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Essential Knowledge for Then High School Strength Coach

By: Derek Fry, MS, ATC, NASM-PES, NASE

An article was run earlier this year about the 12 Weight Room Essentials by Nick Showman from TAD Sports. While this was a great article, it’s still tough to know what to do when you have all the right “stuff” in your weight room. That’s why I have compiled the base information for any strength program, especially for the coach who only has limited time to focus on strength and conditioning.

1. Injury Prevention

If you really think about it, strength and conditioning was developed so that athletes do not get injured. There are some benefits to this enhanced physical fitness such as being able to run over another player on the football field, flying past opponents in soccer or crushing a ball over the fence. But the reality is that every player must first be healthy and un-injured before they can perform amazing feats of strength. That is why Injury Prevention is my number one component.

Athletes must gain balance and control, learn to jump and land efficiently, maintain good posture and biomechanics during each movement and learn to nurse minor aches and pains in order to move on to the next level of performance. An athlete is really only as good as they have the chance to show how good they are, and they must be healthy to do this. Keep your eye out for more specific articles on this site, listen to your doctor and consult an athletic trainer (sports medicine) to keep up to date on preventing common injuries in your respective sport.

Injury Prevention:
Focus on perfect form before moving on to increasing weights/movements Learn to balance with eyes open and eyes closed Maintain great posture/biomechanics or long periods of time without added weight/resistance/intensity

These tips can range from doing sprints to lifting weights. They do not only apply to the weight room.

2. Strength

Strength is the ability to produce the most force in relation to time. This splits strength into at least two different types: “raw” strength and “endurance” strength. “Raw” strength defines a person who is able to heave the most weight at one time, such as maxing out on a heavy lift. “Endurance” strength is linked to someone who can continue to heave weight over a long period of time, regardless of the speed of movement.

When training athletes, it is important to recognize which of these two parts are important and how much of each one that an athlete must have.

For example, it seems great if you have an athlete that can bench 300 lbs., but if he/she cannot do a pushup or perform an athletic movement halfway through their practice, they may not perform well in MOST sports.

The goal in strength development is to analyze sport strength requirements and basic needs. Then analyze the athlete to see if their abilities match up. If they don’t, you can maintain the strengths and focus on the weaknesses.

Endurance Strength Example (Sprinting):
Sprinting athlete is really fast from the start, but slows down/gets tired halfway through the race (let’s say it’s a 200m race) Focus on increasing endurance, or getting used to running more than the required distance Maintain the good start Gradually increase speed for longer distances each week

Raw Strength Example (Squat):
Athlete has proper bodyweight squat form Athlete can maintain squat form with a bar (then weights, etc.) Each week the athlete increases their weight for determined sets and repetitions to fatigue the movement (but still maintain proper form) for about 3 or 4 weeks A week of “deload” or active rest is inserted to rest the athlete and taper out of heavy training Process starts again (hopefully with new/heavier weights!)

3. Power

Power is the culmination of everything already discussed. Once your body is able to identify the musculature necessary for proper movement and is able to produce that movement under stress, it is ready to increase in resistance and develop. As it develops, it recruits more muscle fibers for each movement as it is overloaded. The next step is learning to activate all of that developed musculature in the quickest movement possible: Power.

Power is almost a by-product of everything that has been done before it. Issues arise in athletes because we assume they already have correct balance, strong enough muscles and can produce their quickest movements without proper training.

This is a BIG mistake.

Not only will the athlete be held back from their greatest potential, but we also put them at risk for injury because we are allowing them to move with their greatest force with improper biomechanics.

As a strength and conditioning coach, we have the duty to cut off this process and fix all of this by starting from scratch. If you’ve already done everything to prevent injury, maintain proper form and develop strength, it is now just time to move quickly; over and over again.

Develop Power (Jump):
Make sure biomechanics are GREAT Work to develop strength over a long period (8-16 weeks) Work on exploding through ½ the movement (1/4 or 1/2 squat with jump) Eventually work on full movement, trying to maintain same speed Jumping effort can be measured by using plyometric boxes
Each phase or set could involve higher boxes
Protocol would follow similar pattern as developing strength (8 week program)

4. Conditioning

A theme with each phase of training is the ability to quantify or measure development. One of the hardest things to test or prove is an athletes conditioning level. It takes the most time to develop and eats away at practice time in most sports. It is important for an athlete to be in great condition so that they have less of a chance of being injured, they can perform at optimal performance for a longer period of time, they can remain more calm under pressure and they can therefore make better decisions late in any athletic event, which is where the most injuries occur and where close games are lost.

Most of the time, when we speak about “conditioning” we mean cardio-respiratory condition. Basically, we need the heart of each athlete and the lungs of each athlete to perform at their optimal level. But each movement that an athlete performs must also be conditioned to last over time (this goes back to endurance strength and injury prevention). This is why sports specific conditioning is important; so athletes can get a sense of how their body will perform during different moments in their respective sport.

A test must be administered to determine where the athlete stands (multiple 40 yd dash, 1.5 mile run, push up test, beep test, 300 yd shuttle, etc.) A section of time each week must be dedicated to increasing conditioning. Conditioning drills must follow a path that includes a rest period (similar to developing strength and power) and then progressively harder conditioning This also applies to developing Agility (quick side-to-side movements)
Different drills involved multiple directions should be rotated Must still go through all phases/steps to ensure good biomechanics

5. Nutrition

I will not pretend to be a nutritionist, but I cannot ignore my own eating habits in high school before someone set me straight. Eating pizza and cookies between two-a-days and filling up on 4 McDonalds double cheeseburgers after practice is not the way to maintain an athletic figure or to optimize performance.

MANY articles can be (and will be) written on nutrition for athletes. But I am going to provide some short tips on WHEN and WHAT is important for proper fueling/re-fueling.

Fueling starts before practice
Carbohydrate/Protein is best for proper fueling
Gatorade + protein shake Grape juice + protein bar/shake/eggs CHOCOLATE milk
Fluid is important and carbohydrate during practice is GREAT WATER Gatorade Same rules as before, but more
Gatorade + protein shake Grape juice + protein bar/shake/eggs CHOCOLATE milk
1 – 2 hours later – same or even more Gatorade + protein shake Grape juice + protein bar/shake/eggs CHOCOLATE milk DINNER After strength training or practice, re-fueling is MOST important (especially after a lot of conditioning)

If kids ate as horribly as they do, but added these things in to their diet (pre-practice fuel, fluid/carbohydrate during, fueling post, fueling 1-2 hours post practice), their development, musculature, recovery and performance would be exponentially enhanced!

SO there are my top 5 essentials for high school strength and conditioning coaches/volunteers. I’m definitely not saying that these are the ONLY aspects that should be paid attention. But I AM saying that these are VERY important and must be truly understood before setting up the rest of a program.

Please email me with any comments or questions and look for more information coming in future articles for more elaboration on specifics!

Derek Fry