How to Build a Strength and Conditioning Program to Fit Every Athlete in Your Program

You’ve got 70+ guys on your team and maybe other 3 coaches who can help you run your strength and conditioning program (if you are lucky)…

Not to mention, your team needs to get a heaping ton bigger and a whole lot faster if you want to accomplish your goals next season. Now, with these 70 guys, you have 30 of them who play a spring sport (as they should), and of the remaining 40, you have about 20 who are competent lifters while the rest need some major work. 

In there lies the problem…

If your goal is to run a legit strength program, one that addresses the needs of each athlete, it would appear you need at least three different training program. Oh yeah, not to mention that you have a group of 8thgraders about to hit your door that has never lifter before and need to be taught from square one.

Now, we all know just how dangerous it can be if you give an athlete a program that is way above their ability level. The key with these young athletes is to ‘slow cook’ their progress. At the end of the day we are still talking about 14-18 year old kids and the great majority of them lack core stability, movement competency, and a lifting acumen that would allow them to lift safely. It’s like if you have run the Air Raid offence for years but just decided to switch to a Wing T. It would take some time to get your athletes ready for that change in physicality and concepts. Same thing here. It is just going to take some time. 

So, how do we get this done while not putting athletes at risk and while allowing you to not lose your sanity?

You need to build one master program that you can progress and regress off of to fit each specific need. This master program should be designed for the top lifters on your team and then you build each subsequent program with the goal to get each athlete onto the master program at some point in their 4 years with you. 

I recommend building a 3-tier approach as follows…

Tier 1: Master program designed as your ‘ideal world’ strength program

Tier 2: Multi-Sport Varsity program for good lifters who also play another sport

Tier 3: Developmental lifting program for athletes who are not ready for a full-fledged barbell based training program

Ok, so now that we have our 3-tier approach, how do we go about programming for this? 

Step 1: Start with the Master Program and have the end goal in mind. What this means is, think of what you want your athletes to look and perform like in August. If you call a run heavy smash mouth offence then you need to program to have powerful athlete’s. Likewise, if you run a 5 wide shotgun based offence then you need to focus more on speed based lifting. Identifying the end goal will help you build a program to fit your style of play. 

Step 2: Build the Multi-Sport Program as a regression in volume from the Master Program. Limit reps on strength and power movements to 5 or under and cut auxiliary lifting by 40%-50%. The athletes should be in-and-out in under 45 minutes. The goal of this program is to continue to build strength while limiting fatigue.

Step 3: Design the Developmental Program with the ambition to mimic the Master Program with regressions off each of the strength and power lifts. This means if you are doing a heavy bench that is 5 sets of 5 in the Master Program, then you may be doing 4 sets of 8 reps on a dumbbell bench press. Likewise, if you are doing 6 sets of 3 on Front Squats you would want to do 5 sets of 8 on a Goblet Squat. The whole goal here is to train similar movement patterns just with regressed levels of difficulty with the ambition to build their ability and strength before moving them up to the Master Program. 

The whole concept here is developing a comprehensive program that can be implemented seamlessly within one training session and have each of the three groups training concurrently. If you plan properly, clearly outline your expectations for the athletes, and coach your f’n ass off, then you should in a great place for this program. 

Now, I truly hope this has helped you in conceptualizing how a full team training program can operate in a way that is conducive to the needs of each scenario you may be faced with. As always my line is open if you have questions or need assistance in designing a program. 

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