For high school athletes the biggest misrepresentation of an effective strength and conditioning program is max strength testing. Building absolute strength is vital to athletic success, however, if your goal is to build healthy and productive athletes it may be beneficial to look at other categories when evaluating your strength program.
When I work with high school programs I tell them that my only goal is to allow my athletes to play at a high level on a consistent basis.
I’m like a broken record – “The best ability is AVAILABILITY”.
In my opinion, the number one cause of injuries at the high school level is improper implantation of strength training protocols. The great majority of the time, when I walk into a new weight room and observe a training session I see the same issues – athletes who are not physically ready to complete the lifts they are assigned.
So, how do you evaluate your strength program? Here are the three areas I suggest looking at (listed in order of importance)
- Do you provide underclassmen a developmental training program or are they thrown into the mix with varsity athletes on day one?
- The weight room is a proving ground and nobody wants to seem weak or timid. If you throw a 14 year old into a weight room on the same program as varsity athletes you’re doing your athlete a disservice and putting them in harm’s way. Incoming athletes should have a training block of 4-6 months (ideally more) before they perform any Olympic or power lift.
- How many athletes suffer non-contact soft tissue injuries?
- 46% of all injuries are soft tissue, non contact injuries. Nobody can prevent broken bones but the rate of ankle, knee, hip and shoulder injuries can be reduced with proper training. In fact, one of my football teams finished last season with one soft tissue injurie. Why? Simply because we trained the body to absorb force and decelerate properly.
- What protocols do you use to test athletes movement on a regular basis?
- This should include some form of a movement screen which looks at single leg stability, mobility, and movement strength. Every athlete wants to be strong in the weight room, but if their movement patterns are not correct you’re putting ‘function on dysfunction’ and that is a recipe for injury. I personally use the Functional Movement Screen and have seen great success with it.
Now, I want to be clear, there are some phenomenal high school strength programs. The issue is, they are few and far between and these athletes need to be progressed properly. Nothing is worse than watching a kid fight through a tough injury that could have been prevented.