Stew has been one of my athletes for several months now. He has an unmatched work ethic and ability to learn and understand things on the fly. I have been lucky enough to train him for the last 6-8 months and he has made great progress.
Today was the first time that he has come down to the new garage gym I built and I figured it would be great to not only showcase Stew and his athletic ability but to be able to give you guys an inside look at how I like to train my athletes.
I structure my workouts into different sections called Lanes. I got this structure from Nate Harvey, author of ConjugateU (Found Here).
This book as been a bible for me and has had amazing results with not only Stew, but also all of my athletes that I get to train. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to training athletes. The majority of them need quite a bit of the same things and tend to have alot of the same weaknesses. The goal is simple. Bring up weaknesses, increase power output, and boost athletic performance, all while bullet-proofing the athletes from injury and negative “fragile” attitudes.
The Lanes include Tissue Prep where we work on our flexibility and mobility to get us ready for the work ahead. Today this involved Stew foam rolling, stretching out with an Elitefts Band and using an Accumobility Ball to get primed and ready to move.
We then move into our warm up lane. This lane, along with all the other ones that will be mentioned, vary based on the time of year/season that athlete is in. For example, Stew is in his Off-Season phase. We will be focusing on building up weaknesses and building up his work capacity. Today, we focused on getting some extra volume in utilize the back extension as well as pumping out a few sets of lying hamstring curls utilizing the Elitefts Mini Band. If Stew were in-season, I would take away a lot of the volume in this area in order to prioritize the power and explosiveness that an athlete needs to compete during the year. It all depends on where the athlete is as well as the goal for the training at that time.
The third portion of our workout involves the power/explosive training. If we are working on upper body for the day, this section would involve medicine ball throws. Since we are training lower body, we focused on what I like to refer to as skaters. This is a very important part of the workout for athletes as this has a great carry over to the movements they will be performing in their sports. Athletes tend to spend quite a bit of time cutting, changing directions, and sprinting. All of these actions occur on one leg. This means we need to train our athletes to be able to adequately produce power and be able to maintain proper form in those positions. During the In-season we will spend more time here that we would in the off-season because athletes need to be primed and peaked for their competitive seasons.
After our power development lane, we move into our main strength lane. My athletes train utilizing Conjugate training. Instead of attempting to make my own definition of Conjugate training, I will utilize the one used by Nate Harvey in the book ConjugateU. “For the purpose of this book, the term Conjugate will be defined as training multiple special strengths throughout the year by using varying methods within the weekly plan, in an effort to raise multiple traits the entire year as opposed to only during certain blocks of training. The opposite of this would be the old western or linear model of periodization.”
Athletes really enjoy this type of training because the varied approaches on a weekly basis that promote excitement in the athletes as well as prevents stagnation or plateauing in their performance.
For me and my athletes, this will be broken into Dynamic or Max Effort days for either the upper and lower body. Dynamic effort refers to moving sub-maximal weights quickly. It is essentially training our muscles to contract very quickly. These workouts will consists of performing 8-12 sets of 2-5 reps as quickly and with as much force as you can produce. We are looking for the bar to move quickly here. Speed is the priority on this day. During dynamic workouts we keep rest periods short, thus helping to build up work capacity as well as conditioning.
This workout was instead a Max Effort day for the lower body. Max effort days focus on straining as hard as possible with heavy weights. Maximum strength is the cornerstone of athletics. There has never been a time where an athlete has been “too strong” for their sport. Having a solid base of strength leads to being able to advance other aspects of the athletes performance. Max Effort days are designed to do just that. Keeping the weight in the 90% and up range is what we focus on here because want the athlete to strain.
According to Periodization of Strength by Tudor Bompa, Max effort work has the ability to:
"Enhance capacity to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers (fast twitch muscles are what is most important in power dominant sports such as baseball) Enhance ability to successfully synchronize all muscles involved in the movement (The more synchronized the muscles are, the more efficient your body becomes at producing force and expressing strength on the field) Enhance ability to eliminate central nervous system inhibition Enhance maximal concentration and motivation "
Our Max Effort Movement was to work up to a heavy set of 3 using the Safety squat bar from EliteFTS. This bar is great for baseball players because it lets your athlete squat with a bar on their back, and not worry about torquing their shoulders in a less than ideal position. This bar can also be used if an athlete has a shoulder injury where they would not be able to position the regular on their back correctly. An added bonus of the SSB bar is that it forces the athlete to keep their chest up during the movement. This helps build up the muscles of the shoulders and the upper back at the same time as building up the legs.
As you can see from the still above, we are utilizing bands as well as plates on the bar. I will be writing another article about the reasoning behind this, but the short and sweet version is that the bands are what is known as Accommodating Resistance. The point of accommodating resistance is to help train the athlete to produce force through the entire range of motion and to accommodate the resistance during different times of the lift. For example on this squat day. The bands provide the most resistance at the top of the squat when you are standing up and at your strongest position and provide the least amount of resistance at the bottom when you are the most disadvantageous position. It also a way to take an exercise, and change the stimulus enough to make sure you are not over-training the same patterns or exercises.
Following our max effort exercise for the day, I like to utilize a secondary barbell movement. This exercise will either be the same or similar to the main movement, with a reduction of weight in the example of Stew on this day. We simply lowered the weight by about 20% and got some more work in. Keeping it pretty simple and working on the things that need work.
After the Strength lane, we focus in on building up weaknesses in the athlete. This is known as the Repetition or Accessory Lane. Today we focused on hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and abs. These are areas that everyone needs to work out and truly can never be strong enough. The exercises we utilized for this training sessions were McGill Curl ups, Single Leg KB Deadlifts, and Seated Good Mornings with the Elitefts Safety Squat Bar. Just like with the rest of the session, the majority of the programming will be based upon what part of the year the athlete is in and their level of training experience.
Then the end of the workout comes and we finish up with another bout of tissue prep and mobility to bring the body back down from the workout we just had. This section of the workout is very important and it is not to be skipped. I tell my athletes that I am fully aware of how little they want to roll around on a foam roller or stretch out with the mobility ball but doing a little bit of work now helps to prevent stupid injuries later on. Commit to the process and let yourself get better.
So there you have it. This was just a quick glimpse into the type of training I do with my athletes. If you have any questions or comments, please email me with the information down below and let me know what you want to learn about or read about next.
Sam Brown CSCS
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