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strength coach and ball coach in terms of what their sessions (weight training/ practice/conditioning) entail for the week. Stressing this next point is crucial when teaching aspiring strength and conditioning coaches at the college level. Despite what most coaches believe, I feel that the strength and conditioning coach should be the one to conditioning the players during practice. Allowing the strength and conditioning coach to take responsibility ensures there is an accommodation in weekly training stress. In the following section, I will address weekly training stress and how this all applies to high school football. In section three about accommodating for your athletes yearly development I touched on the concept of volume – load. This is an effective way to monitor training stress and progression in the weight room. Many coaches fail to see a connection between practice, strength training, and conditioning in terms of total training stress. All of these factors are going to stress your athletes from a musculoskeletal and neural perspective. So, it is your job to properly balance these stressors to allow your athletes to recover properly and perform well. This concept becomes more important as the season approaches and you need your athletes at their best. I am going to present you with two graphs which will illustrate two important concepts. (Haff)
This is a yearly periodization model. Most of you actually do something very similar to this without even knowing it. This graph demonstrates a proper way to set up your training and practices.(Haff) I want you to focus on the competition phase along the bottom of the graph (this would be your competitive season). As you can see, as the season approaches the volume of training (how much) is gradually decreasing while the intensity of training and technical training is gradually increasing. The technical training as far as all of you are concerned would be your practice. So, to simplify things, lets discuss how you would set this all up. In the winter and spring months the focus would be on strength training with plenty of volume and almost no football specific training. As the summer approaches you will increase the intensity in the weight room and take away some volume. This is suggesting changing focus from hypertrophy to strength; we covered this in section two. An increase in technical training would mean more football specific drills and conditioning (this is when some of your hardest training weeks should be taking place).
As the season comes nearer you will begin to significantly drop off volume and increase intensity. At this point, most of your weekly training stress should be very specific to football. By no means does this suggest that you should stop strength training all together. Doing that would only negate all of the hard work your athletes did over the past few months. Instead, it just means pick a few important lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press) to hit hard and get out of the weight room. So from a conditioning perspective this would be applied as follows. In the winter and spring months all conditioning should be very non-specific to football and focused on building up aerobic capacity. So you would focus more on slow distance running. As the summer months approach you can switch your focus to long sprints with reasonable time to recover between each one. As the season is right around the corner it would be wise to simulate a game as much as possible. So, short intense sprints with short recover periods would be an example of an intense, low volume, specific training modality. I will talk about how to set up a sports specific conditioning program once my fatal flaw series wraps up. The graph below demonstrates a concept called general adaptation syndrome. (Haff) This is something that should be kept in mind when you design your total weekly training.
This graph demonstrates the response your athletes have to training. In many sports this can be used to an athlete’s advantage but in football it may not always be the best idea. So what this graph tells us is that when we induce a new training stress we will actually see an immediate drop in performance. So an example of this would be going from a period in the off-season of high volume hypertrophy based training and switching over to strength based training. The body has now taken on a new stress and needs time to adapt. This is also the period of time you can overtrain your athletes. This is when it becomes tricky. You need to ensure that when you switch emphasis, you lower the volume initially and very slowly increase it. An initial week of a strength based focus might be 4 to 5 exercise with 2 heavy sets. You can gradually increase from there. You must also make sure you accommodate for this in the amount of volume at practice. This is where the relationship between coach and strength coach becomes very important. Introducing a new stressor (like changing the emphasis in the weight room) is not the best time to run your athletes into the ground at practice. Remember that practice
is stressful too. Everything you do adds stress whether it be agility drills, position drills, running plays, you need to keep this all in mind. This works both ways, if you decide you will be having a week of very intense practice, accommodations should be made in the weight room to ensure your athletes do not go down the wrong path on the above graph. So now, if you did not overtrain your athletes and you continue to gradually increase intensity and volume, performance will rebound to normal levels and beyond. This is when you can implement what we call a taper week. This is when volume and intensity are greatly reduced to allow your athlete to recover in hopes they will have a super compensation phase. Super compensation refers to your athletes performing at a higher level then they were ever capable of before. This does not just apply to new strength in the weight room. This also applies to performance on the field because if you remember this graph represents stressors from practice and conditioning as well. There must be a marriage between all three when you are looking to improve your athlete’s performance. In many sports a coach will try to time this super compensation phase around the most important competition of the year. So this makes a lot of sense in a sport like track and field. You can try and time super compensation to occur during an all-state track meet. In football, however, this is a risk. To allow super compensation to occur we have to implement a new stressor, which could also be an acute increase in training stress itself. Remember this causes a sudden decrease in performance first. So, if you wanted to try to gear this concept towards a particular game, the team’s on field performance may suffer a few games prior to that particular contest. In a 10 game season, every game is potentially important. Because of this it may not be the best idea to try this in-season.
What I hope you take away from the general adaptation syndrome is that when you introduce new stress in either the weight room or on the field you need to be aware of your weekly training stress. Here are the key points of the above section. You must understand that everything you do during the week (practice, weights, running, agility) all add a cumulative stress on your athletes. This can positively or negatively affect performance and must all bet taken in account. You should shift your focus as the season gets closer to ensure that your athletes are not performing too much volume of training as that will affect the quality of performance at practice. I hope you found this and the prior sections useful. I will wrap up this series next time when I address how to avoid leading your training program down the wrong path by forming bad habits. You can learn more about me and some of my philosophies by visiting my blog and reading my about the author page. http://exerciseopinions.blogspot.com/p/aboutthis-blog.html.
Thanks for reading and feel free to ask questions. I look forward to hearing from you and I hope I can help as much as possible.
Haff, Gregory. "Periodization as Applied to Strength/Power Training." 4th Annual Coaches & Sports Science College. ETSU. TN, Johnson City. 19 12 2009. Address.
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