One thing I commonly see with athletes is an improper preparation for their training session. While it’s important to get under heavy loads and challenge your system’s limits, we want to maximize those opportunities through specific preparation pieces on the front end of our training sessions. In this post we are going to focus on “strength based” training sessions.
What constitutes a strength based training session?
A strength based training session is any session that cumulates with a heavy lift or maximal contraction. For example:
A. 10 min EZ warm up:
10 Cal AB
5/leg High box step up
20 sec Star Plank / Sid
B. Power Clean + Hang Squat Clean + Split Jerk every 90 sec x 8 sets; 4 @ 65-70%, 4 @ 70-75%
*speed based, feel fast and snappy
C. Back Squat @ 20X1; 6-5-4-3-2-2-2, rest as needed – all tough sets
D. EMOM x 10 minutes:
1st min- 8 GHRs @ 30X0
2nd min- 4-6 Strict T2B @ 2020
In this training session, the priority is the back squat sets, more specifically the three tough doubles. As a result, the pieces before those tough sets need to set the system up as best as possible.
How to prepare for a strength based session
When we think about “strength based” training sessions we want to instantly think: nervous system. Maximal, and near maximal, contractions are neurally driven. Thus, we need to excite and potentiate our nervous system to be able to coordinate all of the appropriate motor units for said contraction.
Let’s use a max deadlift of 450 pounds illustrate an easy to digest example. If you walked into the gym, did a few stretches, then put 135, 225, 315, then 405 on the bar and deadlifted it, that 405 set might “feel” much harder than it needed to be. The reasoning behind this, it’s very challenging to go from a 50-60% contraction to 90+% maximal contraction in a short period of time (for a seasoned athlete, a beginner is a whole different conversation). We need to prepare and properly build the system to “be able to” contract appropriately on that 90+% effort.
So, to give a concrete example of how I would prepare an athlete who was going to deadlift 405 with a max of 450 let’s take a look below:
A. 3 rounds EZ / Warm Up Pace:
10 Cal Row
10 Walking Lunges
10 GHD Hip Extensions
30m Double KB Front Rack Carry @ moderate load
B. Sprint Accelerations
50m x 4 sets, full rest – building pace over the 50m, last 10m near all out
C. Max Effort Reverse Med Ball Throw
1 rep every 20 sec x 15 reps @ 20# slam ball -emphasis on great hip extension
D. EMOM x 6 minutes:
2 TnG PC + 2 Low Hang Power Cleans + 2 TnG PJ; 3 @ 55-60%, 3 @ 60-65%
*speed based, feel fast and snappy
E. Deadlift @ 11X1; 1 rep @ 405# x 6 sets, rest as needed
*Build: 275 x2, 315 x 1, 345 x1, 365 x 1, 385 x 1 -reset b/t all reps, rest as needed
F. 10 min @ sustained pace:
20m Sled Push @ grind
40 sec Ring FLR
60 Weighted DU’s
In the above example, simple blood flow to start with an emphasis around the hips and anterior loading. These pieces will potentiate midline bracing leading to an improved ability to create intra-abdominal pressure (worth noting, some floor breathing based work beforehand could be a prudent addition to help further prep the brain and body for the bracing needed).
Then we move into sprint accelerations to help create fast hip extension, turning on the hamstrings and ass, and getting the nervous system more “excited.”
Next, we move into reverse med ball throws to utilize speed strength activities to further pattern hip extension. Next, a touch-n-go power clean complex at light loads to work and refine barbell cycling further prepping hip extension while building contraction volume in a pattern that is tested extensively in the sport of fitness.
Then we move into our main activity: tough singles at 90% of our max. Notice the buildup provided to help prepare the athlete’s nervous system for the work ahead. Now one potential point of contention could be the amount of volume and reps performed before the main sets. While this is a valid point, we have to remember the loads used in the movements preceding the tough singles: our bodyweight, 20# slam ball, low percentage work with a barbell. All of these will have a significantly less impactful response on the nervous relative to the 90% deadlifts.
In addition, the brain is strengthening and refining the motor pattern for hip extension with ALL of the reps accumulated before the tough deadlifts. When it comes time to pull 405 for 6 singles, the brain will know exactly what to do, what to brace, and how to do it.
If you're interested in seeing how Big Dawgs Games Athletes warm up for their training sessions, check out this blog!
- Identify the key point of the session; if its strength based, think nervous system preparation
- Great blood flow and movement specific work on the front end
- Prepare the pattern with lighter/faster variations
- Allow for an adequate build up to tough sets to prepare the brain for the voluntary contraction required
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