The HPCT #4: How to Successfully Transition from the In-Season to the Off-Season

The High-Performance Chalk Talk #4


This is the fourth installation of what will become a weekly email covering high performance training.


How to Successfully Transition from the In-Season to the Off-Season

For football athletes, the end of the season is not something they look forward to, however, for a strength and conditioning coach the end of the football season signals the start to their in-season, or as many of us call it, the Iron Season. 

The Iron Season is a 9-month training period that kicks off the annual plan for a comprehensive year-round strength and conditioning program.

Every sound strength and conditioning program should base their annual plan off of macro, meso, and micro cycles…

  • Macrocycle – the entire year’s training protocol
  • Mesocycle – 2-6-week training blocks
  • Microcycle – 1 weeks’ worth of training

The day the season ends should be the day you start your first microcycle and begin your overall mesocycle.

For the purposes of this article, I will be covering your initial mesocycle and be looking at the best ways to transition from the in-season to the iron season successfully.

Personally, my first mesocycle is always a three-week training period.

It is absolutely vital for you to begin your program in a systematic and intelligent way. Every athlete is at a different developmental level and has varied performance goals.  With this in mind, you will want to perform a detailed ‘athlete intake process’ that allows you to design your program as effectively as possible.

What I am going to share with you is my three ‘big ticket’ items that need to be done to insure you are getting off to a successful start to your off-season training program.

1: Goal Setting and Identification of Performance Objectives:

When the off-season officially begins, you will have the opportunity to assess your athlete’s strengths, weaknesses, and individual performance goals.  From there you will set a number of performance objectives you will want to hit.

For me, I am not a fan of assigning specific metrics to each athlete. Rather, I want their performance objectives to be centered around how they perform in their sport. This allows us to stay completely focused on building towards those individually desired qualities.  Remember, we are building athletes, not powerlifters or bodybuilders.

There should be short term and long term goals and once you have identified what you want to accomplish the rest is about putting together an effective plan.

  • Short term goals should be something along the lines of – improved mobility, injury recovery, or a body composition goal.
  • Long term goals should be focused around improving specific skill sets such as – improved linear speed, enhanced upper body power, or lower testing times in agility drills.

2: Complete a Movement Screen and Performance Assessment:

This is an absolute must for every athlete.  If you are in a program that does not screen each athlete on a regular basis you need to find another program.  There is a reason every collegiate and professional team completes a movement screen at least 3-4 times per year.  This is the roadmap from which a skilled coach programs.

  • Movement Screen: I use the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) which is a compilation of 7 assessments that gives me a clear picture of what we need to do in order for my athletes to move optimally. This looks at stability, mobility, and strength from a unilateral (side to side) perspective. By completing this screen athletes can be assigned a ‘corrective exercise’ protocol that will help mitigate the potential risk of injury. This approach is called PreHab and is an absolutely critical component for an athlete who wants to stay healthy and perform at a high level.
  • Performance Assessment: the goal of the performance assessment is to identify the athletes base-line starting point from a strength, speed, and power standpoint. From there you can pinpoint specific areas of need and attack those areas within your program design.
  • In my program (for high school athletes) I test the following…
    • Upper Body Strength: 135/185/225 Bench Press for reps, Pull-Ups for reps.
    • Lower Body Power: Peak Velocity Jump (meters per sec), Triple Broad Jump.

3 Week General Physical Preparation (GPP) Phase:

The first three weeks of any training program are critical to the long-term success of the athlete.  Especially in this case where we are dealing with an athlete or team coming off a long season. They need to be re-conditioned to meet the demands of your program and their foundation must be built back.

I attack my GPP phase by looking at what I want my athletes to look and perform like next August.  From there, I reverse engineer that and begin to slowly build my athletes towards how I want them to perform at the end of the summer when I hand them over to their sports coaches.

In my program, I have four big lifts that I want all my athletes to be proficient in.  They are Trap Bar Deadlift, The Front Squat, Box Squat, and Bench Press.

During my 3-week GPP phase I will have my athlete do some variation of each of these movements and focus on building stability and a solid range of motion.  This is accomplished by selecting specific movements that improve some phase of one of my focus lift and assigning rather high than normal rep ranges (8-12). For example, I would use the goblet squat for the front squat and perform 4 sets of 8 reps.  This allows me to get some hypertrophy work in while re-building my stability and range of motion.


The best way to predict your success is to plan for it.  If you really go deep into your goal setting, movement screen, and you attack your 3-week GPP phase you will be set up for a successful Iron Season.

As always, please feel free to send me any questions you may have.  Also, if there is a specific topic you would like covered I am happy to have that as one of the topics for The High-Performance Chalk Talk.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

HPCT #3: Four Year Model for Progressing High School Athletes

The High-Performance Chalk Talk #3


This is the third installation of what will become a weekly email covering high-performance training. 


