Written by Team Juggernaut
Here at Juggernaut I train a ton of high school and college athletes and I listen to a lot of stupid things that they do. I’m 23 years old, a relatively young athlete myself. I know I make plenty of mistakes, but I also know that I’ve done a lot of things correctly to get me to where I am now.
My first day of freshman football I was five-foot eight-inches at 175 pounds. Basically, a little rolly-polly offensive lineman who wanted to be a fullback. I was very average, maybe the third best lineman on my freshman team. At the California State Track Meet during my senior year, I was six-foot one- inch at 270 pounds and one of the best high school shot putters in America and one of the best offensive lineman in my county. In those four years I did a TON of training, all of which was “programmed” by me, lots of it was really good, some of it wasn’t. Read this and learn from it so you or your athletes don’t make the same mistakes.
Doing the Big Lifts and Keeping It Simple
There is always one lift that I loved about the rest, the squat. My love of the squat served me well throughout high school, while other guys were curling, tricep kick backing or some other BS, I was squatting. Mostly I did 5 x 5 and stuck with that, I remember that during the time between my senior football and track seasons, I started squatting 5 x 5 at 315 and by the time track season had finished I had squatted 455 x 5 x 5. I stuck with 5 x 5 on benching and power cleans as well. I split up my week as Monday- Bench and Clean, Tuesday- Squat, Thursday- Bench and Clean, Friday- Squat, my assistance work was military pressing, dips, cable rows, back extensions, step-ups, lunges, and hamstring curls. Stick to the basics, try to put five pounds more on the bar than you did the week before and keep making small improvements.
Eating a TON of Real Food
It wasn’t until my Junior Year of college that I consistently began using any supplement, including a basic protein shake. So if it wasn’t SuperMassXXXL 9000 that helped me gain nearly 100 pounds in high school, what was it? You guessed it…FOOD. The star of my diet in high school was definitely breakfast, from sophomore through senior year my standard breakfast was the following: 6 Eggs, scrambled with turkey or chicken and cheese, 2 pieces of toast or frozen waffles with peanut butter and jelly, ½ cantaloupe, ½ gallon of low fat chocolate milk. Each week my mom would buy 6 ½ gallon jugs of chocolate milk, I would drink one every morning except Sunday when we would go to brunch before church. I was starting the day off with 2000 or more calories of mass building whole foods. Other staples of my diet were Chili (just the kind you buy in the can), mac and cheese mixed with ground beef or turkey and lots of mom’s cooking (meat and potatoes or casseroles). Don’t worry about supplements, though I would advocate a good post workout shake and multi-vitamins for high schoolers, get your calories from real food and lots of it.
Being an Athlete
When I was in elementary school I wasn’t a big kid and because of that I played forward in soccer, point guard in basketball and ran the 100m in track (while also throwing the shot put). This put me way ahead of most other lineman athletically. I continued this throughout high school, whether that meant playing pick up basketball games or placing a lot of emphasis on my jumping and agility training. Like a lot of other high school athletes I used JumpSoles – the goofy looking platform shoes that help you jump higher – and while there were some negatives with these that I will address in a bit, the workouts that I did with them forced me to run, cut, jump and be an athlete, not just a fat lineman. While doing the Jumpsoles workouts I ran a 4.85 40 yard dash and had a 32 inch vertical at a Nike Combine and could dunk a basketball, all while being 260 pounds. In addition to training with Jumpsoles, I would also do lots of agilities, sprints, stadium/hill sprints, bounding, box jumps, etc. I wouldn’t advocate strapping Jumpsoles on the feet of all your players by any means, but make sure they are moving, running, jumping and developing their athleticism, not just their barbell strength.
While squatting 5 x 5 and doing Jumpsoles workouts got me a mid-500 pound squat and 30+ inch vertical, it also kept me in the weightroom for 3+ hours per day. For the first 2/3 of the track season I was the California State leader in the shot put, one day I went out to the track and I had lost my pop, I was overtrained. I had too much of a good thing and I see now that I should have spent less time training and more time recovering, I wanted to be the best and thought that doing more and more work would get me there, I was right…for awhile. It is hard to tell a kid to get out of the weightroom and go home because the boundless energy and motivation of a high school athlete is admirable and inspiring, but it is important that your athletes aren’t in the gym for marathon sessions. If they can’t get warmed up and train within 2 hours (I’m including speed and agility training within that) they are doing too much.
Changing Programs Too Often
While 5 x 5 was my normal bread and butter, I also ventured out into a ton of other programs, most of which I didn’t really have an understanding of. I did Critical Bench, German Volume Training, Bulgarian Olympic Training and a host of other things. None of them really stuck and I would always come back to 5 x 5, but I wonder how much stronger I would have been if I wouldn’t have ever ventured into those other realms. I wanted to do all these fancy sounding programs, but I didn’t have a good understanding of what they were, how they worked, and why I should (or shouldn’t) do them. When your 17 and your body is teeming with testosterone, you don’t need a fancy program to get strong, you need to stick to the basics and be content making incremental gains each week.
High school and college athletes have tons of energy and motivation to train hard and improve, it is your job as their coach to give them the tools necessary to do that. Hopefully something from my experiences will help you and your athletes excel.