Program Design for Athletic Development

What do you mean when you say, "Program Design"

Coach Bob King (00:27):

Well, program design is the heartbeat of training and it's basically a big word for plan. You gotta have a plan. And so if you walk into a weight room or walk out onto the track and go, Hmm think I'm gonna start running until I drop, or I'm gonna lift weights until I'm so sore that I'm bound to be stronger. So program design is our way of saying you got a plan?

How do you approach goal setting?

Coach Bob King (00:58):

No, goal setting is a great place because that helps formulate the plan. And this is the way I do it. And it's not, you know, this doesn't mean there's not other options, but I, first of all, wanna know how much time do we have? Is there an endpoint here? With athletes, there's always an endpoint. There's end season, off-season, pre-season, postseason, so we have seasons that define our end points’ starting and ending. Now, with average or everyday people that wanna train and do whatever they do, there are endpoints. I mean, a lot of times it's school and then summer comes along and it’s vacation and holidays come along and interrupt. So, there are start and stop points, but basically, you need a plan for that. So what that means is, first of all, how much time do I have before an interruption or an endpoint?

Coach Bob King (01:47):

So once I know how much time there is, for me, I'll take and go to the end and work back. And the reason for that is you'll find if you start, ‘alright, day one, here we go.’ And you start building your program and use sound principles of, you know, say periodization or whatever you want to use, then next thing you know, you might be seven weeks into the program and it's an eight-week window, you're like, wait a minute. I didn't realize we're about to end over here next week. And so you don't know, you know, if you've reached the goals you wanted or if you need to keep going longer, so go to the end and work back. And that way that allows you to say, okay, week three needs to be merged into week four or two or something like that, because I thought I had this much time and it's shorter. I thought I had this much time and it's much longer. So, that is probably the starting point for any program design. How much time do I have?

What's a practical approach to goal-setting?

Coach Bob King (03:14):

Okay. Yes. And that's, that's an enormous breakdown because you nailed it on the head because if I start training in seventh grade to be a pro–great goal and great motivation, but it has to be planned. And that means this. If I have, I'm gonna use an eight-week window here real quick. So if I have eight weeks of training, and I can gain, and I'm going, these are random numbers. So don't worry about what I, you know, telling you that you can do. If I have eight weeks, and I can increase my strength 30% in eight weeks. Well, if I go great guns and I increase miraculously increase my, my strength 20% in three or four weeks, then I've got a four-week window. I gotta, you know, find a way to get the extra 10% without hitting a wall. And that means pace, spread it out.

Coach Bob King (04:04):

So, if I get all my gains on the front end, I may hit a wall before the end and end up with an overtraining syndrome. And that means I, I lose or I decline, or I get bored. Overtraining can be physical and mental. So the planning allows you to say, okay, first week, just introduction. So, I won't go through the whole thing, but there's an introductory or a startup, whatever you wanna call it. Intro-set week. Then after, for me, that's one week then for then on, we are in two-week rotations. Two-week rotations allow me to adjust and, adapt my program to various windows. So, it can be anything. So if I have high school or something, and I've got a 10-week deal, but I know right at the end of week six, spring break, everybody's gone.

Coach Bob King (04:54):

I've already planned for that because I worked back. Week six, I'm gonna take and kind of ramp it up. And then week seven at spring break, we're on active recovery or we're off. And so that way I know what's coming by working at the end and I can make sure that when we come back, we pick up our pace almost right where we left off. So, these little details matter. So if you just look at a calendar and count the weeks, okay, good. Here we go. Now you gotta count for interruptions. You gotta count for anything that can come up, whether it's somebody that gets, you know, has an illness or sick, you've gotta account for those in your program design.

How to you plan around schedule conflicts?

Coach Bob King (06:11):

Everything is connected. We've said that many times before and to go with that is stress–it’s cumulative. Now understand this. If you're a, if you're a world champion or a state champion or something that too carries stress with it because you're obviously very excited and stress doesn't always mean a pounding bad kind of thing. It means, in many cases, just an energy drain. I'm stressed out from just, you know, shaking hands and talking to people and being you know, a champion, or I'm stressed out because man, we were terrible this year. I'm trying to rebuild and, it's just, I'm worn out. So stress is cumulative on all spectrums, physical, mental, emotional, all of that. So what that means is we account for that by, alright, let's take the pro. We have a very long season. We have a very long grind.

Coach Bob King (07:03):

So what we wanna do through the offseason is just slow to introduce segments. And when I let's say segments, I'm talking about the strength, the plyometric explosive training, the speed training, and the conditioning all go into program design. And so how do, they relate to each other? You can't do everything hard every day. So what we do, and then what I have preferred to do is let's say for t beginning first couple of weeks of strength training, just getting our field back. Are we, am I sore? Have I been off too long? And we start introducing the speed training and it's going back to fundamentals, always fundamentals. And I don't mean back to it cause we never leave, but coming off a rest or a break it's back to it because we've been off. Once we start that I use the speed training because we're running at high speeds to be our conditioning element so that I don't do too much too early. So as you can already see, I'm spreading everything out. I'm not saying, okay, lift today, jump tomorrow, lift, run, jump on the next day, condition and then do it all over again the fifth day. We spread it all out so that we can save toward the end and not use all our juice and our growth in the beginning.

How do you approach volume/intensity?

Coach Bob King (09:26):

Yes and no. Cause, I love that whole scenario you just painted because I've just stressed about that myself over the years. And I can promise you my teams that I was in charge of as a head coach or a strength conditioning coach, we ran less than anybody at, in, in our peer group in high school pro or whatever. We ran less than anybody because I tried to establish how much do we need for what we're going to do and that's, you know, compete. And so there's this, there's this phrase that I, I have a hard time getting past. We're an athlete we're working out and I go, okay, good work. That's it. And that I can do more. You can always do more and that's good. And, so go get some rest, eat, come back tomorrow and do more because we, we gotta recover.

