Things You Can’t Learn in Books


images-1Heart Rate is Heart Rate – Whether you are running your athletes, doing a circuit, riding bikes or just doing super or giant sets – as heart rate responds to the workload, fitness (work capacity) is being trained. Can you be in great shape running but not in doing agilities? Yes! Doing distance work but unable to maintain tempo in executing a giant set workout (legs, push, pull)? Yes! In post season – general physical preparation (GPP or working to work) is very acceptable. Even in very early off-season it is OK. But, with time becoming such a cherished commodity, special fitness / work capacity training focused on the energy systems of the competition is the key to elite performance preparation.

How Much Fitness is Enough? – Aerobic Base is a waste of time. Distance in virtually every sport has NO place in the preparation plan. A recovery run for soccer or basketball in the post season around campus wearing your gear to have fun and look good is great. But the other 11 months of the year distance is compromising speed and power. Building the intervals of training, be it short burst agilities or long intervals of 1:30 – 2:30 in order to train the energy system to work and recover is critical. What is the rest interval? It can be heart rate (recover to 121) OR just watch the quality of the work. The quality MUST remain high or you are doing crap reps. A competent coach would never load a bad squat pattern, so why continue to do reps when the speed, turnover and quality is less than optimal? To make them tougher. . . . ? On occasion, yes. I think that if you want tough people, recruit tough people.

Frequency and Dosage of Training – Physical preparation is like medicine.  It must be the correct amount, taken in the correct timing for the optimal period of time. Training fitness and work capacity is easy. More is better in terms of volume. Less is more in terms of rest. However, what if you are                   training speed, 942140_100623085827_flu_medicineacceleration and power? Then the QUALITY of the rep is the MOST important factor of training. How do I increase quality? Rest longer or break the reps up into sets. How do I rest longer when sport coaches are watching? Make the groups bigger, add planks, or insert shoulder body weight alphabets or stretching between work bouts. The athletes are “working” but are recovering the energy system and nervous system for the next rep. Muscles and fitness take more reps and fewer sets while the nervous system (speed/power) require more sets and fewer reps.

Training Effect – It takes about 6 weeks to effect a training effect that will be a long-term change in the status and abilities of the athlete. Anything less tends to be temporary. Recovery is critical to the training effect. If the athlete is not allowed to recover, the rebound effect to the training stimulus is muted and the results of training are dampened. This in turn will create less buy in as testing results will suffer. And, of course the sport coaches will not think you know your stuff if your numbers are not outstanding!

imagesRest – In training volume, once the volume goal is attained in terms of distance, loads, sets/reps, etc. the next step is to begin to shorten the rest bouts. In sport, it is generally not who can dothe most work in the shortest time (crossfit, cross country, distance racing) but rather who can do the highest quality work and recover in the time allotted in order to be ready to perform again at an elite level (this is also the definition of work capacity).


Running – Most sports are based on running and sprinting. The nervous system must be re-set after a heavy leg session to be elastic and dynamic in the run/sprint pattern. If the athlete is 1375570653allowed to do nothing after a heavy leg session, the next days workout is compromised and over time, the athlete will begin to lose the elasticity required to run, jump, start, stop and change direction in a fluid, dynamic and explosive ability. So, run what after a heavy leg day? 6-8 x 50m, 6-8 x 100m or something in that volume range (300 – 800m). Run, walk, run walk and as the athlete loosens up, the speed will come to them and make their last one their fastest one and look like a sprinter again.

Running II – If you are working with an older population and doing interval ladder sprints (50-100-150-200) or pyramid interval sprints (50-100-150-200-150-100-50) always go from long intervals to the short interval in order to protect the calf from strains and pulls. If you want to work on speed and turnover, start short in terms of distance and go up because when you prescribe the workout this way, the athlete will maintain the faster turnover through the longer intervals. When the workout is prescribed from long to short, the athlete will tend to run rather than sprint the shorter distances.

Special Strength – Special Strength is loading an athlete so that the rep is above 90% of the best effort in terms of speed, power and quality. Hill sprints and agilities, loaded jumps, sled and parachute sprints, resisted starts. The load is usually 10% or less of body weight.

Volume – Many injuries are a result of volume. Generally, only in competition will accidental injuries occur (getting rolled up, shoved, tripped, etc.) or catastrophic non-contact injuries happen (the dreaded ACL). Training injuries are almost always volume related. Volume is training age and sexual maturation age related. A novice emerging athlete that is a late maturing child will need much less volume than a child with a training age of 3 years and is an early maturing child.

These are some of the things I have learned over the years in training athletes of all ages. I hope it helps! Robb

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.

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.

Triangle Circuits

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.

Circuit   E X E R C I S E S / D R I L L S


1) 1

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.

1) Supine Plank Hold

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

Number of                             Total

Exercises                                Time

1                                                 :30

2                                                 1:00

3                                                 1:30

4                                                 2:00

5                                                 2:30

6                                                 3:00

7                                                 3:30

8                                                 4:00

9                                                 4:30

10                                                 5:00

Time :30 on and :30 off

Number of                          Total

Exercises                             Time

1                                                 1:00

2                                                 2:00

3                                                 3:00

4                                                 4:00

5                                                 5:00

6                                                 6:00

7                                                 7:00

8                                                 8:00

9                                                 9:00

10                                              10:00

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 for Athletic Development

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.

Techniques of the Clean, Jerk and Snatch

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:

Technique            Cue                        Reason

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.

Technical Errors and Corrections

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!)

Rubbery core during pull                                                Lock the core, tighten the abs, pull blades back

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.