IN – SEASON TRAINING IDEAS
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
SUMMER TRAINING IDEAS
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.
Tactical athletes in the military, law enforcement and fire/rescue communities can range from part time SWAT officers and volunteer fire rescue personnel up to elite operators in Hazmat teams, full – time SWAT Officers and our military’s finest operators in Special Forces. Testing is a part of this culture. The higher the level of the individual in terms of his/her expertise or the team they are a part of, the greater importance testing takes in the optimal readiness and efficiency of the individual. The lower the level of the team, the more often testing is viewed as a necessary evil of the job, something to be tolerated and passed rather than an opportunity to compete and excel.
Testing for the tactical athlete is challenging to say the least. In the military world, testing is expected and accepted. In law enforcement and fire/rescue testing ranges from accepted, tolerated to even resisted. Regardless, once testing has occurred, what has been measured and how does this relate to the ability of the individual to do the job? In the Olympic sport of weightlifting, the web has been used for many years to compare contrasting physical abilities in order to determine physical abilities and progress between competitions. The web is a spider web configuration with the tests percentiles arrayed along each vector of the web from the center (zero) out to the edge (99th Percentile). The vectors of the web are configured so similar measured parameters are aligned together. When this web is configured for each individual, the optimal web should be circular in shape and above the cutoff percentile for each individual. If the web is not circular, then the “dent” should reflect a lack of ability in a certain area of fitness. It could be strength endurance, aerobic fitness, anaerobic power, even body composition and assessment scores. The individual can then create a training plan in which the emphasis becomes pushing the dent out and raising the score in the deficient area in order to create a more circular web in terms of fitness scores.
Here is an example of a web using the Cooper Age and Gender Base Standards for Law Enforcement as our basis for the percentile rankings. Lets assume our individuals being tested both mid 30’s males and the test battery scores were:
Officer Blue Officer Red
Test Score Percentile Score Percentile
1.5 Mile Run 10:14 85th 11:49 60
300 Meter Run 51 80 54 65
Vertical Jump 19.5 50 26 95
1:00 Push-ups 34 70th 71 95
1:00 Sit-ups 62 100 55 100
Generally, tactical athletes fall into three categories – lifters, runners and those that do just enough to pass the test as fitness is not a part of their lifestyle. As can be inferred from the example, Officer Blue is a runner and Officer Red is a lifter. Both are in good to excellent shape in terms of fitness. However, if body composition is introduced, Officer Blue is 15% body fat at 170 pounds while Officer Red is 22% fat at 200 pounds. Neither is unfit, however, at 22% body fat and in his mid-thirties, Officer Red could be on track to be over fat and under fit by his mid-forties. The mitigating factor is genetics. If Officer Red is a thick, heavy-set football lineman type of build, then maybe he is optimizing his fitness potential.
Regardless, in terms of overall fitness for the job, the recommendations for Officer Blue would be to increase his lower body elastic strength training minutes (plyometrics, jump rope, ladder drills, dot drills, etc.) and his anaerobic power training minutes (intense circuits such as Tabata style (20 seconds work bouts – 20 second recovery bouts for multiple sets), crossfit type training focusing on the 45 – 60 second work bouts, as well as speed endurance training such as 200’s up to 400’s with quality being the guide to volume).
