The Swing Block Method is one of the greatest ways to gain strength, and now we're showing high school coaches how to apply it in their weight rooms.
In my previous article explaining how the Swing Block Method works, I discussed using this method for upper-level athletes and made it clear that it wasn't appropriate for beginners. Since publication, I've received numerous emails and messages from high school and collegiate coaches with various questions, which has made me realize this new method needs to be made available in a way that it can be effectively used in a school setting where there is little time and a great number of athletes to cycle through.
What is often difficult for a high school coach is that the ability level in the weight room varies greatly from one student to the next. You can have a freshman who has never touched a barbell sitting next to a senior who has a training age of four years that's more skilled in the intended movements. In a perfect world each student would have their own program based on their ability and training age, but let's be honest — this isn't a perfect world, and when you have 40 minutes and 60 kids to cycle through, you're going to be lucky to even get them a pump on most programs. You have championships to win and to do that you need to maximize your kids' strength without killing them for the game Friday. This program is very easy to monitor progress with lots of testing so you can constantly watch to make sure your athletes are improving without any guesswork.
So here you go. The greatest strength gains your team has ever had are coming.
We are taking into account that your first few weeks will be during the summer when you can have more focus and time in the weight room and are not constrained to school hours. During these first few weeks, we will be getting the kids ready for the big weights, but you can't jump right into them. Consider this block to be priming the pump of greatness. We know that max effort training is proven to be the best method of strength gains, but we also must take an account that during a summer off, an athlete's nervous system isn't ready for maximum effort. During the first three-week block we will only care about movement patterns and priming the nervous system. Without proper movement patterns you will not get the most out of your athletes, no matter the program and no matter how experienced in training they are. A summer off will deteriorate their movement patterns. If you're picking up on this program after the season has already started, skip the first block and get right to the real work.
For our training, we will be focusing on compound movements that bring up the most muscle groups at once, plus jumping and the hang clean.
In the original Swing Block Method, we complete most of our movements with five sets of varying reps. Because of the time constraints of running so many kids through a workout, we will be basing all of the reps and percentages on Prilepin’s chart. If you're not familiar with this training tool, you can find a great deal of information here. What this is going to do for you is allow you as a coach to get maximum results from your athlete's strength training with lower volume. This will allow you to get through your workouts faster but with maximum results. Using percentages based solely on Prilepin's Chart has another great benefit for you as a coach: the recovery from workout to workout will be faster. It isn't max effort work that beats your players down; it's high volume work. The more reps your players do, the greater the damage to the muscle fibers, the sorer they are, and the more time they need to recover. If they need a lot of recovery time from the weight room it can hold back their conditioning and practice. The lower the volume, the faster they will recover. We are focusing on their strength and explosiveness in the weight room; the conditioning happens under your guidance on the practice field and this will allow them to be 100% for you.
We want to focus on compound movements because in a school setting you will have little time to focus on different muscle groups, and compound movements will work many muscle groups at the same time. Compound movements also follow the body's natural movement patterns, unlike machines that create artificial movements while not accounting for the force-velocity curve. The body is made up of lever systems and we want to strengthen those levers in all positions, which is exactly why we will be using bands in some of our blocks.
You'll notice there are zero power cleans in this program, which seems to be a staple of high school training programs. As an Olympic weightlifting coach, I understand the movement better than most, so I'll explain why we are focusing on the hang clean only. When doing the power clean, the first pull (getting the bar from the ground to above your knees) is simply to set up the rest of the movement. It makes no difference how fast the first pull is; it simply is there to get the bar in the position for the rest of the work. Other weightlifting coaches may disagree with that statement and that's their incorrect opinion because I'm right. The only way the bar speed from the bottom would matter is if your kids are performing muscle cleans because they have bad form. If that's the case then you're wasting your time anyway on that movement and it needs to be thrown out the damn window.