Last week we took a look at some basic principles and how we prepare and begin to train an athlete to maximize their performance and realize their genetic potential. Phase 2 deals with getting the athlete as strong as possible. An athlete moves on to phase 2 when the coaches determine that the athletes movement and structure are sound and ready to handle the overload of the strength phase. This is specific to each athlete, some athletes might be ready in 3 months some athletes might be ready in 3 weeks. Once an athlete has moved to the strength phase they may move back to the preparation phase if it is determined that a movement pattern needs to be re-taught or an injury has occurred during play and the athlete has been cleared to work out again. Here’s how the strength phase is introduced and programmed.
Phase 2 – Strength Phase : After the general prep phase is completed we then move the athlete to a strength phase. In this phase we use general compound exercises that train the whole body in the optimal movement patterns that safely can produce strength and force. These exercises include but are not limited to, squats, dead lifts, bench press and overhead press. These movements have been used to build strong athletes for over a hundred years and still have not been improved on due to the fact that they work…and they work very well. When training an Athlete we train movements not muscles. The body works together on the field so we want that strength to use the whole body and not be isolated to specific muscles.
When building strength we keep the athletes to one big movement followed by accessory movements to assist any particular weak points they may have. For example if the athlete is rounding the back during a dead lift we asses to see if the weak point is the upper back. If it is, a prescription of high rep single arm rows help to solidify the T-spine and assist in keeping the spine neutral thorough the entire movement. We will do this on all our big lifts. The number 1 goal with the main movements is to create hip and glute power. The hips and glutes are the engine of the body and are the prime movers in most sports (how many times have you heard “follow through” or “use your hips”). When you strengthen and create power in the hips you create power everywhere.
Once the main movement and accessories are completed we move on to a core movement that will help transfer that power throughout the body. Energy leaks can be created by a weak lower back, serratus and abdominal area. Squats and dead lifts will strengthen this to a point but anti-rotation movements will help to protect the spine and muscles that keep the spine in place (QL, Abdominals, etc). While our main movements build our hips and whole body our accessory’s and core movements ensure that power created in the hips can be transferred with 100% efficiency throughout the body.
The rep ranges and programming of the exercises are super important in this phase. Program too few reps and the wrong exercise and you don’t introduce enough stimulus to create an improvement adaptation in the body. Program too many reps or too heavy a weight and the athlete will be injured and again strength adaptations will not occur. What’s the proper rep range? Again individual to each athlete and beyond the scope of this article. Another reason why it’s important to have a qualified strength coach
In this phase our goal is to not build a powerlifter or bodybuilder but to build an athlete who’s body can not only produce maximum force in the field of play but who’s body can withstand the rigours of being pushed, pulled and hit day in and day out. It is not important to me as a coach the final maximum weight lifted by the athlete, what is important to me is the accumulation of the weights lifted and the improvement it has on the muscle, tendon strength and overall movement of the athlete.
When an athlete gets stronger they jump higher, run faster and are more powerful. These attributes obviously directly carry over to sport.
This is how we get our athletes strong. Next week we will take a look at how we transfer that strength to create Speed-Strength which is one of the most valuable attributes and athlete can work on.