Officer Red is a big, strong lifter that uses weights as his main source of fitness. He does some running, but most of it is moderately, short interval sprints such as repeat 50’s up to repeat 200’s on occasion. His overall ability to utilize oxygen is compromised either by his body composition, choice of fitness training or a combination of both. The idea for Officer Red is to incorporate some longer sessions of fitness either jogging, biking, swimming, elliptical workouts or moderate circuits that go for several stations with multiple rounds keeping the heart rate up in the 140’s for the entire training session. Using heart rate training, the 5 zones of training for both officers are 220 minus their age + or – up to 10 beats per minute either way. The range is due to genetics, body composition and fitness level. A fit officer that spends a great deal of time on a well rounded fitness program who is a lean person with low body fat will be in the lower ranges while the heavier, less fit officer would be in the higher ranges for the same workload or workout. So, the zones for each officer would look like this:
HR Zone Percentage +10 Average -10
Competition – Testing – Arrest Gone Bad
Intense 85-95% 177 167 157
Quality Intervals – Tabata / Crossfit Circuits
Moderate 75-85% 159 149 139
Long Slow Distance – Giant Set Weight Training – Some Circuits
Light 65 – 75% 141 131 121
Warm-up, social weight training
Recovered 55-65% 123 113 103
Daily Activity 50% – Under Under 93 beats per minute
Resting Heart Rate upon waking without moving
Resting heart rate could be as low as in the low to mid 40’s with elite level fitness athletes. With sedentary, unfit people, resting heart rate can be in the 60’s and even 70’s. Anything above 84 is generally regarded as dangerous and should be immediately referred to a physician for examination. The lowest heart rates recorded are in the Tour de France athletes with Indurain at 28 and Armstrong at 32 at peak condition. If we assume max is 30 and illness begins at 85, then average would be 57.5 for fit individuals with a range of 55 – 60 for high fit.
Testing ranges from a necessary evil that is tolerated to an opportunity to compete and excel. Regardless, the key is what is being tested and what is to be taken from the test battery. What can be done to relate testing back to the everyday choices the tactical athlete makes in terms of fitness training. The web is a tool that can be used to track and compare disparate tests and relate them back to the individual tactical athlete in order to coach them to optimal status for the team, themselves, their health and operational status.
With the NFL Combine rapidly approaching, many test times and scores will be stated as gospel by various people such as announcers, trainers and coaches. For years I was unsure of actual numbers other than scores from the NFL Combine results sheets I was able to obtain. When looking at those I (like everyone else) focused on the fastest, highest, most or the scores posted by those that had the greatest media profile. What I became interested in was what was the average number an athlete could score in the tests. So, I took the results sheets from several years and ran the numbers looking for averages. Below is what I found. True enough, these numbers are not from the last 3-4 years, but represent what an athlete can expect to score or shoot for on the big day.
Also remember, many athletes that score the fastest, highest, most in terms of numbers just cannot play the game at the level the NFL expects. See how many big time names you see in the best scores of all time.
Position E10 H20 H40 5-10-5 L DRILL VJ BPRS
NT 1.85 2.98 5.32 4.86 8.22 27.5 21
DT 1.81 2.95 5.12 4.64 7.83 29.5 29
DE 1.71 2.79 4.82 4.35 7.33 33.5 24
ILB 1.66 2.73 4.73 4.05 7.1 34.5 25
OLB 1.65 2.68 4.63 4.15 7.14 35.5 23
DB – CB 1.59 2.61 4.49 4.11 7.03 36.5 13
DB – SAF 1.62 2.67 4.59 4.08 6.92 36.5 17
CENTER 1.82 3.01 5.28 4.6 7.83 28.5 26
GUARD 1.88 3.10 5.42 4.75 7.99 27.5 25
TACKLE 1.83 3.02 5.23 4.72 7.94 29.5 26
TE 1.73 2.84 4.88 4.34 7.37 31.5 26
FB 1.71 2.80 4.82 4.28 7.43 32 24
TB 1.64 2.67 4.6 4.23 7.3 34 19
WR 1.62 2.66 4.58 4.18 7.08 35 18
QB 1.71 2.82 4.88 4.36 7.39 30.5 N/A
Also remember, many athletes that score the fastest, highest, most in terms of numbers just cannot play the game at the level the NFL expects. See how many of the athletes below went forward from an outstanding score at the NFL Combine to a solid, let alone great NFL career.
