In the message boards the question about integrating the olympic lifts and exercise selection was brought up, in addition to the classic Rich Tolman question, what about sequence?. Most programs that do either double periodization or triple periodization, usually repeat an SPP more than twice but only have one extended GPP. I share this as the constraints of the season will dictate the decisions we have. If you have indoor facility use twice a week, you will find many alternate means. I don’t know what works best as I usually change my surroundings every few years but that’s a good thing, because what doesn’t work is usually universal to everyone. I have made some very smart mistakes, meaning at first glance they look like good decisions but down the road they were not ideal. Here is what I know does and doesn’t work in the weight room.
Olympic lifts- You can’t teach olympic lifts in one week. Sorry. Those that claim they can do magic in one session or in a few sessions are either living in a fantasy or have such egos they are lying to themselves. Olympic lifts are great tools but also they are more investments to when strength peaks in regards to transfer. Work on parts and lighter loads and then add the full exercise when one can do everything correctly. Many start from the floor and I like the reverse approach that is popular (for good reason). Learn to throw medballs, front squat with a clean grip, and clean pull for posterior chain and back strength. It’s ok to have muscles on your back, and those that hang clean only tend to use their back more. Matt Delaney and Denis Reno have helped me tremendously and I am going to say every coach should subscribe the newsletter that has graced the hands of thousands of people for the last 40 years. The olympic lifts are great tools and offer so much.
Squats- The squats are great ways to screen and train the entire body. The overhead squat is a screen, but squatting like any part of training shares information.If you can’t get someone to squat deep and heavy the program stinks period. I have seen 7 foot college athletes that were at OSU squat heavy, with great technique, and had long torsos. It takes a long time but without good squatting with loads how are we going to fight gravity? Also prime movers help us move faster and better. Why are prime movers evil? You don’t see car designers say it’s not about horsepower, it’s handling and forces. Everyone should squat if they can. If overload is not part of the long term equation start questioning everything. You don’t need to squat a million pounds or kilos but they don’t’ call it the coordination room, they call it the weight room. While resistance training or strength training are the right terms, resisting weight and strengthening the body to handle gravity is the purpose.
Single Leg Exercises- Young athletes and neophytes improve by just doing single leg exercises. I love them in the GPP and for circuits. They are not perfect and are best to help with injury reduction and not performance. While plyos tend to be single leg with hops and bounds, loading them heavy to push the envelope is just as foolish as the HS athlete maxing out all the time. Powerlifters and Olympic lifters are not setting new world records by dumping bilateral exercises and doing single leg deadlifts and one arm and one leg cleans. Put the single leg exercises in the middle of the program and respect them. Coach them just as much as the other lifts or they will be tossed into the stretches category or borderline optional and neglected.
Posterior Chain- What about the anterior chain for acceleration? What about inner (adductor system) and lateral chains (TFL and Medial Glute)? What about the underground chains of below the knee such as the peroneals? I am tired of chains and trains. Just train the legs right and you will create structural balance. Choose pulling and squatting exercises and have a complete track program. Squat deep, clean from the floor, do single leg squats, Lunge, do complete plyo program, and sprint properly. Some specific work helps like RDLs, but I am not a fan of GHR and nordics, as the imaging I have seen shortens the tissues around the area. Facial length of the hamstrings is the mechanism that helps reduce pulls, and heavy RDLS seem to it with deep squats. Advanced athletes can do almost everything if one is strong enough, but I simply don’t see any evidence of those exercises reducing pulls.
Sequence of Training– This refers to the order of the week, order of the season, and order of the season. A great discussion was talked about regarding what exercises should be done and when. The basics need to be done year round, such as squatting, but some support exercises seem to be good sprinkled in. Lateral squats or side lunges are good SPP exercises or late GPP exercises as they help with getting the adductors challenged for fly work. Eccentric strength is a great way to prevent adductor pulls but only as a way to get a little taste of recruitment and nothing more. I do pulls more in the GPP and drop them in the comp phase. You don’t need to go to the hang to remove the back stress as 8 inch blocks are great ways to reload a bit but still get some structural balance.
General Strength- I call GS connective strength, as a small dose tends to link up the bigger exercises and help reduce injuries. Very contemporary programs should include a light session of this type of work once a week to prevent the weird freaky injuries that come out of nowhere. This is where variety is key, but the loading is light so not too much DOMS occurs. If you do it early and are familiar with the core exercise you will be fine in the post season. Never start adding GS work in a taper. Adding something new during rest is a recipe for disaster.
Circuits- The LSU or BB circuits are great for in season work or late SPP as the brains start to burn out. At first I thought they were dated and took me years to be convinced they were not junk reps or fat loss circuits. They don’t create anabolic athletes but they do help with overtraining and glycogen storage. Do them once a week on recovery days and they work wonders. A recovery day should last 1.5 hours tops. I have seen some recovery workouts that look like punishments. Make the training clear. A light circuit feels better leaving than entering. No pump or high, the workout was too high. In the GPP do them twice at the end of training as active recovery. As the season becomes faster and more intense. Do them once to stay fit without pounding the body. The same circuit can be much different. I screwed up one athlete by not doing enough of this work as he was running really fast and the drain on his body could not be fixed with passive rest.
Testing your Training- You don’t need to max out in the weight room. Just get stronger or more explosive. Let the tests be for running and some jumping tests. A personal best is always a moving target and you are basically testing when you go for a best attempted. I see people doing way too much testing and not enough preparing. Testing is training and training is testing but realistically I don’t like artificial testing more than once a month. Test repeat bound tests and vertical jump options. Standing broad jumps are good for young athletes but they seem to taper off past early to mid 20s.
My underlying point is take it slow and you will be surprised how fast you improve. When you are not getting rehab for a back injury or you are not fighting the flu because you drained your body, you keep improving steadily.