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.

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