the action of sprinting can be argued to be nothing more than jumping from foot to foot.  We have noted for years there is a very high correlation between the ability to jump high and/or far and the ability to accelerate for 10, 20, 40 and 60 yards.  If we accept these statements as true, then if we increase the ability to jump (and land) then will this translate to an increased ability to accelerate, sprint and change direction?  If we accept this premise as probable, then is it the jump that is the training stimulus or the landing?

Notice the force absorption @ the landing!

Observe pre-schoolers as they play.  They absolutely love to jump down off of stuff and land in a deep squat position.  They will spend many minutes climbing up on playground equipment, walls, steps, bleachers and even the couch and jump off and land in a deep squat position.  However, they spend very little time trying to jump up and touch stuff.  Now observe any athlete in competition as they jump up.  They will gather themselves eccentrically to load the musculature, jump up concentrically to execute the movement and then (remember – what goes up must come down) they will land and again load the system eccentrically.  Many experts in the field of athletic development have stated that the better able the athlete is in accepting load and absorbing force the better the athlete will be in producing force.  Many of our accepted plyometric experts have for years taught us the progression of teaching the landing first when introducing plyometric training.

In order to develop the ability to jump (and the corresponding ability to accelerate and change direction) we must first teach the skill of landing.  We must then refine the skill of landing and then begin to repeat (or rep) the skill of landing.  Finally we must master the skill of landing in a variety of stances and a variety of ranges of motion while accepting a variety of loads.  We can increase the time under tension by holding the landing position for time.  We can increase the load by jumping up in the air, jumping down off of a box or adding weight via a weight vest or dumbbells (I would recommend only adding up to 10% of fat free weight as a starting point).  We can increase the volume by adding reps and doing multiple sets.   We can progress from squat stance activities to split squat or lunge stance activities in order to increase the difficulty and load.  We can increase the functionality by jumping off of two legs and landing on one, since many sports skills are executed off of one leg. Proper posture is paramount as is equal weight distribution through the foot with the big toe, little toe and heel supporting the body weight in a 60 – 40 distribution from the fore foot to the heel.

Depth jump circuit adding load by box height

As far as a training progression is concerned, I would recommend the following:

Can the athlete physically get into the position with:


even and equal weight distribution

stamina for up to a 30 second hold

Can the athlete hold and pulse up and down in the squat or split squat position for:

up to 30 seconds

up to 20 repetitions

Can the athlete drop down into a squat or split squat position?

Can the athlete drop down into a squat or split position and hold and pulse?

Can the athlete execute the above protocols with added weight?

Can the athlete jump up and land in and hold a good squat/split squat position?

Can the athlete execute the drill jumping down off of a low box?

Can the athletes execute the drill jumping down off of increasing box heights?

Try squat jump and hold for 3 - 10 seconds between jumps!

I would recommend a ratio of two holds/drops for every jump type activity for beginners or at the beginning of a training period.  Remember, the more force the athlete can absorb, the more load the athlete can accept, the more force they will be able to produce as the muscles and tendons become trained to store the elastic/kinetic energy and produce the force with great impulse into the ground in a short amortization phase during the stretch – shortening cycle.

Some of the landings and holds will be low or deep in nature as it takes a greater range of motion to accept the force placed on the system as the athlete lands.  Other landings will be higher in the squat or split squat position as the forces are not so great.  Coach the athlete to land as “softly” as possible, in as “high” a position as possible.  Other times coach the athlete to land soft in a “low” position.

In order to run fast and jump high the athlete must be able to land strong and accept load.  In order to convert strength into power as the training cycle progresses, the athlete must possess the ability to accept load/absorb force first, before converting it to power in an efficient manner.  The quicker the impulse, the shorter the amortization phase the more powerful the athlete.  This is a trainable commodity, but the foundation is the ability to demonstrate eccentric strength and the foundation must be developed first and must be strong and stable.

Core Vector Training

The core is an area of the body roughly defined as the region from the armpits to the knees.  Most of our movements occur through the core after beginning somewhere else.  For instance, in jumping the area of the core will move toward the ground as the arms reach back or up and the legs flex.  Upon forceful extension of the arms and legs the body is propelled upward with the force moving through the core to the blocked arms.  When sprinting, the arms and legs are dynamically moved through out the range of motion in order to develop the velocity of the body, moving the core forward. These ballistic arm and leg movements occur around a generally stable, strong core.  If the core lacks proprioceptive strength, (strength with balance and stability) then energy leakage can occur upon force production or force absorption and the power generated by the limbs and transferred through the core can be lost, resulting in less speed or height generated for an event, routine or technique.  During force reduction, the compensation pattern to accommodate these weaknesses can lead to injury.

In training the core it is important that the many vectors of stress and planes of motion be addressed as the demands of sport occur at high speeds and a variety of angles.  Training the core in the variety of angles needed is similar to the angles of attack in the combative arts.  The attack vectors of martial arts are up and down; diagonal up and down right and left; across the body from right to left and vice versa: and finally straight in, which is unnecessary for core development.

If the core can be trained in these various angles with a variety of implements then it will better be able to withstand as well as transfer the forces needed in preparation and competition.  The labels for the various vectors are as follows:

Straight Down             –             Slams

Straight Up                        –             Scoops

Side to Side                         –             Twists

Diagonal Up                        –            Lift

Diagonal Down            –             Chop

The stances are relatively simple to master as there are 4 basic stances with three levels of difficulty.  There is the lunge stance (kneeling or standing), the squat stance (kneeling or standing), diagonal variations off of each of these and the single leg stance.  To vary the level of difficulty for each all you do is shorten the stance from wide to narrow.  The lunge stance starts out with the foot about 1-2 foot widths wider than or away from the opposite knee.  The next level of difficulty is the foot/knee is on one side of a line and the opposite foot/knee is on the other side of the same line.  The most difficult lunge stance is the one in which the foot/knee and opposite foot/knee are on the same line, as if on a balance beam.  In the squat stance start out wider than hip width, move to hip width and the most difficult stance in order to maintain core stability during a strength movement is with the feet less than hip width.  Needless to say, the single leg stance is the most difficult of all to maintain balance and execute pillar core training.

