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Teaching and Scaling Depth in the Air Squat

The Air Squat. Arguably the single most important movement for young students and athletes to learn. Proper squatting is vital to both athletic performance and overall physical health. Teaching such a foundational movement should be simple right? Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

The problem we often encounter in many athletes is the inability to achieve proper depth. One of the 4 points of performance, it can be the most difficult for some to achieve without sacrificing the other 3. Rather than jeopardize foot placement, knee path, or maintenance of the lumbar curve, we instead scale and teach depth over time.

Here, Coach Max takes us through a simple but effective way of scaling the air squat in order to accommodate newer athletes and those having trouble with depth.

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Improve Results Through Competition

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.

Work Sets

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.

Finishers

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:

400m Run

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.

Pillars

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. 

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How to Teach the 3 Position Clean

Want to build more powerful athletes?

Most coaches would agree that incorporating lifts like the clean is a good start. The clean is an explosive, athletic movement, utilizing the entire body that can drastically increase power output. That being said, it is also a relatively technical movement that requires a good deal of coaching and practice to get fully comfortable with. Athletes with weak form will ultimately hold themselves back from reaching the whole of their potential. They will plateau due to form before a lack of strength, and they will develop inefficient movement patterns that will hold them back elsewhere.

As always, we preach better movement above all else, and it is no different here. If you want to maximize output, make sure your athletes are completely comfortable with each piece of the full movement.

Here we break down the clean into it’s 3 “Positions” and give you cues to help your athletes get the most out of every lift.

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Ankle Mobility for Squatting

Does your chest drop when you squat? Do your ankles rotate inwards? This ankle mobility stretch is for you.

One of the most common issues we see with athletes and their squat form actually stems from tight ankles, specifically the achilles tendon and calf muscle. If your ankle is too tight to maintain a perpendicular angle with the floor when your hips drop and knees drive out, your body will compensate. Either your ankles and knees will cave inwards to reduce the severity of the angle, or your chest will drop. For those of you that experience any of these problems when trying to go below parallel, take a few minutes each week and work on your ankle flexibility. Use this banded stretch, the wall stretch, or a foot board to increase your ankles range of motion and your squat will thank you!