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How many times has one of your athletes asked, "Coach, how come I'm not getting any stronger?"

The answer may be simple: The athlete may have reached a plateau or stopped doing anything to make himself (or herself) stronger.

Strength can be affected through natural physiological, biomechanical, and/or neurological advantages or through such key factors as age, degree of maturation, and overload.

Two of these factors - age and maturation - cannot be controlled by the player or the coach. The third - overload - can. Coaches should inform their athletes how each of these factors can impact their development.


A specific strength program will produce far better results for the average 17-year-old than it will for the average 15-year-old, and can continue doing so for several years.

Fact: Most athletes score their best gains in strength and lean muscular body weight between the ages of 17 and 21.


Early-maturing athletes can exhibit better physical gains than normally maturing athletes. A 15-year-old male whose voice has already deepened and who has a full beard may develop bigger and stronger muscles than a 17-year-old with peach fuzz on his face and a cackling voice.


Good, consistent work habits, based on the overload principle will produce steady strength gains. Overload is the foundation of all intelligently organized programs: Lift more weight, and/or perform more reps - and you'll grow stronger - it is as "scientific" as that!

The archives attest to the simplicity of the overload principle. Centuries ago in Ancient Greece, Milo of Croton trained for the Greek Olympics by hoisting a baby bull upon his shoulders and walking up and down a hill until exhausted.

Each day his muscles adapted to the ever:increasing weight of the bull. Milo continued this training regimen until the bull grew too heavy to lift. He grew stronger without the luxury of a strength coach, barbells, or fancy machines.

What Milo did have was the intelligence to use a progressively heavier weight each time he trained.

The modern coach might smile at Milo's "equipment," but he did prove how simple it is to gain strength.

Whenever athletes stop getting stronger, you must question whether they are using enough overload. If they are keeping accurate records (and they should be), you might check their progress. More often than not, you will find that they are lifting the same amount of weight for the same number of reps, workout after workout. In short, they are not doing anything to make themselves stronger.

In order to gain strength, they must expose the muscles to ever-increasing weight loads or reps without sacrificing good form anywhere in the process.

In every Redskin workout, our athletes must attempt to increase their weight load and/or number of reps for every exercise. We don't have "heavy day" and "light day" workouts.

We don't believe in "light workouts" and we never assume that athletes are getting stronger when they grunt and groan as they lift. It's possible for an athlete to work up a great sweat and leave the weight room with a bigtime "pump" - without having done anything to increase his strength.

Without overload, there is no reason for a muscle to get stronger. The muscles will simply adapt to the level of strength they are exposed to.

Let us suppose your athlete lifts 100 lbs. 10 times today. To get stronger in his next workout, he must attempt to lift 100 lbs. 11 times, or increase the weight to 105 lbs.

When you check his record, you find that he is not attempting to lift more weight or to do an additional rep. What he is doing is simply repeating an effort.

Moral: The system of sets and reps is not the key to getting stronger. Neither is the equipment you use. Strength gains will occur only when the essential overload is provided. The muscle must be forced to work harder each workout in order to gain strength.

Let us assume that you are having your athletes do three sets of eight reps. Check out one of your athletes. Record the amount of weight he is using for each set. Is he progressively increasing the resistance (weight) in each set, as follows:

Set #1 - 100 lbs. x 8 reps Set #2 - 110 lbs. x 8 reps Set #3 - 120 lbs. x 8 reps

Conclusion: The weight in Set #1 and Set #2 is too light. If the athlete is capable of completing 8 reps with 120 lbs. on the third set, it's obvious that the weight used in the first two sets is too light. It is not providing the necessary overload to stimulate an increase in strength. The time and energy being expended could be used more productively.

Another common training technique is using the same weight for all three sets, as follows:

Set #1 - 110 lbs. x 8 reps Set #2 - 110 lbs. x 8 reps Set #3 - 110 lbs. x 8 reps

What does the duplication of effort tell you about the weight used in the first set? It is obviously too light. More weight should have been used in the first set in order to ensure a strength gain. Maximum gains can never be obtained with submaximum weights.

For maximum overload and maximum strength gains, we suggest that you have your athletes warm up by performing as many sets as they want or need. You can then have them use as much weight as they can safely and properly handle in each set.

The athletes can follow the same procedure in performing the upperbody and lower-body exercises.

Our athletes do not waste a set or an exercise by duplicating an effort already performed. The intent of each set is to provide the necessary overload to stimulate an increase in strength.

We believe that too much time in too many weight rooms is being spent performing nonproductive exercises. Body builders, weightlifters, and fitness enthusiasts can afford to waste time and energy. Athletes who use strength training in their overall preparation for a sport cannot afford to waste time and energy on needless exercise.

A more logical and productive method of employing a three-set, eight-rep routine is through the progressively decreasing weight scenario shown below:

Set #1 - 130 lbs. x 8 reps Set #2 - 115 lbs. x 8 reps Set #3 - 95 lbs x 8 reps

We use as much weight as possible in the first set. If it calls for an all-out effort, the load must be lowered for the next and each succeeding set.

For the next workout, the athlete must add weight to each set in order to effect a strength gain.

Athletes will achieve steady progress with this kind of approach. Eventually they will level off until the maturation process enables them to resume recording strength gains.

Let me repeat: It is not the system you use that is important. You can use any system you are comfortable with and that best fits your athletes' needs - so long as you apply the overload principle to maximum advantage. Do not be satisfied with submaximal gains.

So, the next time one of your athletes asks, "Coach, how come I'm not getting any stronger? ", sit them down and tell them about Milo of Croton.

May the "Power" be with you!
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Title Annotation:strength in athletes
Author:Arapoff, Jason
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Oct 1, 1997
Previous Article:Your pre-game pep talk.
Next Article:Dealing with penalty kicks.

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