4 Year Model for Progressing High School Athletes

I am a firm believer that a high school athlete should be provided with a top-notch training program within their high school which provides them with the best chance to be successful within their chosen sport.  For every sport, there should be a comprehensive training model in place which allows young athletes to progress properly in the weight room.  Failing to implement a sound strength and conditioning program, in my opinion, is a leading cause of many injuries at the high school level.

Here is a 4-year model which if followed will produce an athlete who is competent in the weight room, has proper movement mechanics and possesses a lower potential for injury.

Year 1: Preparation – Rising 9th Grader

This is the most pivotal year in the development of a youth athlete.  By now most of them have been subjected to some form of strength training.  They have a great interest and desire to be in the weight room and the stronger the fundamentals are installed during this period the greater potential for success.  It is vital to screen these athletes at the beginning of the program; I personally use Grey Cooks FMS as my screen of choice.

The challenge with this age athlete is there is a wide developmental range of athletes.  Some come in ready to train, some come in looking like their 10.  It is important to stay the course, even if the kid looks like AC Slater.

  • Goals: Provide the athlete with a foundation of strength and stability from which they can build upon throughout their high school career.
  • Primary Lift Emphasis: Bodyweight exercises (overhead squat, 1 leg squat, GHD, pushups, pull ups, etc.)
  • Secondary Lift Training: Squat technique (front and back), Dumbbell bench and shoulder press.
  • Movement Emphasis: Neuromuscular Efficiency, Running Mechanics, Deceleration Training, Plyometric.

Year 2: Acclamation – Rising 10th Grader

In year two the athlete should have a foundation of strength which allows them to squat properly, perform bodyweight pull ups, run with proper technique, and decelerate from a jump or sprint.  Now that this foundation is established, the strength and conditioning coach can begin to develop specific strength qualities in the weight room.

Again, it is vital to use some form of a movement screen before the onset of a training program.  In my opinion, if using the FMS, you should not allow the athlete to progress in the program unless they have a minimum of a 17 score with no asymmetries.

  • Goals: Introduce barbell training with the front squat, back squat, deadlift, and bench press.
  • Primary Lift Emphasis: Front squat, Deadlift, Back Squat, Bench Press, Pull Up.
  • Secondary Lift Training: Olympic lifting variations (clean grip pulls, hand clean hi pulls)
  • Movement Emphasis: Sprint Technique, Acceleration, Change of Direction.

Year 3: Realization – Rising 11th Grader

Year three is truly the time whereas a strength and conditioning coach your goal should be to dramatically increase their strength, put muscle on your athletes, and train them to move the bar in a manner which will develop strength-speed capabilities. As always you should screen your athletes prior to the onset of the program.

  • Goals: Build strength capabilities in primary lifts, fine-tune Olympic lifting mechanics, develop speed-strength in the squat and bench.
  • Primary Lift Emphasis: Front Squat, Power Clean, Back Squat, Bench Press, Pull Up.
  • Secondary Lift Training: Hang Snatch, Push Press
  • Movement Emphasis: Acceleration, Lateral Agility and Change of Direction, Top End Speed, Transitional Running, Combine Testing Criteria

Year 4: Proficiency – Rising 12th Grader

At this point, your athletes should be extremely competent in the weight room and be able to sprint, change direction, and decelerate efficiently.  During this year it is important to work towards specific needs and goals as it pertains to their future athletic endeavors.

  • Goals: Improve speed-strength and absolute strength capabilities, continue to develop Olympic lifting mechanics, provide the athlete with a college-ready body.
  • Primary Lift Emphasis: Back Squat, Power Clean, Front Squat, Bench Press, Push Press, Pull Up.
  • Secondary Lift Training: Hang Snatch, Split Jerk
  • Movement Emphasis: Acceleration, Lateral Agility and Change of Direction, Top End Speed, Transitional Running

Now, it is important to note that this 4-year model is an ‘ideal’ situation, however, if these steps are followed your athlete will see truly amazing results.  These results will not be limited to increased performance.  They will cross-over into injury prevention, accountability, and long-term training health.

As always, please feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.  Also, if there is a specific topic you are interested in please let me know and I’ll dig deep into it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The High-Performance​ Chalk Talk #2

 

High Performance, as I define it, is optimal human movement, recovery, and strength training. 


Top 3 Ways to Develop Athleticism in the Weight Room:

Walk into any collegiate weight room and you will see one common occurrence…

…The strongest players on the team rarely play!  They are strong, but not athletic!

“If you can’t move, you can’t help us” – Buddy Morris

The one common denominator in all forms of athletics is rapid movement.