All Time Top Ten Scores 1999 – 2009
40 Yard Dash 10 Yard Burst
1999 4.24 Rondel Melendez 1999 1.47 Jay Hinton
2000 4.32 Antwan Harris 2000 1.48 Antwan Harris
2001 4.31 Santana Moss 2001 1.50 Deuce McAllister
2002 4.31 Aaron Lockett 2002 1.50 Brian Allen
2003 4.32 Kevin Garrett 2003 1.46 Bob Sanders
2004 4.33 Carlos Francis 2004 1.50 Rufus Brown
2005 4.28 Jerome Mathis 2005 1.50 Fabian Washington
2006 4.31 Johnathan Joseph 2006 1.48 Tim Jennings
2007 4.30 Yamon Figurs 2007 1.43 Allison, McCauley, Weddle
2008 4.24 Chris Johnson 2008 1.40 Chris Johnson
2009 4.30 Darrius Heyward-Bey 2009 1.40 Cedric Peerman
225 Bench Press Reps Vertical Jump (No Step Approach)
1999 51 Justin Earnest 1999 43.5 Jay Hinton
2000 45 Leif Larsen 2000 41.5 Curtis Keaton
2001 37 Roberto Garza 2001 45 Chris Chambers
2002 36 Scott Peters 2002 42 William Green
2003 38 Tony Pashos 2003 42.5 Nate Burleson
2004 42 Isaac Sopoaga 2004 41.5 Bob Sanders
2005 43 Scott Young 2005 46 Gerald Sensabaugh
2006 45 Mike Kudla 2006 42 Vernon Davis
2007 42 Tank Tyler 2007 41.5 Quincy Black
2008 37 Vernon Gholston 2008 39 Carl Stewart
2009 39 Louis Vasquez 2009 45 Donald Washington
20 yd Shuttle (5-10-5) Three Cone Test (L Drill)
1999 3.79 Champ Bailey 1999 ?? Unknown
2000 3.82 Dante Hall 2000 6.45 Sedrick Curry
2001 3.73 Kevin Kasper 2001 6.56 Kevin Casper
2002 3.76 Deion Branch 2002 6.50 Jon McGraw
2003 3.83 Terence Newman 2003 6.72 Ryan Hoag
2004 3.78 Dunta Robinson 2004 6.68 Schweigert, Stuart
2005 3.84 Beriault, Rogers 2005 6.49 Carlos Rogers
2006 3.83 Jason Allen 2006 6.64 Tye Hill
2007 3.90 Sabby Piscitelli 2007 6.50 Leon Hall
2008 3.96 Arman Shields 2008 6.57 Harry Douglas
2009 3.96 Kevin Barnes 2009 6.59 Malcolm Jenkins
Standing Long Jump
1999 ?? Unknown
2000 10’11” Curtis Keaton
2001 11’02” Cedric James, Chris Chambers, Jonathan Carter
2002 10’10” Terreal Bierria, Caldwell Reche
2003 11’05” Justin Fargas
2004 10’11” D J Hackett
2005 11’05” Scott Starks
2006 11’01” Will Blackmon, Pat Watkins
2007 11’0” Daren Stone
2008 11’04” Jerome Simpson
2009 11’3” Donald Washington
The NFL Combine was originally founded as a medical event. With the advent of keeping athletes for long-term contracts, the franchises wanted each prospect to be given a full physical. The top prospects were flown to as many as a dozen clubs for medical evaluations. Imagine getting a full set of X-Rays by 6 – 12 different teams. The franchises didn’t like the expense and the athletes did not like the health risk. So, Gene “Duke” Babb founded the NFL Combine, which is run by National Football Scouting. The first combine was held in 1982 in Tampa. After moving to New Orleans, then Arizona, the National Invitational Camp was moved to its current home in Indianapolis in 1987.
How do you test athletes for camp? How do you hold them accountable in todays culture in which they want it all? Jobs, social life, family time, hobbies and sports all vie for their limited attention spans and quality time. Larry Smith, the head coach at Arizona, Southern Cal and Missouri first introduced this to me as my boss at USC. After spring testing, the scores are set and the goals for the fall are determined for the fall. I have used this system very successfully with men and women’s basketball, volleyball, soccer, baseball and football at the collegiate level. IF the head coach buys in, it is very easy to get athlete buy-in. I have had various head coaches put their own spin on the test so that it better reflects their culture and system. For example, in soccer, the 110’s were 1:00 minute turnovers in which after running the distance, the athletes had the balance of the minute to return to the starting line. We did not max basketball athletes in the clean at times so we did a trap bar pull off of boxes (like a dead lift but more centered with the trap bar and from a higher starting point than the floor).