As for modalities used to implement core training the Keiser Functional Trainer is excellent for the constant variety of speeds and loads at any angle and it has a power output reading.  Most of us are not so fortunate to be able to afford a Keiser, so substitute some light to medium resistance tubing in order to give resistance in the proper ranges of motion.  Medicine balls are excellent in order to mimic the movements in the various vectors and stress the ability to maintain a tall pillar core without arching or collapsing with rotation. The medicine ball can also be thrown to the floor or off of a wall in the various vectors in order to increase the power developed and force transfer through the core.  The most stressful implement to use in core vector training is the water ball.  The water ball is simply a small stability ball with about a gallon or 8.8 pounds of water.  Just get a small piece of tubing and fill the sink with water.  Take the smaller stability ball that is about ¾’s full of air and insert the tubing into the sink, under the water and suck start it in order to start the flow of water.  Insert the tube into the ball in order to siphon the water from the higher sink into the lower ball on the floor.  Keep adding water until about a gallon of water is added into the ball.  During the movements the added water will move about inside the stability ball and cause the core to react and proprioceptively stabilize in order to execute the movements.

Another way to execute core vector training is by using dumbbells and ankle weights and moving the limbs through a variety of movement vectors while beginning with a pillar core in extension on the floor for front side or on a stability ball for back side core.  A 2 – 5 pound dumbbell and 2 – 5 pound set of ankle weights are sufficient for most any athlete.  While on the back, the dumbbell is extended above the head and the opposite leg is extended while the same side leg is flexed at the knee. The athlete will bring the dumbbell and ankle weight up in a long arm and leg movement and meet in the middle for a sit – up type movement.  As the dumbbell and ankle weight are returned to the ground it is imperative the athlete get long through the core but does on arch the back.  The second vector is to move the arm out to “2 o’clock” position and the opposite leg out to the “8 o’clock” position and now execute the same sit – up type movement in a diagonal type vector.  The final movement starts from a totally different position.  The arm is extended above the shoulder straight up at the ceiling while the opposite leg is extended up above the hip in a similar fashion.  The arm moves away from the body toward the “3 o’clock” position and the leg moves away from the center of the body toward the “9 o’clock” position.  Neither the arm nor leg will touch the floor as the core of the body fights to keep the belly button facing straight up to the ceiling.  Do not let the belly button follow the long, straight leg away from center is one cue, the other being to maintain ground contact with both hips throughout the movement.

The same concept can be utilized on a stability ball for the “super man” type of exercise.  However, we will change the vectors and emphasis of motion. Just about everyone is familiar with the “superman” exercise.  However, we will add a dumbbell in one arm and ankle weights as well as provide a different aiming point and cue for technique execution.  Most people will coach and execute the movement by reaching up for the ceiling with the arm and leg.  The optimal execution is to reach the foot and hand for the meeting point between the wall and floor and let the long stable core support the shoulder extension at the deltoid and hip extension at the glute.  The foot should not get higher than the glute and the hand should not get higher than the deltoid.  The cue is to “reach” and get “longer” through the back side core.  The vectors are the normal superman with either the same arm or opposite arm involved.  The second vector is the arm at “2 o’clock” and the leg at “8 o’clock” and the final vector is with the arm at either 3 or 9 o’clock and the opposite leg at either 6 or the opposing 8 or 4 o’clock angles.

Relative Intensity Concept Part Two

How heavy is heavy?  How light is light?  If I do a set of 10 or a set of 5 or a set of 2 how do I know how heavy to go on each set?  Does it matter?  Is it important?  If we assume the volume is important (sets times reps) and if we assume the load is important (percentage of weight used) then relative intensity is the key that allows us to relate the loads of various sets and workouts to each other.  If we assume that strength training occurs at about 80 percent of max in strength type power lifts (bench, squat, and deadlift), then how do I determine what 80% is at various rep schemes?  Using the chart below makes it simple.  Eighty percent at 1 rep is 80% (actually on the chart it is 79%).  Eighty percent at 2 reps is 76%.  Eighty percent at 4 reps is 70%. Eighty percent at 6 reps is 64%. Eighty percent at 8 reps is 58%.  Eighty percent at 10 reps is 52%.  All you do is find 80% (actually 79%) on the left hand side of the chart under relative intensity and move across to the right on the same row.  As you come to 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 reps across the top the number on the row is the load percentage that is the same relative intensity as 1 at 80%. This becomes an invaluable training tool as you write workouts for the strength lifts.  The reps for the Olympic lifts are so low (1 – 3  reps) that relative intensity is almost a non-factor.   In using the chart we assume that each rep equals 3 percent and each 3 percent equals 1 rep.   If you use 2.5% per rep or even 5% per rep you can devise your own chart to use while writing workouts.  I prefer to use 3% as it seems to allow for good jumps in loads without getting too big a jump as in the 5% percent loads and it still works rather well at the 10 rep range (unlike the 2.5% loads).  Here is the relative intensity chart.  Remember, to start at one side and/or the top and move your lines down and across until they intersect. Where they intersect is the load that the athlete will actually put on the bar.


Int. reps       1             2              3              4             5               6               7             8               9             10

100 1         100           97            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73

97 2            97            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70

94 3            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70            67

91 4            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70            67            64

88 5            88            85            82            79            76            73            70            67            64            61

85 6            85            82            79            76            73            70            67            64            61            58

82 7            82            79            76            73            70            67            64            61            58            55

79 8            79            76            73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52

76 9            76            73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52            49

73 10          73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52            49            46

In order to use the chart all you do is decide what rep ranges you are going to use for the particular exercise and the relative load range in which you wish to train for the cycle.  For example if you are going to do 5 sets of 5 for 5 weeks and wish to slowly advance the load you can do the following:

Warm – up  – first set at 50% and then work up by 6 – 9% per set until you reach the work sets.

Work sets #

Order           week 1                   week 2               week 3                 week 4                     week 5

Reps            5×5                        5×5                        5×5                        5×5                        5×5

*Load            67%                      70%                        73%                      76%                      79%

Rel. int.         79%                      82%                        85%                      88%                      91%

#volume is constant at 25 work reps for each workout

*load is the weight you actually load onto the bar.

The chart below will show how staying at 5’s but moving up the relative intensity chart was the stimulus for the training effect.


Int. reps      1              2              3              4              5                6              7                8             9             10

100 1        100            97            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73

97 2            97            94            91            88            85             82            79            76            73            70

94 3            94            91            88            85            82             79            76            73            70            67

91 4             91           88            85            82            79             76            73            70            67            64

88 5            88            85            82            79            76             73            70            67            64            61

85 6            85            82            79            76            73              70           67            64            61            58

82 7            82            79            76            73             70             67           64            61            58            55

79 8            79            76             73           70             67             64            61            58            55           52

76 9            76            73             70           67             64             61            58            55             52          49

73 10          73            70            67             64             61            58            55            52            49            46

Start at about 80 percent and work your way toward 90 – 95 percent of relative intensity over the course of the training cycle.  This is fairly easy to understand when the reps stay the same but what if the rep scheme is constantly changing?  Here is an example of the 10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2 scheme using the same relative intensity  for all the reps in each workout.  The relative intensity will go up from workout to workout in order to implement the overload effect.

Warm – up sets  – first set at 50% and then work up by 6 – 9% per set until you reach the work sets.

Work sets

Order       Week 1                                         week 2                                  week 3                              week 4

Reps        10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2                10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2                10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2                10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2

Load%      52-58–64–70-76                55-61-67-73-79                  58-64-70-76-82                  61-67-73-79-85

Rel. int%.           79                                        82%                                       85%                                   88%

#volume is constant at 30 reps for each work set.           


Int. reps      1            2            3            4              5             6              7               8                9                 10

100 1        100            97            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73

97 2            97            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70

94 3            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70            67

91 4            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70            67            64

88 5            88             85           82            79            76             73           70           67             64             61

85 6            85             82           79             76           73             70           67           64            61              58

82 7            82             79           76            73            70             67            64            61            58             55

79 8            79            76             73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52

76 9            76             73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52            49

73 10            73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52            49            46

Next is an example of wave training (Training & Conditioning April 2000) in order to train the athlete at the same relative loads as the reps change within the workout and over the course of the training cycle.

Warm – up sets  – first set at 50% and then work up by 6 – 9% per set until you reach the work sets.

Work sets

Order                       Week 1                               Week 2                                Week 3                       Week 4

Reps            10 – 5 – 10 – 5 – 10 – 5         8 – 4 – 8 – 4 – 8 – 4         6 – 3 – 6 –3 – 6 – 3     5 – 2 – 5 – 2 – 5 – 2

Volume            45 total reps                        36 total reps                        27 total reps                        21 total reps

Load%            52-67-52-67-52-67            61-73-61-73-61-73            70-79-70-79-70-79          76-85-76-85-76-85

Rel.Int.%                  79%                                      82%                                       85%                                88%


Int. reps      1             2             3              4               5              6              7              8              9              10

100 1       100            97            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73

97 2            97            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70

94 3            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70            67

91 4            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70            67            64

88 5            88            85            82            79            76             73            70            67           64            61

85 6            85            82            79            76            73            70            67             64            61            58

82 7            82            79            76            73             70            67            64            61             58            55

79 8            79              76            73            70             67          64            61            58             55            52

76 9            76              73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52            49

73 10            73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52            49            46

This is relative intensity.  If you are implementing strength training using rep schemes above 4 – 5 reps or in wave like training schemes in your sets, then relative intensity can provide you with the key to open the door to relate set to set and workout to workout.  Training variables can be manipulated and programs can be implemented that are streamlined in order to get the best training effect in the shortest amount of time with a corresponding reduction in the possibility of injury due to too much, too quick, or too often.

I would like to thank Bill Allerheilegan, Russ Ball, Mike Clark, Vern Gambetta, Bill Gillespie, Rick Huegli, Al Miller, Johnny Parker and Fred Roll for the ideas expressed here today.

Relative Intensity Concept – Part One

As he warmed up Thor could still feel the effects of his last squat workout.  He knew from past experience that he couldn’t go heavy again this week.  He knew that if he did push through the pain all he would gain would be poorer and tougher workouts.  That is the exact opposite of all of his training goals with the championship competition coming up in a few short months.  As he began to load the bar Thor decided that he must back off, but he still needed to train hard.  Thus the dilemma, the paradox of training.  Thor knew the max repetition for a squat workout is about 50 reps and since he just did 5 sets of 5 at 85% he decided that he would back off 15% to only 70% for today’s load.   But, since he still wanted, no needed to train with intensity, he decided on 4 sets of 10 reps. What do you think? Did Thor accomplish his goal of backing off for this particular training session?

