Coaches Corner

July 29, 2013

With Curtis Tsuruda. Strength and Conditioning Coach • East St. John High School (LA )

By American Football Monthly

Coach Curtis Tsuruda, has over 30 years of experience as a strength and conditioning coach. He has worked at Tulane, LSU, Hawaii, and Mississippi State and is currently the strength and conditioning coach at East St. John High School in Reserve, Louisiana. He was featured in AFM Subscribers Ask in May and now responds to more of your questions.

What methods do you use to train young high school athletes to successfully rack the bar on the power clean? How many days do you feel your athletes should lift in season? What days did you lift and what are the most beneficial lifts for high school players? Bill Cretaro, Offensive Coordinator, Chittenago High School (NY).

As it relates to the power clean, front squats and hyperextention of the wrist and fingers should be part of a daily warm up.

In season, I feel they should lift three or four times a week. But intensity and exercise selection is very important and different from the off-season. We lift in-season on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and the day after a game.

If you have the facility/equipment/coaches, I would recommend the snatch, clean and jerk, back squat, front squat, bench press, incline, and various pulling movements. Basically, multi-jointed, ground-based movements are what you want.

When and where are your areas of emphasis placed from the end of the season until the beginning of the next season? Dwayne Ross, Head Coach, Anderson-Shiro High School (TX).

As soon as the season is over, the staff should meet and evaluate the season, player personnel, and refer to the calendar for the rest of the school year.

In the winter, emphasis should be on conditioning and. This is very similar to an active rest cycle after competition. Don’t kill the players but be creative with this. You just don’t want them to get out of shape.

In the off-season, January to spring ball emphasize overall team strength. You can target specific groups, players, and, lifts. Address agility drills and conditioning enough to have great spring workouts.

In the spring, emphasize football-specific techniques but include lifting throughout this period. In the summer – June to summer camp – is similar to the off-season. Six weeks out of camp, turn up your conditioning and slightly cut back on the weight room in terms of volume and numbers of exercises.

In the pre-season, have both a strength and a conditioning test. Hopefully, you would have attained the goals you discussed in the winter.

What type of activities and competitions do you incorporate during your off-season strength and conditioning workouts to keep your players motivated and competitive in the weight room? Rick Goodrich, Head Coach, John Marshall High School (WV).

You need to be creative and you can do it on a weekly basis. For example, “Receivers, how many pull ups can you do in a minute? Defensive backs, can you beat that? Loser has to pick up the weight room.” Another example could be, “OLinemen, how many 185/225 reps can you do? D-Line, represent your side of the ball and show me what you got!” Therefore, you don’t have to wait until the off-season. You can do the same with your agility or conditioning drills.

What are some of your techniques for helping young athletes break through the natural plateaus that they encounter in strength development? How often do you change routines, exercises, reps and sets in your off-season program and what goes into your thinking process when making these changes? Kevin Swift, Head Coach, Gold Beach High School (OR).

Athletes must understand the growth process. There will come a time during a growth spurt where, neurologically, the mind has to catch up with the body. During that time, the athlete will feel clumsy and his numbers might not go up. Encourage him to stick with it because he’s not the only one who has gone through this. Technique is very important, also. You should have the same mental and physical approach whether you have 95 lbs. or 450 lbs. on the bar.

Don’t only gravitate to exercises you are good at. Work on the weak links. You’ll be surprised how much carryover there is from one exercise to another. In fact, if the athlete is injured, have him work on the non-injured side because there is a 15-20% carryover to the injured side.

To keep workouts fresh, routines are changed every cycle. Exercises can be changed weekly. For example, if an Upper Body Day, bench press one day and DB incline the next or incline bench one day and close grip bench the next day. Sets and reps change weekly.

The reason we change routines, exercises and reps is because athletes are working the same muscle group, but with a different exercise. Overload the process through different percentages based on periodization principles. Keep the athlete alert about what exercises are being done and don’t lethim get bored.

