To run a successful strength and conditioning program for athletes, you need a good training plan. The program has to have goals and exercises and training to help achieve those goals. These can include improving: speed, strength, power, hypertrophy, and/or endurance. Most athletes will need improvements in all these categories to some extent, however, how long you work to improve those qualities will entirely depend on the type of athlete you are. For example, a football linemen is going to spend more time working on strength and power, while a track and field athlete will spend most of their training trying to improve power and speed. Again, both athletes will work in all areas of athleticism, but they will focus most of their training on the qualities that matter most to their sport. I’m going to go through how I periodize my training and what modalities or training methods I tend to use to improve whatever athletic quality I’m working on.
In one of my earlier blogs, I mentioned that I mostly use block periodization for my athletes. I find it simple to understand, and it gets results. I’m not saying this method is the end-all be-all, as they’re are plenty of other periodization strategies other coaches use that work great for them, this is just the one I fall back on the most. A quick refresher on block periodization is you are focusing on one major athletic quality in a training block (from 2-8 weeks, typically 4 weeks) before working towards the next quality in the next block. The blocks of training you do in the beginning set you up for success for the following blocks later. My training blocks tend to look like this for most athletes:
One exception to this is, in the hypertrophy block, I’ll replace it with a “Basic Strength” block for athletes who don’t need anymore muscle mass or don’t have any desire to. Athletes in cross country or athletics that include weight categories, like wrestling, are an example. The importance of why we do certain blocks at a certain time is paramount because training has residual effects and the gains obtained may be lost before your season even starts. I go over this in my other blog here.
In this blog, we will talk about what I do in the “Work Capacity” block or GPP (General Physical Preparation) and provide some options for you to use at your disposal. Remember that training is context specific, so what may work great for me and my athletes may not work great for you. All forms of training are tools in the toolbox, but you’ll need to understand what tools are useful to you, and which ones are not. If my athletes are a phillips screw, I’ll use a phillips screwdriver to get the job done. You or your athletes may be flat head screws so using a phillips screwdriver will not be the best tool. Catch my drift?
Work Capacity Block:
Work Capacity is always my starting block regardless of what athlete I’m working with. To be an athlete, you need to be in shape to handle intense training and practice. Before you can handle hypertrophy workouts or intense speed training, you need to be conditioned to handle that type of stress. In short, get in shape to be in shape. The exercises are the least sport specific or movement specific in this block. I typically avoid using barbells in this block unless it’s being used to work on technique with extremely light weight for the main olympic movements. I tend to focus on using dumbbells, bands, bodyweight, TRX Bands, etc. The goal isn’t about putting on as much weight as possible in this block, it’s about elevating the heart rate, building a sweat, enhancing movement patterns and tissue remodeling. Here is a breakdown of what consists in my work capacity block:
- Increase work capacity to handle higher stress training/practice down the road
- Promote recovery and blood flow to damaged tissues (tissue remodeling)
- Improve proficiency in exercise technique, joint mobility, joint stability, and overall movement.
Exercise variance/Specificity to sport: High Variance/Low Specificity
Type of workout examples:
- 1×20 Program by Dr. Yessis
- Circuit Training: 1:1 to 2:1 work:rest ratios
- M.A.S. Training (Max Aerobic Speed Training)
A guy named Dr. Yessis, who is a nationally renowned biomechanist, wrote a book called The Revolutionary 1 X 20 RM Strength Training Program. The 1×20 program fulfills all my goals in one training program. You can check out his website to learn more about him and purchase his book directly here → https://doctoryessis.com/. As the name suggests, you perform 1 set of 20 reps for anywhere from 10-30 exercises. Eventually, you’ll progress to 1×15 then to 1×10. Your goal is to reach a 8-9 RPE (Rate of Perceived Exercersion) for each exercise. This program allows you to have many exercises to work on almost all your muscle groups and has high rep ranges to improve your endurance and build a good sweat. If you’re using multi-joint exercises, stick to lower total exercises of 10-15 or else you’ll crush yourself. This program allows you to include multiple single joint exercises, which is great for tissue remodeling and improving on weaknesses. You can try a sample workout here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=os3xbBHuNIs&feature=emb_logo
Circuit Training is also a great way to build work capacity in the weight room and provides lots of options, depending on what athlete you’re working with. Typically these workouts are set for time instead of a certain set and rep scheme that uses a 1:1 to 2:1 work:rest ratio. For example, if you perform an exercise for 20s, you would rest for 20s before going again or moving to the next exercise. Same deal as the 1×20, you can include many different exercises from 10-20 and build up capacity by either:
- increasing work periods by 10-20 seconds while keeping the same rest period
i.e. 10s on:10s off → 15s on:10s off.