The concept of “Relative Intensity” is an easy concept to use and one that experienced lifters come to know and appreciate with their advanced training age.  Almost everyone becomes familiar with the basic terms of lifting early on in training.  Repetitions are each movement of the bar or dumbbell.  Sets are groups of repetitions that are clustered together such as 5 sets of 5 reps. Loads or percentages are the amount of weight that is placed on the bar or used via the dumbbell.  5 sets of 5 reps at 85% of the one rep max is the same for everyone.  If my max is 100 pounds then the load on the bar is 85% of 100 or 85 pounds.  If your max is 300 then the load will be .85 multiplied by 300 or 255 pounds.  Intensity is either load or volume.  It can also be speed, but that is another topic for another day.  Volume is expressed as the number of sets multiplied by the number of reps. Therefore 5 x 5 is a volume of 25 and 4 sets of 10 reps is a volume of 40.  Relative Intensity is different.  Relative Intensity takes into consideration the relationship of the load to the volume and the volume to the load.  More is better, right?  But the whole question is more what?  Is it more sets, more reps, more load, more volume, more speed, more rest, or more what?

What relationship does volume have with load?  Is there a relationship?  Is it an important consideration in order to reach my training goals?  YES!  Olympic lifters and power lifters spend the majority of their training reps in the 1 – 3 rep range. Why?  Because their goal is max weight lifted.  Most body builders spend the majority of their training in the 5 – 10 rep range. Why?  Because their goal is to pack on the most mass possible.  How does relative intensity relate to these two diverse groups?  Relative Intensity can smooth the transition from high to low volume and can create a common language between workouts that can be easily quantified and understood.  If Thor does 5 sets of 5 at 85%, that is a relative intensity of 97%.  Just follow the highlighted lines from 5 down to 85% and over to the left to 97% on the chart.  When he “unloaded” with 4 sets of 10 at 70% what was his relative intensity?  Go down from 10 to 70% and over to the left hand side to find . . . 97% !  So, Thor “unloaded” to 70%, but when you take the volume of each set into consideration, he was actually training at the same “relative intensity” !  Is this a critical component of training?  For a competitive lifter and body builder it is absolutely critical.  It can mean the difference between health and injury, the fine line between champion and also – ran.  According to A. S. Prilepin , the optimal number of lifts at various loads for Olympic lifting athletes are:

70% loads (3 – 6 repetitions)              18 total lifts

80% loads (2 – 4 repetitions)            15 total lifts

90% loads (1 – 2 repetitions)             7 – 10 total lifts

Prilepin further feels that if the total “number of lifts in one exercise is significantly above or below the optimal, then the training effect decreases.”*  Through his research he recommends the following volume totals (sets times reps) in relation to loads:

70% loads             no less than 12 reps – no more than 24

80% loads             no less than 10 reps – no more than 20

90% loads            no less than 4 reps – no more than 10

In building workouts it is important to recognize the role of relative intensity as the sets, reps and loads are added onto the exercises.  If the rep range is great from workout to workout or week to week then relative intensity is critical to understanding the relationship of load to volume, workout to workout and week to week.  According to Alexsei Medvedyev in  “A System of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting”,  as well as the USA Weightlifting manual Volume III “Training Program Design” regarding big lifts using the legs, the total number of reps divided by the all the percentage loads should equal 75%.  In other words, your average load in a squat, dead or clean for a month of training should be 75%.  This rule can be violated, but over the long haul for optimum performance and injury free workouts, this rule is inviolate.  This is due to the fact that we use our legs for standing, walking, running, jumping and changing direction.  On bench pressing, the average load can be skewed slightly higher (+2-4%).  In other words, the load should be a bell curve off of 75%.  From 70% – 80% about 35% of the reps should fall in this range.  With loads of 60% – 70% and 80% – 90% the volume of loads should be approximately 25% of the total volume for the month.  Below 60% load is 10% of the volume and above 90% is 5% of the volume.  What would change each month and with each year of training is an increase in the total volume of repetitions that can be executed with squats, deads, and/or cleans.

Now that we have a feel for the loads for the lifts, let’s examine the role of relative intensity.  If Thor did the 5 x 5 @ 85% workout, then his relative intensity was 97%.  That is extremely high.  Here is a good time to invoke the 10% rule.  Any time you feel the need to back down, 10% is the MINIMUM that is needed to create a recovery/compensation/super-compensation effect so that the strength that is being developed can be expressed.  In ranges above 85% relative intensity, the recovery workout should be more in the range of 15% off of the peak load.  In light of this, what load should Thor have selected for his load at 4 x 10?  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 55% – 60% of his 1 rep max needed to be loaded onto the bar.  This may seem too light, but remember, we must take into account the volume that Thor wants for today’s workout . . . 4 x 10 or 40 reps.  This is almost exactly 80% of what Thor knows from experience he can handle in a volume squat workout (remember, 50 reps total is the max number of reps in a volume squat workout, unless you want that workout to carry over into next week or even next month).

In devising your training programs, it is critical that your record your workouts.  As you begin to progress in your training age, you will begin to know and understand your limits.  If I decide to squat 5 x 8 @ 76%, what is that in relation to my 8 x 3 @ 85% workout from last week?  (It is 40 reps at a relative intensity of 97% versus 24 total reps at a relative intensity of 91%).  In light of this, maybe I would be better served to do 8 x 3 @ 82% with a R.I. of 88% followed the next week by 5 x 8 @ 58% with a R.I. of 79%.  According to Tudor O. Bompa in “Periodization of Strength”, all strength training occurs above a load of 80%.  Power training effects occur at loads of 50 – 80%.  The concept of relative intensity creates a common language that unlocks the relationship of volume to reps and reps to volume.  Incorporating this tool in building your workouts enables you to train harder, train smarter and train longer with fewer plateaus and less staleness and injury.  After all, isn’t that what it is all about? More is better.


