Stronger Athletes

Why Are You Training Your High School Athletes Like Powerlifters?

May 11 "as a means to improve in another sport I have a hard time seeing the value in heavy singles lifting given the risks..." -NFL HOF Strenth Coach, Kim Wood

If you have your players on a steady diet of sets of 5 - 3 - 1 reps, why are you training your high school athletes like power lifters? While that is one way to go about gaining strength, it places unneeded stress on joints and is more likely to cause an injury and is less useful on the field.

Powerlifters are competing in a sport that requires pure strength.  Powerlifters don't need ANY muscular endurance, or other capabilities.  Simply the ability to contract the muscle as forcefully as possible.

Let's see how powerlifters compare with football players. Maybe some comparisons will help us determine if the type of strength powerlifting develops and how it develops it is in sync with what athletes in traditional sports such as football, basketball, volleyball, etc require.

Ever watch a powerlifter working out? It's rather like watching paint dry. There isn't much to see except every 5 minutes or more when he lifts a weight a few times and then takes another inordinately long break.

Joke: How do you know when a powerlifter is doing cardio? He rests less than 5 minutes between sets.

Do your football players rest 5 minutes between plays so their muscles fully recuperate so they can output a maximal effort again? I'm guessing they don't.

Powerlifters train to do 9 attempts at a meet. 3 lifts, 3 attempts usually increasing in weight. How many attempts (plays) are executed in a typical football game?   More than 9?

What I'm saying is the sport of powerlifting and the sport you are training your athletes for has different requirements, so it doesn't make sense to train them in the same way.

Low reps will place more stress on the joints. That's ok, if you've chosen to powerlift in competition, then you take the risks along the way to the reward.

Putting athletes in a situation where they are more likely to injure themselves from intrinsic force of the weight or because they don't have enough skill yet.

A weight an athlete can do 10 reps with is one thing if it gets a little out of the groove, but one he can only do 3 reps with is another story.

Higher reps will build strength too, but better than that, it builds in some metabolic conditioning to the muscles as well.

Think I'm wrong? Try a set of 20 or 30 squats. That conditioning, physical AND mental, goes a long way in a game situation. It takes "want to" to get through higher rep training. That "want to" will come through on the field as well.

I'll leave you with a little excerpt from a larger discussion here.  This quote is from Kim Wood, the first strength coach in the NFL.  Kim knows a thing or two about how strength training athletes should be done.

I once had a player...a great guy...came over from the Jets and was billed by a power-lifting magazine as the "strongest man in football" ...he was studly...well, once he said to me... "my power-lifting program gets me stronger than your program. But your program gets me stronger for football. I'm a stronger football player doing it your way..." I sat down with him and said,"Matt...getting stronger for football is the ONLY reason we are's the only reason I KNOW's the only reason we are in this room right now!"

So what do you as a high school strength coach KNOW that an NFL strength coach doesn't?

Well then, give up the powerlifting workouts.

'Til next time, good training.

An article we wrote awhile back that has some of Dr. Ken's words of wisdom.  Simple Does It - Good Advice.

***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.***

Home | Articles | Search | Teams | FAQ | Mission