It's July already. This is the time that I start getting a lot of
interest around preparing student athletes for the fall sports
seasons. Every little bit helps when it comes to getting that edge
and making a good first impression with the coach during those late
While there are certainly a variety of sport specific exercises and
movements that can assist in preparing these athletes for their
chosen sport, many exercises and the targeted muscle groups are
common enough to be beneficial to most sports.
As with most training programs, a solid preseason training program
should include aspects of all of the following...
Program design is an important focus prior to beginning the training
program. There are some important questions to ask prior to putting
together the training program.
What are their specific goals? Just getting faster or stronger is
not always specific enough as they get older. Quicker off the line
(acceleration), change of direction (agility), short sprints, long
sprints, leg power, there are different ways to focus on these
What equipment and facilities are available to them? I have gotten
(and given) full body workouts in a 4 foot by 6 foot space with
limited equipment. However, things certainly are more interesting
when you have a larger space and more toys to play with to keep
things interesting. This is a nice to have, not a need to have.
The need to have is simply the motivation to go do it and to make
the most of each session.
All programs should include some type of cardiovascular training.
Both endurance training (steady state cardio) and interval training
(sprints, shuttles) are beneficial to improving athletic
performance. You can have all this skill in the world, but if
you don't have the endurance when the time comes to execute those
skills, your performance will not be very impressive!
How many days per week will the athlete train? This is an
especially important question with regards to planning your
resistance (weight training/bodyweight training) exercises. Muscles
require at least 48 hours to recover after resistance training. If
the athlete will be training consecutive days in a given week, then
splitting up the body parts being trained, is usually a good idea.
Upper body/lower body splits, or chest/shoulders/triceps on one day
and back/biceps on another are common ways to split up your
How many hours per day? What you can accomplish in 2 hours versus
30 minutes makes a big difference. However, this can be a tricky
decision when dealing with elementary and middle school athletes.
You have to maximize your balance of performance enhancing
activities, without burning them out to the point that they don’t
want to do it anymore.
Mixing things up from time to time will also help to keep things
interesting (cross training). I put together a volleyball resistance training
program for my daughter (6th grade) that she enjoyed
doing with her friend. After a few weeks, they started to get
distracted and just go through the motions... that’s when it’s time
to switch things up.
Competitive and or fun activities work great for the younger, less
mature kids. I read somewhere that one of the best sport specific
activities for elementary school kids was Freeze Tag! Think about
it… they’re sprinting, cutting, stopping, starting… who needs cones
when you can react to a fellow athlete coming at you?!
Here is an example of a good overall training program that I would
recommend to most elementary/middle school athletes (my daughter’s
age) for summer pre-season training for the fall sports season.
This is also similar to the program that I use with many of the
clients that I train. I based this workout on a
Monday/Wednesday/Friday program with a maximum of 1 hour total
training time per session.
Warmup (at least 5 minutes) – starting with some shaking out and
swinging your arms and legs and progressing to dynamic stretching
exercises. I like to do 30 seconds of each of the following… arm
circles, jog, high knees, jumping jacks, butt kickers, mummy kicks.
Burpees! (15-20) - Probably one of my favorite bodyweight exercises
of all time, and one that I have all of my clients start with…
regardless of their fitness level. This is a great overall body
exercise and one that serves as a good bridge between warm-up and
the meat of the program. A burpee can be made easier by
stepping back versus jumping back. Of course it can also be
made more difficult by adding pushups. We like to start off
every Warrior Workout
with a burpee pyramid (burpee w/ 1 pushup, burpee with 2 pushups,
all the way up to 10 pushups... awesome!).
Resistance Training -
In order to get the most out of the time that we have per session, I
often order the exercises in the workout so that we do and upper
body exercise, followed by a lower body exercise, followed by an
abdominal exercise and keep rotating through this order. I
like to shoot for 10-15 reps on the weighted exercises with the last
rep being difficult. Max reps on the bodyweight exercises. If time
permits, I often throw in short burst cardio exercises to keep the
heart rate up and improve endurance.
These training components apply to all levels of student athletes,
from elementary, to middle school, to high school and beyond.
While high school athletes are physically mature enough to
incorporate some more of the advanced exercises and equipment, there
are hundreds of exercises that are functional enough, yet safe
enough, to be included at any level.
Pushups (max) - there are hundreds
of variations for any level athlete... pick one! While pushups
can challenge even the most advanced athletes, bench press/chest
press can certainly be substituted.
Walking Lunges (15-20
reps.. add dumbells or sandbag as progress is made)
Ball Exchange (15-20 reps)
optional 1 minute
cardio (stairs, shuttles, kick boxing, jump rope, jacks, etc...)
Lat pulldown/Seated row/Chin-ups/One
arm row/Inverted row...
pick a back exercise and get 10-15 reps.
Hamstring machine curl
or Hamstring ball curl
Mason twist (30-40 reps) add
dumbbell or medicine ball for added challenge.
optional 1 minute cardio
Tricep dips/Press downs/Extensions/Tricep
Calf raises (15-20 on each leg and
then both legs)
Flutter kicks (50-100)
optional 1 minute cardio
or sandbag clean and press (10-15 reps) combination exercises that
work multiple muscle groups really require a lot of energy and
Split squats or
(15-20 reps per leg)
This is a very basic
program that should take about 30 minutes to run through once... an
hour if you go through the circuit twice. I am using it as an
example just to demonstrate the content of a full body program that
can be effective to a wide variety of clients.
If I add in any sport
specific movements to the routine, I like to put them at the
beginning of the program. For example, for my daughter's
volleyball program, I added some overhand medicine ball throws
against a rebounder to work on her shoulder strength and added some
box jumps for her legs and vertical leap. Functional exercises
like this should simulate the motion that is intended to improve.
Training - When doing cardio during the same workout as
resistance, it is now advised to do so at the end of the workout.
This helps to return the muscles to their normal state as well as to
dissipate the lactic acid to minimize muscle soreness. 20-30
minutes is a solid cardio workout, although "interval training" is
considered the best variation for both athletic performance as well
as fat loss.
- Static stretching/flexibility exercises held for a minimum of
10 seconds each should be performed for at least each muscle group
that was trained, although a solid full body flexibility program is
suggested for the best performance enhancements.
Remember to tell all of
our young athletes out there that it's better to pay now than to pay
later! The best first impression that you can make with a
coach is to be the one out there that still has gas when the other
kids are coughing up a lung. The one that is still operating
at his or her peak when other kids are getting sloppy. Good
luck with the preseason training... the fall season starts NOW!