Stronger Athletes

Sample High Intensity Workout for Athletes

June 17 "Pleasure in the job put perfection in the work. Aristotle

Fred Cantor, Head Strength Coach at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, suggested that we post some sample workouts that coaches can use with their teams. The purpose of articles such as this one is NOT to assume that this is the perfect workout. Each coach must work within the elements that he is given. What follows is the workout plan that we are using this summer with our athletes.

The workout card includes these lifts in the order they are presented, however, we do individualize the workout for certain kids. For example, one kid is having knee surgery this summer so we have isolated his healthy leg on lower body movements. Other kids are comfortable with the squat rather than the leg press, however we are strongly encouraging them to use the leg press. On movements that can be done using a variety of equipment we are encouraging the kids to choose what they like the best and stick with it. Again, this allows for individualization and choice for the athlete.

To begin the workout we jog for 5 minutes followed by a stretching routine. Then the athletes are paired up and complete a set of manual resistance neck exercises. We do this first to emphasize the importance of neck work for combative athletes. Then an abdominal routine, again, the kids choose how they want to do this. Once the kids have a sweat going they are warmed-up and can begin the resistance training.

You will notice that our repetition ranges have 2 numbers. If an athlete reaches momentary muscular fatigue before he reaches the lower number on the rep-range the weight is too heavy. Likewise if he reaches momentary muscular fatigue beyond the higher number then it is time for him to increase the load.

If an athlete demonstrates the ability to train with high intensity, meaning pushing himself to the point of momentary muscular failure then we encourage him to use just 1 set. For younger or inexperienced athletes we encourage them to use 2-3 sets, however we record just the first set which should be taken to momentary muscular failure.

You can tell if an athlete is training with high intensity if he cannot lift the same amount of weight on his second set as many times as he did on his first set. We are big believers in the 1 set protocol but understand that high volume, or multiple-sets, can be beneficial for athletes as well.

You will also notice that our rep-ranges for the lower body movements are fairly high. High rep-ranges ensures that the athlete will use relatively low weight which translates into less stress on the lower back. We maintain that there is no excuse for injury while training.

Athletes Sample Workout

Exercise Rep-Range Comments
Leg Press or Squat 12-15 We give the athlete the choice but require perfect form for the squat. We maintain that the Leg Press is no doubt a safer alternative for certain athletes. However, not all leg press machines are equal and we employ a Hammer Strength Leg Press that we feel gives a smooth, good range of motion.
Leg Extensions 8-10 This is quite possibly the best thing we could do directly following a good set on the Leg Press. We emphasize full contraction.
Leg Curls 8-10 The spotter plays a huge role in making sure the athlete does not use momentum in bring up the weight and also makes sure he lowers the weight under control. Too many athletes think this exercise is a break if they are not forced to do it right.
Calf Raise 12-15 This is the first example of giving the athlete a variety of movements. We do not care if he uses the leg press machine, uses a standing flex while holding a dumbbell, or uses our calf machine.
Bench Press 8-12 We are sticklers on spotters paying attention and not letting the athlete use momentum while lifting the weight. The spotter also forces the athlete to train to momentary muscular failure. Immediately following this exercise the athlete should go to either the chest press (see below) or he can simply roll off the bench and do a set of push-ups to failure. We do this to fully exhaust the muscle.
Chest Press 6-10 As mentioned before the athlete goes directly to this machine to fully exhaust the muscle. We feel this is the safest way to ensure total muscle fiber recruitment.
Dips/Tricep Extensions 8-12 Again, we do not care which type of movement the athlete uses. We have a weight assisted dip machine that the younger kids can get good work from.
Shoulder Press 8-10 Here is another example of choice the athlete is given. Dumbbell, machine, or straight bar. We encourage the spotter to immediately follow up the set with manual resistance.
Hex Bar Dead Lift 12-15 This is the exercise that I am still struggling with. We have the athletes using a high rep-range to offset heavy loads, but I am still afraid of lower back stress. We do not have athletes who are injured or complain of low back pain perform this movement. Alternatives would be a second type of leg press machine (which we do not have), DB step-ups, or lunges. (I would appreciate any feedback on this concern of mine as these workouts are always a work in progress.)
Seated Row 8-12 As the athletes are really getting tired at this point in the workout the spotter's role is increasingly important. He watches to see that the athlete is getting a full range of motion with a pause in the full contraction of the pull and then a slow lowing of the weight.
Reverse Grip Pull downs 8-12 This is a super lift as we feel it gives awesome work for the bicep as well at the lat. Again, the spotter should be helping the athlete get the full benefits of this lift.
Bicep Curls 6-10 We end the training with bicep curls of the athlete's choice. We have towels that the spotter uses to give manual resistance immediately following the set to failure.

We strength train on Mondays and Thursdays and do agility/conditioning work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The athletes are given a grade at the bottom of each day's column. If they go up in either resistance or repetitions in all their lifts they get an A+ and so on down the grading scale. You would be surprised how much harder a kid will work at the end of that set to push out one more rep if he can get an A.

Grading each workout card takes a while but it is enjoyable as I can see first hand how the athletes are progressing. I keep a pad of small post-it notes next to me and make comments on their workout cards as I go.

If anyone is in the Kansas City area and would like to see how we train please give me a call and we would love to have you visit. We by no means have the perfect workout, but we feel we are doing a good job of helping our athletes improve safely, and efficiently.

We would like to continue this series of Sample Workouts. Please send us the workout you use with your team and we will share it with our readers. Good luck this summer!

Sam Knopik
Head Football Coach
Pembroke Hill
Kansas City, Missouri
(816) 936-1529

Below is a link to the guidelines our athletes, this includes athletes training for sport and those that are training for fitness reasons, must follow within our facility. Also included is our workout card and points of emphasis we use. The points of emphasis come from Matt Brzycki's "A Practical Approach To Strength Training."

***No Liability is assumed for any information written on the website. No medical advice is given on exercise. This advice should be obtained from a licensed health-care practitioner. Before anyone begins any exercise program, always consult your doctor. The articles are written by coaches that are giving advice on a safe, productive, and efficient method of strength training.***

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