Baker, Gene  USA Weightlifting Coaching Manual Volume III “Training Program Design”  USA       Weightlifting  Colorado Springs, CO 1980

Bompa, Tudor O.   ‘Periodization of Strength’,  Veritas Publishing Inc.  Toronto, Ontario Canada 1993

Fleck, Steven and Kraemer, William “Designing Resistance Training Programs”  Human Kinetics Books

Champaign IL 1987

*Laputin, Nikolai and Oleshko, Valentin “ Managing the Training of Weightlifters” Sportivny Press

Livonia MI 1982

Medvedyev, Alexsei  “A System of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting”  Sportivny Press  Livonia MI


Fleck, Steven and Kraemer, William “Designing Resistance Training Programs”  Human Kinetics Books

Champaign IL 1987

Question and Answer for Strength Coaches


The goals of our in – season football training program depend on who is doing the training.  For the upper classmen that have been in the program and are playing, the focus is injury prevention and strength maintenance.  For our underclassmen that are not competing as much, it is strength/power improvement as well as injury prevention.  The athletes that are not competing but are red shirted or on the scout team will spend time on fitness as well as strength/power development.

Typically we train strength and power on Monday with snatches, squats and bench being our big lifts.  We follow that up with power and speed on Thursday with cleans, single leg lifts and incline presses.  We always include lots of back pulling in order to prevent imbalances in the shoulder girdle. The modality will change from bars to dumbbells, the loads and volumes will fluctuate and the exercises will also change.  For instance, in an in-season cycle that changes every 3 – 4 weeks, we could do the following:

Exercise                        Week 1 – 3                 Week 5 – 7                     Week 9 – 11

Monday – big lifts

Snatch                        Bar – hang                     1 Arm DB – hang                 Bar floor

Squat                           Safety bar                        Back squat                         Front squat

Bench                           Bar                                    Db’s                                     Floor

Thursday – big lifts

Cleans                        Bar – floor                        Bar – hang                        Db’s – hang

Single leg                  Bar squats                        Db hi box step – ups        Db 3 way lunges

Incline                        Db’s                                   Bar                                       Db alternate

We keep the sets and reps low as we are attempting to keep our strength and power levels high while not wearing out the athletes with the volume. Typically, our in-season volume is about 35 – 45% of an off – season workout.  A Monday workout will be about 45 – 60 minutes depending on the work capacity of the athlete.  A Thursday session will typically take 30 – 45 minutes.  The fitter and fresher the athlete, the quicker the athlete will finish.  The prescribed loads will be in the mid to upper ranges (80 – 90%) on occasion.

Weeks 4 and 8 are transition weeks.  They typically coincide with exam weeks in school.  The coaches cannot pull off on practice and the game is the game.  Therefore, we give our athletes off Thursday from lifting.  This allows for mental, physical and emotional recovery as well as some extra time for studying.

The athletes in football not involved in competition will workout Friday either at 6:00 am if the game is away or at 2:30 in the afternoon if we are at home.  This workout is purely for fitness.  We emphasize strength with dumbbell and bodyweight circuits and conclude with a big interval sprint session. For most of this group, this is the hardest day of the week.

The practical goals of our program depend on which athlete we are focused upon.  For our upper classmen it is constantly adjusting the training modalities from bars to dumbbells, machines or tubing in order to accommodate the various injuries, bumps and bruises the game of football imposes on the human body.  For our new players it is adjusting to the demands of scheduling their time and getting accustomed to actually lifting weights in a scientifically designed, demanding program with structure.  For our non – competing athletes we are training toward a max in the strength/power lifts while attempting to build upon their foundation of fitness.

Each athlete gets an individualized workout based upon his or her maxes sport and position.  This workout prescription is further adjusted on the floor in consultation with the strength coach as the athlete begins their training session.  We have set times for each team or group to train.  Most of our athletes train before practice.  Occasionally we have teams that train post – practice.  At the end of each training session the athletes are required to get their workout sheet initialed upon completion.  This insures one on one interaction between the coach and the athlete each and every workout.  At the end of every workout the athletes will get a recovery drink and stretch for 5:00 to aid in restoring their body to pre – workout levels in time for practice


During the summer months we usually have 65 – 75 football athletes here, depending on the summer school schedule.  By July both basketball teams are here in full force and we generally have 30 – 40 athletes from other teams that are here for various reasons.   We open at noon since the morning is devoted to classes and have our first group of women athletes at 1:15.  Our first group of football players is at 2:30.  At 4:00 we have our second group of women, at 5:00 our men’s basketball team and at 5:30 our second group of football athletes.  This allows for plenty of room, good safety and lots of coaching, instruction and supervision. We usually wrap up the day between 7:00 and 7:30.

We are a “mid – major” school and our athletes are in summer school or, in the case of some of our athletes, working.  Therefore, our athlete’s mornings are taken up with class or work.  That is the reason for the late schedule.  Other schools I have coached at had all of their athletes in summer school, which caused our football schedule to be a 1:30 lifting/running group followed by throwing at 3:30 and a 4:30 lifting/running group.  On that schedule our day wrapped up about 6:00.   In that model the morning was again slotted for classes, tutors and studying.  I know some of my colleagues have early groups or are exclusively early workout teams with football finished by 10:00 a.m. each day.  We do that in the winter, on Fridays, but in the summer we generally become an afternoon and evening team.

