Working with small groups of athletes is an extremely rewarding job (if you can call it a job) but it can also be a daunting one. At Endeavor, we always stress quality over quantity simply because good movement helps decrease the chance of injury and because we are “teaching” people how to lift correctly. Once athletes can establish quality we focus slightly more on the intensity or volume aspect. Would it make sense to put athletes on the floor and perform endless minutes of planks done incorrectly? It is safe to say no. This begs the question whether every rep should and will be perfect from the start with the more inexperienced athlete.
Every individual has potential to become faster, stronger, quicker, among others but the rate at which they grasp movement can vary greatly. From my experience, these rates can and will help one as a coach know where to start each athlete in a program. Also, consider the amount of time one has with the athlete. Are they coming two, three, or four x’s/week? Most of ours are two times a week. Consequently, we have a short window of opportunity to create positive change in the lifts, corrective exercises, warm-up, core stability drills, and conditioning. In short, here are a few quick tips when working with inexperienced athletes for a limited amount of time.
- After assessment, we may only really need to pick a few foam rolling areas to hit instead of spending more time on most areas (if time is a factor).
- Be sure to include all movement patterns in warm-up: Hinging, single leg movements (static/dynamic multi-planar), ankle mobility, t-spine mobility, and learning to differentiate the hips from the spine. These are a great place to start and if you work with primarily one gender you can vary the focus from more mobility or stability oriented warm-ups. Typically, females will need more stability while males will need more mobility.
- Include various movement drills in different planes–>these are back pedals, high knee skips, lateral skips, crossover skips, cariocas, different paced sprints and back pedals, etc..
Strength and Core Stability
- Focus on simple variations that will progress from the ground up. Over the past 6 months or so, I have been amazed at how many young athletes live in gross extension patterns (large anterior pelvic tilt, large lumbar lordosis, forward head posture). We need to get them to know what their “neutral” position is so that when they attempt to perform supine, 1/2 kneeling, tall-kneeling, or plank variations they know how to stabilize without relying excessively on their lumbar spine. There are a lot of great cues out there, but having them know what the “ribs down” position will reinforce proper stabilization through the hips, pelvis, and spine (or every where for that matter).
- Going back to the title of this post, should all the reps at first be perfect? For beginners, if they are alternating between good and bad reps in a set of 10, is this necessarily terrible? The aim is for perfect but struggling (slightly) is necessary to know where they are at. The lifts should be challenging but not so much that they cannot perform one solid rep. Most reps should look good at first and this can help the coach know if it is necessary to regress or progress. By week 3 or 4, the movements should look awesome and then it may be time to progress from there (slightly). Take it steps at a time and do not get to frustrated at first, find a few solid cues and see. I still continue to love what Coach Boyle says, “if it looks like shit, then it is shit.” If an athlete has an absolutely horrible time grasping something regress it so that there is a high success rate with reps.
In conclusion, all reps should look good but it is not the end of the world if at first it challenges the inexperienced athletes which compromises a few reps. We are talking about the inexperienced athlete with light load, not the experience athlete who is lifting big load.