Archive for “strength” Tag

Bodyweight Training Progressions – Jordan Tingman

bodyweight training exercises - plyo push upsAsk any strength coach, and they will tell you that most athletes lack strength, control and mobility in many basic bodyweight training exercises. Utilizing bodyweight training, “can result in both physical strength and stamina” (Harrison, 2010).  This is why bodyweight training progressions are such an important part of any strength training program.

We often think that bodyweight training is very simple, so we don’t spend much time thinking about it.  We want to rush into more advanced training methods because they seem more exciting.  Unfortunately, when we skip over fundamentals, it catches up to us down the road.  Spending time teaching and perfecting bodyweight training exercises has the potential to pay big dividends as athletes mature, so this should be an integral part of any youth training program.

When it comes to younger or female athletes, upper body exercises such as the pull up or push up tend to be difficult. With the squat, maintaining proper posture is difficult for many athletes due to a wide variety of mobility or kinesthetic awareness issues.

Instead of being taken through a proper progression, we often see athletes struggle through sloppy reps or force themselves into positions they can’t maintain.  Fortunately, there are ways to modify these exercises that allow athletes to perform them correctly while utilizing the correct muscles.

This article will highlight three of the basic bodyweight training exercises that are often performed incorrectly, and it will describe simple progressions to ensure long-term success.


A few of the most common flaws seen during the push up are lack of upper body strength, elbows flared out, improper hand positioning and lack of core strength to maintain stability and posture throughout the movement.

Here is an example of a proper bodyweight push up:

  • Plank position in the core is maintained throughout the entirety of the exercise.
  • Elbows are at a 45 degree or closer angle from the body, emphasizing proper use of upper body musculature, and not overstressing the shoulder joint.
  • Hands placed just under and outside the arm-pit, not even with the head like is commonly seen.
  • Body is lowered in a controlled manner until the elbow joint is below a 90 degree angle.

If an individual lacks upper body strength, the push up can be modified by elevating the surface in which the hands are placed.

This surface can be anything that is elevated and allows the individual to maintain proper core stability throughout the movement.  This could be a box, bench, or bar on a squat rack.  As strength is developed, slowly lower the angle in which the push up is done until the athlete can perform a standard push up.

If an individual lacks a lot of core stability, a banded hip-supported push up can be used.  Attach a band around the safety catches and position the athlete so it’s under the hips during the push up. This alleviates the weight of the hips and aids in maintaining the plank posture throughout the movement. This can be progressed by using smaller bands until the individual can maintain hip posture throughout the entire movement.

If an athlete can maintain core position and effectively use the upper body muscles, but simply isn’t strong enough to perform many reps, an eccentric or isometric component can help.

Have the individual perform a 3-5 second eccentric and hold in the bottom position for one second before pushing up.  This builds strength and control in all positions of the movement.  If the athlete cannot perform the concentric portion of a push up at all, performing eccentrics can build that strength.  Athletes can perform 4-8 negatives, simply lowering slowly, then “rolling” back up to the top position for the next rep.  

As a coach, you can vary the amount of time of the eccentric or isometric portion, and vary the reps depending on the capabilities of the athlete.


One of the hardest, but effective bodyweight training exercises is the pull-up.  Due to a lack of upper body strength, many athletes cannot perform even a single pull-up. Those who can perform a pull up tend to do it incorrectly. The most common issues include:

  • Lack of scapular retraction
  • Inability to start each rep with full arm extension 
  • Inability to get the chin above the bar with each rep

Placing a band around the J-hooks of a squat rack will give assistance to the most difficult position of the movement. Ensure that when the individual lowers their body, they still extend their arms into the bottom position.

To strengthen different positions of the pull-up, add an isometric component at the top or middle of the exercise. This reinforces proper positioning and strength in a variety of the positions of the pull up.  Emphasizing the eccentric component throughout the full range of motion is also very helpful when building strength in the movement.

As mentioned in the section about push-ups, you can manipulate the eccentric or isometric times and the number of reps to make the exercise more or less difficult.  This will be dependent on the capabilities and strengths of the athlete.  For example, an isometric hold at the top plus a 5 second negative is a great way to develop strength in young or large athletes who struggle with pull-ups.  


One of most popular bodyweight training exercises is the squat, but it is also the one most commonly rushed through.  The most common mistake we see here is adding a load before the athlete can even maintain correct posture in an air squat or goblet squat.

We look ask these four questions when coaching the bodyweight squat:

  • Are they maintaining an upright posture throughout the entire movement?
  • Are their heels staying in contact with the ground throughout the movement?
  • Are they properly hinging at the hip before descending into a squat position?
  • Are they able to maintain an upright posture until the parallel position of a squat?

