The off-season is the ideal time to put on real size and build functional strength. Problem is, many high school athletes take the wrong approach and simply try to improve their appearance, performing isolation exercises and ignoring the things that will make them better athletes. So, it's no wonder why many kids show up weaker than they should be.
Here's a simple test to determine if you fall into this category. If you go into the gym and start banging out Curls for your first exercise, then you're training wrong. You should be doing a big and heavy compound movement, not an isolation exercise that works only one muscle.
The only isolation work you ever need to do is for the hamstrings, and that's largely because your hamstrings are involved in every step you take on the field. (We'll throw in some arm work toward the end of workouts, but it's by no means a primary goal.)
Four Essential Tips
So where do you start? Here are four primary pillars on which to focus your workouts:
- Perform big lower-body movements, such as Box Squats, Deadlifts, Barbell Lunges and hamstring work. Do single-leg exercises as well, and vary your exercises every two weeks.
- Perform upper-body compound barbell movements, such as the Bench Press, Shoulder Press, Cleans, rowing variations and Pull-Ups. Your main focus should be to build a solid foundation geared toward absolute strength.
- Perform a combination day when you focus on training with lighter weights and more reps per set. This should include exercises like Jumps, Sled Drags, Ropes and Med Ball work. You can also do barbell movements, such as Cleans, Squats and Thrusters, but keep the weight light.
- Always work hard, even if you aren't maxing out. Performing an exercise with light weight or for a high number of reps does not mean it's a low intensity movement.
3-Day Workout Plan
Based on these guidelines, here's a 3-day workout plan for you to follow. To continue making gains, switch up the exercises every two weeks. Have three variations of this plan and you'll continue to make progress.
Day 1 - Monday
- Close-Grip Bench - 3x4, 2x1 (near max singles)
- Standing Military Press - 4x5
- Barbell Row - 4x5 (dumbbells or a rowing machine will suffice)
- Hang Cleans - 3x8
- Superset: Pull-Ups - 3xmax + Push-Ups 3xmax
- Core work
Day 2 - Wednesday
- DB Incline Press - 3x15
- Pull-Ups - 3xmax
- Barbell Thrusters - 3x6
- Box Jumps - 3x15 (use a 24-inch box)
- Bicep Curls - 3x15
- Core Work
Day 3 - Friday
- Box Squat - 3x4, 2x1 (near max singles)
- Deadlift - 4x3
- Hamstring Curls - 4x15
- Tire Flips - 3x6
- Bulgarian Split-Squats - 4x6 each leg
- Core Work
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