Strength and Conditioning

Strength and Conditioning

Coach Ryan Liccardo has a Masters in Rehabilitative Sciences.  He is a Corrective Exercise Specialist, a USAWeightlighting Sports Performance Coach and a Functional Movement Specialist
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Why the Olympic Lifts?

“[The Olympic Lifts] not only require high power production if executed properly but also involve large muscle mass and multiple joint movements that relate well to everyday work, recreational, and sport activities. Thus, by specificity of training, these lifting exercises result in adaptations that transfer well to improve performance in other common movement activities, as well as sports requiring high power output.” —John Garhammer, Ph.D., CSCS. Professor, Director - Biomechanics Laboratory California State University

“The mere practice of the Olympic lifts teaches an athlete how to apply large amounts of force. Part of the extraordinary abilities of an Olympic lifter arises out of his having learned how to effectively activate more of his muscle fibers more rapidly than others who aren’t trained to do so. This becomes extremely important for athletes who need to remain at lower body weights for athletic purposes but need to learn how to apply greater force.”—Artie Dreschler, Author of “The Weightlifting Encyclopedia: A Guide to World Class Performance”

Athletes in most sports must all have the ability to apply force quickly, efficiently, and in a synchronized manner. There are three major reasons that we utilize the Olympic Lifts in our Strength and Conditioning programming at St. Pius X.

 

1- Efficiency of Movement: There are no better movements or ways to train inter-muscular and intramuscular coordination. The Snatch, the Clean, and the Jerk require athletes to be agile, balanced, powerful, and coordinated in order to complete them with efficiency. When these lifts are performed with precision, regardless of the weight on the bar, they are a major indication of the athletic ability of the person performing the lift. The high level of technical proficiency necessary to complete these lifts is not something that should be run from but instead something that should be run to. Since our ultimate goal is to put athletes on their field of play with the greatest amount of potential to be used in competition, then it makes sense that we would use the lifts that do this most efficiently. A question we often get is, ‘Can’t the same biomotor abilities be trained in different ways?’ Absolutely! But, not as efficiently, and certainly not compounded into one specific movement. We can train explosive power and create rate of force development with a good polymeric program but we cannot at the same time train the highest levels of coordination, agility, flexibility, and strength. With the Olympic lifts we can do all of those things in one specific, efficient movement.

 

2- Scalability: The Olympic lifts are easily scalable and provide a clear pathway for progression. A poorly performed lift is not grounds to show the uselessness of the tool, but rather a prime example of dysfunction, inhibition, or tightness at some point in the kinetic chain. Poorly performed Olympic lifts cannot be used as posters for their ability to injure athletes but instead as an opportunity to diagnose muscle imbalance and flexibility inhibition, and then take the necessary steps to correct them! Furthermore, any athlete with a lack of exposure to the Olympic Lifts should not start at high intensity with whole movements. Every athlete at St. Pius X will start with the introductory “Learn to Lift” with a non-weighted pipe to teach and to instill the movements in a safe and productive manner. From there all the lifts will be broken down into parts and slowly progressed into whole movements only adding weights once the previous portion has been mastered. The snatch is a great example of how this can be done as an athlete develops. An athlete should be able to overhead squat with precision and proper technique while also utilizing the required flexibility and coordination long before they progress to a more complex part of the movement. This is true of every piece and part of all three Olympic lifts. Due to the ease at which the lifts are scaled, it makes perfect sense that we would apply the Olympic Lifts to all skill levels across the school reaching the students at their own level. Why? Because it gives the athlete the ability to chase down levels of progression slowly and carefully while under the guided expertise of coaches.

 

3- Athletic Development: The benefits of the Olympic Lifts are undeniable when it comes to athletic development and performance. There is no greater tool in the world for creating force while at the same time requiring athleticism than the Olympic Lifts. Athletes that can produce force on their field of play will have a greater ability to act upon external load, control and maneuver their body in space, and maintain efficiency with higher-repetition sub-maximal endeavors. Everybody loves the squat and the squat has its place but because of the level at which you can load a squat in volume it can become a slower, strength movement. The Olympic lifts do not give the athlete this option. One cannot perform an Olympic lift well without applying a great amount of force while at the same time being extremely precise. The Olympic lifts have the ability to create strong, fast, powerful athletes better than any other movement in the world.

