*It must be noted that I am no way trying to “reinvent the wheel” in the strength and conditioning world. All of the knowledge and information that I have collected over the past 5 years has been through trial and error. I am a firm believer that coaching is an art and the only way to be successful is through application. You need to interact face-to-face (not over the internet) with athletes of all levels, 8 years old to first round draft picks. I am still continuing to grow and evolve as a coach, and will give recognition and credit when necessary.
This will be an introduction to what goes through my head, while planning a program for an athlete. There are 3 major categories that I must address before anything else. These include managing stressors, dynamic correspondence, and addressing limitations.
First, managing stressors is the most important aspect and the most overlooked part of organizing a program. This topic has been addressed by Chad Smith (Juggernaut Training Systems), James “The Thinker” Smith (Power Development Inc.), Buddy Morris, and the late Charlie Francis (Legend). All of these resources have done of a great job explaining the importance of balancing stressors. But it still amazes me how very little actually apply this knowledge. My primary clientele are hockey athletes of all ages and levels. The “hockey culture” in Massachusetts is by far the hardest working and driven group of athletes that I have ever had the pleasure to coach. Their mentality of more is never enough has continuously developed elite prospects year after year. But at the same time a lot of these young athletes are developing injuries at an alarming rate. It should also be noted that there could be even more of these top prospects, but most of these “kids” burn out at a young age. Anyways, my role as a strength coach is to assist in the player developmental process. Consolidating stressors is simply putting all off the high intensive sessions (both on and off ice) on the same day. So if an athlete has an easy skate or day off from the ice. Then on that same day the off ice training will be more extensive. This will allow for full recovery and a high level of preparedness for competition. This becomes more critical as an athlete gets older and more advanced within their specific sport. The time of year (off-season vs. in-season) will also play a role, but that can be for another post. I just wanted to make it clear the more is not always better. As a strength coach my goal is to find the least amount of stress that causes a positive stimulus. Training smart is training hard!
The second piece is the importance of dynamic correspondence. This is a fancy term for movements that have a high transfer to the specific sport. With any type of programming no matter the training level or sport, there should always be a progression from general to specific movements. Now remember the actual movements, whether general or specific will differ between athletes, but the end result stays the same. To keep it simple and to the point I will use the sport of hockey as an example. An athlete playing for a local U14 team would start off by doing a bodyweight lateral squat and throughout the off-season progress to more of a reactive lateral bound. It must be noted that throughout the year I will have my athlete perform some type of jump and throw variation. The two things that change are the amount (volume) and type of jumps and throws (low vs. high skill level). Now with an athlete playing in Hockey East, I could have that athlete start with a Weighted Lateral Squat and throughout the off-season progress to a ISO Split Squat Reactive Lateral Bound (Got this from Kevin Neeld). There are also many variables that take part with exercise selection, training methods, etc… but for this post understand that the goal of any quality program is to use movements that will have a high transfer to whatever sport you play.
The third component is to address any of the athlete’s limitations and weaknesses. In my situation, the hockey season is very long and demanding. Therefore I have a quick assessment to address any structural and soft tissue problems that might have been developed by the volume of skating and contacts. This will determine the do’s and don'ts when it comes time for exercise selection. I will also include some mobility and stability movements as fillers in between the warm-up sets of there primary exercises. This is athlete specific and once the athlete has no pain and is moving properly, I will decrease the volume and the importance of the filler as we progress through the program. Another way to attack these limitations is prior to every training session my athletes go through a specific warm-up that will continually address all of the problematic issues that are common for that sport. This would be a great time to note how I didn’t use the word “corrective exercise”. I know there are many different schools of thought from the “functional” to the “power-lifter” type coaches. Please remember everything we do from mobility, stability, power, strength, and/or energy system development is a form of corrective exercise. Being a strength coach, my primary responsibility is to keep my athlete’s healthy as I help them with their goals on the ice.
As for attacking an athlete’s weakness whether its strength, power, speed, work-capacity, and/or body composition. The majority (especially with the athletes I coach) will need to improve basic strength capabilities. There should always be an emphasis on developing strength. Remember everything is built upon strength, a stronger athlete will be more explosive, faster, and more likely to stay injury free. Please note I do understand there are many strength qualities and depending on the training level and time year will dictate which quality you will focus on. But at this time the take away message is that with a quality program an athlete’s weakness should be transformed into one of their strengths.
These 3 components are critical in developing a quality training program that will generate results. There are many other variables that I did not cover, but start thinking about these 3 and your setting yourself up for success.