Archive for “Fleming” Tag

Top 4 Alternatives for Olympic Lifts When Training Young Athletes

Training Young Athletes Using Olympic Lift Alternatives


Youth Fitness Expert Wil fFeming on Training Young Athletes


As a coach and professional I know that I love the Olympic lifts when training young athletes. For good or bad I think that there is no EQUAL to getting athletes more explosive than the Olympic lifts.


Being married to a lift or movement places too many limitations on the program you are able to design and in particular limits the improvements that each individual athlete can make.


For the athletes that are exclusively training with me and are physically capable the Olympic lifts are the king of my gym. There is no BETTER way to get explosive.


As my training business has grown, however, more and more athletes find out and are recruited to train with me, the necessity is not to place my training on them, but to discover the best training methods for them.


This means that the athlete that are concurrently training in their high school and doing Olympic lifts 2-3 times a week need alternative methods to train explosively with me. My beliefs are not something that can supersede the needs, time or ability of the athlete.


training young athletes


This being the case when we are training young athletes, the Olympic lifts have been replaced with alternatives that replicate the explosive nature of these lifts.


Using Medicine Balls To Train Young Athletes


training young athletes with medicine balls


The broad category of medicine ball throws can be used for nearly every athlete to produce explosive strength. These throws provide a low impact to the athlete but a maximal force production.


Throws in the rotational plane can be used to develop a vital linkage of the upper body to the lower body through the core musculature. Correctly performed throws originate in the lower body and leave through the hands, a kink in the core armor will be very apparent if a delay occurs from initiation to delivery.


Regardless of whether athletes can do Olympic lifts or not, medicine ball throws are a vital part of athletic programs, nothing develops the all important power in the transverse plane quite like rotational medicine ball throws.


KB Swings To Train Young Athletes


training young athletes


Much has been written on the kettlebell and benefits of using it to develop explosive strength. The addition of elastic resistance can take this movement to an entirely different level.


The swing itself is an excellent tool to develop an explosive hip hinge pattern. Most athletes lack in the ability to feel the explosive hinge and the swing is the best movement that I have found to break knee dominant athletes of using the knee bend to initiate explosive motion in the lower body.


The end range of hip extension is one of the best ways for athletes to truly feel the maximum contraction of the glutes. The voluntary muscle contraction that most athletes have difficulty attaining through other movements is a must for athletes to achieve a total hip extension.


The addition of elastic resistance allows accomplishes 2 main objectives:


1) It spares you of having to buy an unlimited number of kettlebells. Our biggest kettlebell is 32 kg. Many of our high school athletes can toy around with this weight with little to no difficulty for 10-15 swings. By adding even a small band to the kettlebell, 10-15 swings becomes a much greater challenge.


2) The majority of resistance occurs at the top end, where athletic movements occur. The maximal contraction should occur at the top end of the swing movement. With just the dead weight resistance supplied by the kettlebell athletes are sometimes apt to use the top extension as a point of relaxation. The addition of band resistance increases the load as it travels away from the floor. This top “high resistance” position is also the position in which most athletic movements occur.


In general swings simulate overall athletic movement. A correct swing should have the athlete relax momentarily at the top of the swing after reaching full hip extension but before returning to contraction at the top. This contract, relax, contract pattern allows for greater recruitment on the next upward swing.


Prowler Sprints To Train Young Athletes


training young athletes with prowler sprints


The goals of Olympic lifting are varied. They can go from becoming a better competitor, across the spectrum to improving speed (I first noticed that I had become a much more powerful athlete due to Olympic lifting when my 40 yard dash time dropped .5 seconds in just 6 months) For the latter a great substitution is to do resisted sprinting with the prowler.


The idea of special strength training was popularized by USSR coaches, and in particular those coaches in track and field. My first exposures to it were as a hammer thrower, to us special strength training was literally training the specific event in which I competed with a heavier implement (can’t get much more special than that!). Prowler sprints are the perfect special strength tool for athletes looking to improve acceleration.


The sets are typically 8 seconds or less, and the athlete gets adequate rest. This timing both mimics the boughts typically seen in athletic competition, the length of time for typical Olympic lifts, and helps increase the alactic power an athlete is able to produce.


An increase in stride length will be seen for athletes training with resisted sprinting techniques. This increased stride length will be due to an increase in the athletes’ ability to produce more power.


Submaximal Front Squats or Deadlifts to Train Young Athletes

training young athletes with deadlifts

This is something that I have been toying with recently that has really improved the maximum power output that we are seeing from our athletes.


Loads of 40-50% 1RM on the bar and band resistance of less than 100lbs should be used. Athletes should be instructed to lift the weight with maximal force on the concentric portion of the movement.


Recently Bret Contreras wrote an excellent article on similar movements In it he describes recent research showing that maximal force produced during 40% of 1RM in the Hex Bar Deadlift is surprisingly similar to that produced in the Olympic lifts. (4800 Watts Hex Bar vs. ~4900 Watts in O lifts). While research has shown that maximal power production measured in watts can be achieved in the split jerk at nearly 6000 watts, this is very close when it comes to the big 2 Olympic lifts (snatch/clean).


Adding bands to the puzzle has not yet been studied but anecdotally my athletes have seen a large improvement in the ability to produce power top end hip extension. The greatest load is encountered at this point in which the athlete has the greatest mechanical advantage.


The bands pull the athlete down at a faster rate in the eccentric phase of the lift. To resist this greater speed the posterior chain must contract with a greater force. This is similar to the eccentric portion of plyometric action. Higher rate of contraction in the muscle spindles will lead to a greater force of contraction on the concentric portion of the lift.


Check these moves out next time your training young athletes and let me know what you think.


Learn how to become a Certfied High School Strength and Conditioning Coach by Clicking Here.