The ability to generate force, cut on a dime, and rapidly decelerate tends to be a separator for athletes.  In addition, these physical traits allow a coach to access the athlete’s athleticism, which in turn, will tell a coach how high the athletes athletic ceiling is.

Everyone has heard a college or NFL coach say: “He was raw when we offered him a scholarship, but we knew the potential was there.  He just needed to be developed”

The potential is there because the athlete has a high level of athleticism.

So, as you get into your off-season, what are you doing to increase your athleticism?

Here are my top three methods to develop athleticism this off-season:

1: Do jumps in all three planes of motion

Human movement can be broken down into three planes of movement: Sagittal, Frontal, and Transverse.

  • Sagittal = Forward and Backwards
  • Frontal = Side to Side
  • Transverse = Rotational

With the exception of track, there is very little opportunity to play a sport only in one plane of motion.  This makes the emphasis on jumping in all three planes of motion extremely important.  Nothing in training generates force as rapidly as a jump which makes jumping a highly transferable movement to the athletic arena.

Some examples of jumping in all three planes of motion:

  • Sagittal: Broad Jumps, Box Jumps, Hurdle Hops
  • Frontal: Lateral Bounds, Single Leg Medial and Lateral Hops, Lateral Box Jumps
  • Transverse: Rotational Box Jumps, Single Leg 90deg Rotation Hops

Be sure to mix in all three planes of motion each week.  Remember, the focus of a jump is to generate force rapidly hit a triple extension so be sure you are not compromising form by performing a movement you are not ready for.  Without the triple extension, you will not get the training effect you are working towards.

2: Train with rapid deceleration and rapid acceleration

Athletics are nothing more than a series of rapid decelerations and rapid accelerations.  Which means they involve reaction based agility at a high rate of speed.

So, how do we prepare the body for this demand?

Simple, train the body to decelerate properly and once that has reached a high level of competency you can add a rapid acceleration directly following the deceleration.

Start by doing short depth jumps and short sprints with a hard deceleration.  Once you have mastered this start mixing in the acceleration component.  To do this perform a box jump directly followed by a vertical jump or a broad jump.  You can also do a short sprint with a hard deceleration followed by another sprint.

Essentially you want your athlete to have to decelerate, control their body positioning, and the rapidly get back to full speed. Think of a Wide Receiver running a route and the Defensive Back covering.  This type of change of direction and reaction based agility can be trained in the off-season through training for rapid deceleration and rapid acceleration.

3: Do Post-Activation Potentiation Work

Post-Activation Potentiation (PAP) is a dirty little trick to teach the body how to be more explosive.

What you do is perform a lift at a near maximal level (80-95% of 1 Rep Max) directly followed by an explosive movement which mimics the lift.

Some examples include…

  • Back Squat w/ a Box Jump
  • Bench Press w/ a Plyometric Push Up
  • Power Clean w/ a Broad Jump

While the power movement is important, when training PAP, the focus should be on the explosive movement. When you follow a power movement with an explosive one the body will generate a greater amount of force for the explosive movement.  This causes you to get a more transferable training effect and build your athleticism while in the weight room.

If you are an athlete looking to kill it this off-season or a coach training athletes to be more athletic make sure to incorporate these three methods into your training.

As always, please feel free to reach out if you have questions or would like to get on a program to maximize your potential.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

HPCT #1: Are you overtrained or just under-recovered?

The High-Performance Chalk Talk: #1

This is the first installation of what will become a weekly email covering high-performance training.  Now, what is “high-performance”?  High Performance, as I define it, is optimal human movement, recovery, and strength training.  The goal of this email series is to highlight elite performance training methods serious athletes  I want this to be a useful tool for anyone in their pursuit of increased performance. 


Optimal At-Home Recovery Methods:

The majority of my athletes train either 3 or 4 times per week.  When we train, we train hard and with intent.

In many cases, my athletes only have 24-48 hours between training sessions.  This can be a problem. Fatigue and training readiness are serious considerations that must be taken into account when designing any training protocol.

What is absolutely critical is that athletes are recovering between workouts. Their ability to enter the gym fresh and ready to train is a major key that will set them up for a productive training session.

As you read this, I want you to think about the stereotyped term “overtraining” and I would have you consider this…

Maybe you are not over-trained, maybe you are just under-recovered?

With that in mind, I am going to cover my top recovery methods. Included in each one will be target areas and tips for optimal implementation.  Each of these can be done at home and with limited equipment.

Note: the key to each of these modalities is proper implementation so please feel free to reach out if I can expand on any of them.

1: Contrast Therapy. 