I feel this system works very well as the lifters need to run and the runners need to lift. Everyone needs to be aware of their body weight and body composition. Great performance is rewarded and laziness is penalized. In case of injury, the test that is not allowed will be thrown out and the scale will reflect the change in total points possible as well as the passing score. In the spring, we encouraged our athletes to test for max effort lifts. In the summer, we counseled them to max for points. Once you max out on points – why go higher? It is time to play ball. We squatted all summer, but on Fridays we did leg circuits as well as some type of total body circuits (dumbbells, kettlebells, bar, body weight and mixed methods circuits). With camp approaching, I was not as concerned with how much weight an athlete could lift in the squat as how much work the legs could handle and recover in a short time bout and hit it again.
PRE-SEASON REPORTING POINT SYSTEM
1. BODY WEIGHT – IF YOU ARE WITHIN 2% OF YOUR GOAL WEIGHT WHEN YOU REPORT YOU GET 1 POINT.
2. BODYFAT PERCENTAGE – IF YOU ARE ON OR BELOW YOUR ASSIGNED BODYFAT PERCENTAGE YOU GET 1 POINT.
3. STRENGTH TESTS – IF YOU ACHIEVE YOUR STRENGTH GOALS YOU WILL GET 3 POINTS. IF YOU ARE 5 POUNDS ABOVE YOUR GOAL YOU WILL GET 4 POINTS, 10 POUNDS ABOVE YOUR GOAL YOU RECEIVE 5 POINTS. IF YOU ARE 5 – 10 POUNDS BELOW YOU ONLY GET 2 POINTS, 15 – 20 POUNDS BELOW IS 1 POINT.
PTS. POWER CLEAN BENCH PRESS *LEG CIRCUIT
5 +10 POUNDS +10 POUNDS 5 SETS IN 90 SEC.
4 +5 POUNDS +5 POUNDS 4 SETS IN 90 SEC.
3 GOAL WEIGHT GOAL WEIGHT 3 SETS IN 90 SEC.
2 -5 POUNDS -5 POUNDS 2 SETS IN 90 SEC.
1 -15 POUNDS -15 POUNDS 1 SET IN 90 SEC.
*YOU WILL BE EXPECTED TO PASS ALL 5 LEG CIRCUITS IN 90 SECONDS W/2:00 REST!
4. CONDITIONING TEST – 16 TIMES MODIFIED 110 TEST IN 15 SECONDS. LINEMEN RUN 90 YARDS; QB, LB, TE, FB, K, RUN 100 YARDS; SKILL RUN 110 YARDS. EVERYONE FINISHES @ GOAL LINE IN 15 SECONDS WITH 45 SECONDS RECOVERY TIME.
5. YOU GET A FREE POINT IF YOU HAVE NO MISSES FOR THE ENTIRE SPRING. IN HIGH SCHOOL YOU COULD REWARD SUMMER TRAINING. IN COLLEGE, SUMMER REWARDS AND/OR PUNISHMENT IS FORBIDDEN.
YOU MUST SCORE 23 POINTS OUT OF A POSSIBLE 33.
THAT IS A SCORE OF 70% IN ORDER TO PASS.
IF YOU FAIL TO PASS, EACH POINT YOU FAIL BY WILL BE AN EXTRA DAY OF RUNNING AFTER PRACTICE.
FOR EXAMPLE, IF YOU SCORE 20 POINTS YOU WILL RUN EXTRA THE FIRST 3 DAYS AFTER PRACTICE.
THE HIGH POINT ATHLETE WILL RECEIVE THE BEST CONDITIONED ATHLETE AWARD ! !
I hope this sparks you to create your own system of testing prior to camp. Over the course of almost 15 years of collegiate coaching after I was taught this system, it worked for us. Good luck! Robb
Triangle Circuits is an excellent tool to use in order to build your circuit and control the volume of exercise that is prescribed. Steve Myrland (the inventor of the agility speed ladder) first introduced me to this training design concept. It is very simple in concept but can be very complex in the application. The first exercise (1) has the highest priority since it will be executed the most times during the circuit. The second exercise (2) has the second highest priority and so on. Below is a schematic drawing of this type of circuit design.
