So we’re in week 11 of 12, and the guys are looking and feeling good. I’ll spare a bit of information in this post as the lads are yet to fight so we’ll see how that goes before I really assess things. But here is a rough idea of what I tried to achieve in the last couple of months.
I did two sets of functional tests on the guys using the overhead squat and inline lunge protocols. This is an area I’m still learning a lot about although everyone I know who does it says that you only really get the eye for this after doing a few hundred athletes. I’m a way off that but I still found this a very useful tool for diagnosing structural weaknesses and thinking about programme design for the guys.
Obviously, I wanted to make everyone stronger. More strength equals better performance, but also less injuries, more speed and power and more ladies after the show. I reckon the guys have achieved the first bits but are just too fugly for the last bit. For this training period, I tested three times, once on October 6th, once on October 28th and once on December 6th. The final test should have been in late November but due to a couple of guys being a little sick I decided to hold it out until yesterday. Results wise, there was a significant improvement from almost everyone, particularly in their weaker areas. From the first test to the third test for example, one athlete massively increased every single one of his upper body scores, and he started on what I would have called an reasonable base of 5/24/5, and went to 12/47/16 (pull ups, push ups, i-rows).
I screwed up a little by not being able to accurately assess lower body strength. Initially I had planned to use the counter movement jump but our ceiling isn’t high enough. I decided to do it outside and pretty much every time I scheduled it, the rain came. Then on the one good day we had, I went outside to find a suitable wall for marking and would you believe it, the whole building has fortacrete blocks which would have made it impossible to mark. So eventually I decided to use the standing long jump as the test for the lower body, but because I’d delayed this long, this only happened at the second test. There were good improvements between the second and third tests from the guys but I would have liked to have seen what the first night scores were. The increases were between 15cm and 40cm for the 4 weeks tested.
There were 3 phases to the strength test. The first was a twice per week, unweighted circuit block of 3 weeks, plus one day’s conditioning on a Saturday. This was followed by an unload week, and then a second phase of circuits with increased resistance for 3 weeks, followed by an unload. The final 3 weeks were more intense, with one circuit replaced by a high intensity cardio session, and the other a strength endurance session.
The biggest difficulty I faced was the micro management of the entire system. It was giant, unmitigated pain in the ass. Sometimes I felt like part office manager, part psychologist, and part dietician. This was only for ten guys! How do large squads do it? I suppose they have more than one guy in charge for a start. Getting people stronger and fitter was easy, managing their attendance and mindset was the hard part. Some nights guys bounce into the gym and others they look like they’d need Prozac to train. There were endless text messages and emails saying that guys couldn’t make it due to work, family, illness, injury… well, maybe not endless, but some, and they always seemed to happen on a night when I wanted the whole team together.
Anyway, it’s over now for the most part. This week is easy by comparison which is good as I’ll be up to my eyes with organisation. Some of the guys will have to make weight, but only one of them will have a real battle to do it but I’m confident he’ll be fine. In fact, I’m confident all of the guys will be fine. They’ve stuck, for the most part, to the things they were told to do and have seen the benefits in their tests and their fitness. Could they have done better as individuals? Of course. You can always do better. I’ll do better next time and so will they. That’s the point of the programme I’m putting in place, the details of which I told the guys yesterday and I’ll let everyone know about soon. I’m pretty excited about 2009.