Sport Specific Training

Sport Specific Training for High School Athletes


Sport Specific Training for High School Athletes / Young Squash Players

First let me say that this issue should be dead. Almost every single high school athlete can still be classified as a relative beginner. Most will have less than 4 years of actual lifting experience and some may have even less because of a lack of effective program design. For that reason, almost all should be trained in the same manner. I don't really understand why coaches believe there should be a separate program for each sport or that some sports shouldn't do this exercise or that exercise. Now that may have some merit as you get into the college and professional ranks, but every strength and conditioning program should have the emphasis on building explosiveness in the hips and legs and balanced strength in the upper body. The whole point of the program should be to build an athlete who is stronger, more muscular, and more explosive. What sport does not need those attributes? I tell all my athletes when we first start, that I am trying to make them better overall athletes. We want to run faster, jump higher, and be explosive. I'm not trying to make a football player out of a guy who plays baseball year round. If he goes through our program, he will be a better baseball player. Basketball players will be able to jump higher and handle the pounding of playing aggressive defense. Sprinters will have strong hamstrings and starts that enable them to get the most out of their bodies in track. Throwers will have the explosiveness required to propel the implements as far as their technique allows. Pitchers will have strong legs that enable the stress to be taken off of the shoulders and strong upper backs to help decelerate the arm and prevent injury. Football isn't the only sport where the bulk of the off-season (and in-season in my opinion) should be spent in the racks. Here is my basic outline for all sports and the one I use the most often with my athletes.
Single Leg Movement
Upper body superset for volume and muscle mass development
Low Box Squat
Overhead Press
Clean Pull/Shrug Pull
Posterior Chain Exercise
Clean and Jerk
Front Squat
Snatch Pull/High Pull
Posterior Chain Exercise

I don't think there are high school athletes that would not benefit from this type of program. We will have a variety of speakers at this year's GSCA clinic. You can learn more about it at

Things that get on my nerves

Of course this is weight room stuff.

1. People saying that they can "put up" a certain weight. Of course, they are talking about the bench press. Usually said on internation bench press day, which is Monday. Had a Dad tell me that his son could "put up" 205 at home but for some reason can't bench 165 at the school. I guess the weights are different.

2. People commenting on your workouts who are really just trying to make themselves feel better about not doing anything. Most common...A. You won't be able to do that when you get older. B. I used to be able to do that (no you didn't). Last week I was doing clean pulls against mini bands. The man commented that he had never seen the bands before and asked where I got them. Then he told some other people standing around that he used to do that.

3. Saying "all you" when its obvious that its not all them. If you touch it, its not "all you". And the best ever. "It was all you. I only helped a little bit."

4. Asking someone for a lift off, and then calling it a "break". Its a lift off or just a lift.

5. Everyone is an expert on lifting weights. Because they darkened the door once, they know everything and question everything.

6. You're doing football workouts. We need to be doing (insert sport here) workouts. Actually, we are training to be bigger, faster, more explosive, have a strong posterior chain, and more coordinated. What sport doesn't need that?

7. People who throw around numbers like its no big deal. Things like a 400-500lb. bench press and 600lb. squat. Those are HUGE numbers for unequipped lifters. A 400lb raw bench press is very very good. 500lbs is truly freaky. Not many people can do that. But coaches throw those numbers around all the time. I had a coach the other day tell me that he had a guy squat 6 like it was no big deal. 600lbs is a huge number for a below parallel unequipped squat. I was built to squat and it took me a long time to be able to squat 600lbs.

This list is not exhaustive but its a good place to start. I'm sure I will think of more.

Structural Balance

Structural balance is a concept that I have been intrigued by for over 10 years. Charles Poliquin, to my knowledge, was the first to popularize this concept. His view is that there is an optimal strength ratio for multiple lifts and muscle groups of the upper and lower body. Charles Poliquin, along with Bill Starr, where the first two guys I really studied when I first started lifting. I still use many of his concepts to this day. Much like movement screening, these tests should reveal where an athlete is weak and what area he needs to bring up in order to be able to perform at his highest level. If an area is severly lacking, it is what is holding the lifter or athlete back. He based all of the upper body tests on the 14 inch close grip bench press. Here are the ratios...
100%-Close Grip Bench Press
83%-45 degree Incline Bench Press-Medium Grip
81%-Chinups-Bodyweight + added weight
64%-Behind the Neck Press
46%-Preacher Curl with a Straight Bar
30%-Reverse Barbell Curl
9%-External Rotations-Done for 8 reps instead of max single. Search his article for a description on how to do this exercise.

When I ran the numbers on myself, I found that I was weak on preacher curl and external rotations. This wasn't suprising as I have done maybe 10 sets ever of preacher curl and haven't worked my external rotators directly in quite some time.

I know he has one for the lower body but haven't been able to find much about it. The only thing I found is that your front squat should be 85% of your back squat. I am sure that this is a high bar olympic back squat along with a full front squat.

Test yourself and see where you stand.

