Having a larger “strength bucket” provides the greatest potential for…pretty much anything you hope to achieve. Most athletes, and especially young athletes, do NOT need an extreme training program that shoots the moon and stars. But they will reap enormous benefit from training that
1. corrects dysfunctional movement, asymmetry and imbalance
2. generally toughens them both mentally and physically (builds resiliency!), and
3. gives them a relatively safe and consistent path toward building superhuman strength.
In this case study, I hope to provide an example of how we may go about such things…
Emma has been training with me consistently, twice per week, for approximately 6 months. She was fairly well conditioned and had a training base prior to that. Emma was in good health. She could demonstrate quality movement patterns, had good flexibility, and showed no major alignment or asymmetry issues. With fair strength given her age and size, Emma hoped to gain some advantages in her primary sport of pole vaulting.
Six months later, and Emma is already approaching near Superhuman levels of total body strength. I mean, how many normal everyday people that weigh little over one hundred pounds can lift and carry 190??
Emm has squatted more than her bodyweight for 20 reps, is approaching a double bodyweight deadlift, and does chin-ups for reps with some weight added.
With this background information to set the stage, I want you to know, straight up, that there is NOTHING spectacular that I’m doing from a programming perspective. Emma has no major imbalances or asymmetries and she wants to be a good pole vaulter. With these things in mind, our training has focused on…
- More strength and core stability. Sure, we do some traditional abdominal and core exercises. But the primary stimulus for improvement is increased loading with good form in deadlifts, split-leg work like lunges, and loaded carries like farmer walks. We do at least two variations of these movements every…single…workout.
- Upper body strength and stability. I have Emma do a LOT of chin-ups. She does some variation, usually with intentional core involvement, every…single…workout.
- Her sport does demands shoulder strength with core strength in the transverse plane (think side-to-side and not front-to-back as in doing a sit-up). So she does some shoulder/core variation every…single…you get it!
Our weight training sessions are rarely what you would call epic. Sure, I push her at times in terms of loading (personal records!) or intensity of effort. But tests of this sort are the exception more than the rule. Sometimes Emma goes to vault practice after training, and there’s really no need to exhaust her with mindless grinding reps.
We focus on strength and power, doing the basics very well, far more than general conditioning. In fact, with too much endurance work, her exercise induced asthma kicks in, and it’s not exactly a fun -or- productive work for Emma. Last time I checked, pole vaulters do not need to have exceptional aerobic or even anaerobic endurance.
But they do need a mix of good flexibility with excellent total body stability and power. And the best way to achieve this is through repeating a low variety of relatively safe, total body exercises. I’ve seen athletic girls train for years and fail to achieve the strength levels that Emma already has, in part, because they try to do too much other fluff or overwhelmingly neglect the main things that will get them STRONGER.
Ahhh…imagine if young, old, athletes, non athletes, and everyone else, could manage to set the random exercise and calorie burning aside in order to settle in to a focused, safe progression geared toward building a resilient body and a primed central nervous system.
Emma is well on her way, the story only beginning…