- Decreasing rest periods while keeping the work periods the same
i.e. 20s on:20s off → 20s on:15s off
- Increasing the total amount of exercises in a circuit
i.e. 10 total exercises to 12-15
- Increasing the number of rounds in a circuit
i.e. 3 rounds → 4 rounds
- Increase the weight or intensity of the exercise
As you can see from the examples, there is a lot of room you can play with to get results and keep it fresh for your athletes so they don’t become autonomous robots in the weight room. I highly advise avoiding mixing a-e at the same time (for example, combing both a. and b. for the next workout) as that will be too much to handle in a short period of time. Pick one option only, then decide to keep using that option for the next workout, or switch to another option. Rinse and Repeat.
Here is a sample circuit workout you can try! This circuit is focused on using the opposite arm/leg to challenge the cardiovascular system to bring oxygen to two opposite ends of your body. Pick a weight that is challenging, but not heavy. You’ll need a box, dumbbells, and a resistance band. A warm-up should be performed before doing this workout.
20-30s On:10-15s Off: 4-6 rounds: 1-2min rest between rounds
- Step-up left leg w/ DB shoulder press right arm
- Step-up right leg w/ DB shoulder press left arm
- Left leg RDL w/ DB row right arm
- Right leg RDL w/ DB row left arm
- Reverse lunge left leg w/ banded row right arm
- Reverse lunge right leg w/ banded row left arm
- Two-DB Squat w/ shoulder press
- Bent Over Banded Face-Pulls
This method is for training on the field or on cardio equipment. MAS stands for Max Aerobic Speed Training. It is a form of training that uses your max speed in meters/second that your aerobic system can perform. Typically, this is where your lactate threshold is. Your max aerobic speed, or lactate threshold, is around 65-75% of your maximum sprint speed, depending how in shape you are. There are multiple ways to find your MAS and each have positives and drawbacks to them, I personally use the 5-min run test. The test is simple, using a track, elliptical, treadmill, or bike, have the athlete run or bike as far as possible in that 5-minutes. Take the total distance traveled and divide by the time in seconds. For example, if I’m on the track and run 1200 meters in 5-min or 1200m/300s that would equate to a MAS score of 4m/s. However, being that I’m in the first weeks of an offseason block, if I have low impact cardio equipment like an elliptical or bike, I would perform the test and do my MAS training on the elliptical or bike to save the joints and the feet of my athletes. With an elliptical, you would use the average strides per second, and with the bike you would use the average revolutions per second. The equipment is particularly useful because you don’t have to worry about the weather and it’s low impact.
With your MAS score established, you can determine the distance to travel at 100-130% of your MAS speed to ensure your training is hard enough, but also not overdoing it. If I’m on the football field, I don’t go any longer than 20 seconds or else you’ll run out of space. For example if I run at 120% of my MAS (4m/s) at 20 seconds or 4m/s x 1.2 x 20 seconds that would equate to 4.8m/s x 20s= 96 meters or ~105 yards. This number means that I have 20 seconds to reach 96 meters or 105 yards. If an athlete gets there too late, they went too slow and the workout will feel too easy, or if they get there before the 20s were up, they went too fast and will struggle to finish the workout if they continue to do so. This applies to the elliptical and bike as well. However, if a field is not an option but you have an open gym space, you can use shuttles by taking the distance by 45% to account for the athletes having to slow down and turn back to the start line. To look at how to progress and see sample workouts you can check them out here (I use the 100%:70% grid, 120% Eurofit, and the 120-130% Tabata methods as they replicate the stop-and-go and change of directions movements that happen in typical field sports) → https://simplifaster.com/articles/implementing-high-intensity-aerobic-energy-system-conditioning-field-sports/
I hope this article provides some context as to how I generally periodize my programs for highschool and college athletes. All the different workout options mentioned can be used either individually or you can mix them throughout the training week. You’ll notice that it’s about using many exercises and using low weight. It is about movement quality, tissue remodeling, and getting in shape. Generally, I increase either the volume or intensity of the workouts week to week for 3 weeks and have a deload week on the 4th week before starting the next block of training. This will complete my work capacity block and athletes should be able to achieve the goals mentioned above before starting the next cycle. If you or your athletes improved but did not fully achieve some of the goals of this block, extend your training an extra 1-2 weeks. If you or your athletes didn’t improve at all, then you’ll need to rethink your training program and make adjustments. What I’ve provided are general ideas, but it is up to you to fine tune the small details to account for the type of athletes you have and the equipment available to you. Happy training!
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