By Leo M. Totten, Contributing Writer
Leo M. Totten has spent 33 years as a strength coach and physical education teacher at the high school level.
Here are some guidelines for developing and executing an effective weightlifting program for your student-athletes:
Insist on Proper Technique for All Exercises: This is a critical fundamental of weightlifting and weight training. Without proper technique, the exercise will not be as effective as it should be and, worse yet, it will put the athlete in a position to get hurt. Take the time to teach proper technique and insist on keeping the weight light until proper form is mastered. Only then should weight be gradually increased.
Understand Basic Biomechanics: The coach doesn’t need to be an exercise science major, but he or she should at least have a basic knowledge of biomechanics so the proper technique makes more sense. Basic concepts such as center of gravity, trajectory, area of base and action/reaction are easily applied to the performance of good technique. It helps make the coach, as well as the athlete, understand the why and how of what they are trying to accomplish.
Evaluate the Athlete’s Readiness to Lift: Take a close look at your athletes. Do they have any obvious physical limitations that preclude them from doing the exercises you are asking them to do? Set up a simple questionnaire for them to fill out with their physical background information and establish a few simple flexibility tests. Find out if they are tight in any particular areas and, if so, set up the program to address these issues.
Build the Base: Make sure your athletes have a firm foundation on which to build. Stress the basics so the body is prepared for more advanced training down the line. There are a lot of gimmicky ways to train, but the bottom line is that the athlete needs a base of good, solid training before any of the more advanced modes of training will be effective.
After the base is set, then the principles of periodization should be utilized. By that, we mean to divide the training time into various periods to attain different objectives. During the early stages of training, the number of reps will be high while the intensity (how heavy) will be relatively low. As the training goes on, the volume will gradually decrease while the intensity gradually increases.
At the beginning of the cycle, the objective is to build strength and fix any muscle imbalances. The next phase is to increase the intensity and the speed of the movements and eventually, the athlete will be ready to push the amount of weight being used. This is the most efficient and, most importantly, the safest way to set up a training program.
Follow a Planned Program: Make sure the athlete follows a planned training program. This takes some discipline on the part of the coach and the athlete. It is much easier to just open the door to the weight room and say “go to it.” Well, what typically happens is the athlete will head right for the bench to do bench presses and then head to the curl bar. These are great exercises but not the full-body workouts that a well-planned program would advocate. The good coach will make sure the daily plan and the overall plan are best for the athlete.