You should be able to answer “yes” to all of these questions before loading an athlete with a barbell.

A good initial assessment is to see whether the athlete can properly execute an air squat.

In this video, the arms are out to assist in maintaining an upright posture throughout the air squat.

Feet are slightly outside of shoulder width with toes slightly pointed out. This position can vary from individual to individual depending on what their bodily mechanics look like. If their heels are coming off of the floor, their foot position may be the first thing you need to manipulate.

If an individual has trouble maintaining an upright posture to the parallel position, a good way to work on this is to have them air squat to a target.

In this video, the individual is squatting to a box slightly below the parallel position.  This reinforces the hip hinging aspect of the squat and allows the coach to cue the athlete to maintain an upright posture until the box is touched.  You can also hold the bottom position (without putting any pressure on the box) to reinforce this position and strengthen the lower back.  

You can load this movement by adding a goblet hold while the individual squats to a box. Ensure the individual does not relax the core or rock back onto the box to gain momentum before standing up.  Again, an isometric hold at the bottom can help athletes feel correct posture.  

Squatting to a box may also allow the coach to assess issues in the squatting pattern.

Then once they can maintain an upright position to a box- you can take the box away and allow them to perform a Kettlebell Goblet Squat:

If the athlete shows instability while performing this movement, add a tempo to the eccentric portion and/or an isometric hold at the bottom.  This will reinforce correct body positioning throughout the squat.

While there are many different modalities that you can use as a coach, bodyweight training is an excellent way to lay a solid foundation.  In order to slowly progress athletes in these movements, the bodyweight training progressions above can help ensure long-term progress and success.  You can also use these exercises as a part of a complete strength training program that will continually reinforce the foundation you have developed.  



Jordan Tingman – CSCS*, USAW L1, ACE CPT, CFL1 is a graduate of Washington State University with a B.S. in Sports Science with a Minor in Strength and Conditioning. She completed internships with the strength & conditioning programs at both Washington State University and Ohio State University.  She is now working as a Graduate Assistant S & C Coach at Eastern Washington University.

The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist certification is the only course available that directly addresses the needs of the high school athlete.  Learn more about the HSSCS HERE:

Don’t Get Strong Wrong

Among the many concepts I’ve learned from my experiences as a strength and conditioning coach is: “Don’t get strong wrong.” 

Simple and straight to the point. Getting strong wrong is simply loading up athletes on lifts where their mechanics are either poor to begin with, or are being affected negatively due to the load being too heavy for the athlete to complete a full range of motion. This is where we see half squats, rounded backs on deadlifts, barbells stapling athlete’s chests on the bench press, cleans being pulled in atrociously inefficient manners, etc. The list goes on and on. The implications are numerous and can prove to be quite detrimental for the athlete.

This phrase perfectly depicts how poor strength coaches reveal themselves. Unfortunately athletes getting “strong wrong” is occurring more often than not at both the high school, colleges and private facilities across the country.

When an athlete adds weight to a dysfunctional movement, the risk of injury increases exponentially. This is brutally counterproductive considering one of the main responsibilities of a strength and conditioning coach is to prevent injuries. Athletes exposed to months, or years, of dysfunctional strength training may take just as long to properly learn or improve these imperative movements with less weight, and thus are not accomplishing the goals set forth by their strength coach. Time is of the essence when it comes to youth, high school, or collegiate level athletes. Having to take precious time to fix bad habits limits their potential under a strength coach’s watch.

Secondly, the poor motor patterns that are now being learned by athletes can become ingrained in the nervous system, and thus cause a multitude of problems down the road. Joint mobility and flexibility are sacrificed which leads to frequent soft tissue injuries taking place on the practice and playing field. It is assumed that to develop strength throughout the joint’s full range of motion, training must be performed throughout that range. A great example is provided when further dissecting the squat.

Studies show that maximum quad EMG is displayed at 80+ degrees of a squat and that maximum glute EMG is at 90+ degrees. We know that getting parallel to the ground is shown at 90 degrees but with athletes taking short cuts due to heavy weight they are neglecting two enormous muscle groups that are responsible for joint actions that are crucial for sport. Coaches need to remember that these are athletes they are working with, and sports are unpredictable. Taxing the body through its full range of motion with a little less weight, as opposed to overloading the body with a half rep, will better prepare the body for the unknown bends and twists that are associated with sports.

