If you work in the sport performance/personal training industry, then I am sure you have a lot of experience training kids that are required to workout at school with their teammates. Most of these kids are football players, but with “sport specific training” becoming the latest craze, a lot of other team sports such as basketball, baseball and softball are requiring their athletes to train at school. Some programs are better than others, some coaches are more willing to communicate with you than others, but the worst thing you can do as a trainer is ignore what is done at school and have your clients do “your” workout no matter what.
I have been in the private sector of the strength and conditioning industry since I started my business in 2002. Since then, I have seen hundreds of kids come through my doors that also train at school. After 7 years of training, I can classify these kids into 3 main categories and 1sub - category.
1. The BFS (Bigger Faster Stronger) or another general template. Although I am not a big fan of the BFS program for any athlete, it is very easy to draw up a workout that complements it. You know your kids are towel benching and box squatting on Mondays, power cleaning and dead lifting on Wednesdays and bench pressing and parallel squatting on Fridays – or some combination of those lifts. Some schools do a great job of adding the necessary auxiliary lifts, and some do not add any at all - or the kids just don’t do them. In my experience, BFS athletes do not do enough explosive work, upper body pulling, core or posterior chain lifts. I will talk more about how I work around BFS later in the article.
The bottom line is this - Whatever program it is (BFS, Westside, ect.) it is only as good as executed. If the kids are lifting too heavy of weight with poor technique, then injuries will inevitably occur.
- The Assorted Crap Workout. When you ask a kid who works out in one of these programs what they did at school, you will usually get an answer like this “We didn’t do much - uh we benched and we did curls.” These programs usually involve a coach writing the workout on a dry erase board or even worse the kids just go in and do whatever they want. Believe me; a lot of these programs still exist.
- The school that has a knowledgeable strength coach or trainer. This is becoming more common, and if you haven’t had a kid from one of these programs it means that all bases are covered at school.
Sub – Category 1 - The kids who are run into the ground at school. This usually happens with football kids who start conditioning in the summer. It’s important to know who these kids are because they will be coming to you with a completely taxed CNS, shin splints and sore hamstrings. I still hear of kids who run 800s for football conditioning. The bottom line is that if you train football players in the summer, you better know what they are doing at school.
Some tips to make the best program for school athletes
- Make the athlete accountable. I require my athletes to keep a log of what they are doing at school. In my experience, most coaches are unwilling to communicate their program to me, so it’s on the athlete. All I ask is that they write down what they do each day in a notebook or even a piece of scrap paper.
- Explosive, core, pull. This is actually the name of the programs I use for my BFS athletes. I know that they are not doing enough of those things, so that’s what is in their program. Lateral plyos, single leg plyos, and all sorts of exercises for the posterior chain are usually neglected in the school setting that doesn’t have a strength coach. Design programs that fill in the holes. It’s easy to do that if you have your athletes follow tip #1.
- Check technique in core lifts. I usually ask kids how much they squat at school. If they say 250, I have them show me a set at 135. Most of time, I see very poor technique with that weight - so imagine what 250 looks like! Coach them to be better at school because if there are 70 kids in the weight room and 2 coaches, obviously some kids are on their own.
- Ask kids if they can do their leg lifts with you and upper body at school. This is something that worked great for me last winter. I had a number of kids who either had knee injuries from the season or L5 fractures from lifting – most likely from poor power cleaning technique. Some coaches will be open to this - especially if the parent talks to them about it.
- Create a recovery workout. This is something I used last spring when my football kids starting running at school or doing some crazy explosive workouts that were more like fat burning circuit. The recovery workout should include lots of foam rolling, mobility and dynamic flexibility drills. Then, a little bit of explosive work if they need it. Lots of stretching at the end. Most kids have mediocre flexibility at best, so it’s on you as their trainer to improve it because you know it’s not being done at school or at home.
Trainers and strength coaches, I feel your pain. I know its frustrating to create a great program for a kid and then one week later find out they have to workout at school. Be professional and smart. Don’t bad mouth the program at school even though you know it’s the worst thing you have ever seen. Communicate with your clients and work with them to create the program that will benefit them in the long run.