Cueing Athletes


Athletes Respond To Cueing


By Wil Fleming


Cueing is a big buzz word among fitness and performance coaches right now. Cues are an extremely efficient way to demonstrate some essential piece of technique to assist in the completion of an exercise.

A cue could be a set of words that concisely convey the result you would like to see: “brace the core” comes to mind for nearly everything. A cue could also be something more visual, like the imitation of “getting tall”, so often used at Force fitness and Performance when doing ½ kneeling movements. A third type of cue could be from palpation of a body part or region, to set the athlete in the correct position.

Stumbling upon, or discovering a new cue for an exercise can be a really cool thing. It can lead to technical breakthroughs, and lead to a cool blog post or a youtube video where you show your new toy off.

Cues then are a great tool, but what is the real value of one cue?

A particular cue may only work with 1 client and to that client, and to that training session, one particular cue may be extremely valuable. Use of this cue is able help them achieve the right position or make the right corrections to form so that the particular exercise can unleash its full potential. For this type of instance I keep a record sheet in every client’s binder to record things that work.

For the athletes on which this cue does not work, this cue has little value to them. In fact it is nearly worthless, but to you it remains a valuable part of your arsenal.

The real value of cues lies in the accumulation of many cues. No singular cue is the hammer and no singular problem is the nail, sometimes a cue is a screwdriver and the problem is a screw, and sometimes the problem is a 5mm hex bolt and the (oh nevermind you get the analogy). Problems take many forms and need many different tools. Having a toolbox is the important thing, not having the coolest hammer.

Being ready with the right cue at the right time is important, but the more important part is being WILLING to try all your tools until the problem is corrected. I see younger coaches getting frustrated when their “go to” choice of words doesn’t have the effect they anticipate with athletes. Although what they are coaching is correct and effective with many athletes, that cue does not work right now.

Patience and determination is key, a willingness to discover an athlete’s preferred learning style is necessary to create successful athletes.


By all means film your successes and share with others, they help other coaches equip their toolbox, but remember that you must be ready and willing to be diverse in your coaching ability.


Using Complexes In Warm Ups to Improve The Skills Of Young Athletes


Young Athletes weightlifting specific warm-ups

Young athletes olympic lifts warm up tips


By Wil Fleming


When your program is full of barbell strength training , in particular the Olympic lifts, it is important to sharpen the skills of your young athletes with a weightlifting specific warm-up.


A general warm-up is necessary for young athletes to increase mobility and activation, prior to training. Once the athlete is warmed up in general however, a specific warm-up for the days activities should be used to prepare.


In all sports the general warm-up is followed by a specific warm-up, baseball players should touch a ball before actually throwing out the first pitch, basketball players should take a couple shots before the buzzer sounds, just as in those scenarios, in strength training it is important to use some external loading before the training of the day.


A complex is the perfect way to do that.


Complexes are multiple movements done sequentially without rest in between movements. In order to complete a complex it is important to complete all the prescribed reps of one particular movement before moving on to the next drill.


Complexes can be a tremendous tool for conditioning as well, but in this case I would like to think of them for warm-up only.


The great thing about complexes is that they can really include whatever it is that you want for a given day. For my athletes I think that they are a great source of variation in the program, and a great way to challenge them on a given day.


I typically design complexes around what the movements of the day will be, if our athletes are to be cleaning in the session ahead, I will design a complex that includes clean movements. If we are snatching, then the complex will include the snatch.


Designing a complex


Limiting factors:


Athletes should be able to complete the complex without a severe break in proper technique. Complexes will have one movement typically that will be the limiting factor in the amount of weight that is on the bar.


For example: A complex of 5 exercises- Hang Clean, Front Squat, Push Press, RDL and Bent over row. In this complex , for nearly all athletes the bent over row will be the movement on which they will struggle the most with a given weight. In this instance the weight that an athlete can use for the prescribed reps on a bent over row


Selecting Exercises


Selection of exercises should mimic what the athletes will be asked to do in the training session later in the day. It is also important to use the LIGHTER weight of a complex to work on areas in which many athletes struggle. In the clean or snatch that is the pull around the knee area, and with extension of the hips. Including a movement that will specifically work on that area of the lifts is important.


Exercises should be selected in an order that moves logically for the athletes. This means that the starting points of each movement should be similar to the previous one.


For example: A complex that includes Front squats, to RDL’s, to Push Press becomes much more difficult due to the fact that the bar has go from resting on the shoulders, to the hands and back to resting on the shoulders. Changing the order from Front Squat, to Push Press, to RDL keeps the bar in the same position as long as needed.


Importance of Exercises


Explosive movement should be prioritized in complexes. This does not however mean that all complexes have to start out with a full clean or snatch, it does mean that a clean pull, or full clean should precede front squats.


Explosive movement requires a greater level of technical proficiency young athletes need to be fresher to complete these movements.


Examples of Complexes


Clean Complex:
2 to 3 sets of 5 -7 reps of each of the following:
Clean pull from above knee, Clean High Pull from Mid Thigh, Hang clean from Mid thigh, Power Jerk, Front Squat, RDL, Bent Row


Snatch Complex:
2 to 3 sets of 5-7 reps of each of the following:
Snatch Pull from below knee, Snatch High Pull from Above Knee, Hang Snatch from Mid Thigh, , Snatch Jerk behind neck, Overhead Squat, Snatch Grip RDL.


These same complexes could be used with Dumbbells or even Kettlebells. Try implementing them before your young athletes next session.