The athletes that go home are given a separate workout plan that is more generic in nature.  This is due to the fact that they will not have access to the same type of modalities (sleds, chains, rubber bands, hills, sand pits, etc.) that we have access to here.  However, when they return they are accountable for their level of fitness by the point system we use as they begin their workouts for the fall.  Larry Smith, my head coach at the University of Southern California taught me the point system.  I thought it was an ingenious way to help make competitive what could be a negative at the beginning of the year.   It is evenly weighted with 15 points for the weight room and 16 points for the running.   Each athlete must attain a score of 23 of 33 points or 70% in order to pass.  We accomplished all of our testing as a part of the voluntary training program so no practice time was used.

During the summer we use a lot of variety to foster compliance and excitement.  We expect our leaders to lead and our followers to follow.  We have always built in breaks and use every toy that we can think of to make it different and fun.  We have watermelon on occasion and Popsicles after big running days.  I have had guys go to nearby schools and throw with their guys and it is generally a fun time of preparation.

Question and Answer for Strength Coaches

What is the importance of plyometric training and where does it fit in your program?

Plyometric training is one way to bridge the gap between the strength training program and the field of competition.  It is essentially speed – strength training, with the load fairly constant (bodyweight) and the training stimulus being speed of movement and volume (sets times reps).  Several years ago I was talking to some of the coaches at Nebraska, Mike Arthur and Brian Bailey and they had instituted an outstanding concept with their linemen.  Instead of a lot of traditional plyometrics, they implemented more agility training due to the size of the athlete they were dealing with at the offensive and defensive line positions.  They quantified the plyo’s by sets, reps and foot contacts and the agilities by sets and reps in order to keep track of training loads and volumes.

Since plyometrics are from track and field, which is a predominantly linear sport, they tend to develop speed and acceleration linearly.  Agilities are traditionally rooted in court/field sports that involve change of direction and acceleration.  Garret Giemont, the long time NFL strength coach organizes his agilities into speed angles and shuttles.  Angles being the W drill, the L drill, etc. which tend to conserve speed through the angles of the cuts.  These drills tend to be less demanding than the shuttle type drills (the 5 – 10 – 5 20 yard short shuttle) that require the athlete to change direction and come back down a line that is 180 degrees opposite of the one he or she was originally on.

Implementing these two concepts into the training program has elevated our return on training.  This coupled with the influence of Mike Boyle’s concept of a predominantly lateral day alternated with a linear day have produced even better results.

Our training progression is landing first emphasizing bend at the hip – knee – ankle and land soft. This is followed by the simple drills such as box jump – ups (and step down), which are done year round.  In the off – season we implement hurdle jumps and for the lighter athletes we also include hurdle hops.  The heavier athletes (football linemen) do more agilities.  In our total program, time – wise or rep wise, plyo’s only comprise a minute share of emphasis.  We implement a lot more agility training into our program because we feel we get more bang for our buck with agilities than plyometrics.  The ability to maintain speed through a cut or change of direction while maintaining a low athletic position is much more important than the ability to generate speed linearly.  We use the plyo’s to develop elastic strength in our athletes more than to enhance their ability to accelerate or develop speed.

What is your philosophy of training to develop power in your athletes?

Power development is of primary importance for athletes of virtually every sport.  The ability to generate force in a short amount of time in order to accelerate the body and/or an implement is central to most sporting endeavors.  In designing a program, there are many variables, but only a relative few will create a training effect of power.  Power development involves some load/resistance and a lot of speed of movement.  The load can be as light as body weight or as heavy as up to 60 even possibly 70 percent of a one rep max in certain speed – strength exercises.

In Olympic style weight lifting (which is speed – strength in nature) as the load increases, the nature of training will move from speed – strength to strength – speed as the movement slows with the corresponding increase in resistance.  In order to maximize the power output (or the speed variable in speed – strength) then two things are paramount in selecting the exercises, drills, protocols and modalities.  These are the load, which must be kept relatively light (depending on the exercise/drill selection) and whether the skill involves release of an implement or leaving the ground.   If at any point in the drill the movement slows more than 10% from optimum then the power output drops dramatically.  In the case of release skills such as throwing a medicine ball or squat jumps, the power output can be dramatic and measurable.

Any type of plyometric training is by its very nature power development.  Boiled down to its simplest form, almost every sport is based on some type of jumping, hopping, bounding and throwing.   Sprinting is bounding from foot to foot.  Cleans, snatches, jerks are jumping with weight.  Squatting is a very similar movement, but you don’t leave the ground.  In order to create power, you would need to do squat jumps, the same movement as squats, but with “release” off of the ground and a much greater power output.  Medicine ball training can be plyometric in nature such as mediball bench press, twist toss and crunch sit – ups with a toss.  Mediballs can also mimic cleans with forward and reverse scoop tosses.  The load is much lighter than cleans and snatches and the implement is released so the power output is greater with a very similar movement.

As with any quality training parameter, the rest/recovery bout should be long enough to allow for maximal restoration in order to keep the quality of the efforts very high in regards to speed and/or distance.  The volume is relatively low in total and especially within each set.  Remember, less is more in regards to volume in relation to power development.  In Olympic lifting the optimal rest is 2:00 for snatches and up to 3:00 minutes for heavy cleans.  Sets in Olympic style training usually have reps that are generally 2 + or – 1.  I have taken the same approach with mediball training, if it is total body exercises.  Remember, power training is for quality, not quantity of effort.  How many times do you come out of your stance as a football lineman every 40 seconds?  How many times do you come out of the blocks as a sprinter in 2:00?  How many times in a row do you jump for a rebound if you were a basketball player? 3? 5?  If it’s 10, maybe you are training the wrong basketball team.

