Kind of a lousy title for an article but, it's true. I often talk to coaches who say "we don't train in-season, we don't have a weightroom". I think I have a simple, low cost solution.
Recently I was approached by one of my former athletes, a two time Olympian, now coaching women's high school hockey with exactly this dilemma. As a former Olympic team member the coach was well aware of the need for training but faced the same hurdles so many high school coaches face.
How can I get these young women to train? No equipment, and no facility?
I took a few days to think through the problem as I have always had at least a bare bones facility to work with throughout my career. In this case, it was not practical to train at the high school and the rink had no weightroom. I contemplated a number of solutions but had a few obstacles.
One, to be effective the program had to be done at the rink immediately after practice. If not time commitments, attendance etc. became problems.
Two, the program had to be implemented with absolutely no budget.
Three, the program would have to be done in a narrow area in front of the bleachers with 20 women at one time.
I thought back to my early NSCA Journal days and the excellent articles written by Istvan Javorek about the innovative training he had done at his community college in Kansas. Then I thought about Dan John's excellent piece we excerpted from his site recently on StrengthCoach.com (From the Ground Up) and the solution became obvious.
Bodyweight and dumbbells. I had extra dumbbells at my facility. In fact I had a total of ten sets of 10,12 and 15 lb dumbbells. 3 sets of tens, 4 sets of twelves, and, 3 sets of fifteens. Armed with these dumbbells, and the knowledge that we had bleachers, a simple progressive program began to take shape in my mind.
Initially the program would be done primarily with bodyweight. The dumbbells would only be used for two exercises, a dumbbell row and a combination of ½ Squat, Hammer Curl, and Overhead Press.
This would make the workout:
In keeping with our philosophy, the workout needed to be simple yet cover the important areas. One exercise was chosen for each major area:
Power ( Squat Jumps) 3x5
Knee Dominant ( BW Split Squat) 2x10
Upper Push ( Pushup) 2x10 or 2x max if less than 10
Hip Dominant ( Forward Reaching 1 Leg Straight Leg Deadlift)
Upper Pull (DB Row)
In addition, the ½ Squat, Hammer Curl, Overhead Press was added to give an intro to total body combos and hopefully form the basis for future explosive combos.
Progression concepts were easy. For split squats we would add dumbbells in week 2 and move to a Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat in week 4 . For push ups we would elevate the feet on the bleachers. We would change the Reaching 1 Leg Straight Leg deadlift to a single dumbbell version when we felt the girls were ready (technique here was the greatest issue) and eventually to 2 dumbbells. For the dumbbell row the plan was to try to procure dumbbells of increasingly larger sizes as strength gained. Upper pulling exercises are the most difficult to replicate without equipment.
My idea was to gradually increase the pace of the combo to a squat-cheat curl-push press if the girls continued to gain technical proficiency.
To begin we had two goals.
One, to be consistent and train three days a week.
Two, to become technically sound.
If we become consistent and technically sound, the wonders of progressive resistance exercise would do its magic. Split squat would become a Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat, initially with bodyweight and eventually like the initial Split Squat with dumbbells. Finally we might get to real One Leg Squats.
Total time for workout one was about twelve minutes. We introduced the workout and let the girls do it. Just remember, the tortoise beat the hare.
Squat jumps were done first, followed by paired pushups and split squats. Reaching 1 Leg Straight Leg Deadlifts were paired with dumbbell rows, while the squat-curl-press finished.
To be honest Workout 1 was a little ugly as we struggled to teach 17 relative beginners out of a group of 20.
Workout 2 went much more smoothly as the girls began to understand the process.
Workout 3 began to look like a team lift. We received odd looks from the collection of parents, siblings and figure skaters in the rink but, slowly the looks switched to looks of respect as they saw the girls work.
Dumbbell rows and overhead presses continue to be a work in progress but, the overall progression has been nothing short of amazing. Over a period of a few weeks a group of young women, most of whom had never lifted a weight before, began to grasp the basic concept of progressive resistance exercise.
The key to this program is that it is balanced, simple and cheap. This is exactly what the high school coach is looking for. So, stop making excuses, Start rounding up some old dumbbells and get your in-season program started.
Ask yourself "How can I get it done?".