Can you detail your in-season weight program?
Greg Kendrick, Head Coach, Charleston HS (AR)

Monday – clean, heavy upper body, triceps, neck.

Tuesday – snatch, heavy lower, hamstrings, back, biceps.

Wednesday – jerks, shoulders, hamstrings.

Saturday – total body flush workout.

Everything is based upon a four-week cycle beginning at summer camp. Exercises can be changed weekly or during a cycle. Percentages for core lifts rotate from cycle to cycle.

What is the best exercise I can use during the off-season that will have the best carryover to the field come fall? Taylor Burks, Defensive Coordinator, Hillwood High School (TN).

Without a doubt, back or front squat. There is a correlation between squatting and all other lifts. Increasing your squats will increase your platform lifts, pulling movements, all jerks, and bench press. Wherever athletes are in the summer, whether at are home or on vacation, they can find a gym that has a squat rack.

What are your preferred exercises/movements to make competitive? Tad DePorter, Defensive Coordinator, Richmond-Burton High School (IL).

You can make any exercises/movements competitive. Ideally, use the ones you test on. Those numbers will be recorded and you’ll always have records on file. The same goes for any agility or conditioning exercises. And if you have a record board, everyone has a goal to shoot for.

In your view, is in-season lifting better for the athletes before or after practice? Which do you feel is a better lift for your players – the hang clean or the full clean? Mike Burns, Assistant Coach, East Hampton High School (NY).

Before practice the goal is to work on their condition levels. After practice the goal is to work on their strength levels.

I like the full/squat clean. The reason is the starting position. It reminds you of being in a three-point position. Plus, you cannot cheat from the start. You also begin the lift from a dead start just like in a game. You can find a common start from that position, but for the hang clean, there is no common start. There are multiple techniques on how to perform the lift and players and coaches often cheat at it.

How do you deal with the issue of ‘personal trainers’? Dirk Moran, Head Coach, Baldwin School of Puerto Rico.

There is a place for them, but most of the time they do not have the player’s best interest at the high school level. Their goal is “the bottom line.” Since they are in business for themselves, they will often badmouth the high school and their coaches. Be pro-active if it becomes a problem. Most parents don’t have a clue what is going on and it’s all about educating the players and their parents.

I would like to ask your assessment of our situation. Our room has 6 racks, 2 half racks, lat pull and tri machines and a decent amount of dumbbells from 10 to 80 pounds. We have focused on three core lifts a day. Would it be beneficial to set up stations with either pairs or groups of three? We would then use eight stations at six minutes each. Our goal is to introduce more supplemental lifts for the athletes beyond just the three we have been doing. Ben Zuk, Assistant Coach, Cold Spring Harbor High School (NY).

You have a good set up but let me throw some ideas out to you. For each workout, your exercise grouping would be as follows:

Explosive: snatches, cleans, jerks, push presses, db snatch, db clean, db jerks, db push presses.

Push: bench press, incline press, close grip bench, db incline, db bench.

Leg: back squat, front squat, lunges, step ups, db step ups.

Pull: snatch pull, clean pull, deadlift.

Arm: biceps, triceps, forearms, close grip bench, pressdowns.

Neck: hammer, four-way neck exercises.

You are going from the exercises that expend the most amount of energy and incorporate the largest muscle groups to individual muscles. For example, a routine could be:

MONDAY - Push press, hang snatch, bench press, front squat, clean pull, 21’s.

TUESDAY - Push jerk, hang clean, incline, back squat, snatch pull, tricep pressdowns, neck exercises.

WEDNESDAY - Split jerk, power snatch, split squat, lat pulldowns, db Curls, db combo military press.

THURSDAY - Clean and jerk, db bench, jump squats, pull ups, upright rows, weighted push up routine, neck exercises.

Remember that if you are training a large muscle group, you are also training the individual’s muscles or muscle groups.

Originally published in American Football Monthly

The opinions of the writers do not necessarily represent the opinion of the NFL.


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