Why it is important?
As a young athlete grows, their center of mass/gravity moves further up from the ground. Getting stronger goes a long way to help create and maintain a more stable base of support, especially in low positions. Some other benefits of properly designed and supervised resistance training programs include increasing strength and bone strength index, decreasing fracture risk and rates of sports-related injury, and growing self-esteem and interest in fitness.
The focus of this article is to look at several “big-bang-for-the-buck” exercises that can and should be included in any high school athlete’s offseason strength program, using equipment that can most likely be found in the majority of high school weight rooms.
Simply plastering overly complex methods onto an entire team without taking into account the very different movement qualities and training experience is not
a good look. As a result, I would advise you to break your team down into two categories. Your novice
athletes are more physically immature, have less than one year of continuous weight room experience, and may not be able to self-motivate or closely follow training instruction as well as your intermediate
athletes, who are more physically advanced, have more than one year of continuous weight room experience, and are ideally more self-motivated.
The high school offseason typically gives athletes anywhere from three to five months to prepare for the season. Therefore, using a concurrent
style of programming is my suggested route:
(novice athlete): This type of programming is used when all types of performance abilities such as strength, speed, and endurance need to be focused on equally over the same period, with the intention of introducing a multi-faceted development of all motor skills. The concurrent model is free of having a singular focus and is ideal for the more novice athlete.
(intermediate athlete): For the more intermediate athlete that possesses a more advanced movement base (and usually higher degree of athleticism) in the weight room, we’ll have one main focus depending on the training timeline and will also be training other qualities such as strength or power, depending on where you are in the offseason.
It must be stated that a proper warmup is a must, regardless of level, and should include at least 15 minutes of mobility and movement work to activate. A proper warmup also raises the baseline body temperature in preparation for any training session.
For the novice athlete, training should first focus on more basic movements in the first phase. These movements include:
- Hip hinge
- Perform single-leg movements/Plyometrics
- Perform scapular control/Stability exercises with good form
As far as the main lifts go, lower sub-maximal loads are used to keep the focus be on good form. Training Note:
Athletes may train the same 3-4 basic lifts for 8-12 weeks before moving on to different exercises, although existing exercises may be progressed throughout the 8-12 week period.
- Intensity - 70-80% 1RM
- Sets - 3-4
- Reps - 8-10
Here are some great exercises where form can be taught quickly and be done in any moderately equipped high school weight room:
Learning to hinge is crucial in all sports to help master the bottom position of movement. Goblet squats work great and can be done to a box until the athlete feels and looks good in the bottom position. Hip bridges work well as a regression.
For ball players, scapular upward rotation is a big factor in getting the arm overhead efficiently. Pushing exercises such as pushups help train upward rotation by allowing the scapula to freely rotate on the rib cage. However, many novice athletes simply do not possess adequate strength to do them correctly, especially in the bottom position. For these athletes, dumbbell bench press may be a better idea.
Using row variations that adds a rotational component helps focus not only retraction of the scapula, but on protraction and/or upward rotation as well. It is also great for coaching efficient loading of the front hip through release and hip extension of the back leg.
Single Leg Movements/Plyometrics:
Learn techniques on basics such as landing mechanics in the sagittal plane first before working on lateral and change-of-direction mechanics/speed. For the upper half, med balls are a staple and work great in both novice and advanced programs.
Arm Care/Cuff Work:
Focus on mastering the fundamentals of good form during arm care to reinforce using the cuff and not the bigger prime movers such as the lat or lower back. There are numerous articles on arm care variations on our website (rocklandpeakperformance.com).
Once an athlete becomes more experienced in the weight room, the programming will move to more of a conjugate model. Exercises will also be directed more geared towards transfer to sport- in this case baseball.
Suggested Exercises and Loading Intensities
- Intensity - 80-90% 1RN (for strength), 40-80% 1RM (for power)
- Sets - 3-5 for strength, 4-6 for power
- Reps - 3-5 for strength, 3-4 for power
For Strength – Intermediate/Advanced (early off-season)
As young adults spend more and more time in front of computers, it’s more important than ever to create more “good” stiffness to help create good posture. A big part of that is building a strong posterior chain. Enter the king of all exercises…the deadlift.
Unilateral exercises such as split squats allow us to borrow from all three planes of motion more than a conventional bilateral (two-legged) squat not to mention being about as “sports-specific as you can get.
The seal row helps in the activation of the mid/lower trapezius and Rhomboids. Due to the fact that it is done prone (lying on your stomach) and with the chest supported, it removes the possibility, of being able to use too heavy of a load as well as the overuse momentum, so everything you pull is done using your back, shoulders, and arms and greatly reduces the risk of injury.
Single Leg Movements/Plyometrics:
Once an athlete has a good handle on landing mechanics, we can then progress to exercises that utilize faster/shorter ground contact times as well as working on lateral and change-of-direction mechanics/speed. Enter the Reactive Heiden.
Arm Care/Cuff Work:
Same as previously described.
For Power - Intermediate/Advanced (later off-season)
Trap Bar Jumps:
Later in the offseason when transferring more to rapid, more powerful movements, loaded jumps are a staple for us. They are key for improving force production and rate of force development (RFD) and have been shown to produce equal improvements in lower body RFD compared to Olympic Lifting variations with less learning time as well as reduced risk of injury.
An easy way to work on horizontal pulling while training core strength and stability at the same time. Another great thing is the fact that they can be put up on any power rack or even doorway and the price point is very affordable––especially considering the many training effects that can be achieved with them.
The landmine press is great for training the core to help create a more stable platform as well as upward rotation when trying to get overhead. The half-kneeling position allows us to take the
Med Ball Work:
As mentioned earlier, med ball work is a staple for rotational athletes and can handle high volume of sets. Reps should be kept to under five however, to help maintain explosiveness. Lower body plyometrics can be added in to give us more bang for the buck as in the step back shovel pass.
Periodization - Intermediate/Advanced
In a perfect world, finding out where each of your athletes fit on the force-velocity curve would be ideal. Unfortunately, in most high school settings, assessing these qualities are not only unrealistic but occupy more time than a coach may have.
So, using the strength-speed continuum (image below), the phases will reflect the competitive season. In early offseason, weights might be heavier, and the speed of movement will generally be slower. Late in the off-season, weights may decrease as speed of movement increases, and the focus becomes transferring strength gains to the speed of sport.
bigger movements/higher resistance and slower tempos (strength)
Decreased resistance, faster tempos (power)
Once throwing starts, a pitcher’s throwing program begins to become primary to his training program as we get later into the off-season. Exercise selection, while more variable and through a much wider selection than the beginner athletes, will all have a specific purpose that relates back to performing at their sport.
Finally, here is a list of some basic equipment need that can be found (or should be) in most high school weight rooms:
- Power Rack
- 45 lb. Standard Barbell
- Dumbbells (15-75 lbs.)
- Hex Bar (Trap Bar)
- Olympic Plates
- Cable Machine
- Standard Weight Bench
- 12-36” Plyo Boxes
- 6-8 and 10 lb. Medicine Balls
Have fun and train safe. Remember, kids get really good at what they practice. That includes moving incorrectly
. See ya’ in the gym…
Here are two links to exercise videos referred to in this article: