Sometimes, you see something in a gym that makes you say, “What in the wide, WIDE world of sports is going on here?” In this age of social media, I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of gym fail videos. Oftentimes, those incidents are preventable. While I’m confident you’ll know to avoid the most random and ridiculous things, I’m more concerned about the things that may seem innocent or are already common practice that I’d advise you reconsider.
As a friendly reminder, most of these are not absolutes. Also, this obviously applies to what you’re doing in your programming with your youth athletes and their training sessions, which are often in a group setting. So, here are five things we never do in strength training.
I never skip warm up no matter what the scenario. You may be one of the many coaches or parents out there struggling with one of the most valuable resources: time. This is typically an in-season, school-year challenge.
So often I hear, “We just skip the warm up because we don’t have time for it.” I understand that you often don’t have as much time as you would like, and these limitations seem to force your hand. However, you’re risking more injuries if you jump straight into heavy loads without proper preliminary work.
This is where you need to embrace the concept of quality over quantity. There are creative ways to make your warmup flow into the full blown training without requiring what I call “transitional time.” The warmup blends into the training.
When you do a proper warm up, you are improving flexibility and mobility and the key is muscle operates better at a higher temperature. Reinforcing this for your athletes will serve you better in the long run. I reiterate the importance of warming up all the time because it truly is one of the simplest ways to keep your athletes as healthy as possible. You are teaching them their future when they leave your presence. They need good habits when they are on their own.
If you do skip warm up, be wise about how you do certain movements. For example, explosive movements like olympic lifts such as cleans would be best on days you can ensure a proper warm up.
The second thing we never do is “one more,” especially for the sake of ego. Often, you’ll see this on a powerlift like a bench press potentially instigated by a spotter telling the lifter to do “one more” just so that they can do most of the work as the lifter fails.
It’s worse when it’s on a squat and the lifter has to just collapse the weights down on the safety rack (which I hope you always have properly set). Coaches are guilty of this as well. One problem with this is how often “one more” ends up being “two more” or “three more.”
If you have not planned well enough, fix it for the next workout. Everything will be fine. This has nothing to do with pushing or not pushing the athletes. It goes back to the “plan the work and work the plan” approach. The training can be as hard as you think it should be, just don’t add on. It is both a physical and mental stressor.
Besides, if a set was supposed to be 10 reps, then why deviate from that? It doesn’t have to go to 11. If the athlete is feeling good, great! No reason to make the reps arbitrary. Stick to the plan.
The biggest problem is how that approach has a negative impact on the next workout. I say it all the time how a big part of recovery is letting your body absorb the training. One way to help your body absorb the training is by NOT overtraining.
The third thing I never do is skip leg day. It’s always leg day just like it’s always arm day because it’s always a total body day. This goes back to the King Sports Training philosophy toward training athletes.
You must have a solid foundation or base. Don’t expect heavy powerlifting or olympic lifts every session, but the primary leg lift is some form of a squat. There are so many circumstances that create the “some form of” approach combined with unilateral movements, like step ups or lunges for balance and symmetry.
This also goes into the work you do for the backside of your body to try to protect your athletes’ ACLs, which I wrote about recently. Calf raises shouldn’t be neglected as they often are and yet they are so simple to do. There are days when the leg work is geared more toward ancillary work like the smaller muscles of the hip complex or general “core” work.
One thing I’ll say is that you may have a workout where you occasionally don’t get to your legs. For example, if you have a segmented workout where the first segment is all the upper body grouped together and the second segment is all the lower body work grouped together, it’s understandable when the aforementioned time issues lead to the omittance of leg work due to only having enough time for one segment.
That’s different because the plan still includes legs. Don’t sweat it if extenuating circumstances push the lower body to the next session. The point is in the programming.
The fourth thing I never do is let my athletes forget to rack their weights. I know for the person reading this that already does rack their weights when finished, you may be thinking, really? Trust me, I’ve consulted with plenty of programs where this discipline was lacking.
Make it a point of emphasis. There will always be kids where it isn’t a habit to clean up after themselves. Make it a part of the program. Their workout isn’t over until their weight is put up. If you can load the bar, then you can unload it.
The number one job of the strength and conditioning coach is to keep the weight room clean. Well, sorta. This falls on the coach to reinforce this because if weights are left out, you are often left with the clean up. This goes beyond gym etiquette or common courtesy. It is a lifter’s responsibility to rack their weights and take care of their training space. Don’t let them take this bad habit to other places where it can reflect poorly on you. It’s the hope of every coach that their athletes represent the program well wherever they go.
It’s a safety issue as well. Leaving equipment out where it doesn’t naturally belong can lead to somebody tripping over it or be what it may. There’s also a phenomenon I call “plate migration.” Just like birds fly south for the winter, weights migrate from one end of the gym to the other. I don’t let my athletes put things back in the wrong place. I understand that occasionally a dumbbell needs to travel or a 45-pound plate needs to be borrowed. That’s all well and good as long as it gets returned to its rightful place.
The fifth thing I never do is just sit. We lift and move. I know you see it at your gyms all the time. Somebody does a set on a bench, at a rack or a machine and then they spend the next five minutes on their phone. We lift like you practice and play--ALWAYS MOVING. Strength gains are NOT compromised by doing this in a well designed program.
Our goal is a set per minute on average. This is not strict. There may be times when a heavy lift requires extra rest. Some movements like Olympics should not be rushed and are often isolated segments in a workout. Even then, you’re only taking as much time as you need. If your athletes need a minute, make sure they are not hindering their teammates from using any equipment. If you know kids, you know they will stall when they get a chance.
The main reason why we lift and move is efficiency. This is also possible because I coach the push-pull methodology. When you alternate stressors, you’re giving rest to a muscle group while working another. This allows for more work in a shorter amount of time. As I’ve already alluded to, time is precious. So the goal is to optimize what time you have.
I’m sure it helps if your kids don’t have their phones during workouts. 😉