Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed
Note: Charles West is a Bill Starr pen name.
The summer months can be either a time of retrogression or a time for physical progress for the fledgling athlete. Some fellows spend the bulk of June, July, and August getting ready for the upcoming sports season while others seem content to rest on past laurels and wait till the season actually starts before they round themselves into shape.
It has been shown, both through research and testimonial that the groundwork laid in the summer makes the difference between mediocrity and excellence in the late fall and early winter. Summertime is the time to build that strong physical foundation. A foundation so packed with reserve strength and endurance that it can carry an athlete through the months when strength training is nearly impossible.
Most athletes attempt to achieve two goals during the off-season:
1) to gain functional bodyweight, and
2) to gain strength, agility, and endurance.
The following program is designed to fulfill these two requiements.
Let's take a look at the first objective. It is a sound, simple physiological fact that in order to gain bodyweight one has to take in more calories than his body is utilizing. So, in order to gain weight one must up his caloric intake.
For example, if an athlete burns off 5,000 calories a day working, training, and studying, then he must begin taking in 7,000 to 8,000 calories a day in order to add any bodyweight. Another important point in this respect is that the more nutritional the added calories, the more useful the new bodyweight. Ten additional pounds of muscle serves an athlete much better than ten additional pounds of fat. It is far better to take in protein calories than it is to absorb carbohydrate calories.
Since very few people can afford steak, cottage cheese, and large quantities of milk, a protein supplement is in order. A protein supplement is more economical and more convenient. The fellows I work with on the high school and college levels, when not inserting ads for Hoffman products into their articles
Okay then . . . They contend, also, that 4-5 smaller meals a day works better than 3 large meals when on a gaining regimen.
A weight training program for the summer should be kept simple. A minimum of exercises and higher poundage is the key to success for off season training. When one tries to incorporate 8-12 exercises into a program he actually spreads himself too thin and doesn't make gains in any of the exercises.
I recommend 3 basic power movements with a few auxiliary exercises for specific body parts. The 3 basics have been proven throughout the years by athletes from all sports:
- Power Clean
- Bench Press
- Back Squat
Notice how his arms remain straight until the bar reaches almost waist height; his back remains flat throughout the entire movement.
Power Clean - A most basic exercise for all sports, whether it be swimming or football. It builds the explosive strength in the legs, arms, and back. Basketball players believe in it. Footballers find it to be the greatest single movement, as do swimmers, baseball players, and track men.
You will be working in sets of 5 with 5 repetitions. Start with a relatively light poundage and add weight for each set until you reach your maximum of 5 reps. It is important to do these rapidly. Pull the weight to the chest, remember to keep the back flat and the head up, take it back to the starting position and, without any hesitation, clean the weight again. It will do wonders for the cardiovascular system as you will soon discover.
A sample workout, assuming that 200 x 5 is your maximum:
135 x 5
155 x 5
175 x 5
190 x 5
200 x 5.
If you haven't ever done power cleans, you will discover muscles in your arms and back that you never knew existed.
He does not allow the bar to sink into his chest, but
maintains pressure on it with his shoulders and arms
all the way through.
Bench Press - The best single exercise for the shoulder girdle is the bench press. As in the power clean the emphasis is on heavier and heavier weight as soon as possible. You can experiment with your grip to find the best position for your needs, but as a rule of thumb you can remember that the wider the grip the more the outside of the pectorals will be worked.
Follow the same program as outlined in the power cleans. Think of exploding the weight off the chest. This will build a quick reacting muscle. As soon as you successfully handle 5 sets of 5 reps, move the top poundage even higher. Move through these rapidly, as soon as you are sufficiently rested from the last set move on to the next.
He goes down slowly, but comes up as explosively as he can
Back Squat - Strong legs are the key to success in any sport and squats build strong legs better than any other single exercise. Since the leg muscles are the largest of the body they must be worked harder in order to make them respond.
It is easy to fool yourself when working the legs. 200 pounds will often feel like the ultimate limit, whereas adding another 25 pounds sometimes feels exactly the same.
I am a firm believer in full squats. The knee injury theory has been refuted in many pieces of research and it has been proven that the fuller the range of movement, the more total development for the muscle.
The only danger to the knees, it has been found, is when the trainee bounces at the bottom of the squat. This is to be avoided. Place the weight on the back of the neck, tighten the muscles of the legs and hips and go to the bottom position slowly and come up rapidly. Use as much speed as possible when coming out of the squat. This builds a springy, responsive muscle. Great for going off the blocks, going after rebounds, or coming off the line.
Again, 5 sets of 5 are in order. When you are ready for more weight, add it on. Don't hold back on the leg work.
Now you will want to add some auxiliary exercises to supplement these basic three.
The football players will want to do some additional work on their neck, forearms, and midsection. This can be accomplished in a small amount of time at the end of the power work. The basketball players will want to incorporate calf raises and perhaps jump squats for additional leg spring. The wrestlers need to work the lower back and the neck muscles a little extra.
Each sport obviously has a specific set of muscles that need specialized exercises, but these can be worked in smoothly and will consume little training time.
The bulk of the time spent in the weight room should be spent on the basic 3 movements.
There are two methods whereby an athlete can work this program and either method works equally well.
The first is to go through all the power cleans (5 sets), then all the bench presses (5 sets), and finally all five sets of squats. Then do the auxiliary exercises that you feel are necessary for your particular sport.
The second routine is to do 1 set of power cleans, 1 set of bench presses, and 1 set of squats. Then start over and do the second set of each and so on until all 5 sets of all 3 movements are completed. The auxiliary exercises are then done.
As I said earlier, either method works fine. The variation depends entirely on the individual. Some like one way and some like the other. Either will work if you apply yourself.
Work this program 3 days a week, for example, Monday/Wednesday/Friday.
It is recommended that you go up in poundage when you are ready, but when things are not clicking on a given day drop back and handle a lesser poundage. For example, if your previous high for 5 reps in the bench press is 200 pounds and you are noticeably fatigued on this day, settle for a 185-190 lb. top set on that day. You will need to differentiate between fatigue and laziness, but this only you can do.
On the non-weight training days do agility drills or some running. The cardiovascular work provided by running is essential for the long season ahead and it is a proven fact that agility can only be gained if one practices agility movements.
A well-rounded program, then, would consist of Monday/Wednesday/Friday weight training; Tuesday, running and agility drills; Thursday, handball, basketball, or some running-type sport.
This well-balanced routine coupled with a high protein diet will pay rich dividends on the gridiron, basketball court, wrestling mat, swimming pool, or track next season.