The order of training is critical in a day as well as within the week.  In a workout, the order is warm – up, loosen – up and build – up to sport speed.  This warm – up is followed by technique work, speed training, and power development. Strength training and work capacity, fitness or conditioning is always last.   In any particular week, the order is speed first, followed by power second.  After this (or the second day) then there is some leeway in the composition of the final days of the workouts based on time of the year, training age of the athletes and number of days left in the program for the week.  If it is based on the European week, then Wednesday is fitness, Thursday is recovery, Friday is strength and Saturday is fitness, again.  In America, it usually is Wednesday is recovery, Thursday is strength and Friday is fitness.

Questions and Answers for Strength Coaches

How do you handle teaching your athletes the policies and procedures of the weight room?

At the beginning of each year we meet with each team and discuss the policies and procedures for the weight room.  At this meeting we explain why we put our plates up facing out (for asthetics and tradition), why we load each end of each bar from the weight rack right next to it (for ease, comfort and safety), why we put our dumbbells up after each set (for safety) and finally, why we rack all of our plates after we finish training (so the weight room is ready for the next team).

At some point during the year we will have groups, teams and/or individuals that will “forget” to clean up after they have finished training.  We usually remind them by having them do extra sit –ups (one for every pound the coaches put up) or extra running (1 yard for every pound or one sprint for every bar/dumbbell).

This will quickly remind the seniors that it is important that we clean up and be responsible for ourselves and they will convey that message to the rest of the team.

It is usually very easy to get our athletes to clean up after themselves as they take great pride in our facility and enjoy the opportunity to train in a first class environment.  They also understand that in terms of time management it is important to have a place for every thing and everything in its place.  We are very up tempo in our training methods and the only way to be efficient in our set per minute giant sets is to have the room set up for easy traffic flow, optimal group size (no more than 30 – 35) and things where they belong.

How do I handle situations where the head coach or one of the position coaches takes time away from strength and conditioning for meetings, team building, etc.

Well, there are many factors to consider.  The chain of command is one.  If the head coach is responsible, as Bill Parcells told me, “Well, remember, it’s his team.” He/she can do what ever they choose to do, as in their opinion it is the most important thing for the team.  If it is one of the position coaches, then maybe it is being done without the head coach’s knowledge.  Consider the situation where the team arrives late and the schedule is such that the weight room and the strength coach are only available for the alloted time slot as another team is arriving shortly to begin their work out.  Coach the late team for the remaining time, then move on to the next team and begin to coach them when they arrive. Be aware of the late team finishing their training due to safety reasons, but do not slight the team that is on time.  Occasionally this will occur, but if it is chronic, make sure and communicate with the coach the impact the continued tardiness of the team will have on the ability of the staff to instruct their team. If the late team has a “higher priority” than the early team, then you have another problem altogether.

Some sport coaches have little or no regard for others times or needs.  What ever they are doing is so much more important and will take precedence over anything in your world.  I believe this is due to the mind set that the sport coach’s time and needs are much more important than anyone or anything else.  Or, the mindset that the strength coach’s needs or time is much less important than anything concerning the sport coach.  In this instance, you can rest assured the sport coach will have their team on time to a meeting with the Athletic Director or President, someone above them in the chain of command. Either way, the end result is that your needs, wants and concerns are of low priority.  Many times it is just poor time management on the part of the sport coach.  Whatever the reason, it is important that the strength coach remain professional and objective and not relay the frustration or blame to the athletes.  Coach the athletes when they show up, as long as the schedule permits and handle it later in a professional manner.

The real problem occurs when the sport coach does not have any regard or respect for your time and needs, yet still holds you accountable for their athletes.  I have been in situations where sport coaches have told the athlete they are not required to attend strength training sessions.  I have also experienced sport coaches not supporting the strength coach when an athlete is refusing to comply with the training program (shaving sets and reps) is coached hard (not cussed hard) and the athlete runs to the sport coach.  The sport coach then backs the athlete over the strength coach.  The sport coach’s twisted logic is that I can get a person to be the strength coach tomorrow, but I can’t go out and recruit another ________ (point guard, tailback, ace pitcher, hurdler, etc.) that can ___________  (play, run, jump, shoot, throw) like _________ (insert name).  I even had an athletic director put a track athlete back in the weight room with no punishment after the athlete was kicked out for missing over 6 workouts.  The message is clear, the athlete is more important than the strength coach.  The problem is compounded when the sport coach later grills you as to why ________ (name a player) is _________ (out of shape”, can’t bench 400 pounds, doesn’t look like or play) like ____________ (insert players name) or the guys/girls at ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­___________ (insert another team). When this happens, it is usually due to one of two factors.  Either the coach has suffered a bad loss, losses or season and it is going to be everyone’s fault but theirs, or they have just arrived and they want “my guy” to be the strength coach.  Either way, the situation is such that strength coaches are always going to be held responsible for the strength and fitness progress of the athletes and in many instances, be unable to hold the athlete’s accountable for their actions.  A classic conundrum that requires a very talented person with a special skill set to fulfill the role of strength and conditioning professional.  In order to surmount the problems inherent to the system, as well as get the results demanded by the competition requires diligence, creativity, personality, intelligence and passion.  The problem is, very few decision makers understand that strength coaching is a profession filled with quality individuals that do make a difference.

Question and Answer for Strength Coaches

What emphasis do you put on core training and when and where does it fit in your program?