 

The  greatest benefits result from a well-planned, long-term program that emphasizes proper technical performance of the lifts while gradually increasing the training capacity, and hence the restorative capacity of the athlete. The American Developmental Model (ADM) is USA Weightlifting’s long-term athletic development plan for the sport of weightlifting in the USA. Although the ADM is specific to the sport of weightlifting, there are specific progressions that can be directly applied to our programs. If all of this is true, then why do so many strength and conditioning and coaches not utilize them? The answer to this question is simple. They just don't know enough about them and they are not experienced enough to be able to utilize them well without creating injury at the same time. Due to the complex nature of the lifts, they do require a very experienced eye and a very experienced understanding of the mechanics of the lift in order to prevent injury and create proficient athletes. Therefore, many strength conditioning programs will shy away from using highly advanced Olympic movements because of simple inexperience and misunderstanding of their mechanics. If the best tools in the world require expertise and trained coaching then this is exactly what our athletes will get in order to allow our athletes to be the best athletes on their field of play.

In collaboration with Stan Luttrell, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Hambersham Central.and Spencer Arnold, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at King’s Ridge Christian High School.

 

 

St. Pius X Commitment to Multiple Sport Training:

As researched and compiled by Tracking Football, 29 of the 32 players picked in the 2018 first round of the NFL Draft played multiple sports in high school. That includes eight of the top 10 selections, starting with former high school baseball star Baker Mayfield at number one. The most common sport of the top 32 athletes drafted is Track & Field. There is a lot of carry over between the two sports in terms of explosiveness and endurance training. The next most popular sport for those drafted was basketball. With the fast pace nature that a lot of offensive teams now go to, the attributes and emphasis on footwork, and the team-first mentality it is no surprise to find that more than fifty percent of the athletes drafted chose basketball as their secondary sport.

In a recent interview with Urban Meyer, Head Football Coach of the Ohio State University Buckeyes, he has said: “Narrow your focus too soon and you might peak too soon.” [He] believes that a multi-sport athlete tends to excel when he hones his focus on football in college, and he backs that up with 89.4 percent of his incoming recruits being multi-sport athletes. “Play multiple sports. Build athleticism. Learn how to move efficiently. Get stronger. Then, when you go to college and narrow your focus, your career may take off.”

At St. Pius X, this is one of the major reasons we don't overly specialize our strength conditioning program. There will always be certain movements and certain principles that apply to every athlete on campus regardless of sport. Every athlete will squat. Every athlete will jump. Every athlete will pick up heavy things. Why? These are all things that are required to be a healthy, balanced, well-trained athlete. While we will not implore certain exercises during certain seasons of a sport, our stated goal will always be the development of athleticism.

We are not a strength conditioning program primarily devoted to developing baseball players or football players or sprinters or anything else specifically at the cost of developing a well-rounded athlete. With this in mind, the strength and conditioning programming will never have specific sport-driven macro cycles developed and implemented school wide. We want to build athletes. We believe well-rounded athletes are healthy athletes and healthy athletes are the ones that perform best on multiple fields of play. Furthermore, healthy, well-rounded athletes have the greatest longevity in their chosen sport. For this reason we will not specialize in a single sport in high school.

This given truth reveals a necessity for programming designed with an off-season in mind and also programming designed with general physical preparedness in mind. Every athlete needs to rest. The toll and strain of competition on an athlete mentally and physically must be considered over the course of multi-season and multi-sport training.

The epidemic we are seeing running across our nation right now originates in the false idea that if an athlete is not playing a sport they are getting left behind by those on the field. The reaction to this false understanding of athleticism is to have an athlete play one sport year-around or compete in three sports year-round and never rest from on-field competition. This is how you end up with a football player who plays in the fall then plays baseball in the spring and then continues with another eighty games of baseball over the summer. An athlete with this style of training, who disregards the necessity for an off-season and for rest will have a high burnout rate, higher rate of injury, and lower overall growth and development.

