Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fictitious Maxes and the Percentage Problem

Maxing out to some degree, whether it is a 1 rep max, 3 rep max or just max reps at a certain load is a staple in just about every high school and college weight room.  Some strength coaches live and die by percentage charts that spit out the weights each athlete should lift for a a number of reps based on their "Max".  A typical strength day could be 5 x5 with weights ranging from 80 - 88% of each athlete's 1 rep max.  If you lift dynamically (for speed) then the percentage could be as low as 30 - 50% for a rep scheme of  10 x 2.  

All of these percentages, charts and rep schemes are great if one very golden rule is followed.   THE MAX MUST BE PERFORMED WITH SOLID TECHNIQUE.  Solid does not have to be perfect, but it can't be mediocre and it most certainly under any circumstance can't be shitty.   If the strength coach, sport coach or whoever is chosen to supervise the weight room allows shitty technique for maxes, then the whole thing is a COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME!

In my 10 years of strength and conditioning, I have had many kids tell me their max on squat was over 400 lbs but couldn't correctly squat 200lbs in front of me.  Sadly, some of these kids are college athletes from big time universities.   This poses 2 major problems.

1.  The obvious.......Lifting heavy weight with bad technique adds strength to dysfunctional movement which will eventually lead to injury.   I won't even get into the implications of allowing bad technique for adolescents that are still growing.  If you read my blog or have heard me speak, you know my thoughts on that topic.  Common sense  - Lifting with good technique gets you big and strong.  Lifting with bad technique will leave you weak and probably injured.

2. If your maxes are fictitious, the use of percentage charts and dynamic lifts are useless.   Think about this.

Lets take a 16 year old kid who has a true squat max  (done in front of me and probably estimated) of 200.   His max at school is 300 and that number is used for percentages.    Let's say on a dynamic day (again - lifting for speed) he is to perform 10 sets of 2 reps at 70% of his 1 RM (300). 

First of all, in my research, dynamic should be 30 - 50%, not 70%.   But, for some reason 70% is the number most of my high school clients give me so that is what I am using in this example.

70% of 300 is 210.

210 is 10 lbs. higher than the correct max that I assigned him.

Do you think he is moving 210 for speed?   UGH ABSOLUTELY FREAKING NOT!  Its more than his actual freaking max!

Even at 50%  - the number is 150.   That is 75% of his actual max.   That is still not going to be lifted for speed.

Let's use the same maxes now for a strength workout.  To keep it simple, lets use 5x5 at 80%.

80% of 300 is 240.    240 is 40 lbs. higher than his actual max.  That would 5 sets of 5 reps at a weight higher than his actual 1 rep max.  That would be 25 shitty reps.   That my friend is not how you get strong.

Hopefully this blog helps you see how detrimental bad lifting form during maxes can be to the growth of a young athlete.   If you let it happen, it will screw up your entire training process.   Please let common sense prevail!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Progressing into "True Plyometrics"

I have written a few articles before in regards to proper jump training or plyometric progressions for young athletes. Click here to read about our beginner plyometric progressions.

As I have stated before, we must work on proper landing mechanics before we start working towards reducing ground contact time. Young athletes have to learn how to absorb the force of landing before trying to produce force in a repetitive and quick fashion.  Elasticity, stretch shortening cycle and amortization phase are all fancy terms used when talking about true plyometrics.   To keep it simple, the goal of a true plyometric is to jump as high as you can while being as quick as you can off the ground. 

The thing is that most growing 12 - 16 year olds are not ready for the kind of impact that true plyometrics bring to the body. If they still struggle with landing a box jump, they definitely are not ready to do tuck jumps. I know jumping seems simple and harmless, but have you ever watched a big 12 year jump and land? Sometimes it makes my knees hurt just watching them.

Is there middle ground? I would like to think that there is. A few months ago I started to have my more advanced younger clients do plyometric jumps in reps of 3 - 5. The video below will give you a good idea of what I am talking about.

We are still working on being quick off the ground without trying to jump over hurdles or dropping off boxes. Proper landing mechanics are still being enforced after the 3rd jump of each rep. I have the athletes perform 9 jumps, broken down into 3 short sets of 3 reps.

This is this just one example of intermediate plyometrics that I use with my athletes that are ready for this kinds of training.

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