When it comes to progress, effort matters most. Almost any training program will generate some positive results – so long as the kids using it are motivated and engaged. Just completing a workout is not good enough. The athlete must intentionally push his or her limits. The old adage, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you,” rings true when it comes to athletic development. Complacency is the enemy of progress. If your athletes aren’t continually pushing themselves to improve, they won’t. So how do you motivate your athletes to dive in and give it their all each and every day?
When push comes to shove, kids will sweat, bleed, and fight tooth and nail for “points” – especially athletes. It’s in their nature to want to win, and this desire is the greatest motivator when it comes to hard work. If you inject an element of competition into training, your athletes’ engagement will increase dramatically. This, in turn, will generate better results.
You may be thinking that this is easier said than done. It is hard to balance motivation with work, fun with fitness. We offer that there are a number of ways you can easily add competition to your training without sacrificing anything in the process. Let’s take a quick look at 3 ways in which we here at PLT4M utilize competition for athletic development.
One way to introduce an aspect of competition into your weight training is through something we call “Work Sets”. Work sets allow you to foster competition and at the same time constantly monitor progress.
Work sets essentially function as a weekly testing of an athlete’s ability. On Squat Day, for example, an athlete may be assigned 3 work sets of 5 reps after his prescribed warm-up sets. He is tasked with completing all 3 sets with technical competency at the programmed load. If he is successful, he is told to bump his max up 5 pounds for the next week. If he just misses completion, the max is left alone and if he fails, the weight is dropped 5 pounds.
This way, we are always working towards the athlete’s true, in-the-moment ability and programming their lifts and loads accordingly. On top of that increased accuracy, it essentially pits the athlete against himself – him now vs him last week. Athletes don’t want to fail, be bumped down, or see a decline in their abilities. Even more so, they want to be able to tell their teammates that they succeeded. The “incentive” of work set completion adds focus and motivation to those sets that are so essential to growing strength and power.
Another way we like to add competition to our off-season lifts is through the age-old “Finisher” concept. The idea is simple, end every workout with a quick but brutal competitive test.
The way we do this is by folding together a few of our daily training goals into a mini metcon workout. For example, if we plan on working aerobic conditioning, single limb movement and strength, and core stability we may prescribe a finisher like the following:
3 Rounds, For Time:
40 Walking Lunge Steps
20 Butterfly Sit-Ups
Essentially we are taking 3 smaller pieces of the day’s training and putting them together in a high-intensity finisher. As it ends the workout, kids have no reason not to empty the tank. With the stipulation of trying to earn the best time, we motivate them to put forth full effort and spend less time overall. It also serves to make some of the less “fun” training components a bit more engaging. All the while, we are still accomplishing all of our specific training goals. Ultimately, we save time, push the athletes a bit harder, and make the training session more interesting.
Lastly, we build our entire off-season training programs around the idea of competition by utilizing our “Pillar” workouts. Our fourth day of training every single week is devoted solely to competition through individual, partner, and team MetCon workouts. In our previous 3 days we spent a good deal of time working on developing power, increasing mobility, and preventing injury. This fourth day is focused on metabolic conditioning, team building, and mental toughness.
Each of these Pillars is programmed with lightweight and bodyweight exercises to be done for time or for reps. Physiologically, we are building the athletes’ motors, the ability to perform consistently despite fatigue and high heart rate. We also design these workouts to be done as individuals, in partners, or in teams. Thus, each week we have teammates competing against one another, learning teamwork, and developing communication under stress. Over time, this type of intense buy-in and competition develops accountability throughout the program. It helps you build a winning culture amongst your athletes, and teaches them mental toughness.
It’s All About Motivation
By no means are the above concepts the only way to improve results in the off-season. The bottom line is, motivation is the true key to progress when it comes to athletic development. If your kids buy in, you will be successful. Whatever gets your athletes engaged should be pursued above all else.