Coaching Education Approaches: Some Thoughts on the Instruction of Weightlifting
In my opinion, there are many aspects that need to be considered when it comes to coaching. These include the following topics:
What do I want to teach? How will I go about doing so? Will I use books or videos? What kind of content will I provide for students/students?
How much time do I have available for instruction? Do I have enough time to teach all of them?
Is it possible to meet with students in person at some point during the year? If not, how can I make up for it?
How do I determine if a student is ready for instruction? Can they demonstrate their ability through actual training or competition results?
How do I evaluate my own abilities? How do I measure my success in teaching? Do I just rely on the student’s self-evaluation?
What is the best way to keep track of what I am doing with each student? Are there any tools that could help me accomplish this task better than paper and pencil?
7) Are there any students with extreme mental conditions (e.g. diagnosed learning disabilities)?
If so, do I feel confident in my ability to coach them? What is my strategy for dealing with these types of students?
What type of personalities will I be working with? Do I have experience with different types of people, or is this going to be a new challenge for me?
These are just some of the questions that might go through a coach’s mind when they are getting prepared to teach weightlifting. Obviously, the questions would be different for coaches in other sports (e.g. football, soccer, etc), as well as different for coaches who work with younger children verses teenage/adult students. However, these questions still arise.
In the past, I used to just rely on my knowledge and experience when dealing with some of these issues. I have been working with weightlifting for over almost 2 decades now. I have worked with many different students, some of which were truly special. Over time I was able to develop a system that worked (and still works) for me.
This article will focus on a few of those key issues. I will also offer a few suggestions that I hope will be useful for coaches either starting out, struggling with certain issues, or just wanting to improve their own practices.
What Do I Want To Teach? How Will I Go About Doing So?
Before jumping in and offering instruction to anyone, it is important that you know what you are trying to accomplish.
What do you want your students to learn? What is the goal?
This might seem like a silly question, but I have seen many coaches not really having a goal in mind. For example, a coach may say that they are teaching weightlifting to get student-athletes to be better at weightlifting and improve their technical abilities. While this is somewhat of an achievable goal, it really does not go anywhere near far enough. This goal can be summed up in one simple word: technique.
What about exercises? What about competition? What about training methodology?
There is no mention of anything else.
“Technique”, while important, is not the only factor. It is certainly a key factor in weightlifting, but there are other skills and abilities that need to be developed.
For example, what should a weightlifter’s training look like? How should athletes prepare for competition? Should technical training always precede physical training or can they be combined at times?
These questions can have different answers for different lifters based on their skill and experience level. There is not one definite answer, but a coach must recognize the pros and cons of different styles of training.
Furthermore, there are other issues that need to be considered such as the age and maturity level of your students. For example, what might be appropriate for a college-aged male might not be as useful for a high school-aged female. The same could be true for younger children. Even the teaching methodology can change.
For example, a hands-on learning style would be more beneficial for a younger athlete, while older and more mature athletes may learn better when given more independence.
What is most important is a coach knowing which style to use and when. This takes experience and knowledge, neither of which can be overlooked.
Practice Organization And Management
How you organize your practice will depend on many factors, but the most important is the makeup of your group.
Who are your students? How old are they? Are they at the same level or do you have a wide range of experience and abilities? Are they all in the same place developmentally and emotionally?
These are all important questions, because you need to tailor your practice structure to meet the needs of your students based on their personalities, maturity levels, and experience.
One mistake that I see many coaches make is trying to emulate the structure of another coach’s practice. This works well for some, but fails miserably for others. What might work for one lifter or team does not guarantee the same results for another. Coaching is as much an art as it is a science and must be treated as such.
The key is figuring out what your students need in order to progress and then organizing and implementing a plan to achieve those goals. There are no shortcuts.
Now, with that being said, here are some common practice structures and the pros and cons of each.
The Hour-Long Warming Up
Probably one of the most inefficient practices that I have ever seen is the age-old tradition of having a team meet at a gym at 6am, do a couple of light stretches and spend the next four hours warming up. They then leave at 10am after spending two hours lifting.
Now, I can certainly appreciate the dedication of these lifters, but a better structure could be created that would yield better results in less time. The goal of this structure is to maximize time spent productively and minimize unproductive time.