2) 1 2
3) 1 2 3
4) 1 2 3 4
5) 1 2 3 4 5
6) 1 2 3 4 5 6
7) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
This is an example of a 10 series circuit that builds up to 10 exercises or drills. It is easy to teach as the athlete builds one exercise/drill upon another, but always begins at the start which is always exercise/drill one. Exercise/drill one will get 10 sets, exercise/drill two will get 9 sets, exercise/drill three will get 8 sets, etc. So for instance if core is my main emphasis, followed by single leg strength, upper body pulling and pressing then the circuit with exercises/drills might look something like this.
2) Lateral Plank Hold
3) Prone Plank Hold
4) Lateral Lunge Squat
5) Inverted Pull – Ups
6) Single Leg Balance Squat
7) Push – Ups on Medballs
8) Alternate Step – Ups w/a weight vest
9) Alternate Tubing Pulls with Feet Staggered
10) Alternate Tubing Punches with Feet Staggered
This type of circuit can be time driven or rep driven in order to control either the total time of the workout or in order to increase the quality of the repetitions. I have found that time creates a sloppiness in reps but can also increase the mental stress of the work bout as the athlete does not know exactly how many reps are left to execute. If it is timedriven, I have an excellent chart in my “Power Conditioning Handbook” that details exactly how long any timed circuit will take in order to complete. An example from this table is below.
Number/Exercises Work Bout Recovery/Exercises Recovery/Sets
2 sets 3 sets 4 sets
4 :15 :30 2:00 7:00 11:30 16:00
6 :15 :30 2:00 11:20 18:00 24:40
8 :15 :30 2:00 13:00 20:30 28:00
10 :15 :30 2:00 16:00 25:00 34:00
4 :30 :30 2:00 9:00 14:30 20:00
6 :30 :30 2:00 13:00 20:30 28:00
8 :30 :30 2:00 17:00 26:30 36:00
10 :30 :30 2:00 21:00 32:30 44:00
4 :45 :45 3:00 13:30 21:45 30:00
6 :45 :45 3:00 19:30 30:45 42:00
8 :45 :45 3:00 25:30 39:45 54:00
10 :45 :45 3:00 31:30 48:45 66:00
This chart is designed to be utilized in conjunction with the old style straight circuits that we are all used to using. In order to construct a triangle chart, it would need to look something like this:
Time :15 on and :15 off
Time :30 on and :30 off
Number of Total
Time 1:00 on and 1:00 off
Here is another tool to use in order to develop and implement workouts for your clients.
A special thank you is in order to Steve Myrland for sharing his expertise with me concerning the development of this topic.
Olympic lifting is a sport consisting of the Clean and Jerk as well as the Snatch. The clean is two movements, pulling the bar from the floor and catching it in a front squat position and recovering to a standing position followed by the Jerk. At this point a consolidation of the grip is allowed as part of the recovery. The Jerk is a short dip and drive accomplished by flexing the knees and driving the bar overhead to a locked out press position. The catch in the Jerk is usually a split squat stance in which the athlete pushes back from the front leg before moving the rear leg in the recovery. The Snatch is a wider grip lift (so the bar does not have to be pulled as high) with essentially the same mechanics as the clean, the difference is that the bar is racked or caught overhead in a wide grip, fully locked out press position in a deep squat. Recovery is accomplished by standing up out of the squat and moving the feet into a comfortable standing position. Some of the key technique cues are to pull the bar by pushing the feet through the floor, not pulling or jerking the bar as this generally disrupts the flat back, pillar core needed to execute the lift safely. Always maintain pressure on the bar by either pulling or pushing. In heavy loads the breath must be large and locked and held in order to support the spine as the loads are on the shoulders and transferred through the spine to the legs, feet and floor. The arms do little other than hold the weight. For novices, it is easy to cue them that they are jumping with weight and speed and technique are the keys, not strength.
Weight lifters in the lighter weight classes generate some of the greatest power outputs measured in sport.
Why Include Olympic Lifting as a Part of the Training Process
In Olympic lifting, the athlete is jumping with weight. In other words, Olympic lifting can be viewed as loaded, in-place plyometrics. In athletics, rate of force development (RFD) is the key to power. Jumping is the key for lower body RFD. What is sprinting other than jumping from foot to foot? The greater the variety of drills imposed on the athlete that optimizes the RFD at varying loads, speeds, angles and directions, with consistent dosage, will increase the athletes ability to be explosive, quick, fast and powerful. Olympic lifting is one tool that can be used to increase vertical plane RFD in the extensors of the lower body and in creating “triple extension” at the hip, knee and ankle in a parallel stance. Single leg power is generally developed by agilities and plyometric drills. In order to measure actual power output abilities and adjust the prescription for an athlete for any given workout the use of the Tendo unit is currently the only practical device that can be utilized to quickly determine an athletes’ ability to generate force at that moment.
The clean is a pull from the floor, a re-bending of the knees (or scoop) for the explosive second pull to lift the bar above the hips as the body is pulled under for the catch or rack. During the second pull, great hip extension will result in the bar brushing the mid to upper thigh. Pressure is kept on the bar at all times by either pulling or pushing. The depth of the squat during the rack is determined by the load. The lighter the load, the higher the squat during the catch phase as the bar is pulled higher. Cleans can be classified in a number of different ways. Olympic clean is usually executed by going deep in the hole (deep squat) to catch the rack, a power clean is usually caught higher as the athlete lacks the squat skills to go low, a hang clean is executed above the scoop from just above the knees/mid-thigh and a muscle clean is executed by using more back and upper body than legs. The snatch is essentially the same with the exception that the grip is wider, there is more flexion at the hip, the weight is lighter, the amplitude of movement is greater and the speed of the bar is faster. For athletic development, the snatch is rarely if ever loaded above 70 – 75% of max as speed is essential in the snatch. Remember, it is being prescribed to enhance RFD.
Teaching Olympic Lifting
Olympic Lifting is taught backwards or from the top down. The athlete is generally taught with a dowel rod before moving to a bar. Many times the snatch is taught before the clean as it is the more technical of the lifts. The general techniques are to teach, in order the following cues:
Stance Feet 7-15 degrees external rotation
Legs Knees Knees bent to kneecaps even with toes
Posture Chest Pull shoulder blades back or lift chest up
Grip Wrist Turn wrists down/flex forearms for wide elbow pull
Now the athlete has two techniques to execute one at a time, a slight to moderate RDL followed by a jump. The arms at this point do not bend at the elbow as posture and jumping are the keys. After this is mastered, the athlete will be allowed to repeat (with verbal feedback of each cue from the athlete to you) and add a shrug to the jump. After this is mastered a standing, medium grip upright row is executed followed by a standing medium grip upright row with an elbow whip to a front squat position, holding the bar on the front shoulders for the clean. In the snatch, the techniques are the same but the bar is pulled with a wider grip upright row, the whip occurs to move the elbows under the bar and it is pressed overhead as the body is pushed under the bar for an elbow extended, overhead catch.
Problem Coaching Cue
Using too much upper body Use more legs, jump
Hit belly or belt with 2nd pull Too much back, too little leg, use more legs
Elbows too low in rack Either lazy elbow/forearms too long
Hitting knees in pull Trying to clean from floor, pull from floor, clean from the hang position
Jerking from floor Push feet through the floor – do not pull from the floor
Loss of posture/pillar core Lock in breath, retract shoulder blades, big chest
Lack of power Cover bar with shoulders until 2nd pull, then cover bar with hips by great triple extension. (FASTER!)
Soft rack/catch Put force into the floor – stomp your feet on the catch
Can’t get low Move feet wider after pull for rack/catch
Assist lift for the Olympic Lifts
The assist lifts for Olympic lifting include pulls from the floor and boxes or plinths; various deadlifts, various squats, various presses and jerks as well as a bendover back side chain movements.
Pulls – Pulls are prescribed for loading more than the athlete can catch or to train triple extension without the catch in order to save the athlete from getting beat up by catching rep after rep. However, the eccentric ability of the legs to absorb the force of the clean is paramount for translation to generating force at the tendon in plyometric, change of direction, sprinting type activities. In pulls, the technique is the same as in a clean from the floor, box or plinth but the bar is guided back down with no attempt at a rack.
Deadlifts – Deadlifts are executed from the normal squat stance, wide sumo stance, off of boxes/plinths or from the top down in the RDL (Russian or Romanian deadlift). The grip is either an overhand grip or an over/under alternate style grip. Usually the former grip is assigned. Deadlifts are utilized to stress the back, glutes and hamstrings of the back side chain. Reverse hypers and glute ham raises are other examples of this type of bendover exercise.
Squats – Squats are used to increase the ability of the athlete to catch or rack the load in a low position. Power squats are done with the bar low on the back and usually a wide stance. Power squats involve the back to a great degree. Olympic squats are executed with the bar high on the shoulders and the stance is usually somewhat narrow, thus putting less stress on the lower back. Front squats are executed with the bar in front of the neck with the bar supported on the shoulders and high elbows and is least stressful on the lower back. This squat may be difficult for long forearmed athletes. Overhead squats are executed with the bar extended overhead in a locked out position. Overhead squats put the greatest stress on the functional mobility of the shoulders, hips and ankles as well as the core to support this squat. The Safety Bar squat is used to stress the thoracic spine more than the lower back. It allows the athlete to use greater loads on the hips and legs than normal squats, put less stress on the lower back, spot themselves for a great degree of safety with the handles and are generally a great addition to Olympic lifting. Single leg squats (Bulgarian squats) are executed with one foot elevated to the rear without rotation at the hips, so the load is supported on the front leg only. This puts greater stress on the loaded leg and much less stress on the low back. The Soviet Bloc coaches tended to prescribe many more single leg exercises to their lifters once they were able to back squat 500 pounds (225 kilos) in order to save their backs for the lifts and pulls.
Jerks – Jerks are overhead presses in which the bar is driven up by flexing (dip) at the knees and using the legs to drive the load overhead while assisting with the shoulders and arms. The feet will rapidly split forward and backward in order to lower the center of mass for the catch in a lunge or split squat stance. The push jerk is an overhead press in which the legs assist the press, the feet even leave the floor, but there is no split. The push press is executed the same with out foot movement off of the floor. The press is executed by just using the upper body, no legs.
Combination and Complex Lifts
Combination lifts are exercise in which two or more techniques or lifts are combined in order to create a series of exercises. For example, 3 hang snatches + 3 overhead lunges + 3 good morning to a press could be prescribed. This would include speed pulling, core stability, push back lunges for recovery and bendovers with speed to a wide grip overhead press. A complex lift is similar with the exception that each technique is executed in a row 3 times. For example, 1 hang snatch + 1 overhead lunge on each leg + 1 good morning to a press x 3 repetitions. The complex lift is more demanding on the strength fitness of the athlete. Combination and complex lifts are excellent for stressing technical aspects of the lifts, fitness of the athlete, build up sets, as well as increasing time under tension at light to moderate loads. In order to increase time under tension (TUT), prescribe a hold for a certain time at each change of direction, from eccentric to concentric, in the lift. Usually it is best to prescribe a three second hold as the athlete will count too fast. Three seconds is usually about 1 – 1.5 good seconds. Combination and complex lifts are excellent ways to prescribe corrective exercise for athletes that are time challenged and need/want results in measurables and are not as interested in screens, assessments and injury prevention.
Why assign or prescribe Olympic Weightlifting exercises as a part of the workout or training program?
In a word – POWER.
In addition, postural strength, work capacity and mobility/stability are all byproducts of good weightlifting exercises as a part of the training program.
