I think one of the most important qualities of strength training is the ability to accelerate moderate loads with intensity and good technique. However, too often, when young athletes start using weights, every day turns into a powerlifting meet. Not every exercise, in fact very few exercises, should be maximum effort exercises, particularly for younger athletes.
By maximum effort, I do not mean that they don’t try hard on them, instead I mean, the load is lighter than a 1-3 rep maximum. Max effort lifting is hitting sets and reps near and above the 90% threshold. This type of training can provide a tremendous neurological stimulus (recruitment of high threshold motor units and muscle fibers) for the body to adapt to. Max effort lifting, when done properly and safely, can leads to great gains in strength and power.
However, max effort lifting isn’t for everyone. There is inherent risk with any sort of training, but when using maximum loads, this risk is amplified, and remember the number one rule of training, you don’t get hurt training. I think we can all agree that no athlete should be using max loads without plenty of experience with moderate and light loads first. We want to do the most basic work we can, for as long as we can, until it stops working.
Just because we aren’t using mega heavy weights, doesn’t mean we can’t be powerful. One of the most important things I teach young athletes is the ability to accelerate loads with intensity and good technique. The load can be anything, bodyweight, dumbbells, medicine balls ect. We can train to be powerful using any exercise, just remember those key words to cue up RATE OF FORCE DEVELOPMENT. If your athletes are crawling with weights, then it is too heavy. Lighten it up and be powerful.
For the most part, our athletes do body-weight explosive drills, and I have talked about this before. We jump up, out, lateral, both legs, single leg, we jump on boxes and over hurdles. But for our more advanced athletes, I try to incorporate some elements into their strength training program that help them work on that precious RFD.
Obviously, one of our primary goals is training that explosive hip extension pattern, which will carry over to all athletic endeavors. Below I included some videos of different exercises I have been using lately. These exercises are only for athletes that are physically and mentally mature enough to perform them well. Both exercises are using bands, which offers us two things.
#1. We get a forced eccentric contraction (the band is speeding up the lowering phase) which makes us really focus on hitting the brakes and reversing the movement.
#2. The tension on the band goes up during the concentric phase, taking any momentum we build out of the equation.
I also want to apologize in advance. I filmed my intern doing these exercises, and while he is a great young coach, he is as quad dominate as a 16 year old soccer player. You will notice in both videos how he struggles to really extend at the hip. I decided to keep these videos as an example of why it is important to teach these patterns early our athletes.
Banded KB Swing
Banded Glute-Ham Raise