Off-season training is a time for the athlete to remove themselves from the strain of competition and focus on recovery, strength gain, and overall athletic development. Many of the facets and necessities for development, especially in young athletes, cannot be done concurrently with in-season athletes. Therefore, it is critical for their long-term development to rest and to train without the stressors of competition. The St. Pius X off-season programming is designed for this end in mind. Designed to help an athlete recover from the rigors of competition, prepare for oncoming seasonal training, and serve as a catalyst for Long Term Athletic Development.

In collaboration with Stan Luttrell, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Hambersham Central.and Spencer Arnold, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at King’s Ridge Christian High School.

 

How does St. Pius X Catholic High School train different sports differently?

The stereotypical high school weight room across the country will consist of very similar styles of training. The "one-size-fits-all" methodology. Whatever that specific coach is specifically interested in doing in training will be the template used for every athlete that crosses the threshold of the weight room regardless of season, sport, or development level. The same exercises, at the same rep ranges, at the same intensities will be used regardless of specific needs that must be met per athlete. This style of training is certainly effective. An athlete could still grow, stay healthy, and be a better-rounded competitor through this style of training. However, because there is no real specialization given to their current season or development level, much of their success and resulting accomplishments will be limited.

At St. Pius X we choose to do things a little differently. While we do believe there are necessary movements that must be completed for the ultimate growth and development of our athletes, how and when those exercises are implemented will differ greatly depending on the athlete. We believe that to consistently seek improvement in the strength and conditioning of our athletes, specific periodization must be considered in their training. Movement selection, repetition count, intensity, volume, and overall load must be considered largely on seasonal training basis. However, because most of our athletes play multiple sports, St. Pius X does not have the luxury of a true in-season, off-season, and pre-season periodized macro cycle. This is simply not a reality for most of our athletes because they move from being in-season in one sport to in-season in the next. We believe this to be a great thing. Athletes involved in multiple sports throughout their middle and high school careers prove to be better athletes overall but also tend to be healthier and less injury prone. Since this is the case, we have no choice but to train athletes with specific seasons in mind and find ways to continually get stronger, faster, and see continual progress even when in season. To allow an athlete to not train for a season will ultimately lead to decline in their strength, speed, and athletic development near the end of their season. This would lead to athletes who are getting worse athletically at the very moment in time when they should be ready to perform at their highest level. What's more, in an environment like St. Pius X, this would lead to continual under-development of our athletes as they move from season to season.

Therefore, with these specific considerations and circumstances in mind, we break our athletes into six different categories depending on development level and seasonal training.

 

1- The Off-Season Athlete: This is the phase of training when an athlete will back off all of the extra, high skilled, sports specific work in order to increase their overall strength and conditioning as they develop a good base for the in-season sport, specific movements that come later. This phase is absolutely necessary for the overall health of an athlete as it allows them to be better-rounded, balanced, and healthy heading into the rigors of their sport season. Many of our athletes will never find themselves in this category though we encourage and emphasize this specific phase of training as necessary for any sort of long-term athletic development. It is important to play multiple sports and be well-rounded in their athletic development. However, it is also critical to give your body rest and allow for rebuilding and strength gain in many of the areas that have been overlooked while in season. During off-season training, our primary focus will be on gaining strength, range of motion, and re-teaching the body how to handle workloads. The absolute strength phase of their training is designed to build upon the preparatory work they've done in the first phase and give an athlete a leg up in prep for the upcoming season. The stimulus and taxation required to complete true, productive strength gain is immense. For this reason, much of it cannot be done during season when practices and competitions are taking their toll on an athlete’s body. The psyche, energy level, and physiological stability of an athlete does not allow for absolute strength work to be completed during season when sport specific volume is at its highest.