Change Lives Today




olymic lifts young athletes


The Olympic lifts are the most explosive and dynamic demonstration of force in which an athlete can participate. It is important to have established, an effective, efficient, and safe way to teach athletes to Olympic lift. Athletes can be taught at any stage to lift well, with proper technique using the methods outlined in this course. Learn more on Olympic Lifting with young athletes here…



Evaluating Yourself As A Coach


Become The Best Coach You Can Be

youth coach evaluation

By Wil Fleming


There are a lot of great coaches in the world, and this newsletter reaches plenty of them. To become an even better coach evaluation is really important.

I think that coaching breaks down into four categories and seeing where you are an expert or could need some work is a helpful tool to become a better a coach.


  1. Anatomy and Kinesiology 

    This category is first as it is likely the first thing we learned in school that actually pertained to our development as coaches. For coaches that changed careers or don’t have a classic background in this area, this is typically the weakest. Coaches that are strong in this area, can do wonders in assessment, analyzing movements, and innovating new ideas.


    This is by far my weakest area and something that I strive to get better in everyday. Brushing up on anatomy, kinesiology, and biomechanics through reading is my primary way to get better in this area.


  2. Program design 

    Designing great programs can really make your athletes better. Putting the wrong exercises in the program can make your athletes unprepared for their competitions, or even get them injured. Incorrect rep schemes and volume can leave your athletes under or over trained. The right program can give each athlete a chance at giving their best effort when it counts.


    I think that I am fairly strong in this area, but could definitely use improvement. The easiest way to improve in this area is to observe and interact with coaches that are preparing athletes on a daily basis and glean what you can from their programming secrets.


  3. Practical Coaching 

    Practical coaching is what I have named the actual coaching on the floor. Seeing movements and cleaning them up to get the best patterns possible. Being a problem solver on the floor coaching the technique at every step.


    In my perspective, this is where I am strongest. I am able to identify issues in movements and make the modifications on the floor or to the technique that are necessary. Again watching good coaches in action is a great way to improve in this area, as is completing the movements yourself. Working through your own technical problems is a great way to get a feel for what you need to coach.


  4. Impact 

    Impact is all of the non-programming stuff. Are you making the environment fun? Are you setting the athletes up for life-long success by associating positive emotions with training?


    Also one of my strong suits, but probably the area in which I worry about the most. I want to make sure that the athletes love the experience and are excited to train. To improve in this area there are no secrets, it is always making sure that your energy is higher than the athletes’ energy and focusing on bringing them up with you through their training session.


Don’t be afraid to evaluate, and don’t be afraid to focus in on your weak points. You as a coach and your athletes will get better because of it.


Change Lives,





Co-Existing With Today’s High School Athlete


How To Co-Exist With High School Athlete Programs


By Wil Fleming

Some of my fondest memories of training came when I was in high school training with my Olympic Weightlifting club 3 nights per week. We had a great time and became better athletes in the process. To me it was a lot like AR before there was an AR. I loved going because I knew that what I was doing was aiding what was expected of me as a high school football player and track athlete.

My coaches supported me and would often come by just to watch training. My high school coaches knew that I was not participating in a competing program but rather one that was only aiding in my development. My high school coaches knew that I was working with experts in the field of strength and conditioning.

As a high school athlete I never felt pressure to choose 1 or the other. This allowed me to enjoy the experience fully and fully commit to getting better when I don’t suggest that we all run weightlifting clubs, but I do think that there are some valuable lessons from that experience to apply to your coaching. It is important to coexist with the high school programs already in place instead of trying to take their place.

Here are my top 4 ways to successfully coexist with programs for a high school athlete already in place.


  1. Find out what the high school is doing. My weightlifting club would ask coaches at high schools about the current focus in training. At AR Bloomington, I like to find out what the coaches’ focus is at the time and try to augment their results. Being redundant in training is the last thing you want to do, athletes will not want to attend an AR session where they are planning on doing a heavy quad dominant exercise when they did back squats at school the same morning.

  3. Offer to assist the coach. Assisting the coach is one of the easiest ways to coexist successfully with a high school program. Inviting the coach to watch your sessions is an easy way to show that you have an open door and are not competing for their athletes time, but instead just aiding in their development.

  5. Don’t Pressure the athletes. Although we remember our high school days fondly and the carefree attitude that was associated with that time, athletes today feel pressure from every direction. Not even mentioning the season during which nearly every hour after school is accounted for on everyday, athletes are expected to attend workouts year round for their sport, expected to participate in club or travel team practices and games. Giving the impression that a high school athlete should only be a part of your program is a quick way to lose athletes from your business.

    Despite evidence that year round participation in a sport is a poor route to choose for athletes looking to improve, trying to force this message on your athletes only adds to the pressure that athletes are feeling.


    Most importantly is point number 4 below:

  7. Become an expert and then some. Coaches often feel like they must be a jack of all trades, they have to develop their schedule of competitions, they have to handle the gate receipts, they organize fundraising, they have to plan the x’s and o’s and then plan their strength and conditioning program. So why would they send their athletes to train with another jack of all trades?

Instead find something to be the “go to” expert in your community. Speed and agility, recovery and regeneration, and Olympic lifting are great places to start.

No matter your current level of knowledge, keep improving. My area of expertise is the Olympic lifts and many high school coaches have sought out my help in this area, but I am not satisfied with my current knowledge and have read nearly a dozen books or manuals this year on the subject to keep improving and further separate myself as the go to expert in my community. By improving these skills your business will always be the place to send athletes looking to improve in that area.

The excellence of your training program cannot be experienced without the approval of high school coaches in your area.

Working to gain their trust and acceptance is worth it to get the opportunity to impact more new High School Athlete everyday.



Core Training For High School Athletes


Training A High School Athletes Core


By Wil Fleming

Not very long ago AR Bloomington was fortunate to get IYCA Board of Experts Member, Mike Robertson, to do an in-service for our entire team and he really knocked it out of the park.

