One of the biggest mistakes I see in the strength and conditioning field is this; coaches getting married to a certain exercise or system and remaining closed-minded. The main thing for coaches to realize is that there are no magic exercises; it simply comes down to selecting the exercise that is the best for the individual. I don’t understand why coaches are so insistent with being married to only back squat, bench, deadlift, and power clean. Believe it or not, there are TONS of variations of those exercises which may work better for your athletes. Now, are those four exercises a good place to start for a training program? Most likely, but it’s dependent on rather or not the athletes can perform those exercises with a pain free high level of competence, consistently.

For example, I was talking with an athlete who was having some knee pain while back squatting. Instead of forcing him to continue to “push through” we tried various mobility and flexibility drills first. We saw some improvement and a reduction in his knee pain, but it was still there with back squatting, so we had to trouble shoot a little bit. We tried lunges, split squats, goblet squats, and front foot elevated split squats. FINALLY, we figured out that he was able to perform front foot elevated split squats without pain. So, we kept front foot elevated split squats in his program as a replacement for back squats and continued to work on soft tissue, mobility, and flexibility drills.

Every training program needs to ensure that athletes are pain free first, if not; try to discover the root cause of the pain first. Is it soft tissue, lack of mobility, or flexibility? From there, a basic strength program should be built on variations of the deadlifts, squats, pushing, pulling and conditioning as needed. Too often, I see programs that are far too fancy before they have demonstrated basic competencies at the lower levels first. Keep in mind that just because something is simple/basic DOES NOT mean that it’s going to be easy.

The big takeaway is that athletes should be following a strength training program that is progressive in nature built on solid principles as opposed to being married to methods. As Emerson said “As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”

The main principles that we adhere to are the following

  1. Pain free range of motion. Variations of squats, deadlifts, pushing, pulling, and carries.
  2. Mastery of basic movement patterns. Practice basic movement patterns every day to some degree.
  3. Progressive overload. Workouts must become more difficult over time. Either in
  4. Maximum recoverable volume. An athlete can only recover from so much.

If you have any questions about training principles, methods, or how to develop an annual plan for your athletes; please reach out to us here.

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