T Nation

High School Program Design

I just landed the job as strength coach at a top level High School. My problem tends to be that I am used to more advanced athletes working on a private consultation level, who will train on designated rotations that I deem necessary no matter what there time restraints.

My questions are how to split programs up into 4 days a week. I feel that Ian kings approach is best, using quad dominant, hip dominant days, etc. I also like to rotate powercycles with hypertrophy cycles as poliquin recommends.

I am very excited I feel I can have a big influence on this program as they are doing alott of things wrong. Such as cleaning 3 times a week (even though there at 70% for two days) How soon should I wait before I start changing things around.
I plan On really introducing sports nutrition and supplementation to these kids. (just the basic stuff of course)

I am in agreement with poliquin and King when It comes to lifting at certain below percentages I read in the latest t-mag how king talks about not liking that approach. Is that also on the online magazine anwhere? I need it to support my complete turnaround of this weight training program.

come on guys I need all of your input.

todays was kind of frusturating, I worked mainly with the girls track team. It great but none of them had really ever lifted. I was trying to teach squats and cleans today. Try doing that to 20 girls!

I need help desinng the weekly split. My background is more advanced and I cant put these girls and guys on waveloads, GVT, cluster, 1-6, 4% solution, pyramids etc. They barely even know how to squat.

What I ended up doing was teaching hang cleans
4 sets of six (light weight for all)
and squating (or at least atempting most can barely get the motion down correctly) 4 sets of 8.

Any advice much appreciated

I wish I had someone like you around when I was in highschool. I look back and realize I didn’t know much at all. Any help would have been awesome. At the high school level, many just need to know the basics. Such as not to bench three times a week, form on the squat, and some simple nutritional advise. Weather you do waveloading, GVT, or pyramids is proabably not the most important thing. It sounds like you could design a more personalized program for the more advanced and motivate students if they really wanted one. Since you aren’t working with elite athletes, many different splits would work. You are familiar with King’s writings, so you can find many examples there. Get Buffed is a great book by the way. I would make the changes as soon as possible. Don’t sit around a let them think you are going to be a normal weights coach that is going to sit in the corner and let them do anything. It’s easier to make a change as soon as you arrive, so they gain immediate respect. Let me know what you plan to do. I am only a sophomore in college, but would like to do something similar when I am older, so I am interested to know how things turn out.

I would introduce/change one thing a week. So next week reduce power cleans to twice a week. The week after that introduce the kids to post workout shakes. The week after that introduce the kids to finer aspects of post workout shakes. Etc. Do it slowly and explain why you are doing it in an easy to understand manner, and explain the benefits of it (this will make you strong and look better naked or whatever) and the kids will be less resistant to change.

I work with a lot of kids of all levels, from some high schoolers who take the short bus, up to college football players, however mostly in a one-on-one or small group basis.
I’ve seen coaches better than me who can teach 10 year olds to do Olympic movements. But I find the idea of doing a clean very hard to grasp for most people of any age. First you tell them, slow down, lift a weight you can manage, feel it in the appropriate muscle. Then you teach a clean and you’re like, thats it, explode! Result is confusion. Some kids can do a clean the first day. Others will do flying reverse curls all afternoon. So I build up slow. Every one can do a barbell shrug. Most can do an upright row. Now do an upright row, lifting the weight off the floor. Etc, etc, power shrugs, high pulls, push press, when they do these exercises a few weeks on each, suddenly, Mr. (Ms.) Flying Reverse Curl will pick up the weight, and do a hang clean, then wonder what the problem was. When you write the program, have Level I = Power Shrug II = High Pull III = Hang Clean so that the kids wil l all be doing the clean motion where indicated, but some will be on higher levels than others.


I think squats are easy to teach. You have them squat to a bench or box and sit on it. Use a broomstick or something for a bar so their hands are where they should be. Then you have them touch the box with their butt and come right back up, don’t put weight on it. Then do it with out the box. The only people who cannot do this are tall, lanky kids and/or those who lack ankle flexibility. You can recognize what’s going on, because they try to sit back to below parallel, but their heels lift off the ground. A lot of stretching the calf and practicing squatting down with minimal load until the heel lifts will correct this. I’ve also heard of squatting to a box or putting a board beneath the heels. Up to you and your beliefs. Another common problem is shaky knees, which are almost always weak thigh ab/adductors. Very minimal work will correct this. If you lack the inner/outer thigh machine, have them squeeze a basketball between knees while seated, then do that “aerobic class” exercise where they lay on their side and lift their leg up.
As far as splits, Monday Bench/Squat/Assistance
Wednesday Clean/Back (Row or Chinup)/Assistance Friday Incline/(trapbar/stiffleg/regular)Deadlift/Assistance seemed to work well as a starting point. I think 4 day a week is a lot for in season athletes. For out of season athletes chest/shoulder/tri legs/back/bis off, repeat off off, or upper lower off upper lower off off is ok too. I hope my answer helped. If you have any other questions, ask and if I can give any suggestions I will.