Mike’s selected topic was “Core Training”, needless to say his presentation changed the way that we both think about and train an athlete’s core.

The IYCA training system is at the forefront of training high school athletes, so I thought that I’d share with you my takeaways from Mike’s presentation.

First off let’s try to define what the core is. Some people suggest that it is only the abdominals (and specifically talk about the rectus abdominus and external obliques), others begin to include the spinal erectors, and others go even further.

We will go with a description that includes deeper muscles (multifudus, transverse abdominus). By including these muscles we will be able to get to a better and deeper model of core training that is more applicable to high school athletes.

Athletes use their core for specific purposes, Mike termed the 2 uses for the core as the 2 R’s “Re-Distributing force and Re-Directing force”. This simple idea is on the cutting edge of performance training and shapes how we train the core.

Re-Distributing force is the idea that the core should take stress off of the lumbar spine and prevent pain. A strong core in this sense will focus on the ability to maintain and get in a neutral spine and pelvic position.

By doing this athletes will have greater core stability in their movements. When a football player has a glancing blow they will not go down as easily because their core keeps them stable; when a tennis player is in an extended 1 leg stance returning a ball they will be less likely to get injured. In this way Re-Distributing force keeps athletes healthy, and is the basic part of core training.

Re-Directing force is the next step in core training, by using core stability to re-direct force athletes swinging a baseball bat will be able to transmit power from the lower body and turn it into rotation at the shoulders.

A weak core in this sense is like a poor power line. All the power in the world can be generated at the power plant, but if it doesn’t get to your house, you don’t have any use for it.

To train each of these try the following movements with your high school athletes:


Planks….With a dowel on your back

Nearly everyone has tried the basic plank, but by making 1 simple change this becomes a tremendous exercise for training re-distributing force. Place a dowel rod along your back while in a plank and have 3 points of contact with it: the back of your head, your thoracic spine and your pelvis.

In the region of your lower back there should only be the space of your hand in between the dowel and your back. This position is the neutral spinal alignment we look for. Increasing time and decreasing stability (through removing a point of contact) are two easy ways to progress this exercise). Increasing the angle (i.e. elevating the upperbody by putting them on a bench) is a great way to regress the exercise.

MB Side Throws

Medicine balls throws are a big part of the AR Bloomington training system at the younger age and should remain so as athletes reach the 14+ group. There is no better way to train athletes to re-direct force than through the use of MB throws.

Ensure that the athletes are getting rotation through their hips, remaining stable through their lumbar spine and then again rotating in their thoracic spine. Changing the cadence (adding steps or recoiling in a rhythm) can add variation to the program and add a degree of specificity that High School Athletes really enjoy.


Three Quick Ways To Become a Better Coach


Become a Better Coach

Become a better coach with young athletes


By Wil Fleming


In the network of coaches that I have met, the most passionate always are other coaches at AR. Every one of the coaches that I have met wants to do the best they can FOR their athletes. As a franchise this sets AR apart from any other that I have ever witnessed (outside of maybe Fitness Revolution!).


The franchisee at the local Starbucks isn’t trying to become better at brewing coffee, the local owner of Chipotle isn’t trying to build a better burrito, but each and everyday the owners of AR’s are trying to be better at developing young athletes.


It is a pretty cool thought when you get down to it.


In light of this, and of a conversation that I had with one of my coaches recently I wanted to talk about my 3 ways to INSTANTLY become a better coach. We can all dive into more continuing education products, and attend live events, but those things take time and it is all about being a better coach today than you were yesterday!


    1. Attend your athletes’ sporting events


We typically see our athletes in the bubble that is our AR, we even evaluate them through the lens of an assessment, but the ultimate assessment is how they perform on the field (or court, or track). See your athletes compete and you will be able to pick out exactly what it is that is holding them back.


In their lateral movement are they applying the principles of deceleration? Are they reacting quickly enough to the visual cues of the game played? Right there you have a blueprint for their next phase of speed training.


Do your athletes start to tire later in the match or game? How exactly is their game paced? If you didn’t already know you know now and you hae a blueprint for designing the conditioning protocols they will use in training.


Lastly, and it has been said 100’s of times, being a presence at sporting events is one of the single greatest marketing tools you have in your toolbox.


    1. Use film to breakdown lifts


This is so simple but sometimes we forget it. Our eyes can only capture so much, and with limited repetitions per training session there are so few opportunities to see your athletes in action while training.


Using film can help you spot errors when you believe that everything is going perfectly. Recently with one of my athletes I was able to spot that the athlete was lacking in complete extension of their hips while doing Olympic lifts, even though it seemed they were reaching this point while in full speed. I was able to notice this by breaking down the lift on film and correct this error for the next lift.


Taking a look at film will sharpen your ability to see things going forward and improve your ability to correlate results (missed lifts, slowing down in acceleration, etc) with particular errors.


For the best breakdown of movements I use the iSwing app available for iPhone and Android (it costs $2.99).


    1. Spend 1 day observing other coaches


This is almost immediate, but just arranging to spend 1 day while around other coaches can help you become a better coach and improve your abilities as well. I am fortunate that at AR Bloomington we have some tremendous coaches that I can turn to so that I can bounce ideas off of them, but even if you are not in this situation find someone in driving distance and go learn from them.


They don’t have to be household names or even strength coaches. Just last week I was able to observe a 2x state champion basketball coach take his team through some off-season basketball workouts. His command and presence resonated with me to be a better leader on the floor of our gym.


The desire to become a better coach is the reason that the members of the AR family are among the best in the world.

Try out these 3 quick tips and see your coaching improve overnight!




Modifications to Training Programs For a Young Athlete on the Spot


Young Athlete Programming Modifications


By Wil Fleming

When I first started training I figured out quickly that the best coaches developed
programs ahead of time. They approached each session with a clear picture of their
goals for a young athlete and designed a program that would accomplish those goals.

As I began coaching I knew that is something that I wanted to do as well. I want to
be a coach with a clear vision and purpose, plan for everything, and get results with
my athletes.

In my “eye test” for other coaches, making training sessions up on the spot is one of
the things that leads me to believe that the trainer or coach is not going to make it.

Creating a workout from thin air leads me to believe that my athletes are going to
get better results and dominate their athletes.

Recently though I had an athlete with an unexpected limitation in their program that
took away her ability to do many of things that we normally do in training. After a
surprise surgical procedure she was unable to clean, snatch, squat, etc. (Literally
everything I like to have my athletes do).

Being that she is a track and field athlete, in the middle of her season, just taking
time off from training was not going to cut it. I literally had to come up with a
program on the spot.

I was able to do it, and have her produce the best performance of her career in the
weeks following because I came up with training sessions that fit in with the rest of
her program. Her daily training sessions were extremely modified but were in line
with the goal of this phase of the program.

How was I and the young athlete able to do this?


1) I had a clearly defined goal for training. In this scenario the young athlete was in the
middle of a strength phase for her track and field season. By having this goal laid
out I had a rep range and set range that each exercise could fall into. By having a
goal laid out I was able to select movements that could fall into this rep range.

2) I have a pre-determined programming system. In my program each day
follows the same general order of exercise.

1A—Explosive assistance (Oly lift pull)

2A—Bilateral lower body (Push or Pull)
2B— Core (Anti-Extension)

3A—Upperbody (Push or Pull)

3B—Unilateral Lowerbody (Push or Pull)
3C— Core (Anti Rotation)


There is some variation to that set up based on the athlete and the time of year, but
in general that covers it all. In the case of my injured athlete replacing exercises was only really replacing movements. If a particular exercise was going to cause pain
then I knew that I needed to eliminate it, and replace it.

3) I have exercise progressions and regressions. When it comes to replacing
exercises this is key. All exercises that we program fall into one of the
categories above. Olympic lifts were difficult to perform for my athlete so I
was able to fill the explosive training slot with medicine ball throws. Bilateral
Quad dominant exercise was limited so we substituted heavy sled pushes.

By having a programming system, and with a little thinking on the fly this
athletes training did not miss a beat. After performing her training in a modified
fashion for 3 weeks, this young athlete is back to full strength and has equaled training bests in
lifts she was unable to perform for the past 3 weeks.

Without the 3 keys to programming above we would likely be starting behind
where her training was and would be playing catch up for the rest of her season.


Selecting the Right Starting Position for Olympic Lifts (Part 2)


Olympic Lifts and Foundatations

Young Athlete hang position olympic lifts


By Wil Fleming


Coaches everywhere, and a great percentage of coaches at that, choose to use some type of Olympic lifts in their training of athletes. Typically this Olympic lift is a power clean, starting from the floor. While this is appropriate for plenty of athletes, there are multiple variations in the starting position, that it can be hard to determine which is the right place to start.


In Part 1 I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the floor start position and the block start position. In Part 2 you will learn about 2 of the more popular hang start positions.


So lets take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of some of the Olympic lifts variations in start position.


Hang Start Position (High Thigh)


The hang position with the bar on the high thigh is a very popular way to start for both athletes and in training for competition weightlifters. This position is actually the one that is taught in many certification courses as a great way to train beginners on the lifts.


The start position is usually ½ way or more up to the top of the thigh but below the hip crease. The start position is nearly at the finish of the 2nd pull and will lead to a very quick and explosive lift.


Pros: This start position is excellent for training athletes to become more proficient at the Olympic lifts. The start position is relatively easy to attain because the counter movement is short which makes it hard to miss. Due to the high nature of the start position the speed of the lift is very quick making coaching cues simple, (“explode”, “Drive” etc,). As a technique tool it reinforces the 2nd pull and even assists in making the athlete more efficient at the 3rd pull, more so than any other start position for the Olympic lifts.


Cons: This is a great place to start. In my experience though many athletes have a difficult time generating much power from this start position early on. Technical difficulties for novice athletes from this position are usually things like, jerking their head back from the start, or over scooping the knees forward to initiate the movement. The correct start position is fairly quad dominant and doesn’t rely as much on the athlete’s ability to extend the hips as other hang start positions. As with other hang start positions multiple reps are difficult on the grip (not that big of a con, but still needs to be mentioned).


Hang Start Position (Above Knee)


This is a common position to see athletes do cleans and snatches. In fact, this is the primary position from which I teach my athletes how to clean or snatch. The start position is directly above the knee cap (or 3-4 inches above in the snatch).


Pros: This start position is easy to attain for most athletes, it mimics the pattern that they will go through when you ask them to jump as high as possible. The easy to attain start position and similarity to other athletic movement means that athletes will have early success with the lift. In terms of training this usually means that the athlete will be able to lift more weight, correctly, and sooner than with other positions. One big positive with this lift is that athletes are made to assume a more hip dominant position to start, training the posterior chain more effectively than hang start positions higher on the thigh.


Cons: Because the position is lower on the thigh, athletes that are extremely quad dominant in their movements have difficulty getting to the start position. Often times they will try to squat, or knee bend their way to the start. Athletes that lack lumbar and core stability will try to achieve the start position through a back bend. The longer counter movement actually makes grip even more of an issue than some shorter hang start positions.


Many pros and cons lists end up with a verdict, but with the Olympic lifts I cannot form one. All of the lifts have benefits and drawbacks, and some more so than others. Take the considerations in the last two articles to mind when training with the lifts and test each of them out for yourself and those athletes that are ready.


olymic lifts young athletes


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Selecting the Right Starting Position for Olympic Lifts (Part 1)


Athletes Options For Olympic Lifts


By Wil Fleming


Coaches everywhere, and a great percentage of coaches at that, choose to use some type of Olympic lift in their training of athletes. Typically this Olympic lift is a power clean, starting from the floor. While this is appropriate for plenty of athletes, there are multiple variations in the starting position, that it can be hard to determine which is the right place to start.


So lets take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of some of the variations in start position.


Floor Start Position


This is the typical start position and the one used in weightlifting competitions. This position is the one that as coaches we see high school athletes using most often in their high school training program.


In this position the athlete starts with the bar at rest on the floor, and the bar should be close (~1-2 inches) from the shins. Athletes starting in this position should slowly, and under control lift the from the floor, ultimately passing the knees.


Pros: This position is the position from which the most weight has ever been cleaned or snatched, has been lifted. This is due to the momentum gained from the correct pull off the floor. Using the floor start position requires the athlete to increase hip range of motion due to the low starting position.


Cons: This position requires great hip mobility, and therefore, if an athlete is lacking in hip mobility they will typically gain this lower start position through an increase in lumbar flexion. Lumbar flexion with loads in front of the spine have been attributed to greater shear forces on the spine and a corresponding higher incidence of back injury. The typical floor start position also requires athletes to move the bar by the knees. This area of movement is one that requires great technique and for many athletes means that their technical problems occur in this area. More lifts are missed due to the first pull moving around the knee than in any other area of the lift. Poor lifts will have an S pull where the bar will move forward to travel pass the knee.


Block Start Position


The block start position is used often in the technical training of competition weightlifters.


The actual start position can be adjusted in height to meet the goals of the training session, but typically the athlete will start from a static stance somewhere above the knee.


Pros: Block starts are a great teaching tool. Coaches can specify the exact starting position that the athlete must achieve. This position is usually close to the 2nd pull (the rapid acceleration of the bar), and requires very little thought from the athlete once the bar is in place. Cueing the pull from a block position is fairly easy for the coach, typically aggressiveness and explosiveness are the only thing needed. The block start position is great for starting strength, no momentum is used and the stretch shortening cycle is eliminated. Starting strength is great quality to develop for nearly any athlete.


Cons: Situating the athlete in the correct start position can be hard for the uninitiated coach, differing starting heights require differing positions that are sometimes very dissimilar. Blocks can also be expensive to purchase or difficult to assemble, and therefore many weight rooms or facilities do not allow for the possibility of coaching athletes from a block starting position.


There are even more possibilities for Olympic lift start positions stay tuned for Part 2 to learn about 2 of my favorite start positions for young athletes.



olymic lifts young athletes
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Non-Programming Elements of a Great Youth Fitness Program


Creating a Great Youth Fitness Program

Youth Fitness


By Wil Fleming


Non-Programming elements of a great Youth Fitness program


That sure is a mouthful for a title. Maybe the meaning is quite self evident or maybe it is a little more veiled. Either way I think that these elements are essential to making your AR successful and helping you to develop great athletes.


What do I mean by “non-programming” elements?


Sets, reps, exercises, and their order are all the things that you put on paper when you are putting together their training program., those are the traditional “programming elements”. There are things that don’t end up on paper that can make your program successful though.


Those things that don’t end up on the whiteboard or workout card are just as important to the quality of your program as what’s written down. They create the environment in which your athletes train.


This is first. It really should always be first. Great coaching can change the way athletes think, can improve technique, and can inspire. Each day in your AR you should seek to instruct, teach, and inspire each athlete. In fact in my training sessions I aim to do these 3 separate things with each individual I encounter. Your interactions with your champions will be deeper and more meaningful if you approach each athlete with these 3 things in mind.


The way that we communicate with our champions is very important. Maximum uptake of information is dependent upon how we choose to transmit ideas to our athletes. I like to communicate training technique in a “do this, don’t do that, do this” way (first popularized by the AMAZING John Wooden). In essence I tell each athlete how we should do a movement or piece of a movement, then give them 1 way to not do that movement, and then repeat using different cues how to do this movement. For instance in the hang clean if I am verbally communicating technique I might say “Get full extension in your hips. We don’t want to leave your hips behind the bar. It might feel like you are going onto your tippy toes” I communicated the same point to the athlete in 2 different ways and let them know what the improper way to do things might look like.


We hear about fun all the time, but what does it look like? In my AR it is often impromptu competition between athletes or between athletes and coaches. A quick game of wall ball, with rules made up on the spot, as we wait to warm-up. A race with a sled, or relay will do the trick as well. Impromptu feels better than planned, and we try to do something like this everyday. Fun makes communication easier and coaching easier and is the underlying note to creating a great environment for your youth fitness program.


I cannot remember who said it to me but I was once told “A horrible program implemented well, will always out perform a great program implemented poorly. ” The non-programming elements are what makes this true, those things which create the environment. If poor programs in a great environment can do well, imagine what a great youth fitness program (your AR program) can do in a great environment (your AR).




Plyometric Progressions for Young Athletes

Young Athletes and Plyometric Progressions

By Wil Fleming

On the surface plyometrics are all about force production. For young athletes they are a great way to learn to produce force, apply it into the ground and propel their body in a new direction.

The overlooked part of plyometrics, that needs to be considered is the role of force absorption in an athlete’s development.

If athletes never had to land, or never had to stop there wouldn’t be as many injuries. Plain and simple. Almost 70% of knee injuries occur from non-contact movement. A great percentage of those injuries occur in change of direction movements or landing.

These types of stats should raise our eyebrows and make us look not only at force production but at force absorption. We must prepare our athletes for landing, otherwise plyos are like equipping your your young athletes with a bigger motor, but no brakes.

