I’m Not Writing About LeBron James

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Q: I have been reading your blog for some time now, and just want to tell you, I love what you have to say! I just wanted to ask you what your thoughts were on team training! I am a strength and conditioning coach at the high school level. I have anywhere from 45-60 kids in my athletic conditioning classes each day. I would love to be able to write each athlete a individualized workout but I do not have the space in the weight room for them to do that. What do you feel is the best way to train large groups in the weight room? I have 6 Power Racks, 1 Set of Dumbbells, with some other misc equipment.

A: Thanks for the question, as well as the kind words! Training young kids can be bittersweet to say the least. On one hand, it’s a great opportunity to teach them, early on, how to do things RIGHT! Lets be honest, if it were possible, we’d all hop into our own Delorean and go back in time and knock some sense into our 16-22 year old selves. Leg presses in the smith machine? Really Tony?

Conversely, training young athletes can be a complete nightmare if done incorrecly – especially if you don’t have a game plan in place. That said, here are some quick bullet point comments I’d like to say on the matter.

1. Speaking bluntly, many (not all) tweeners/high school aged kids have the athleticism of a vacuum cleaner. Far too often, rather than spending their free time playing kickball, wiffleball, riding their bikes, swimming, you name it – most kids are updating their Facebook page for the 37th time, texting their friends, and playing World of Warcraft. It’s not uncommon to have a young athlete come into CP and find that he or she can’t even do a bodyweight reverse lunge without falling over.

As such, in the beginning, there is absolutely no need to get fancy with them. Do yourself a favor and go to your local Home Depot and buy 15-20, five foot long, PVC pipes. Regardless of equipment availability, PVC pipes will be your best commodity.

I know Dan John – who kinda knows a thing or two about training large groups of young athletes – will spend weeks, if not months using nothing but a PVC pipe.

2. TECHNIQUE, TECHNIQUE, TECHNIQUE!!! Again, this is where the PVC pipes will come in. Overhead squats, front squats, deadlifts, as well as the OLY lifts can all be “grooved” using nothing but a plastic stick.

3. Again, as I mentioned above – many kids just don’t move well. That said, paying a lot of attention to movement quality is going to be important. Implementing a formalized warm-up/dynamic flexibility circuit will go a long ways in setting them up for success in the future. What’s more, it takes no equipment what-so-ever, so you can get as creative as you want here. Again, stealing a concept from Dan John, “the warm-up is the workout.”

As an example, you could set up a station that looks something like this:

DB Suitcase Carry – 25 yds/side

Overhead PVC Squats x 10

1-Legged Hip Thrusters x 8/leg

Push-Ups x 8 (elevated for those that can’t perform them from the floor)

X-Band Series (assuming you have bands available)

Hip Mobility Drills w/ Hurdles

Jumping Jacks x 15

Fist Pump x 1/side

Do the above circuit THREE times through, and I guarantee they’ll feel it.

4. Without question, a great way to build teamwork and camaraderie is to teach the kids how to spot one another, as well as load and un-load plates. Each rack will have 4-5 athletes using it (give or take), so give each person a role. You have the plate loader guy, the spotter, and we can’t forget the “all you, all you” guy. In all seriousness, no one should be standing around twiddling their thumbs bored out of their mind. So, put them to work!

5. Really, one of the most important things to remember is to keep them moving, and KEEP IT FUN! Of course, it’s going to be hard work in the beginning – you HAVE to coach your ass off. But when all is said and done, it’s pretty impressive to see a well organized weight room in action.

I’m sure if I put more thought into it, I could come up with some more ideas, so please don’t take this as an exhaustive list. Nevertheless, I hope it helps.

UPDATE: Speaking of Dan John, there is a slight possibility that he will be making a cameo appearance at Cressey Performance in mid-October for a one day workshop.

That said, I just wanted to get a feel for whether or not there would be any interest for those in or around the Boston area? In case you’re wondering who this Dan John guy is, this would be analogous to Gandalf showing up at a Lord of the Rings convention. It’s THAT big of a deal. So, if you think you might be interested, please leave a comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

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