Being a college “kid” myself i’d thought i give in my two cents here. I’d say to introduce sports nutrition to them is a good idea, since most of us “kids” is very half assed about the eating part. And make them learn excellent technique should be of high prioritation allso. About the split, a quad dominated day, hamstring dominated day, a push and a pull upper body split seemed to work fine to meh. Oh, and nothing motivates more than if you can lift more sometimes :slight_smile:

I would go easy with the supplementation stuff. Parents are very skeptical about high school kids taking any kind of powder or pill. With good reason, most of them are big scams. I really don’t think a high school student needs any supplements. Maybe protein powder in a shake, but be careful you don’t piss off parents.

Have them keep training logs.

I would drop the powercleans for the non experienced. I would just get them doing the basics properly for now. If you are to be at this schoole for a while look at this as an opportunity to develop athletes on a multiyear plan. So lets work primarily on proper form with minimal loading. You will quickly find out which athletes should be doing powercleans and explosive movements and which should be doing less complex movements for longer. Actually unless you have light bars (such as the weightlifting bars for womens competitive weightlifthing) I would skip powercleans for alot of these athletes. Particularly if you are introducing this sort of training to athletes who have no specific resistance training backround. For more info on training young athletes you can go to Human Kinetics publishing house. Tudor Bumpa, and Fleck and Kreamer have books on introducing strength training to young athletes. Actually Tudor Bumpa addresses this issue in a few of his books, including Periodization: theory and methodology of strength training, if you haven’t read it, it’s a very good book. Mell Siff’s Supertraining also addresses multi-year athlete development, though in the context of the former USSR structure.
Basically though what you will generally find these authors saying is spend the first couple years on technicall development and then a couple of years on strength development. Then specific strength/skill specialization. Sorry this is sort of long winded but I hope that this helps you in the short and long run. I have seen this sort of long term athletic development model applied first hand to weightlifters with great success. I’ve seen 16 year old doing cleans with 150kg who were developed this way.

Good luck, and be patient.

Thanks to everybody who is giving there 2 cents I want to hear it all! Things are getting better I have got the coach to back off and we are only working out 3 times a week working mon chest/rows, weds hip /quad/abs, and fri chinup /push press. I am nailing down everybodys form to a tee not allowing anyone to increase weight until I think form is perfect. I am the strength coach for the boys and girls track team as well as boys football. Its kind of hard when you have to teach girls and then guys right next to each other, but we are working on that. A few things I have realized: everyones flexibility is poor so there squats suck, instead we are working on deadlifts only going down as far as their back will maintain a flat surface. once they strengthen there back and increase flexibility I will have them squating. Cleans are going fairly well,its hard to teach them to use their hips and legs rather than the infamous jumping reverse curl as another reader stated below.

RE: sports nutrition, yeah I want to hold clinics with all teams but I am worried about parents freaking out. I am just starting to bring in balanced meals etc and making sure they eat breakfast and after they workout!

PS: I want to thank T-mag, Poliquin, Ian King, and all my previous coaches. Thanks to all the knowledge I absorbed I am able to start fulfilling my dreams as I am only 23 yrs old and a strength coach, (I'm still not even done with college!)

Tapper, Charles Staley recently wrote about an alternate method for teaching cleans using the clean pull and bungee cords in a power rack. This technique might help you increase the kids’ learning curve and circumvent some of their flexibility problems. The article is called “The Targeted Pull” and there is a link on Staley’s myodynamics website.

In a reply to this post you implied that the kids workout in the morning before breakfast. If this is so, I’d encourage them to have at least some food in their stomach before starting, and to stip Gatorade (or whatever) while they’re working out. I don’t seem much talk about this, but ingesting carbs (as well as BCAAs and Glutamine) while working out can really improve preformance.

If you’re going to do a quad and a hams day, be very careful about stretching before exercising the hamstrings. Its just common sense, but you’ll get a lot of shit if a kid pulls a hamstring while you’re training him - no matter who’s fault it is.

I never said the kids workout before breakfast. I said most high school kids miss breakfast or have cereal crap. Within my studies of hormones and their effect on performance ingesting high insulin carbs during workouts or athletic events actually decreases performance. High insulin levels decrease oxygen transfer to the muscles. you want stable blood sugar. BCAA’s help because they can raise both Growth Hormone and Insulin at the same time(without the sugar crash) Anyone who feels gatorade improves their performance is just believing the commercials. Try this out: run 15 100 yd dashes with 70 seconds rest between eachsipping on gatorade, the following week eat a solid meal try 5 0z salmon, and one cup Mcanns slow cooked steel cut oatmeal. Now compare how you feel and compare the first time to the last time.