Coach Bob King (10:18):

And so if you, I always tell people like, they wanna run a marathon. Oh, that's great. The marathon's not the problem. It's the training. It's just so much volume. So your point is really good about the pro athletes who have that notorious work ethic. But every individual human being has a capacity and that capacity also brings a limit to it. So something can break and you don't want to break in training because you need your health in competition. So with all that said, a good strength and conditioning coach is going to look all the elements and how they overlap. Let me give you an example. If you look at a week of off-season training, you can do what I call bouts. You can do about anywhere from 10 to 12 bouts on the legs in a week, and that would be lifting, running, jumping conditioning.

Coach Bob King (11:13):

And by the time you add those up through the days of the week, you've got so many bouts on the legs. It gets to be more than just fatiguing. Upper body can be the same way because you're training obviously in the weight room. If you do medicine ball work and, and certain skill work with an opponent, you can do, you know, the same number of about eight to 10 bouts on the upper body. Well, where's the rest in there? Recovery is a part of training. You train, recover, build back stronger, fitter, and you do it again at a hopefully a incremental higher level. So the program has to be designed to come out slowly and come out to where you are ramping up, let's say on a weekly basis, not so much on a daily basis. And we've done that at the pro level.

Coach Bob King (12:00):

I've done that at the high school level. And we have been successful at every level. So we have found that less is best. And like I said, I had complaints when I was with major league soccer and it's like, Bob, we got to run more. And I go coach, no we don't. And so the thing is this–soccer players is an example at every level, run so much, they practice so much and they play so much. Me running them more is not gonna help because the game is fixed. It's this many minutes. And aside from occasional overtime, and once you're ready to run that many minutes, then you're ready. My job is to keep that level. And hopefully what I implemented in all my programs is more of a speed training element. Everybody's in shape. I wanna be better shape than anybody. No, you're not. Everybody's in shape now. Can we make you faster? That's gonna be the deciding factor because I ran into this also in, in certain sports, this guy can run all day. Okay. But he can't catch anybody. That's the problem. And so, you know kudos to his conditioning let's get the speed going. That's the separating difference in levels and success.

Do you run enough in your program?

Coach Bob King (14:42):

Again, you're giving me some great triggers here because you know, we always say this, you wanna get in shape, you play in shape. And so in my offseason, no matter sport or level, I would make sure that athletes understood I am getting you in shape to get in shape because everybody knows opening kickoff tip, whatever you want to call your sport is just another animal. Because first of all, you, you either practice or train with your buds, all whatever offseason, all year. Well the guy or girl across from you in competition wants to kick your butt. And so the speed of the game just goes up. I always said, look, there are three speeds in professional sports, there's preseason, And everybody knows. They're just kind of sometimes going through the motions unless you're trying to make the team on opening day kickoff for, for football.

Coach Bob King (15:34):

The game speed is a phenomenal when it counts and on the opening kickoff in the first playoff game, it's light speed. So the speed of the game changes throughout the year. So the reason I'm bringing that up is you don't train like that. The only thing we've ever been able to do to there are two things we've been able to do to kind of try to touch that is our high speed one 10 program and the world-famous trend. And that's the closest thing that I've been able to do in training to get you as close to game shape as possible. And we can't do that very often because back to the limitations, we have a capacity. Once we hit that capacity, you exceed it, something's gonna break. And we don't want that.

How many days per week is optimal?

Coach Bob King (17:16):

The problem that we ran into was at some point NGBs and that's National Governing Body or in local governing bodies, like state associations and so forth, started mandating or regulating how many days a week or how many hours a coach could be with a player or the team or how many hours a team could practice.

Coach Bob King (17:39):

With those mandates and regulations, it handicapped them. Now. I know when I was in college in the seventies and we didn't have that, it was four days a week hell-bent for leather in the off-season. I mean, we were just going 90 to nothing, man, light speed to nothing and off-season four days a week. And the problem with that was that's let me show you how to count. So that's Monday through Thursday. So Thursday to Friday is one. Friday to Saturday is two. Saturday to Sunday is three. Sunday to that next Monday afternoon training time, that's 4, 24 hour, four days off. And so yeah, you recovered, but you need to go again. So it's almost too long for some of us to wait before the next intense bout. We need to recover and go, not recover and then decline. So the deal is because the work I did in my own facility and training, I wasn't regulated.

Coach Bob King (18:33):

So because as a player and a coach, I knew that we were going go Monday through Saturday coaches. You know, we didn't give you Saturday off in football season. We were on the game Friday night back on the training, you know, lightly, but recovering training on Saturday, but you still had to get up, be awake, be there and do the training because it was an active recovery, but it involved running and lifting. So the biggest part of the sixth day probably is the mental aspect of it. Cause it's like, ah, I gotta get up, do it again. And so we only took Saturday to Sunday, Sunday to Monday off for 48 hours to be able to come back and over to get a rhythm of training. So our off-season was designed to get you in shape to get in shape physically and mentally because you had to get up and go and get yourself in the right mindset to train every day. Just like you're gonna do in the regular season.

Coach Bob King (19:28):

And it has turned out to be very successful because our athletes have done very well with those programs. So a four-day split and all the stuff. And, you know, I feel for the strength coaches that have to, you know, cram everything into that timeframe, cause it, it handicaps 'em and make compromise some of the quality. But you know, the top programs you're aware of are also filled with the top athletes. But if everybody's playing with the same rules, it can be very difficult to get all the elements of training in you need in that short amount of time.


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