This article is authored by Mike Whitman. Opinions expressed may not be that of SMARTER Team Training, STT sponsors or constituents. Mr. Whitman was an intern at Gordon Institute for Sport Performance and currently works at FX Studios and the Under Armour Combine Training Center in Baltimore. You can contact him at [email protected].
Over the past 12 weeks I’ve been interning at the Gordon Institute for Sport Performance under head strength coach, and owner of SMARTER Team Training, Rob Taylor. My experience was comprised mostly of highly competitive athletes. We all know that athletes need to be fast and powerful, but that doesn’t mean explosive lifts are the only way to get there; as the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat. One of the ways we ‘skin our cats’ is by using a multitude of overloading protocols. The overloading stimuli are designed to completely fatigue the muscular system.
Now, before I get into the overloads I want to answer any questions that may arise before we start. None of these overloads use explosive reps; in fact they emphasize the opposite: slow controlled reps with higher time under tension. Research, such as Neuromuscular Responses to Three Days of Velocity-Specific Isokinetic Training by Coburn et al., suggests that slower reps lead to larger strength gains. When working with athletes the most important thing to do is keep them healthy; so, when we take them to complete muscular fatigue we need to put them in the most stable and controlled position possible. This means we are more likely to do muscular overloads on a Rogers Athletic Pendulum Power Squat Pro, Hip Press or a Three Way Row so instability does not become an injury concern. When working with young athletes we avoid heavy spinal loading. For example, if we were looking at a high school linebacker, what is the point of loading his spine? Every tackle he makes loads his spine, so what is the point in heavily loading his spine when he isn’t playing football? Does the inherent risk of injury from sport need to be prevalent in the athletic development program too, or is there a safer more effective way to train? Since our primary goal is to keep everyone we train, athlete or not, healthy we take some extra precautions that you may not see in other areas of the strength realm, such as preferring a Hip Press to fatigue over a barbell back squat to fatigue. Lastly, you will notice some of these overloads have a higher rep scheme than some of your typical strength workouts. This is not by accident. Since the goal is to take the athlete to total failure it is virtually impossible to do so without a decent number of repetitions and load. So without further discussion here are a few of the overloads we use: 747s, progressions, and 1 ½s.
747s: Perform 7 repetitions of a weight that is challenging (you could probably only perform about 8 or 9 reps), rest 30 seconds, then perform 4 reps of a higher weight (usually 15 pounds heavier for the upper body, and 25 for the lower) rest 30 seconds and then perform 7 reps with the original weight. If performed properly the last few reps of the last set should be very challenging. These are a great way to get an athlete to really gut out the last few reps, and test their mental toughness. Try this protocol on seated rows! For more information on this protocol watch this video: