I’m going to share with you my experiences in coaching athletes for over two decades, focusing on the changes I’ve seen along with the lessons I’ve learned. Now, these may not be the changes you’ve seen or experienced, so this article is by no means meant to stand as a be-all and end-all statement or an assumption of what is happening elsewhere. I’ve seen a different culture with regard to strength & conditioning when I visit places like Ohio, Texas, North and South Carolina, and Indiana. These are my journey and experiences in New Jersey, and I hope you can learn something from these lessons.
I began coaching in the winter of 1995. In my first year as a trainer, I worked predominantly with adults in a hospital fitness center, and then during the summer of 1996, a few parents brought their teenage athletes to train with me as well.
The teenage boys were actually quite easy to train, and I thought nothing of it—I taught them squats, pull-ups, bent-over rows, military presses, and all the basics. Jumping into basic barbell and dumbbell exercises was easy, and they all moved with no apparent “problems.” Their backs were flat on all ground-based lifts, and nobody struggled with strength or mobility. Nobody had “tight ankles” or “tight hips.”
The girls did all the same exercises except pull-ups; instead, they performed one-arm rows, lat pulldowns, and cable rows. None of these athletes struggled to move correctly. Maybe I was lucky with these kids in the summer of ’96, or perhaps fit and athletic kids were more the norm in the mid-’90s? I personally don’t recall classmates in the late ’80s and early ’90s struggling to do push-ups or run a mile for phys ed class or sports.
My time at the hospital fitness center taught me how to communicate and work with adults with unique personalities and different fitness levels. With my background teaching (health and physical education) and coaching wrestling, I felt at ease when I trained athletes who came in looking for a performance edge because I had experience working with such a wide variety of fitness levels and personalities. In the mid-’90s, multisport athletes were also the norm, and many of the athletes I trained at the hospital fitness center were two-sport athletes.
The New Millennium
Fast forward to 2002—I began training athletes in my parent’s backyard, in our garage, and at local playgrounds. Similar to before in the mid-’90s, the training was basic and modeled after Rocky movies and golden-era bodybuilding: barbells, dumbbells, and calisthenics. I had no trap bar, slant boards, or special equipment to accommodate someone’s lack of mobility—because none of these athletes struggled with mobility. They all deadlifted with a straight bar, conventional style, and no one had a round back while deadlifting because high school athletes were showing up with a solid foundation of strength.
I also didn’t know athletes needed an intro phase of training or unilateral training for six weeks or any other “rules” we have created since the internet started. All of the athletes I trained sprinted hills without me getting into wall drills or sprint mechanics. I pointed to the hill, and they sprinted. I demonstrated “box jumps” onto a picnic table, as that was our only option. Most could jump onto the picnic table, and the rare few who couldn’t jump high enough would jump onto a park bench instead.
Pull-ups? I didn’t have pull-up bars, but we had trees in my backyard, so the athletes did pull-ups from the tree branches. These athletes were wrestlers and football, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, and baseball players. With the wrestlers, I threw a beach towel over the branches for added grip strength, and they did towel pull-ups. No one had to do recline rows. We all thought it was normal to be strong enough to do pull-ups in high school, including the football players who weighed over 200 pounds. We thought nothing of it. Calisthenics was a normal activity.
Every coach, from youth to the high school level, had athletes doing push-ups, jumping jacks, and sit-ups as part of a warm-up. My physical education classes in middle and high school always had push-ups and crunches in the warm-up. “Fitness Day” was once a week, and we ran. I don’t recall my phys ed teacher giving students an option to walk the entire class. The option was to run or walk a lap for a C grade. If you wanted a B, you had to run 1 mile non-stop; for an A, you had to run the entire class. Again, I grew up learning that being fit enough to run a mile was a normal activity.
Around 2010, I began to see some changes that I will describe below, along with how we can push to solve this problem of athletes being unprepared, not just physically but also psychologically.
The De-Evolution Era
After the period of roughly 2010–2012, I noticed there was something different about the athletes I was working with compared to those of my earlier years in coaching. I call this time “the de-evolution of the athlete.” It’s something I’ve watched happen as a strength coach in both the private sector and the high school realm since 2019. It’s also something I pick up on simply by seeing the physiques of athletes who compete in sports today. In a nutshell: athletes have gotten weaker. Certainly, some young teenagers are strong and fit, and often they’ve been training at a private facility throughout their younger years. But never before have I seen so many athletes unable to perform a push-up coming into high school.General fitness goes beyond training for competition. We need kids to thrive throughout the season instead of breaking down physically and mentally, says @ZEvenEsh. Click To Tweet
If you have ever listened to Jim Wendler, he often talks about how high schoolers should have basic fitness levels, regardless of whether they are athletes. This all starts at home, in my opinion. Kids should be able to run 1 mile and perform push-ups and pull-ups. Instead, I am seeing athletes sign up for combat sports such as football and wrestling who cannot do ONE push-up. Unable to run 1/4 mile without collapsing.
This is a scary situation, as kids are signing up for a sport without giving much thought to what it takes to be prepared. Athletes need overall fitness to physically and mentally handle the rigors of practicing every day and competing throughout the season. General fitness goes beyond training for competition. We need kids to thrive throughout the season instead of breaking down physically and mentally.
NEVER Underestimate How Weak Incoming Athletes Are… and Create an Intro Phase for Your Athletes
Seeing this decline in strength led me to create introductory phases at The Underground Strength Gym and implement this same system at my high school (as well as while I was at the collegiate level). From this intro phase, we transition to the intermediate phase, and then eventually, we get athletes performing the training that I believe is where they need to be to compete at the varsity level in high school.
I suggest you do the same—essentially, reverse-engineer what it takes to get athletes to a place you want them to be. Even if your philosophy or exercise/coaching style is different from mine, simply create regressions of the training so you can safely and effectively build up the athletes in a manner that also builds them up emotionally/mentally. Many young athletes lack confidence, and one of the best ways to combat this is to get them to experience success every day. If the training is too intense or the exercises are too complex to learn, they will feel defeated and likely quit. Slow and steady wins the race.
An intro phase focuses on GPP and building muscle (aka body armor)/introducing athletic movements that are easy to learn and teach. This means we use plenty of bodyweight drills, basic gymnastics tumbling and animal crawls, dumbbells, kettlebells, med ball training, sleds, and light resistance bands.
Here’s a sample intro session after a dynamic warm-up, including light sleds, one-arm KB carries (suitcase and rack position), and band work for shoulder health and strength.
- 1A) Wheelbarrow Hand Walk (Partner holds ankles or uses glute ham roller) 4 x 50 ft
- 1B) Recline Row or Pull-Ups 4 x Submax Reps
NOTE: if the athlete struggles on the partner wheelbarrow/hand walk, we regress to the bear crawl or perform lateral push-up hand walks for 15 ft left and right.
- 2A) KB Farmer Walk 3 – 4 x 100 ft (Emphasize proper body position/posture when picking up & putting down weights)
- 2B) Squat Jumps 3 – 4 x 5 reps (Hold the last rep at mid-point for 5 seconds iso hold)
- 3A) Sled Push 2 x 100 ft
- 3B) Hammer Curls 2 x 10
The above looks extremely simple, and it is! But for the athletes today who struggle to do one push-up, this is perfect. The dynamic warm-up includes skipping, side shuffles, walking lunges, animal walks of all types, one-leg hops, frog jumps, etc. Our warm-up is where we segue into our speed, acceleration, deceleration, and some jump training as well.
Benching Before Push-Ups?
I have found that our female athletes and heavier boys struggle with push-ups. They barely bend their elbows, and their entire trunk/core sags. Don’t be afraid to implement dumbbell exercises such as benching on flat and incline, one-arm military presses, and lying triceps extensions to build these pushing muscles.
My friend who coaches at a high school said he prefers benching before push-ups for this exact reason. Again, it’s up to you. You should assess what your athletes need and create a program that is best for them physically and mentally. I also understand that training large versus small groups will change your exercise selection because at the high school level, we need to make sure the training has flow, or there will be lots of standing around.
Here is a sample intro workout for my freshman football team that we did two weeks in:
- 1A) Pause squats x 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (three-count pause at bottom)
- 1B) Push-ups x 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
- 1C) Alternate forward lunges x 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, each leg
- 2A) Squats jump 2 x 5 (hold last rep for a five count in bottom)
- 2B) Reverse lunges 2 x 5/5
Six Rounds of:
- 1A) Chest support row x 6 reps
- 1B) KB farmer walks x 100 feet
- 1C) Squat jumps x 6 reps
- Finished with hill sprints for 3 x 100-foot walk down the hill and sprint back up
In the training session before this, the players learned how to DB bench. I had three benches on an incline and three on flat. They did a very similar session, which is broken down below:
- 1A) DB bench x 6 reps
- 1B) Squat jump x 6 reps
- 1C) Med ball or KB farmer walk x 100 feet
- 2A) BB or DB curls x 10, 8, 6, 4, 2
- 2B) Push-ups (skill guys) x 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 OR one-arm military press (anyone struggling with push-ups) x 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 each arm
Another tip that has helped our athletes a lot: tell them to do calisthenics every day at home. Don’t worry; no one will “overtrain” from push-ups. I tell the big guys to hold the top or mid-range of a push-up for MAX time. Iso holds are great for building strength, and you’re also instilling a culture of commitment, preparation, and work ethic when athletes do extra on their own without a coach or parent telling them what to do.