Movement Screening

Movement Screening is becoming one of my main interests. I believe that Gray Cook leads in this area and most others have followed suit. The information you can get from some of these tests are invaluable for your athletes and for you. The best example I can think of is with my offensive lineman. If you watch the NFL Combine at all, you will hear Mike Mayock say knee-bender and waist-bender one bazillion times. Now I am no movement expert at all. If anything, I am only an expert on how to raise two sets of twins. However, if you look at the ability to bend at the waist, it all begins at the ankle. If athletes are able to properly dorsiflex their ankle joint, then they are more able to keep their upper bodies in a good power position because the center of mass will always seek to stay over the base of support. So if you have someone with tight ankles, they must bend at the waist in order to keep their weight over their base of support. For this reason it is imperative that coaches institute drills and exercises that emphasize dorsiflexion, particularly with the knee flexed. I have found that one of the best ways to do this is with a loaded full squat stretch. We will assume a squat stance with the bar on our back as if we are going to perform full squats. I then instruct our athletes to squat down as far as they are able to go. Most of our dorsiflexion challenged athletes will immediately feel a stretch behind their ankles. We will then sway (think baseball catcher receiving a ball on the black) from side to side to deepen the stretch. I have had one athlete in particular who has totally changed his ability to bend at the knees after about 6 weeks of doing this 3 times per week. He might have acquired the ability earlier, I just didn't notice it until then. He went from having to bend at the waist to keep the bar over the middle of the foot, to being able to sit completely upright with his knees past his toes and the bar over the base of support. This ability in invaluable for all types of athletes and especially my football offensive lineman and defensive lineman.

Other useful drills...
Loaded Duck Walks
Stretches on a Seated Calf Raise
Overhead squats
Overhead duck walks
Not allowing your kids to wear those stupid shoes with the air and bouncy mechanisms in the heal their whole life.

Breakfast of Champions

No I'm not talking about wheaties or Dbol. For me, my breakfast of choice has become coffee mixed with two scoops of whey protein and a pinch of instant chocolate pudding. I love coffee and for 5 years or so I have been getting about 30 grams of sugar in every morning coffee. But recently, I switched to protein powder and instant pudding. I replaced 30 grams of sugar with 52 grams of protein and the amount of carbs from the pudding ends up being less than 6 grams per day. This has been a great way for me to start my day and get some extra protein in my diet. Not to mention how much better it tastes. Since I am a chocoholic, mixing chocolate protein with chocolate pudding gives me a nice treat every morning that should make a difference in how I look and feel. Nothing ground breaking but something that should make a difference in the long run. Over the course of a year, my old coffee routine would have me consume 10,950 grams of extra sugar per year. I have now replaced that with 18,980 grams of protein and only 1800 grams of sugar, give or take.

How I Adapted 5/3/1 Periodization To Our Program

When we first started the 5/3/1 protocol, it took some tinkering to get it suited for our program. First off, to get the full take on the 5/3/1 program you have to get Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 book. It is invaluable. You can pick it up at For us, this set/rep scheme seemed perfect. First off, it fit into our 3 weeks of loading with a 1 week of deloading protocol. Second, it allowed us to set a percentage but still allow flexibility to go off the plan if your having a good day. Third it allowed for intra-workout competition between lifters of different abilities.
In a nutshell, the 5/3/1 program has you work up to near a 5 rep max the first week, a 3 rep max the second week, and a 1 rep max the last week. I say near because our percentages are set so on the last set, the lifter can complete more than the minimum required. On the last set, we encourage our lifters to get as many reps as possible without missing or losing technique. These last two points are imperative. We never sacrifice technique and I discourage missing weights almost all of the time. This even works for our in-season lifters or the guy who just stayed up to 4am doing a project. If its a bad day, only complete the reps that are required. If you feel good, get AMRAP. Many times we also do a back down set with a lesser percentage for 8-10 reps for more volume. This program also picks up where linear periodization leaves off. Many of our younger kids gain strength so fast that the percentages can't keep up with them. By having plus sets, we can get around them not doing enough work to continue to make fast progress.
The following is our protocol for squat and it has worked very well. We test a below parallel squat but we train a low box squat. Most of our lifters squat off of a 12 inch box. This puts them well below parallel. You can see my previous post on the box squat for more information. We also drop our percentages for the box squat to account for a pause and a somewhat deeper range of motion. We normally take off about 10% from the training percents. For example, of we were going to start the first week at 80% on squat, we would use 70% like the example below. Since bench press is tested and trained the same, we would use 80% the first week.
Week 1-up to 70% x 5+
Week 2-up to 76% x 3+
Week 3-up to 82% x 1+
Week 4-70% x 5 with no plus sets. Should be easy.
Week 5-up to 73% x 5+
Week 6-up to 79% x 3+
Week 7-up to 85% x 1+
Week 8-70% x 5 with no plus sets. Should be easy.
Week 9- TEST
Week 10-Start over.

This type program insures that most every body is able to complete their daily reps even if they feel bad and allows the lifter to push himself when he feels good. Here is one example of a success story. Very good athlete squatted 365 as an incoming freshman. Squatted 505 at the end of his freshman year. Then squatted 565 at the end of football season. He never trained with more than 435 in the gym but because of our plus sets, he was always able to push himself when he felt good. Our average increase on squat is 56lbs. per semester. We use this protocol on the bench press and squat. We program our clean differently but still maintain a 3/1 load to deload.