Many times it is very difficult to determine what level of load to use as you begin to resistance train. I believe you must have the athlete/client demonstrate a certain level of skill with body weight as the resistance before moving on to external resistance loading. This may be something as basic as the 20 rep rule where the person must be able to do 20 quality reps of a movement before adding external loading. Being able to demonstrate twenty quality reps of the squat, push – up, lunge, step – up, back raise or glute ham and the pull – up are good base lines to use. As long as the patterns are clean and the movements are controlled and stable it is now acceptable to add resistance once the baseline threshold has been met or exceeded. Where do we begin? Below are some suggested loads to use for some of the exercises and movements we commonly prescribe in resistance training. There are no set or rep guidelines, those are up to you. Remember, the chart below is an example of a continuum that can be implemented with respect to the abilities of the athlete/client. The determination of the sets and reps will move the difficulty up and down the continuum of training. For example, 3 x 10 will be much more difficult than 3 x 5 at the same relative load due to the simple math of 30 reps (3 x 10) is much greater than 15 reps (3 x 5).
Exercise Untrained Novice Intermediate Advanced Athletic
Squats Bodyweight(20 reps) 35% of BW 65% of BW 100% of BW 125% of BW
Increment Change – 10%
Dead Lift Bodyweight(20 reps) 35% of BW 65% of BW 100% of BW 125% of BW
Increment Change – 10%
Leg Press 50% of BW 75% of BW 100% of BW 125% of BW 150% of BW
Increment Change – 15%
1 Leg Press 25% of BW 50% of BW 65% o BW 80% of BW 95% of BW
Increment Change of 10%
Step – Up Body weight (20) 10% of BW 25% of BW 40% of BW 55% of BW
Increment Change – 5 % of Body weight
Lunge Body weight (20) 10% of BW 25% of BW 40% of BW 55% of BW
Increment Change – 5% of Body weight
Jump Squat Body weight (20) 2.5% of BW 5% of BW 7.5% of BW 10% of BW
For Power Increment Change – 2.5%
Jump Squat Body weight (20) 5% of BW 10% of BW 15% of BW 20% of BW
For Strength Increment Change – 5%
Exercise Untrained Novice Intermediate Advanced Athletic
Stiff Leg Dead Lift 20% of BW 40% of BW 60% of BW 80% of BW 100% of BW
Increment Change 5% of BW
RDL 10% of BW 30% of BW 50% of BW 70% of BW 90% of BW
Increment of Change 5% of BW
UPPER BODY “PUSH” EXERCISES
Exercise Untrained Novice Intermediate Advanced Athletic
Bench Press Push – Ups (20) 25% of BW 50% of BW 75% of BW 100% of BW
Increment Change 5%
Incline Press 20 Feet Up Push – Ups 20% of BW 40% of BW 60% of BW 80% of BW
Increment Change 5%
Behind Neck Prs 5% of BW 15% of BW 35% of BW 50% of BW 65% of BW
Increment Change 2.5 – 5%
DB Bench Push – Ups (20) 15% of BW 30% of BW 45% of BW 60% of BW
Wt in each hand Increment Change 2.5 – 5%
DB Incline 20 Feet Up Push – Ups 10% of BW 20% of BW 30% of BW 40% of BW
Wt in each hand Increment Change 2.5 – 5%
DB Shlder Prs 5% of BW 10% of BW 17.5% of BW 25% of BW 32.5% of BW
Wt in each hand Increment Change 2.5%
UPPER BODY “PULL” EXERCISES
Exercise Untrained Novice Intermediate Advanced Athletic
Pull – Ups Assisted 50% of BW Assisted 25% Bodyweight (5) Bodyweight (15) Bodyweight +5%
Increment Change Assisted 10 – 15% Reps +5 per set Weight 2.5% or Pause ea. ¼ rep
Pulldowns 25% of BW 40% of BW 60% of BW 80% of BW 100%+ of BW
Increment Change 5
1 Arm DB Rows 10% of BW 17.5% of BW 25% of BW 32.50 % of BW 40% of BW
Increment Change 5%
Individuals will vary greatly from exercise to exercise based on maturity, injury history and training age. This is a guide to determine a starting point for the individual. If the individual is overweight, then the load may be set up as a percentage of Fat Free Body Weight. A functional screen, movement assessment, flexibility test and strength evaluation will assist greatly in determining the actual abilities of the client, athlete or patient.