Watch any Youtube highlight mix of athletes or CrossFitters training, and you instantly imagine a world in which balls to the wall, high effort, badass training is what each and every session is supposed to be like.
The reality of good training is just like the reality of good sports performance, not every pitch is a strikeout, not every play is a Sportscenter top 10, not every training session is that last chance workout to achieve every goal you ever had in the gym.
Don’t believe me? Here is an extended look into Roy Hibbert, All-Start center for the Pacers workout. Standing against walls? Unweighted side lunges? Rubber bands?
Where are the jumps, and slams, and power cleans, and box jumps, and single leg bosu banana sling triple jumps!?!? (If you don’t know what these are you OBVIOUSLY behind on good training)
Where does this come from?
Usually, it isn’t the athlete truly saying or thinking this, often times it is the parent or outside viewers making a claim.
Why aren’t they sweating and near vomiting right now? Why isn’t my 10 year old doing box jumps? When does my daughter get to back squat, 1 month post ACL surgery?
For those who don’t know, this is wildly reckless and misplaced thinking, but these 3 questions are real ones I have gotten while working with athletes.
We have to kill the killer workout, and it starts with knowledge.
What Does a Good Workout Look Like
This is usually where people get into battles of wills over what is right and what is wrong. I like the way I design workouts, but honestly if you talked to a few different athletes you would find often wildly different programming.
NFL football player with a history of shoulder issues? Probably not too much benching of straight bars and a lot of corrective work, though muscle should be added to give a protecting effect to the body.
College age pitcher with multiple elbow surgeries? We probably are going to spend a lot of time training the body to distribute force evenly across a number of other structures in order to alleviate stress at the elbow and allow for a more consistent and injury resistant performance.
Local Soccer mom looking to lose weight? We are mostly likely going to be skipping the Olympic lifts for the first few months as the technical component is far and away an inhibitor to dropping lbs and looking hotter.
There are some things I believe to just be sound training principles though:
Step 1: Warm up somehow – If you want to skip rope and stretch your muscles, or go through a 15 minutes movement prep program, I don’t really care all that much if we are moving you towards your goal, and getting you ready for harder work later. I personally have a longer prep program, but that is me, if you are an everyday person who just wants to look good naked, just sweat a little before going full go, your body will thank you.
Step 2: Spend time doing things you suck at – If you have shitty shoulders and a wrecked back, jumping right into benching or deadlifting probably isn’t the smartest idea. Similarly, if you are a cardio freak but are weaker than a kitten, maybe lift some weights before dominating that next mini-marathon on the deadmill.
Step 3: Do the things you can do at a good effort level – Have great squat form, then we are going to load you up and let you go. Have shoulders that move like a swivel on a brand new shopping cart (as opposed to those old busted ones that try and make a right turn every 12 feet) then go ahead and rep out some pullups if you like. The goal shouldn’t be to do the hardest variation of any exercise, but rather to work effectively at the hardest one you can also load appreciably. Pistols are great, but a split squat is better if you can load it and balance properly the entire time.
Step 4: Learn something about yourself – Is your new max 225 on the bench? Is your new PR 8 reps of dead hang pull-ups, did you sprint a quarter mile in under a minute? Thats great! You learned what you could, and sometimes couldn’t do, and that feedback is the value that we gain from training properly.
Billy, You Are Soft. #LiftTillYouDie
Some people will read this and think, oh man this guy sucks because he doesn’t work guys hard all the time. Maybe I do. Yet I have seen the alternative too often to ignore. Coach beats athletes up and they feel like they worked hard. The season comes and they get dominated. I won’t change my standards for subpar results.
For the parents who want harder I always say this:
I can give your athlete a shovel and ask them to dig me a ditch that is 6 feet deep and 6 feet wide and they will be exhausted, sore, and sweating profusely, but they won’t be any better at their sport.
Before We Go……
I have an athlete that totals around 1400 lbs at a bodyweight of 181 (powerlifting for those who don’t know, a solid number without assistant gear), I have worked with NFL athletes, MLB athletes, I have multiple guys who throw 95MPH+, we’ve had 14 year old deadlift 415 weighing 150 lbs. Nothing about what we do is easy but we don’t do it unless it fits into the plan of being better.
Our work and our actions are taken because it creates the BEST chance for our athlete to excel on the field, and THAT is the point of training.
So the next time you are thinking that you or your athletes need more hard work, maybe what they really need is better work. Hopefully when you need better, I can help.
Bill Rom is a strength and conditioning coach on Long Island, New York. Bill has been training both athletes and general population clients since 2006. His clients have ranged from adolescents to 70 year old grandmothers, and from peewee athletes up to former and current D1 athletes.
At Prospect Sports, where Bill is the director, he works with a number of professional athletes from the NFL, MLB, MiLB and more.
Additionally, Bill has been published on EliteFTS.com, one of the top strength and conditioning websites in the world, as well as Stack.com; a website dedicated to improving athletes and is currently working on stories for LiveStrong.com.
He also has done a number of speaking engagements including the NSCA and is continuing to pick up more.
Bill is one of the top young strength and conditioning coaches in the country, and arguably the top strength coach on Long Island.
Superior Athletics is a high performance facility located in Farmingdale, NY, roughly 40 miles from Manhattan. We specialize in helping each athlete, whether a 12 year old soccer player, a 25 year old pro, or an everyday mom, achieve their ultimate success in life or in sports