Core training is done at the beginning, middle and end of all of our strength workouts performed in the weight room.  At the beginning of our workouts we may do chronic abs which are a series of on the floor sit –ups done either coach directed or at the athletes direction targeting all areas of the abs. We may also do hanging abs, where we hang from the racks and lift our legs, knees or feet up to our stomach, chest or hands in a variety of exercises.  We may also do some swiss ball exercises, some mediball drills or some rubber band or tubing exercises for our core.  I always assign some type of core training prior to the work out in order to awaken and stimulate the core in order to foster correct neural recruitment to protect the core as the heavier exercises are executed.  Years ago it was recommended that no core work be done prior to heavy weight training in order to prevent core fatigue and possible injury.  I have found over the years that some core work at the beginning actually seems to help foster better mechanics during the lifting workouts.

At the end of our workouts we assign more ab/core work and a lot of this is of the weighted or heavier variety.  We repeat our pre workout chronic abs but add ankle weights and a plate or mediball in our hands for extra resistance.  We do burnout sets with the mediball.  We prescribe swiss ball exercises for stability and strength when the athlete is already fatigued.  We do more rubber band or tubing ab drills.  I also have found that if I break up the ab work I can get better compliance from my athletes, especially when it is not coach directed.

Many of the exercises our athletes perform call the core into play.  When an athlete cleans, snatches, squats or does combination lifts, the core is being called upon in order to support and stabilize the load.  Many of our circuit workouts with dumbbells have an extreme core component in the execution of the individual exercises.  In essence, any time our athletes are standing and lifting loads that are in their hands or on their shoulders, their core is involved to some degree.  The higher the load is over their shoulders and the lower the hips are in the movement, the greater the core is being called into play.  Going from bilateral support to unilateral support increases core involvement.  Decreasing the stability of the athlete or increasing the instability of the surface the athlete is on increases the demand on the core.

In summary, the more ways we can target the core, the better we get at just about everything we do.

Is warm-up that important?

Warm – up is a critical component of the training and conditioning process in my philosophy as a coach.  Warm – up will set the tone, tempo and attitude of the individual, group or team for the entire workout.  If the warm – up is slow, methodical, sloppy, half – hearted, mechanical, or non – existent, then the workout,  practice or competition will reflect that type of warm – up.  However, if the warm – up is up tempo, crisp and possesses variety, then the following session will begin will reflect those same attributes.

I try to accomplish several things during warm – up. I want to warm the athletes up.  But, I also want to create suppleness throughout the body, turn the neuromuscular system on, properly prepare the athletes for the workout to follow and progress the warm – up to the point the athlete is ready to handle the stressors of the upcoming workout.  I call this sequence warm – up, loosen – up, turn – on, build – up and workout.

Warm – up consists of a variety of exercises and drills I implement in order to create an athlete that is prepared for the workout.  When I was coming up, warm – up used to consist of “run around the goalpost” or “3 times around the gym” or “give me a lap around the track” and that was it.  Today, warm – up is utilized for pre – hab injury prevention exercises, neural innervation to “turn on” the proper musculature, agility, mobility, core strengthening, joint loosening, balance enhancement, spatial awareness training, as well as building up to the speed, power and strength in the ranges of motion needed in the workout itself.  In other words, as Vern Gambetta queried many times,

“Where does warm – up end and the work out begin?”

The warm – up is crafted based upon several parameters.  The type of workout that will follow the warm – up, the sequence of the previous workout, the warm – up menu for the training period, the demands of the sport and the needs of the athlete.  If the workout is a horizontal speed session, then the warm – up is more like a “track” warm – up, with lots of sprint technique drills.  If the workout is a lateral speed and agility session, the warm –up is designed to prepare the athlete for hip, knee, ankle flexion, rotation and extension at the proper speed and depth.  If the work out is a strength, plyometric, conditioning or work capacity session, then the warm – up will again reflect those differences.

During warm – up I prescribe lots of pre – hab drills in order to foster injury prevention.  Things such as neck for football, multi – planer balance single leg squats and single leg good mornings as well as rubber band walks for ACL protection.  Slide board drills for groin development/protection, hamstring slow speed strengtheners on glute hams, physioballs and with partners to name a few.  Loosen – up consists of dynamic movements to prepare the joints and the body for the full range of motion demands of the workout.  I do not do a lot of “stretching” prior to a training session.  Old timey stretching/flexibility is saved for post workout time.

Turn – on is a reference to incorporating the neural component of the neuromuscular system.  Many of my athletes have been in bed sleeping or sitting in class just prior to the training session.  Many of the muscles have been somewhat dormant and need to be awakened or “jazzed up” for the workout.  The core needs to be addressed, the glutes need to be made to function and on some specific athletes, the abductors and adductors of the hip need remedial work.  I assign specific drills and exercises in order to get these areas fired up and functioning as they were designed.

Build – up refers to the athlete continuing the warm – up to the point in which they are prepared to move at the speed needed for the session and in the manner required for the drills assigned.  If the athlete is doing an agility workout, they need to be prepared to bend, rotate, extend and explode in and out of cuts.  If the training session is a horizontal conditioning session, then the athlete needs to be prepared to run at the tempo required for the sprints assigned.  If the athlete is going from warm – up to the platform, then they need to be ready to pull and rack quality weight with posture, power and technique.

My warm – ups are generally 10 – 20 minutes in length and consist of a variety of drills, modalities, techniques, planes, tempos and ranges of motion.  It is imperative the athlete be prepared for the upcoming session.  I look at it this way.  If the upcoming training session were a competition, would I want my athletes prepared to start fast, with great focus, function and fundamentals?  I think we all would respond with a resounding “Yes!”