Back to School: High School Weight Training

All high school athletes can benefit from a proper weight training program. A well-developed weight training program can help improve power, speed, coordination, flexibility, and endurance. Proper training helps to reduce the chance of injury by developing muscle, ligament, and bone strength and endurance.

The Three Principles of Training

The three principles of training are the scientific theories behind training properly to make the most progress in strength and endurance. It’s important to understand these principles to train properly!

  1. The Principle of Overload
  2. The Principle of Progression
  3. The Principle of Supercompensation

Let’s break these down further.

The principle of overload is the idea that the body must be “overloaded” to functionally improve its body strength. There are multiple ways to do this. The most obvious way to overload your body is to increase your weight, but you can also increase the number of repetitions or by decreasing the amount of rest time in between sets. By pushing your body further than before, its forced to strengthen its muscles and tendons, increasing your overall strength.

The principle of progression is the idea that the amount of overload must be continuously progressed or pushed further. This principle helps to avoid plateaus by increasing the stress on the body over time. Once your body adjusts to the higher weight or reps, you must adjust again. An additional adjustment could be increasing the amount of weight or reps or decreasing the rest time. Usually, athletes choose to cycle between the options. So, an athlete might start by increasing weight, plateau, increase the number of reps, plateau, decrease rest time, plateau, and start again.

The principle of supercompensation is the theory that each workout must break down the body to a certain degree and that the body must be allowed to recover before pushing forward again. The point of supercompensation is when the body has had enough time to recover and adapt to the increased stress of the previous workout. This point is the perfect mix of not too much time in between and not too little time in between, both of which can lead to a decrease in strength.

With beginner to intermediate lifters, a three-day training system with 48-72 hours of recovery in between sessions is standard. When the weight increases, more advanced lifters need longer 72-96 hour periods of recovery. A standard program will switch between upper and lower body to give longer recovery periods to each part of the body.

Equipment & Sessions

When you’re creating a weight training program, you need to use what you have. This can be school-provided equipment, the amount of time you have in the training room and the number of weeks you have to train. Additionally, the reason you’re training changes how you’ll train. If you’re using weight training as a football lineman, you’re going to train differently than a soccer player.

An entire weight lifting session should take no longer than one hour to complete. Quality is far more important than quantity for strength training. If you want to increase your level of difficulty, increase your weights or reps before increasing the number of exercises you’re putting your body through.

Control & Technique

It’s important to execute the exercises properly to actually make a difference in your strength. Exercises need to be performed in a slow, controlled manner. Fast, jerking movements do not properly isolate the muscles to strengthen them. Your weight should move because your muscles are literally moving them, not because of momentum. That is a recipe for injury.

When you train the exercise, you want to train the full movement. For example, if you’re doing a bench press, you want to have a controlled movement both up and down. You’ll want to use a full range of movement and avoid short, jerky movements.

Sets & Reps

For compound exercises (multiple muscle groups), you’ll want three to five sets per exercise. For isolation movements (one muscle group), you’ll want one to three sets.

Choose the reps you’ll complete based on your goals. High reps, 12 plus, increase muscular endurance but doesn’t really help size or strength. For building muscle mass, you’ll want 8-12 reps. For increasing strength, you’ll want 4-8 reps. 1-4 reps are best used for the highest amount of strength and weight.

Runners for track, soccer, and cross country would benefit from high reps to gain muscular endurance without packing on mass. Football, rugby, and bulking wrestlers would benefit from medium to low reps to increase strength and muscle mass. Beginners should start with higher reps on lower weights and progress as they gain confidence.

Body Groups & Exercises

You’ll need to choose your exercises by dividing your body into Upper, Middle (Core), and Lower parts. Upper Body includes chest, shoulders, upper back, and arms. Middle Body includes abs and low back. Lower Body includes legs (hamstrings, glutes, quads, and calves) and hips. Proper weight training sessions work all three parts of the body in a balanced manner to improve overall strength and flexibility.

Safety Precautions

Warm up properly with light stretching for the whole body and with lighter weighted warm up sets for each exercise.

Use weight collars to avoid weights sliding off the ends of barbells. Grab a friend or coach to spot your movements if you have a problem with the heavier sets.

Use correctly weighted machines and free weights. They should be heavy enough to push you, but not so heavy that you’re risking injury or unable to complete the rep properly.

Kelsey Xander
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