Lastly, what getting strong wrong does to an athlete’s psyche can be just as problematic as the physical repercussions. Coaches that teach or allow improper form, yet record the results, lead kids to believe they are capable of much more than they actually are. These young athletes boast about their weight room numbers (and 40 yard dash times) that are so far from the truth it’s painful to listen to. I’ve listened to dozens of kids talk about their massive squat numbers only to watch them perform half reps.  The problem stems from coaches pumping kids up and wanting to show off these big numbers to make it look like they are the best strength coach around for producing such great results.  There is a fine line between boosting confidence and creating delusion.

Smart coaches understand games aren’t won with deceptive bench press numbers, but rather with healthy athletes who are able to play to the best of their ability. At certain levels, the strength coach is around their athletes more often than their position or head coaches. Actions and messages portrayed by the strength coach can often resonate with athletes. Pushing these false standards of success can send out the message that it’s okay to cut corners. Keep the lessons and messages honest. After all, one of the best privileges of being a coach of any kind is seeing an athlete grow to become an honorable human being, not just a standout on the playing field.

So what can coaches do to prevent the bad habit of getting strong wrong? The easiest answer would be to simply teach athletes proper execution from day one, then begin progressive overload in a safe and efficient manner.  For those working with large groups or teams, the ability to perform sound repetitions with a full range of motion simply won’t occur with every athlete. Varying levels of skill and experience are evident at every turn. A coach must focus on the following:

  1. Performing a well-executed warm-up involving the desired muscles and joints that will be utilized during the specific exercise and session.
  2. When introducing a new exercise, or covering a more advanced movement, always begin by teaching a bodyweight version, a regressed version, or utilizing teaching aids (dowels, practice bars, etc.) to perform the exercise.
  3. Progress an exercise or begin to progressively overload in a safe manner when proper range of motion and understanding of the exercise has taken place.
  4. Possess a coaching repertoire of regressions, modifications, and simple weight room aids to solve any dysfunctional patterns that occur.

Not every athlete will learn or progress at the same pace. Many factors come into play such as age, sex, training status, height, weight, etc. A successful strength coach should always be able to teach proper movement mechanics and make any adjustment necessary to prevent getting strong wrong.


Joe Powell is an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach and Adjust Faculty Member at Central Michigan University.  He has experience in a variety of settings including Division I Athletics, private sports performance, high school S & C, personal training and teaching college courses.


The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist Certification is the only certification geared toward training high school aged athletes.  Click on the image below to learn more about this unique product.

Retaining HS Athletes from Sport Season to Sport Season

Keeping HS Athletes from Season to Season

RAW and UNCUT with Jim Kielbaso (seriously…if you want to laugh, you need to watch this video in its entirety…in this video, Jim and Julie get taken by surprise…and it was really worth leaving in)

In this video, Jim Kielbaso talks about an all-too-common issue that High School Strength & Conditioning professionals deal with daily! Retaining athletes from season to season.

High School Strength & Conditioning professionals have the power to educate and coordinate one of the most important programs in a kids athletic career, their Strength & Conditioning Program.

It isn’t always easy, but it IS the best thing for the athlete.

Take the time to talk to other coaches and parents of your athletes to provide a program that is the most conducive to their success. WATCH the video above to learn more about retaining athletes from sport season to sport season.

Want to Help Your Athletes Get Prepared to Perform?


LTAD Can Change the Lives of HS Athletes

LTAD Complements the HS S&C Coach

In this video, Jim Kielbaso gives you some insight into how the LTAD Model complements the goals of the High School Strength & Conditioning Coach.

Start with the young kids coming to the weight room. Enjoy your time with the super strong and older kids, but find those kids that aren’t doing a great job, and help them become better at it!

He gives a great example of just how a HS S&C coach can make a HUGE impact on a young athlete, taking that awkward kid and turning him/her into a confident collegiate athlete!

Pro Tips:

1. Work with kids when they first get into the weight room.

2. Focus on the Freshman.

3. The long-term success of your program hinges on early-on instruction and programming.


Watch the video for more!!

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Periodization for the Young Athlete

Young Athlete

by Toby Brooks, PhD, ATC, CSCS, PES, YFS3


Periodization for Young Athletes Training Chart

Originally developed by Romanian exercise scientist Tudor Bompa for a number of Eastern Bloc countries in the early sixties, periodization involves the breakdown of the annual conditioning plan into specific training phases intended to maximize training effectiveness and sport-specific strength and skill acquisition. In practice, a periodized conditioning program might involve a strength phase followed by a power phase, then the power phase followed by an endurance phase. The model has been widely researched and the consistent positive benefits of periodized training programs are largely credited for the rise to prominence on the global athletic stage many Eastern Bloc countries enjoyed following implementation of Bompa’s methods.