Applying the brakes to plyos can be done simply by using a progression of multi-planar jumps. Young athletes should do each jump at a high intensity and then “Stick” the landing for 3-5 seconds.

This progression is appropriate for athletes of nearly all ages, and will be challenging to young athletes of all ages.

Top 4 Plyo Exercises

Learn more about power exercises for athletes by viewing our top 4 plyo exercises free video series. You’ll have no trouble progressing your athletes to new levels of performance.


Training for Power: The Top 5 Exercises for Athletes to Dominate the Game


Training for Power with Young Athletes


Young Athletes hang position


By Wil Fleming


My young athletes are known for explosive power, from middle school volleyball players to football players preparing for the combine all of them out class the competition when it comes to quick bursts of power.  Recently I put together a presentation outlining my favorite exercises to do just that.  I have shared a brief outline of the topics covered in that seminar in the list below.


1. Hang Clean and Snatch-


You will notice that I did not say the Power Clean or Power Snatch.  Power cleans are the staple of most training programs, but the key is by doing this movement from the hang position i.e. with the bar just above your knees.  This position is much closer to ones athletes actually use in athetics and athletes have a much greater potential for technically sound lifts.

The snatch must be included because it is such a powerful movement as well and can lend diversity to the program.


2. CHAOS agility drills

Much of the need for power in football comes in the reaction to a movement of the ball or of the defensive player, because of this football players must also have the mental awareness to make explosive movements as a reaction. Credit Coach Robert Dos Remedios for this one, but my favorite training tool for this are CHAOS agility drills (it stands for Conscious to unconscious Have unpredictability Active to Reactive Open drills Slow to Fast). The idea behind it is to have athletes mirror one another in specific patterns first and then to open ended drills with many different movement patterns, more closely replicating the actions of actual game play.


3. Kettlebell Swings

This is a foundation movement for any athlete looking to develop more power. The action in the kettlebell swing is founded on the idea of a hip hinge, this is important because most athletes need to gain better control of the ability to hinge at the hips.  Most athletes are very much Quad dominant and are losing out on the potential of their backside. The Kettlebell Swing does a great job of teaching these motions effectively.


4. MB Throws

Using medicine balls in throwing motions (chest pass, Side throws, Throws for distance) is a great way to develop power in the upperbody for young athletes while incorporating the important parts of hang cleans, hang snatches, and Kettlebell swings (hip hinging).  Delivering a Medicine ball with force is a great way to engage the core in explosive activities as well, generating force with the lower body must require active core control to deliver the ball with the arms, This transfer of power is important to all sports.


5. Plyometrics

Athletes need to be adept at accelerating and decelerating their own body at maximum speeds. Plyometrics are the first way that athletes can learn to do so.  Maximal jumps with a stuck landing will help athletes develop resistance to injury and will simulate many movements in sport.



There is a lot more than just power that goes into becoming athlete. It takes general strength, resistance to injury, proper conditioning and a well prepared mind.


Focusing on power will take athletes a long way towards getting to where they want to be.




Multi-Planar Warm-ups with Young Athletes: PNF in Your Movement


PNF Warm-ups With Young Athletes

Young athletes PNF movement


By Wil Fleming


Ask coaches what their program should include and invariably the answer sounds like this “Strength, speed, agility, power and oh yeah warm-up“. The warm-up is always tossed in there, but not with much enthusiasm.


All too often our warm-ups occur in singular planes of motion, typically sagittal or frontal, and for certain joints this will not do. The hip and shoulder, in particular require motion that does not only go through these single planes, and in truth requires more than just the addition of motion through the transverse plane.


A great solution to this is to use PNF patterns of movement to truly warm-up the athlete. In using PNF patterns we are able to use patterns that efficiently recruit the most relevant muscle.


PNF or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, is commonly thought of as only a type of stretching pattern done by athletic trainers but is actually an entire system of movement.


In the great book Supertraining, Mel Siff described PNF movement patterns in this way “The importance of these patterns cannot be overestimated, since they can enhance the effectiveness of any training session.”


While the unloaded movement of a “warm-up” cannot satisfy all the necessary pieces to be considered PNF the important foundations of PNF which must be considered are as follows.


-The motion must use spiral and diagonal movement patterns


-The motion must cross the sagittal midline of the body.


-The motion must recruit all movement patterns including, flexion/extension, abduction/adduction, and internal/external rotation.


To use the techniques of PNF in our warm-up we use a lunge matrix and corresponding “reaches”.


Lateral Hip Rotator Lunge w/ Contralateral Reach


Have the athlete stand perpendicular to a start line, flex at the hip and knee with the lead leg. First internally rotate at the hip, move towards external rotation with the lead hip as they step outward as far as possible. Once the lead foot reaches the ground they will raise their opposite arm overhead and come across the midline of the body to reach the instep of their lead leg, the young athletes should follow this movement with their eyes until completion.




Reverse Lunge w/ X Reach


Have the athlete make a reverse lunge movement (that part is simple). While in this split stance they should reach with one hand to their opposite front pocket, move this arm across the midline of the body to an overhead position and rotate the torso. Again the athlete should follow the movement of their arms with their eyes. Do the same movement with the opposite arm and then reverse lunge with the other leg.



These modifications on traditional lunges will add multi direction skill and a more complete neuromuscular warm-up to your young athletes programs.



Making Your High School Athletes Better


High School Athletes Programming


High School Athletes

By Wil Fleming


Recently I gave some thought to how many questions arise when putting
together programming for high school athletes. Questions about general strength
training practices, how to prioritize training goals, and what to do for speed and
agility are all important, but the most basic of questions that need to be asked by
any coach is:



What should be included in the program for your high school athletes?


As coaches we are all probably very familiar with the elements of a successful high school program in their entirety, but what are the finer points that can take your program for high school over the top?