The first step is to keep your warm-ups light. Don’t do a bunch of jumping jacks, running laps or anything else that burns you out before you start lifting. Keep it simple. A couple of light stretches to get the blood flowing and you’re ready to start the heavy lifting.
The next step is to pick lifts that allow you to be efficient with your time. For most, this will involve picking the big core lifts like squat, bench, and deadlift. It would also involve putting these lifts first in your workout.
Because it’s been proven over and over in studies that the biggest factor in determining how fast your muscles fatigue is due to the type of muscle fiber they have. If you’re interested in the details of this, I suggest you pick up a copy of Supertraining by Mel Siff, which is a great book on training theory.
Most rugby players will be fast-twITCH fiber types. This means that they fatigue quickly, but also recover quickly. Due to this, they need to keep the weights relatively light and focus on keeping a high volume. The more reps you can do, the better.
If you’re interested in getting really big, this may not be the practice for you. If you’re interested in getting really strong while gaining some hypertrophy, then this might fit the bill.
Because the big lifts take longer to perform, you’re going to have to pick one or two accessory lifts and keep those sets lower in reps. This will allow you to finish your workout in an hour while still giving you enough time to get some good lifting in.
One of the big differences with this structure is the fact that lifters are often beat by the time they get around to condition training. With this in mind, we like to keep our conditioning a little shorter. A good 30 minute session 2-3 times a week is all that’s necessary. If you find yourself too fatigued to give a good effort, take an extra rest day.
The biggest factor in this type of training is consistency. The more often you can train, the better your results will be and the more gains you will experience. This is why most of our members train 5-7 days per week and twice a day on weekends. If you’re really dedicated to getting stronger, this might be the program for you.
It really allows for maximum gains and has been proven effective, but only if you put in the work.
The Macro Cycle
This is a concept that we invented at the gym, but it’s been adopted by several teams across the nation. The idea behind a macro cycle is to create a structured plan that will push the players to their absolute limit and prepare them for the intense competition in regionals and beyond.
The macro cycle lasts between 8-12 weeks and is separated into three distinct parts: the shock phase, the accumulation phase, and the realignment phase.
The shock phase is exactly what it sounds like. It’s designed to shock the body and push it past its previous limitations. This is done through lifting at near 100% all the time. We like to keep our lifts high, around eight reps, but if an athlete can do more, we don’t discourage it (this is the shock phase, after all).
The next phase, accumulation, is done to allow the body to adapt to this new stimulus you’ve provided. The weights are still kept relatively high, but not as high as the shock. We like to keep this in the three to five range for most exercises. The third and final phase, realignment, is done to allow the body to reach its new potential.
At this point, some of the weights will be lowered and more attention will be paid to accessory lifts.
This type of macro cycle is a bit more complex than our other programs, but it yields excellent results. This is what we use for the Rage:04 team and it’s what most high level teams across the nation are adopting. If you’re looking for a program that will push you to your limit and beyond, this is it.
Execution of the program is simple. Pick a lift, say bench press, and follow the macro cycle for that exercise. Move on to the next exercise, squat, and repeat. Once you’re finished with the cycle for all of your exercises move onto a new one.
The following pages contain some example cycles. Pick one that matches your level of experience and go to it.
I’m sure you’ve heard about (or even tried) some of the crazy programs that people use in an attempt to get bigger: brutal sets, drop sets, supersets, etc.
Sources & references used in this article:
Instructional model development to enhance critical thinking and critical thinking teaching ability of trainee students at regional teaching training center in … by SA Vong, W Kaewurai – Kasetsart Journal of Social Sciences, 2017 – Elsevier
Educational needs of elite US national team, Pan American, and Olympic coaches by D Gould, J Giannini, V Krane… – … in physical education, 1990 – journals.humankinetics.com
A comparison of two instructional methods of teaching the power clean weight training exercise to intercollegiate football players with novice power clean experience by RM Gentry – 1999 – vtechworks.lib.vt.edu
Reflective practices in teaching and coaching by C Mallett – … inquiry and problem-solving in physical education, 2004 – books.google.com
A teaching progression for squatting exercises by LZF Chiu, E Burkhardt – Strength & Conditioning Journal, 2011 – cdn.journals.lww.com