“To get a lot stronger…”
“He’s most interested in getting big – so (he’s interested in) strength”
“Getting bigger, stronger and faster.”
“To increase strength…”
“Strength and weight gain.”
These are just a handful of the answers that I get on my Athlete Questionnaire’s. They’re smart kids. Football is a fun game but it is also a tough game that requires toughness. These kids want size and strength.
And they’ve come to the right place.
I use a very detailed, focused approach with each of my athletes. They fill out a health history form, an athlete questionnaire form, they get weighed on Day 1 and then at least once a week thereafter. They are responsible for logging their nutrition. They are responsible for eating correctly based upon their goals that they wrote down on their athlete questionnaire.
Most kids don’t eat enough.
“But Scott, my kids eat 20 times a day!”
I know so do mine – I have 4. But their tendency is to eat crackers, pretzels, cereal and other snacky snacks. As they’ve gotten older (my kids), we’ve educated them on how to eat more efficiently. They’re into baseball, football, etc like a lot of kids. So we see the same scenario as you do with your kids. The only way to make dependable progress is to be consistent and scientific with a serious athlete’s nutrition. You have to know how many calories to eat each day, how many grams of protein, carbs and fat. You have to account for exercise which can burn 700+ calories thereby creating a deficit if the athlete is not eating enough.
And then there’s the BMR. I’ll save this for another time but just understand that our bodies are burning calories while we rest. So if we’re a high school athlete, we’re growing (growing requires a lot of calories), we’re active (activity requires a lot of calories) and we’re just living (living requires calories), it’s easy to fall into the trap of not eating enough to support growth, high level performance and strength.
So I set a goal for each athlete. The goal is to eat their required number of calories each day in order to make progress, i.e. get stronger, get bigger, get “whatever”. I give them feedback via email each day to let them know how they did and encourage them, congratulate them or give them a needed pep talk.
Most coaches and trainers are coming at their athletes from a very specific perspective. Some coaches are very mechanical, come coaches are about drill work, and some are about pushing you to your limit. Very few coaches and trainers know anything about nutrition or the mental side of performance.
Parent tip – find a coach or trainer who studies nutrition as well as the mental side of performance. Make sure that they USE the information on themselves. You have to live it to know it. Kids know when a coach or trainer is lollygagging with their own nutrition and mental toughness. It’s one of the things that I hear most from my athletes. They put a premium on coaches who lead from the front. And what’s so wrong with a coach or trainer proving that good nutrition and an elite mental mindset is the best way to go?
Patton lead from the front.
Truly competitive athletes will stop at nothing to be among the elite. They’ll eat what you tell them to eat, they’ll sleep enough, get their schoolwork done and they’ll take on your most challenging workout all so they can be #1.
So How Strong is Strong?
“Strength is never a weakness” – Bernarr Macfadden, predecessor of Charles Atlas and Jack LaLanne, and has been credited with beginning the culture of health and fitness in the United States.
So when I see the number of high school athletes who are wanting to get strong, I know as a strength coach that I have to have some numbers to work with. Not average numbers because I’m not interested in pushing out average athletes. Elite numbers = elite athletes. Sure, I could just instruct my athletes to throw some med balls around, run around some cones, do some burpees and whatever else the “flavor of the month” exercise is but that is not in line with what a high level strength coach does. I couldn’t live with myself if I operated like that. How the heck do I know if my athletes are progressing?
This is my passion, I want to be elite.
So I spend lots of time and effort on each athlete. Adding exercises that compliment their football position, crossing off exercises that they don’t need to do. A 295 lb offensive lineman doesn’t need to do certain exercises just as a really tall athlete should probably focus more on front squats than back squats due to limb length and body type. Depth jumps are excellent but having a 295 lb line jumping down from a 30″ box over and over again is just asking for trouble.
They All Want To Be Strong
Ok, so here is my current approach to off season high school football training. I’ll list the exercise and multiplier.
Bench Press: 1.50 x body weight
Power Clean: 1.50 x body weight
Front Squat: 1.75 x body weight
Pull Up x 1 rep: 0.5 x body weight
Barbell Squat: 2.25 x body weight
Deadlift: 2.5 x body weight
So let’s run some numbers. Let’s take a 185 lb high school athlete and see what we get.
Bench Press: 1.50 x 185 lbs = 278 lbs
Power Clean: 1.50 x 185 lbs = 278 lbs
Front Squat: 1.75 x 185 lbs = 324 lbs
Pull Up x 1 rep: 0.5 x 185 lbs = 93 lbs (they should be able to do 1 + correct pull up with 93 lbs strapped around their waist or wearing a weighted vest.
Barbell Squat: 2.25 x 185 lbs = 416 lbs
Deadlift: 2.5 x 185 lbs = 463 lbs
*if you weigh over 250 lbs, this is going to be extremely ambitious and based upon the athletes BMI, I would probably need to adjust the multiplier down from what you see above. But only on a few exercises. BUT I HATE TO ADJUST THESE NUMBERS. Watch the Crossfit Games if you get a chance and you’ll see strong, athletic men and women using these elite category poundages. It can be done.
How long does it take to achieve these kinds of numbers? It depends on the athletes current strength level, their willingness to be coached, and their willingness to eat correctly. Basically…how bad do they want it? If not THAT bad then fine, now they know and they can focus on other things in life – no harm done. If they want it bad enough then around 2 years. So if they start when they’re 15, they should be elite level by age 17.
What inevitably happens is because I get these kids when they’re at a very influential age (14/15), I have a chance to help mold their character and their work ethic. They’re around elite athletes. They soak up the vibes, they learn not to settle for mediocrity. This experience has the potential to be life changing. Sure you can pay to have your kid go play on an “elite” team of some sort, but I guarantee you, your kid will get 100% more out of a sensible strength program if they are really serious about playing at the next level.
I often talk about my old training partner, Kelly Hitchcock. Mr Texas, Mr USA bodybuilding champion. Kelly has trained the likes of Greg Ward Jr. (currently with the Philadelphia Eagles), Danny Noonan (formerly with the Dallas Cowboys) and Jeremy Parnell (currently with the Jacksonville Jaguars) along with countless other high level (4 star, 5 star) high school and college athletes. I take some things that I learned from Kelly, try different techniques, keep what I like, throw out what I don’t.
Becoming strong should be at the top of the list for high school athletes – boys and girls. In fact, strength training is so beneficial that it should be continued throughout each of our lives. Fitness is a life long pursuit. Why not start the right way, establish good habits and set the kids up for life?
P.S. My off season strength program for high school athletes starts at the beginning of Summer each year. It lasts about 10-12 weeks. I also train high school kids through out the year, working around their sports season. Contact me for more info.