On the larger timeline of events, you can see when smartphones became the norm around 2010, and year-round travel and club teams also exploded during this era. This was a pivotal time, as we began to see fewer multisport athletes, and smartphone/internet access seemed to push the speed of skill acquisition for younger athletes. In my opinion, this early specialization in sport is where we see young athletes with greater skill than I would see pre-2010, but we are also seeing these imbalances, mobility issues, and “pain.” It’s not unusual for baseball players to mention sore biceps, sore shoulders, an aching back, etc.
The abundance of club sports that push year-round training in almost every sport (baseball, wrestling, basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc.) also creates athletes/families who are “too busy” to strength train and protect their bodies from the excessive wear and tear of sports. When we have athletes performing club sports for 3–6 months in addition to their sports season, we have athletes who are accumulating a volume of sport 2–3 times greater than the days of multisport athletes.
For example, in high school during the 1990s and early 2000s, a baseball player would throw three months every year. Now, they throw nine months a year; in four years, that is 36 months of mileage on the arm and body versus 12 months of mileage.If an athlete feels better from an exercise, we don’t wait for research to prove its effectiveness. Our research is on the floor when coaching and training, says @ZEvenEsh. Click To Tweet
Keep this in mind when training your athletes because we must now become experts at helping an athlete achieve longevity in a world where overuse injuries and pain are becoming the norm.
Picking up on this communication from athletes, we began focusing on a lot of unilateral work in our warm-ups. Additionally:
- We address shoulder health with band pull-aparts, face pulls, and hanging leg raises to traction the shoulders and back.
- We also teach kids how to foam roll because they feel better from rolling out. If an athlete feels better from an exercise, we don’t wait for research to prove its effectiveness. Our research is on the floor when coaching and training.
- We often implement one-arm KB carries and side planks to stabilize and strengthen the trunk. Athletes and their parents call this “core,” so we use their language because they believe in the program, and it builds confidence in the athlete.
Before 2010, the majority of my athletes were athletic and often two-sport athletes. They picked up skills in new exercises quickly and rather easily compared to many of the athletes I see today. The athletes pre-2010 showed up with a solid base of fitness and strength, and calisthenics were not a struggle for 90% of these athletes. These athletes often didn’t specialize in one sport until 11th grade, and even then, many continued to play two sports throughout high school.
Part of this could have been the fact that I was only in the private sector at that time—even though it was my garage, we attracted a unique type of athlete, someone determined and motivated to get better.
Our football players would play pick-up basketball in the spring a couple of times a week (we called this “street ball”). Pick-up basketball was their “speed and agility.” Some may argue that there is no skill development with street play, but I disagree. Speed and change of direction can certainly be coached skills, but coaches often implement too many closed-loop drills that don’t significantly transfer to sport. Street ball and other pick-up games breed intensity, competitive drive, and thinking for yourself without a coach constantly telling you exactly what to do and how to do it.Some people may argue that there’s no skill development with street play, but I disagree, says @ZEvenEsh. Click To Tweet
Before 2010, “speed and agility” wasn’t on my radar because our athletes were active on the field, the streets, and the court all year. Parents and kids didn’t request speed and agility. They didn’t request “core strength” and “first step quickness.” They wanted to get stronger, and they wanted to build size. The buzzwords began to be used after 2012 as social media exploded and hype videos became the craze.
My first gym (home gym business started in 2002, and warehouse gym in 2007) was located in Edison, New Jersey. The athletes I trained often had jobs on the weekend mowing lawns or working for a contractor, pushing wheelbarrows filled with sand and carrying cinder blocks and bricks. They were “strength training” without even knowing it.
I grew up in Edison and began mowing the lawn around age 8 or 9. Biking and running were a daily form of transportation all year round, whether I was going to school or meeting up with my friends. When kids grow up in towns like this, they have an advantage; because they are working in the early years, they build tremendous GPP levels.
Today, when kids get their driver’s licenses, they don’t often look for a job that involves manual labor. They don’t try to start their own lawn care business. They want to work for Uber Eats or something similar that is easy and convenient and has a flexible schedule so they can work when they want and choose their hours. The smartphone has made all of us fans of convenience, and it doesn’t always work in our favor. Having everything available at our fingertips has made many of us lazier, including our youth.
Some rural areas will certainly hang on to that blue-collar work ethic. However, once smartphones became popular, bringing with them convenience and speed (ordering food from your phone, getting information on YouTube, etc.), I noticed a decline in the strength and athleticism of teenagers.
If you’re a coach, this is crucial to understand. My advice to other coaches is never to underestimate just how weak and deconditioned teenagers are today. There have been hospitalizations and deaths during “conditioning workouts” run by sport coaches and even D1 strength coaches who try to push kids too far too soon. This tends to happen during the summer or after winter break.My advice to other coaches is never to underestimate just how weak and deconditioned teenagers are today. Click To Tweet
More than 20 years ago, a wrestling coach gave me advice that I will always remember. This coach was a physical education teacher who also coached football and baseball in a blue-collar town where the kids were known for being tough; his advice then shocked me because I was young. He said, “Zach, when I first began coaching wrestling, I would lose a lot of athletic kids who could have become great wrestlers, but I broke them down and destroyed them in the first two weeks. Now, my first two weeks are easy, and I make sure they leave wanting to come back.”
I implement this advice with all new athletes, regardless of age. As I keep emphasizing, over the past 12 years, the majority of incoming freshmen struggled to do ONE push-up. They need a slow build-up process.
Below is a sample intro training session for new athletes for reference.
Large Group Prep: 2–3 Rounds of:
- 1A) Pause squat x 5 reps (five-count hold at the bottom to emphasize depth and proper body position/posture)
- 1B) Push-ups x 5 (if easy, give the athlete the opportunity to do 10)
- 1C) Lunges (forward one set, reverse the next set) x 5/5
- 1D) Recline row x 5
Notice how the reps are kept to five. The following week we will do 6–8 reps, and the next week there’s an option to get to 10 reps.
Prep Part 2 (More Power): 2–3 Rounds of:
- 2A) Squat jumps x 5 (hold last rep in landing position for five counts)
- 2B) Vertical pogo jumps x 15 seconds
- 2C) Side/side pogo jumps x 15 seconds
- 2D) Lunge iso hold x 15/15
- 1A) DB or KB goblet squat 5 x 5
- 1B) Flat or incline DB bench 5 x 5 (I would prefer 10 reps here, but we have five adjustable benches and approximately 45 freshmen on the football team.)
- 2A) Chest support DB row 3 x 10
- 2B) One-arm DB military press 3 x 5/5
- 3A) DB reverse lunge 3 x 5/5
- 3B) DB or BB curl 3 x 10
- 4) Hill sprints 3 x ~100 feet
The sets and reps can vary. Once the athletes build some skill in the lifts—returning weights, organizing, etc.—we can adjust rep ranges. Giving them sets of 5 or 10 makes it easy for them to remember and minimizes confusion. New athletes are already nervous and a bit overwhelmed, so the key here is simplicity and effectiveness.
Freshman football trains three times weekly. One of the days, we start outside before going into the weight room. We perform a basic dynamic warm-up and then segue into calisthenics. After calisthenics, we hit our hill sprints and then some tag games to work real-time “speed and agility.” We play two, maybe three, games of Capture the Fox. To play this, start with four guys who are the wolves; the others take their shirts off and tuck half of it into the side of their shorts. Once a wolf captures a fox, the fox joins the wolf pack, and the game continues until they capture the last fox.
In the video above, I lined up the players side by side, and they had to race one another and curve around the trees. Racing breeds competition and challenges the athletes. It’s easy to overthink training and question if our skill guys and big guys need different things, but we must remind ourselves that these are high school kids. Ninety-three percent of them will NOT compete in college.We aren’t just training these athletes for the game; we’re training them to be able to get through an entire season. Let the specificity happen when they’re on the field of practice and competition. Click To Tweet
We need to develop a broad base of all-around athleticism and fitness. Being “in shape” makes them durable. Remember, we are not just training these athletes for the game; we are training them to be able to get through an entire season. Let the specificity happen when they are on the field of practice and competition.
Mindset and Attitude
The athletes I trained pre-2012 had a different mindset toward training than the athletes today. Strength was something they wanted and chased. It was an admirable trait that helped athletes earn the respect of their teammates and helped them develop self-confidence and self-respect. The athletes all seemed to understand that in athletics, it was a clear-cut advantage to be stronger than your opponent.
Phone calls from parents pre-2010 were requests to get their son or daughter stronger. Phone calls from parents post-2012 are where I began to hear buzzwords such as “core strength,” “first step quickness,” and “speed and agility.” Baseball parents also added the buzzword “arm care.” These were the parents of kids who couldn’t perform basic calisthenics. The travel teams added longer seasons, and athletes had less time to get strong because they were on the road, constantly traveling to play club sports in the off-season.
I learned to speak their language and give them a little of what they wanted and a lot of what they needed. At the high school level, it isn’t odd for me to give them options to choose an exercise once a day or give them the last five minutes to do “extra on your own.” You’ll see most kids doing curls or triceps pushdowns, but as time goes on, you’ll also see kids doing things like front squats, benching, and rowing for their extra.Today’s generation loves to have some autonomy. This builds their confidence and keeps them coming back for more. Keep that in mind and play the long game, says @ZEvenEsh. Click To Tweet
Today’s generation loves to have some autonomy. This builds their confidence and keeps them coming back for more. Keep that in mind and play the long game.
Before social media, the “influencers” for athletes were the strongest athletes at their school or in the private facility. The athletes who trained before the advent of social media were yet to be exposed to “online influencers” and the infinite marketing dollars that get put behind the most popular information athletes come across today. There was admiration and a sense of pride if you were stronger than someone on your team or in the same gym/weight room. There was pride in how much weight you could lift.
Today, with technology, we can measure more than the weight on the bar, which is an advantage for driving competition. Teenagers today will compete when they see numbers, whether it’s a flying 10, bar speed, or bar weight.
At my high school, I currently do NOT have any technology. I have to get creative to inspire competition, but not at the expense of poor technique.
Don’t confuse the measure of strength pre-2012 with the ability to move a barbell for a 1RM—strength was measured in many ways, such as racing against someone on a sled for 50–100 feet or seeing who could push the heaviest sled. The weight on the squat bar was one thing, but comparing two athletes on a box jump (who could land with less of a knee bend?) and seeing the impact that squats had on their sprint time, racing against others, or the height of a tire jump inspired them to earn more strength.
If someone ran faster and was also stronger in certain lifts, this was explained to the kids. If someone could lift heavier but was slower, then bar speed and showing up to train on Dynamic Effort/Speed days became the topic of conversation.
Today, the word strength is often viewed as a negative. Strength is being demonized by many people, including “strength coaches.” I hear talk of how being too strong is some sort of common problem we are dealing with. Over the past 3 1/2 years, I’ve trained around 150–200 high school athletes and 25–35 middle school athletes every day. I have yet to struggle with athletes being “too strong.” Seeing so many athletes on a daily basis has only confirmed to me that we need high school athletes focused on becoming GREAT at the basics.
Social media influences coaches to share advanced, flashy exercises/drills when it’s not what these teenagers need. In fact, I often question if a video was posted for “more views and more likes” and if the coach would actually implement such an exercise. Do teenagers need weight releasers when benching and squatting? Do they need advanced training methods or training tools when they are struggling with push-ups, pull-ups, full-range squats, and consistency in the weight room? High school athletes don’t need these advanced methods or tools, but they do like them. And I am not a fan of using these tools unless the athlete has earned them through consistency and achieving some base levels of strength.Social media influences coaches to share advanced, flashy exercises/drills when it’s not what these teenagers need. I’m not a fan of using these tools unless the athlete has earned them. Click To Tweet
If I have a small group at my private facility, and the athletes are experienced lifters, sure, we might use chains and advanced methods. It excites them and motivates them. But when groups are larger, and the kids are weaker, there is no reason for the fancy. I find other ways to add some novelty, such as pause reps, speed reps, five-second eccentrics, etc.
Jim Wendler often reminds me how high school athletes should ALL be able to run a mile in seven minutes, including football linemen. It is a basic form of overall fitness for a teenager, but we’re so scared that it is not “specific” enough for their sport. Remember, a broad base of GPP/overall fitness helps the athlete recover from the daily practices—kids who are only trained with a focus on specificity tend to be the same kids complaining about their knees and ankles.
Learn and Understand the Difference
There is a difference between training athletes who train for free at a high school and those who are screened and whose parents pay for them to train. (I interview parents before their son or daughter can train with us.) Usually, the athletes at my private facility are locked in with nutrition and consistent with training and intensity. (But over the past two or three years, we have seen less consistency, even from those who pay for the training.)
One of the football coaches at my school reminded me, “Zach, you can’t treat these kids the same as your kids at The Underground.” He was right! After two decades in the private sector and coaching at the D1 level, I had to slow things down a bit and reduce the culture of intensity. I’m still getting better at trying not to scare away kids who could become great but need a slower approach.
They Will Judge You According to Your Instagram
The majority of warehouse gyms pre-2010 were a basic weight room—very few locations had turf. At my first location, all of our sprint work was done outside in a parking lot or on a neighboring patch of grass. There was no change of direction or agility work; it was all linear acceleration and speed work. Jumps were primarily performed indoors, and we would jump and land in multiple directions in addition to using boxes, hurdles, and benches to jump on, over, or off of.
In 2012, I opened the second location of The Underground Strength Gym in my hometown of Manasquan, New Jersey. I knew I needed turf, not just for the training I wanted to implement, but because parents of athletes were not asking about strength training—they wanted to see a place that looked like it was set up for speed and agility.
I’ve learned that social media has taught people to judge a book by its cover, and so your website, videos, and photos need to convey the message that people want to see. When a dad tells me his son needs “core strength,” I think about developing full-body strength. When a dad tells me his son needs “speed and agility,” I think about building overall athleticism.
Most videos on Instagram only get around six seconds of play time before the person scrolls to the next distraction (check your video insights and you will see this). The rare few (including coaches) will watch a 30-, 60-, or dare I say, 90-second video from start to end. The majority will not read the text explanation—we’re in a time and place when shock and awe capture attention.
How does this negatively impact coaches? People watch your work online, but only in bits and pieces. People are enticed by what they see. Is it a highlight reel? Is it a hype reel? Sure, the rare few will want to learn, and they will dig deep and watch your educational video from start to finish. But today, the majority are “too busy.”
Training at The Underground Had to Evolve
Today, we place a premium on all-around athleticism. In the early years, the focus was on “stronger, faster, tougher.” When asked about my training philosophy, I don’t say, “I’m a speed coach,” or “I’m a conjugate coach,” etc. I am a “do whatever the kids need” coach! In the videos from old (pre-2010) to the current day, you’ll notice the evolution in our training and my coaching cues/skills as I improved as a coach according to what athletes need both physically and psychologically.When asked about my training philosophy, I don’t say, ‘I’m a speed coach’ or ‘I’m a conjugate coach,’ etc. I am a ‘do whatever the kids need’ coach! Click To Tweet
I also want to emphasize that everything I’ve presented in this article (and everything I share) is done with the understanding that every training session is flawed. They are based on my experiences. I don’t expect my experiences to be the same as others, nor do I expect every training program to be perfect. There is truly no such thing as the perfect program.
If I was at your school or in your town, the experience might be different. That being said, competition is flawed! Nothing goes perfectly or according to plan during a game/match/competition. As a coach, you must keep that in mind and keep striving to improve in your efforts to give athletes the best opportunity through preparation. I always say if we expect greatness from the kids, then we must expect greatness from ourselves as coaches. Therefore, we must keep learning and improving.
Is “Speed and Agility” Bad? Absolutely Not. However…
If an athlete is in a “program” that is based entirely on speed and agility or based entirely on strength training, there will be many gaps in this athlete’s overall performance. This generation of athletes is missing the big picture of all-around athleticism, and there are a lot of coaches claiming to be “a speed guy” or a “strength guy.” Athletes need a well-balanced, athletic-based program, and the way to make this happen is for coaches to be a “whatever the athlete needs guy.”
In the field of sports performance, like other fields, we have the good and the bad. There are “quality control” issues with any field that doesn’t have much in the way of obstacles before entry. The bad comes from the fads and gimmicks that have no purpose or drills that are too advanced for a weak and/or inexperienced athlete. When an athlete comes to The Underground Strength Gym and previously spent 6–12 months elsewhere in a program that was only speed and agility, we see an athlete who was not trained outside of cone drills on turf. These athletes tend to lack muscle, strength, confidence, etc.
We are in a time when athletes need it all: strength training and speed and agility work. It is not one or the other; it is both. Both of these styles and methods build the athlete beyond the physical.
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