Put the Barbells Away
That’s right. Even the light weights. If you are a young athlete, you have some heavy work to do before you ever begin bench pressing. I know, I know, lifting is exciting. It’s showy. And exhilarating. But first let’s put some muscle into understanding strength basics:
- Fundamental movement patterns–you cannot back squat if you can’t perform a body weight squat correctly with the necessary range of motion. Likewise, you cannot dead lift without knowing how to keep your back flat and hinge at your hip.
- Proper technique and transfer to your sport–if you can squat 400 pounds by going down only 1/8th of a squat, then it really isn’t a squat and will not translate a whole lot to overall strength and power. I’m a lot more concerned with what weight you can do going through a full range of motion and activating muscles in the right sequence and firing patterns. If you can power clean 300 pounds but you catch the clean almost by doing a full split then you are probably going to get hurt at some point and you are comprising the lift.
- Relative body strength–my athletes are strong at the body weight movements first (like push ups and pull ups) before they start doing bench presses or loaded high pulls
Practice Till Perfect
Once you understand these guiding principles, building a strong foundation is critical. To begin with, you need to learn correct movement patterns. For instance, one problem I often see when I’m coaching–even in some of my elite and pro athletes– is lack of attention to detail. In my opinion, some athletes can get very technical in their particular sport but look very sloppy in the weight room. Almost like weight lifting doesn’t require as much technique. Well guess what? It does.
Just think, there is an entire sport designed around two movements. The Snatch and Clean and Jerk. Ever wondered why? These movements are extremely complex and require a lot of time, patience, and coaching to perfect. It is just like perfecting throwing a football or a specific swim stroke in the pool. I want my athletes to take pride in the weight room and become a perfectionist with all movement patterns. That’s where the big results are.
A Number is Just a Number
Second, you want to make sure you’re using a full range of motion. Using the bench press again as an example, this means bringing the bar all the way to the chest and locking the elbows out at the top position. Most sports always require a full range of motion and require mobility. If you are compromising mobility and joint integrity just to increase your numbers, then at some point the risk will outweigh the reward or you will realize it doesn’t translate on the field/court performance.The human body is made to use full range of motion and that should never be compromised in the weight room.
Strength: It’s All Relative
The third thing I stress with my younger athletes is that they’re extremely strong with simple body weight exercises before I have them adding heavy loads. Have you ever thought about how many push ups you should be able to do before bench pressing? Or how strong your core should be to stabilize your torso before you squat? These are probably questions most athletes do not ask themselves before they start a strength program. But they should.
Once the body is prepared as I’ve discussed above, then, and only then, do we begin progressive overload. That’s how we maximize athletic potential at ULTIMATE ATHLETE. If you are interested in learning more about strength training, or any other component of sports performance, please reach out to Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us on the web at www.ultathlete.com.