The High School Weight Room is Not Performance Training

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We work with a lot of athletes ages 8 and up.

Some of them will start with us when they are young and they may or may not continue in the program.

A big reason that we lose athletes is often that their high school provides some kind of weight room. Even some of the sports are incorporating weight room times.

Depending on the school, some rooms are well stocked and rival some colleges.

This is a double edged sword for the athlete, though. I know plenty of athletes that get ridiculously strong in these settings. A high school athlete that can actually bench close to 300 pounds is strong. No doubt about it and it happens.

Luckily for high school students, they are in a window of accelerated strength gains (according to LTAD). During this time they adapt very well to strength training. This is regardless of the type of program.

The high school weight room is also a great community for those that use it. We are talking about stererotypical meat head football players. They will gather and they will not miss a lift all offseason. When I was in high school, the guys that were in the weight room were always there. And our team was terrible. Sorry if any of you are reading this.

Moral of that story is that the people who consistently showed up were pretty damn strong.


But my problem with the high school weight is that it inherently is not performance training.

Athlete wants to get strong- Fine, they are probably going to get strong by going there consistently. Is it safe and effective? I have no clue.

Most high schools and too many colleges do not employ someone that is qualified to be a strength and conditioning coach. There is a science behind exercise and just because someone can deadlift a truck does not mean that they should be giving out programs.

Exercises have progressions and regressions, sets and reps should be periodized based on the goal of the athlete, and a lot of lifts are technical which requires advanced coaching of the lifts.

It can get very dangerous when athletes go in and do whatever they want. And no it isn’t the bicep curls and tricep pushdowns that are the issues. Squats and deadlifts are hard lifts to master and poor performance in them can cause injury.

We also need to look back at what the goal is for the specific athlete. 90% of athletes are looking to get faster and quicker. Stronger also comes up more often than not. These qualities go hand in hand.

It is really hard to get faster and change direction quickly when you are just not that strong. There is also a technique and proper way to run, stop, and get going the other way. That also needs to be taught.

Then we have conditioning. Or should I mention IF there is conditioning. A football player that doesn’t work on running in the offseason is still going to be running for the barrel come camp. But a 400 pound deadlift still sounds cool.

Conditioning is one of the most poorly programmed aspect of sport training. Conditioning is for sport is not just:

  • Running miles
  • Running 30 laps
  • Running suicides
  • Recovery runs
  • Doing a million up downs/burpees
  • All of the crossfit workouts

All of the above have their place in sport conditioning, except maybe a million burpees is too many.

Conditioning needs to be planned out over the course of the year. The body has three energy systems and the timing of the training for each one can make or break an athlete. An example would be if distance running is even going to be part of a soccer program, it should be as far away from the season as possible.

This allows the athlete to build their aerobic base but as they get closer to the season they can work on their ability to repeatedly sprint lightning fast.

Running suicides teaches athletes to pace themselves. They are not truly sprinting and the coach is just making them tired, not better. Prolonged efforts like this and they forget what it means to actually sprint. Smashing the team into the ground does nothing when they get bounced out of the playoffs in the first round.

Yet, we rely on terrible conditioning protocols to maybe try to get in shape. Everyone always defaults to distance running. Our athletes need less distance running and more exposures to short sprints at a top speed. After that, they need to repeat them.

If they can out-sprint everyone over and over then that athlete is going to look like an All Star. If they constantly get beat or cannot separate from the defense, no one cares that they can run 10 miles. Its useless.

You or your athlete needs to be put in place to succeed for whatever the goal is. Then a professional program from someone who actually trains athletes for a living is needed. In person training is always the best option but there are a number of programs that can be purchased electronically.

Find a legitimate program form someone who makes athletes better and stop listening the history teacher/girls softball/mens diving coach who used to be able to squat 500. Chances are he didn’t and doesn’t know what he’s doing.