Allow me to share with you the best ways to differentiate your program from all the others by looking at each phase of a high school training session:


SMR:A place to impact the health of athletes


A pre-workout program should do the job of preparing the athlete for the coming training and to some extent helping them recover from their prior training or practices. Foam rolling or other form of self-myofascial release should be included and should be mandatory prior to beginning that day’s session. High school programs and other coaches are doing SMR as an afterthought, by clearly laying out expectations for your athletes they will get more out of this part of the workout and be healthier.


Warm-Up:Continuity creates a great environment


Continuity in warm-ups creates the atmosphere at AR Bloomington, so
we stick with one for 2 months or so before altering it. In this way athletes
have very clear expectations of them and nearly all are able to achieve
some level of mastery within the warm-up period. I have also found that
a consistent warm-up is one of the single best times to create a fun and
exciting environment for the athletes through lively and interactive conversation.


Specific Mobility:Individualization


Specific mobility and activation should be differentiated by sport, position,
or athlete. We should take into account common movement patterns within
the sport, assessment results and injury history when designing this for each
athlete or group. No matter the size of the group, it is important that this time
be differentiated to keep athletes healthy, this touch of individualization even
in a large group goes a long way to insuring your athletes know that you took
into account their needs


Dynamic and Explosive Training:A difference maker


Dynamic and explosive training should consist of plyometrics and medicine
ball throws. This is a time for athletes to train their nervous system and train
fast twitch muscle fiber. In a lot of settings dynamic training gets thrown together
as an afterthought and sometimes looks like no more than “box jumps”. Smart
programming with progressions moving from: single response, to multiple
response, to shock, and unilateral work can greatly improve results for your


Speed and Agility:Basics first


Training for speed and agility can be the biggest opportunity for your AR to
be successful but so many programs go about it in the wrong way. Remember
that as with any other form of training, a foundation of technique should form
the basis of your training. Running mindless drills with no foundation will not
lead to success for your AR. Start with static drills, move to dynamic, and
finally move to randomization. Equip your athletes with the knowledge of
how to sprint, and how to change direction and they will be far better off than
any dot drill can make them.


Strength training:Choose to be different


Typically our high school athletes will be training with us concurrently with
a program run by their high school so we must take this into account. At most
high schools, athletes are trained predominantly through pushing movements
(squats, bench press etc), like the bench press and squat leaving their entire
posterior chain at a deficit to their front-side musculature. Balance your athletes
out by programming more “pulling” than “pushing”.


Energy Systems Training: So much more than just running


Athletes are very familiar with running mile after mile or “gasser” after “gasser”.
Exposing athletes to innovative energy systems training by using different
implements e.g. kettlebells or medicine balls, and by using exact intervals to
elicit particular responses, shows creativity on your part, allows you to use
your space more efficiently, and will make you a savior to your champions.


Flexibility:A final time to teach


Whether from the coach or the athlete flexibility gets a bad rap. Although
not as buzzworthy as mobility, training athletes for flexibility will undoubtedly
be to their benefit, if only for its use as a cool down. As a coach the time for
flexibility is a time for a wrap up of the days events and reminders for
upcoming events. It is your final time to connect with athletes in that given
day. Use it well.


Using this framework for how you approach the programming of your
school athletes will help you get them more invested and excited to be a
part of your High School Athletes, and make them better.
Remember that we are here to Change Lives!






Alternative Methods for Training Explosive Strength To High School Athletes



High School Athletes Strength Training



high school athletes

By Wil Fleming

Nearly all high school athletes, with very few exceptions, need to
develop explosive strength.



The instances in which the skill of explosive strength are used in
sports are endless, but when used “explosiveness” is very apparent.


A linemen firing off from their stance.


A soccer player rising above his opponents to head a ball toward goal.


A volleyball player making a quick lateral move to reach for the dig.


Instances of explosive strength are very vivid when used and typically are a part of a game changing play.


Typically I would now talk about the importance of Olympic lifts, but in some instances using a barbell is not possible due to equipment limitations or even the readiness of the athlete. In those instances, the need for High School Athletes does not diminish, but the need for creativity does increase.



Combination Training for Power



by Wil Fleming


Both bands and medicine balls are great tools to develop power for athletes. When you combine them, though, you can get some really practical drills for athletes to use for total body power. Check out the video below to see a great drill I use to link the upper body and lower body in power creation.



Creating a Training System That Works



by Wil Fleming


I remember vividly 3 years ago at this time Ryan and I were working our tails off to get ready for our grand opening that was only a couple weeks away. It was a really exciting time for us.


We were assembling all the equipment we ordered.


We were trying to figure out how to lay 1500 square feet of turf.


We were holding free workouts in our PARKING LOT to gain momentum.


We knew what we wanted our business to be, and we had a plan to make that happen:


A place that actually promised results to their clients and athletes.


A place for athletes to train to become the best they can be in their sport.


Three years later, we are doing just that, we have put 50 kids in collegiate athletics, we have helped a dozen high school teams reach their best seasons in years, and we have helped 1000’s of kids become better athletes.



Is Your Training Program Complete?



by Wil Fleming


The other day a track coach that I really respect called me to discuss an athlete that we both work with and right away I knew he was excited. I could hear in his voice that he was just fired up. I asked him what was going on and he responded,
"Coach Flem I have to tell you the coolest thing, Anthony has gotten 3 feet faster just training with you this summer and fall. (meaning his long jump approach had to be moved back 3 feet on the same number of approach steps) What kind of speed work have you been doing?"



Honestly, the answer was very little, outside of some very short acceleration work, this athlete’s focus had been on improving his explosive strength recently.


So what’s the point of this story?



Recovery for Athletes



by Wil Fleming