Efficient Training in the Weight Room

By: Ryan Faer (@Ryan_Faer)

Running a strength-training program at the high school level is difficult enough for strength and conditioning coaches, let alone pure baseball coaches.

While there is no perfect or easy formula for a perfect training program, there are a few ways that you very easily take the unorganized chaos that usually ensues the gathering of 20-30 high school-aged student-athletes in a small space, and make it a well-oiled machine.

It all begins with efficiency; getting the most out of your workouts with the little time you will most likely have allotted for the weight room.

In the past 4 plus years that I’ve been working with high school baseball teams, I may not have found the ultimate training protocol, but through trial and error I have found some of the best (and worst) ways to maximize efficiency in the weight room.

Below I’ve included three surefire ways that you can begin to make your training more efficient in the weight room.

#1 – Utilize Multi-Joint Movements

Getting the most “bang for your buck” in the weight room begins with exercise selection – what exercises will provide the most value for your players as it pertains to achieving the desired training outcomes.
Ballplayers need lower-body strength and power, hip mobility, and core stability (among other acquirable adaptations). Exercises that can stress the body in order to illicit these adaptations will provide greater to your players than those exercises that are just “fillers”. Multi-joint movements (exercises that require range of motion from multiple joints simultaneously) are a great way to get more value out of your training sessions.
For example, a properly performed squat not only trains lower-body strength and power, but it also challenges hip mobility and core stability (as your trunk must stabilize proper posture under the load).  Between warm-up sets and work sets, utilizing a squat may take up a sizeable block of that days lift. But, it’s well worth utilizing because of its potential benefits to your players.
Now, consider the calf raise (a single-joint movement); while the calves are an integrated part of sprinting, throwing, and jumping, spending 5-10 minutes doing mindless calf raises (that only challenge the calves and ankles, not postural awareness, core stability, or any mobility) just isn’t as valuable.
Single-joint accessory or auxiliary movements like calf raises, biceps curls, etc. aren’t necessarily useless, but when time is limited in the weight room and value is vital, multi-joint movements are the way to go.

Take Home Idea: Make the bulk of your training sessions  multi-joint movements, and include “Extra Work” (made up of accessory/auxiliary exercises) for any players that get done early.

#2 – Utilize Active Rest

Rest and recovery time in between sets is key for eliciting the desired training effect. For example, sufficient rest is vital during strength and power phases, whereas short rest is most beneficial for hypertrophy phases (muscle gains).
But, in the case of strength and power, those longer rest periods (of 3-5 minutes) can eat up valuable training time. For instance, 4 sets of 5 repetitions on a squat may take 15-30 minutes. Dedicating 25-50% of your session to one exercise is going to leave a lot on the table. The solution to this problem is active rest.
Within the context of a raining session, active rest is pairing multiple movements or exercises together back to back in order to best utilize the time in between sets. So, during the 3-5 minutes in between your sets of, let’s say squats, you can incorporate another 1-2 exercises as well.
It’s important to note, however, that this isn’t just about randomly inserting exercises into your players’ rest times. You should still keep your training goals in mind. So, if you’re training for lower-body strength, you don’t want that same 4 sets of 5 repetitions (from the example above) to be followed by another lower-body exercise that compromises that rest time. If you do, you’re cutting the lower-body’s rest time down significantly.
Conversely, if you’re in a hypertrophy phase, stressing the muscles with short rest, and high volume is exactly what we want, so pairing multiple lower-body (or upper-body) exercises together may be beneficial.

Take Home Idea: Having trouble getting in enough mobility or core training? Using them as a part of active rest in between sets is a great, low intensity way to maximize your time in the weight room.

#3 – Understand That Performance Enhancement Isn’t Just in the Weight Room

One of the best ways to maximize your time in the weight room is to minimize the amount of time you have to spend on things that can be addressed out of the weight room. If you realize that performance isn’t just for the weight room, you can begin to truly maximize your time in the weight room and on the field.
Take movement quality for example: it’s the basis for staying healthy, feeling your best, and performing at a high level. The best strength-training programs make improving postural control and awareness a priority. But, constantly trying to make these improvements in the weight room, while your players are operating under loads and you’re ensuring player safety, will undoubtedly slow down progress, and be rather futile at times, especially for the less mature and less kinesthetically aware athletes.
But, if you can address postural control and awareness, movement quality, tissue quality, and/or core and cuff work out of the weight room, then that will make the entire performance enhancement process all the more efficient.
Warm-ups are the ultimate time to address some of these qualities. Not only can a dynamic warm-up lead to improved performance acutely, it can also elicit chronic mobility adaptations over time if performed properly and daily. The same goes for any other adaption or characteristic you’re trying to attain. If it’s important, do it with intent, and do it often – not just when you have the weight room.

Take Home Application: Want to work on core stability but always run out of time in the weight room? Incorporate some low-intensity core exercises in your warm-up. Doing this (without going to fatigue) will serve as “core activation”, and give you an added opportunity to coach your players through proper posture.

Like what you read? Check out more of Coach Faer’s work here: http://ryanfaer.com/

Efficient Training in the Weight Room Comment

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