  • Target Areas: This method of recovery is ideal for full body or specifically targeted areas (elbows, knees, etc.).
  • Method:  For the full body, you will want to alternate between a cold tub and a hot tub or shower. If you are targeting specific areas, an ice pack and a heating pad will do the trick. For both of these methods, you will want to spend 2-3 minutes with the cold and 2-3 with the hot.  Repeat that 2-4 times.  I recommend finishing in the hot. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO
  • Time Needed: 20-25 minutes

2: Wall Stretch Series.

  • Target Areas: Hamstrings, Hips (Glutes, Adductors), Low Back, Nervous System Reset
  • Method:  Lay on your back with your hips close to the wall.  Be in a position where you can keep your knees fully extended and toes flexed back.  As you’re doing this you will want to focus on taking deep breaths where you inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth – more on this in another article. Spend 45-60 seconds in each position. Positions include both legs extended, figure 4, groin, and bent knee.
  • Time Needed: 10-15 minutes

3: Three Way Band Stretch and Foam Roll

  • Target Areas: The band stretch focuses on the hamstrings, glutes, and adductors while the foam roll is a total body.
  • Method:  For the band stretch, wrap a stretch band around the ball of your foot (this puts the foot in a dorsiflexed position).  Perform 10 raises straight up, 10 raises to the outside of the body, and 10 reps across the body. When doing this, make sure to raise the leg up using primarily your quads.  Only at the top of the movement should the band be the prime limb mover.  For the foam roller, cover all the major muscle groups in the body –  calves, hamstrings, IT band, quads, hip flexors, glutes, low back, and lats. Spend 30-40 seconds in each area.
  • Time Needed: 15-20 minutes

4: Joe DeFranco’s Limber 11

  • Target Areas: This series of 11 movements targets the hips, low back, hip flexors, and hamstrings.
  • Method: This method, which was developed by Joe DeFranco, is my go-to series for most of my athletes. It can be used as a warm-up or recovery workout. Watch the video.  Joe does a killer job of explaining each movement and the ‘why’ behind them. CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO
  • Time Needed: 20-25 minutes

5: Epsom Salt Bath

  • Target Areas: Total body.
  • Method:  Easiest of all the modalities.  Put Epsom salt in a bathtub.  Fill the tub with hot water.  Enjoy. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO
  • Time Needed: 15-30 minutes

6: RomWod.com

  • Target Areas: Total body depending on the daily program, however, you can also choose targeted areas.
  • Method:  Go to RomWod.com.  Sign up.  Do 3-4 times per week.  RomWod focuses on guided breathing as well which I feel has amazing benefits.  This is a game changer for me.  They also offer a long and a short workout each day which is amazing if you are short on time. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO
  • Time Needed: 12-40minutes

To put it simply, if you train hard then you need to recover just as hard. You have to make this a habit if you want to limit your potential for a fatigue-induced lackluster training session.

As I mentioned earlier, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about any of these modalities.

I am happy to assist in any way possible.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Letter to Walk-Ons

This year I have a group of athletes who are walking-on at the college level and nothing makes me prouder than when one of my athletes takes on the challenge of walking-on.

It’s a mindset…

It’s them saying, “I know they didn’t believe in me while I was in high school, but, I will prove everyone wrong.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Athlete Nutrition – Part 2

A few days ago, I put up a post covering proper nutrition habits for athletic performance.  Included in that post were my five guidelines that every athlete should follow as well as some general nutrition tips. 

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Athlete Nutrition – Part 1

The biggest limiting factor in athletic performance in nutrition and the sad thing is that the majority of athletes I talk with have no clue what proper nutrition for an athlete looks like.  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Program Goals: The One’s That Truly Matter

Regardless of the athlete or the level they compete at I have the same goals for every member of my program.  I think it is important to have steadfast objectives for what you want to accomplish.  Of course, every person will have specific performance goals that we will work towards.  However, I believe that the culture of training programs is vital success of individual athletes and culture is dictated by working towards a common objective.  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Strength Introduction: Full Program

This is the third and final instalment in a three-part series covering the proper introduction of strength training for young athletes new to the weight room.

As we discussed in the first two articles, what separates a good introductory program from a bad one is twofold…

  • Good programs focus on proper movement and muscle firing patterns before they introduce weight.
  • Proper strength implementation is done in a systematic fashion that takes into account all three phases of strength development – Isometric, Eccentric, and Concentric.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Strength Introduction: The Big 4 Movements

 

This is the second instalment in a three-part series covering the proper introduction of strength training for young athletes new to the weight room.

As we discussed in the last article what separates a good introductory program from a bad one is twofold…

  • Good programs focus on proper movement and muscle firing patterns before they introduce weight.
  • Proper strength implementation is done in a systematic fashion that takes into account all three phases of strength development – Isometric, Eccentric, and Concentric.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment