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The high school weight room is flooded with a variety of athletes of different backgrounds, abilities and skill levels.  However, the majority of them all share one common theme: “I want to work as hard as I can to become a better athlete”. While you have to admire and appreciate their intent, it pains me to see that many of these athletes are working harder than necessary only to fall short of accomplishing their goals.  Today, I would like to take the time to highlight a few of the shortcomings I see taking place in the high school weight room which are significantly limiting athlete’s potential and increasing the probability of injury.

If there is one thing that will ruin a training program before it even gets started, it is a lack of structure.  A lack of structure can come in a variety of forms.  It is not uncommon to encounter an athlete who goes into the weight room without an idea of what they are trying to accomplish that day, week, month or even an entire season.  The first thing you should do before you commit to a weight training regimen is figure out your goals and your timeline for achieving them.  Are you in your off season and trying to make significant gains in muscular strength, endurance or power? Or are you in-season and focusing on staying healthy and maintaining your vitality throughout the course of competition.  This will factor largely into exercise intensity and frequency of workouts.  Determine your needs/goals, figure out how it factors into your competition or calendar year and then get them down on paper.  

Another simple, yet extremely powerful thing you can do to increase your

structure, accountability and ability to progress workouts appropriately is to WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING YOU DO.  Yes, keep track of your workouts. This can be done in a notebook or on a computer generated chart.  You would be amazed at how quickly you will experience gains and more importantly, be able to see and track them when you keep proper documentation. Things become much more evident when you can visualize them on paper. The weight room is full of a rollercoaster of emotions when you are attempting to hit PR’s, gut out a final rep or simply blowing off steam from a long day at the office or school.  Documentation provides an unbiased and objective reflection of what was actually accomplished that day, not what you “felt” like was accomplished.  

A second common flaw demonstrated in the weight room is a lack of variability in structure of our programming.  There is no need to perform any single exercise 2x/week, 52 weeks out of a year.  Yet, we see it over and over and over again.  We also see these same athletes struggling to make it through a sports season healthy or suffering training induced injuries.  The number one goal of training is to limit the likelihood of injury.

A common phrase being utilized in the strength and conditioning and sports medicine community is: “Durability is more important than ability”.  Simply put, it doesn’t matter how great of an athlete we are, if we cannot showcase it on the field, court or gym, if we are always nursing an injury.  The easiest way to accomplish variability in your routine is to categorize or “bucket” exercises.  Bucketing is a way to group together common exercises that are all geared towards the same common goal, but allow you to use them interchangeably to add variety to your workout.  Bucketing limits monotony with workouts which helps keep training sessions fun, safer and more effective through challenging our body through a constantly changing stimulus, forcing our body and mind to react and overcome.  For example, instead of performing flat barbell bench press every Monday and Thursday as part of a 4 day, upper/lower body split routine, we could bucket exercises into a pressing category.  Barbell bench press, dumbbell incline bench press, pushups, hammer strength chest press machine, cable presses, alternating half kneeling overhead DB bench press, bench press with chains/superbands, etc.  Now every Monday and Thursday we would simply incorporate one of these various exercises in lieu of bench pressing.  We have now altered our routine slightly in regards to stance (lying, standing, sitting, kneeling), mode of resistance (dumbbell, barbell, machine, body weight), proprioceptive and functional demands (bilateral, unilateral, alternating, reciprocal), yet are still training the same group of muscles with every workout for that given workout structure.  Bucketing exercises can be split into phases as well, performing a given exercise for a set period of time and then switching to a different exercise from the same grouping.  Time frames can vary depending on your specific programs needs and goals, but a safe and general guideline to use is 3-4 weeks.  If you are doing the same exercise consistently for a month straight, it is probably a good time to substitute something new in.

All good athletes spend time in the weight room honing their craft.  The great ones just simply do it the right way.   Ensuring structure and incorporating variability are great ways to set a solid foundation for your routine.  Following a few of these simple tips will help increase your consistency and maximize the efficacy and efficiency of your work outs.