Strength & Conditioning 101
College prep isn't confined to the classroom.
by Mike Mejia CSCS
Now that spring sports have started up, high school seniors are undoubtedly looking forward to finishing their varsity careers on a high note. And while graduation will signal the end of competitive athletics for most, others will move on to compete at the collegiate level. It's what awaits them there that's often the problem.
Besides having to deal with homesickness, intense academic demands and fitting in socially, incoming freshman athletes will also get their first taste of a collegiate level strength and conditioning program. For a few, this won't pose much of a problem; as they'll have trained intensely for several years leading up to this point. For others though, it will prove to be the ultimate reality check.
It's one thing to excel athletically at the high school level, where commitment to physical conditioning runs the gamut from "gym rat" to "forget that". Once you get to college though, keeping yourself in the best shape possible is considered a prerequisite to even being able to step onto the playing field.
In my years as a strength and conditioning coach to high school aged athletes, I've seen this more times that I care to remember. Talented kids, with absolutely no work ethic when it comes to putting in their gym time. It's a phenomenon that holds especially true for female athletes, who ironically often need this kind of training as much, if not more than their male counterparts, due to an increased propensity for injury.
Many avoid the weight room and track like the plague, fearing it will "bulk them up", content to let practices and game participation serve as their sole means of keeping fit. Imagine their surprise when they show up for the first day of workouts with their college team, only to be thrust right into a 4-5 day per week program chuck-full of Olympic lifting, plyometrics and heavy weight training!
They're not the only one's who get caught off guard, though. Many of the aforementioned "gym rats" also struggle; do in large part to the fact that the bodybuilding inspired training most teens tend to favor is nowhere near adequate preparation for the likes of cleans, tire flipping, battle ropes and the other forms of functional training that are such a big part of collegiate strength and conditioning programs today.
Add in the fact that all of this is typically accompanied by a radical increase in practice intensity and it's easy to see why so many freshmen struggle. There is a way to avoid this scenario, however and get yourself prepped and ready for whatever your college strength coach will throw your way!
1. Improve mobility around the ankles, hips and shoulder girdle: One of the easiest ways to get hurt in the gym is attempting to execute Olympic lifts, or other advanced free weight exercises when you're tight as a drum! Lacking the lower body mobility to get down into a proper squat, or being unable to get the bar in a good "rack" position during cleans is a recipe for trouble. So, before you just start loading up, take the time to increase your range of motion with some non-traditional mobility drills specifically designed to address these areas. The high kneeling hip flexor and thoracic mobilization, shoulder dislocates, barbell roll unders and the dowel ankle mobility drill are a few that immediately spring to mind.
2. Strengthen everything you can't see: Protecting your shoulders, lower back and knees from all of that heavy weight and increased practice intensity requires strengthening everything on the back side of your body. This will lead to much more balanced physical development and better structural support for your joints. Be sure to include plenty of rowing variations, reverse flys, glute ham raises and other exercises that target these often neglected areas. I'm especially fond of drills like the squat to row and the TRX unilateral squat with reverse fly, that work lots of muscle mass by combining several motions at once. They also work on integrating the movements of the hips core and shoulder girdle.
*For a video of the drills mentioned above, make sure to check out our facebook page early next week!
3. Gradually increase the volume of your workouts: You can't go from hitting the weight room 0-2 days per week and jump right into training 4-5. Start out slowly and look to increase your workout volume over time. If you're currently training 2 days per week for 45 minutes at a time, shoot for three for the next few weeks. Then, try and extend the workout duration to a full hour for a while, before adding a fourth day and so on. Even if you're currently not doing anything besides playing your sport, if you start now, by the time September rolls around you should be ready for just about anything.
Keep your eyes open for a special program coming to B.A.S.E. this summer that's specifically geared towards helping high school seniors prepare themselves for training in college!
Far beyond a simple workout, this interactive program will provide student athletes with a learning environment, where they'll gain in depth knowledge on topics including:
Improving flexibility and mobility
Strength and power training
Proper postural mechanics
Speed development and agility training
Optimizing nutritional habits
Improving soft tissue quality
So, be sure to check the B.A.S.E. website for updates, as well as the program start date!