 

2- Preseason: Here at St. Pius X we firmly believe in training through the season. We never want to stop our training because the season has started.  In this phase, the athlete is focused on maximal strength and exhibition of the growth they saw in their absolute strength phase. Their “pre-season” will be short because it is critical to get athletes moving towards their peak sooner and ready for live competition. Essentially, the athlete will gain as much true strength as possible while limiting the number of exercises in this phase in order to create a "reservoir of strength" to help them last the length of their season. This will include some work to exhaustion and will push the athlete physiologically in a much different way than absolute strength. This piece is basically the early phases of In-Season training. The start and stop date for this phase is largely dependent on the length and competition frequency of a sport. Sports that consume three months of competition season while competing two the three times a week will have an extended version of this phase of training in order to help the athlete survive the rigors and toll of their season without showing evidence of decline and under development. On the other hand, if the season only lasts ten weeks and competes once a week, the athlete will have limited time spent in this phase. We do this during this time of the season because if it is done early in the season the ripple effects will help an athlete peak at just the right time at the end of their season and allow them to remain healthy throughout the breadth of their competition time. This phase is critical because without it athletes get worse, slower, and weaker throughout the season and by the end of their season are far less developed and under-trained than they were at the beginning. Exercise selection however is critical in this phase of training. For athletes at the beginning of their season, exercises will be selected that are necessary for their overall athletic development and exercises will be excluded that take away from their performance in practice and competition.

 

3- Sub-Varsity: Any athlete who is not competing at the varsity level on a regular and consistent basis will be put into this category. This category of athlete will typically be reserved for middle school and early high school aged athletes. During this phase of training these athletes will specifically focus on moving their body within space, perfection and precision of movement, and size and strength gains. Our goal will be to get them moving as perfectly as possible, create and strengthen structural support around their joints and introduce them to the types of movements that they will begin to build a foundation upon. The necessary adaptation work and hypertrophy work will be built into their training here. This stage is critical because without this preparatory work an athlete will be susceptible to injury and could waste their potential when they're needed most at the varsity level.

 

4- Midseason: This phase of training occurs when an athlete is that their greatest volume in competition. This type of training is designed to move from maximal strength gain to exhibition of strength through power endurance. Exercise selection during this phase will become more and more sport and skilled specific and while the intensity will be relatively high, the rest intervals will increase as well. This phase of training is designed to help an athlete utilize the strength they've gained over the last couple phases of training while also preventing any unnecessary loading. Depending on the frequency of competition, many of the training sessions will train on competition day with specific parameters around their position or skill requirements in competition. This phase of training is a great way to allow athletes to continually exhibit their strength, while preventing any loss of strength and at the same time allowing them to grow in their application of strength through power and speed work.

 

5- Late-Season Training: This phase is designed to be completed when athletes should be performing at their highest level, when most of their energy and effort is being expended in practice and competition. During this phase of training, their work in the weight room will focused solely on application of power, keeping ranges of motion, and making the body move through space to help gear and fuel their bodies for competition. Exercise selection and reps and percentages become more selective to help the athlete be ready for their competition. Furthermore, very specific sport-related auxiliary exercises will be intertwined into their training as well as a higher dosage of recovery methods in order to sustain an athlete for the remainder of their season and allow them to utilize their athleticism on their field of play. Their time in the weight room will be best spent maintaining their health, growing only in their application of power, and aiding in recovery. We are able to decrease their volume in training only because of the preparatory work done in the previous listed phases.

 

6- Post-Season Training: This phase is designed to help the athlete coming out of their respective sport season a chance to recover from the rigors of their season as well start to integrate back into the Off-Season phase. The focus is switched back to the development of movement to help the athlete prepare to train for absolute strength. The stresses of the season tend to put the athlete in only a very few select positions. With this in mind we will begin to put the athlete in ranges and positions designed to help with flexibility to gain motion to help gain the most strength possible through all ranges of motion. For the multi-sport athlete this phase of training will serve as a perfect “deload” to their psychological and physiological stress experienced in the weight room. This further allows them to jump into off-season training with renewed vigor with little to no downtime when their season is complete.

Multi-sport training and seasonal programming must be considered when training high school athletes to perform to the best of their potential.  To assume all athletes are the same is lazy, short-sighted and a complete disregard for the uniqueness of the human body. Every student athlete has their own unique attributes that makes them great at what they do. The St. Pius X Strength and Conditioning department takes these truths into account when preparing our athletes to perform on their fields of choice.

In collaboration with Stan Luttrell, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Hambersham Central.and Spencer Arnold, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at King’s Ridge Christian High School.