Windermere Strength Coach Chimes In - The 8th Grade Year : Intro to TAT

Parents and Coaches,

 The eighth grade year is one of the most common times that athletes will start to train with TAT.  This is due to many factors including a big push in preparation for high school athletics and the maturing of the athlete from both a physical and - more importantly - mental standpoint.

 This is the first in a series of blogs that will lay out what is typically experienced by athletes in the 8th grade year from a training  outcomes standpoint depending on the length of time training in our program.  The time lengths we will focus upon are training 1-2 months, 3-5 months, and 6-9 months.  Our reference point is an athlete who is new to TAT.  Athletes who have been with us previously will have accelerated results, having already been exposed to our training system.  The results below reflect the “average” TAT new athlete which of course is impossible to quantify as everyone is an individual in their response to training.  However, the outcomes we will expound upon in the coming weeks will be seen in varying levels with every new TAT athlete. 

 So without any further introduction, here is what we typically see in our 8th graders who train with TAT for 1-2 months:



 ANAEROBIC FITNESS – Get in Game Shape!

Over the course of 1-2 months, athletes will improve tremendously in their work capacity, especially for short burst anaerobic types of activities common in many stop-and-go team sports.  In layman’s terms the athlete will get “in game shape”.  If the word “anaerobic” in that first sentence leaves you scratching your head, you are probably more familiar with the term “aerobic” meaning “utilizing oxygen” and the common aerobic forms of exercise like continuous running, biking, swimming, or the appropriately named Jane Fonda popularized exercise method called aerobics(did I date myself with that Jane Fonda reference?).  Being highly aerobically fit or “in shape” and being highly anaerobically fit or “in game shape” have some crossover, but in the quest for athletic performance the distinctions are clear by looking at extremes.  For example, consider the physical build and ability of an elite marathon runner…would you want that kind of aerobic training outcome for your baseball, basketball, or football player…absolutely NOT!  Elite marathoners have little muscle mass and some of the lowest vertical jumps and sprinting speeds of any athlete - strongly as a result of how they train!   Now I’m not saying that if your athlete goes and runs 2 miles that they will have an immediate decrease in speed and power – things like that take time.  Nevertheless, it is researched and documented sport science fact that large volumes of aerobic exercise have a negative impact on strength, power, and speed – the very things that our athletes are trying to enhance!  The truth is if your 8th grader commonly goes out for a “run” taking longer than 15 minutes to get “in shape” for their anaerobic stop-and-go sport they are probably giving themselves little to no athletic advantage and could possibly be inhibiting their athletic development!  Bottom line, there is a stark diminishing return of investment with aerobic training for anaerobic sport athletes.  Especially as athletes are approaching and in high school, all training needs to become more specific toward the physical outcomes that will result in sport success.  Need to be fast, agile, powerful, strong, and do it repeatedly?  Then get in great anaerobic condition - get in “game shape” at TAT!


INTEGRATED STRENGTH – Strength That Actually Makes You a Better Athlete! 

The other outcome we will expound upon is what I call integrated strength.  First, athletes will acquire basic lifting and weight room safety practices.  They will develop total body strength especially in major muscle groups with an emphasis on integrated strength between the core and extremities.  These exercises will develop the foundation of strength upon which subsequent training will build upon.  More importantly, these exercises will enhance athleticism!  Strength gains are meant to make an athlete move faster, jump higher, and play their sport stronger!  Exercises that integrate more of the body (core and extremities) into a coordinated system will have greater carry over to whole body motions and movements - which in our case translates into enhanced athletic ability!   Contrast this integrated athletic strength with body-building-style body part training (for instance spending an entire workout focused on biceps and triceps) that has much less carry over to athleticism.

Now you guys out there that “know your way around a weight room” or maybe were a college athlete that trained under a great strength coach, this may blow your mind:  I’ve learned over nearly 25 years of developing college, high school, and youth athletes that many of the classic lifts (bench press and squat to name two) that are popular in college and high school strength programs are poor choices for most youth and young high school athletes.  This flies in the face of the conventional practice that those classic barbell exercises are the basis for getting stronger as evidenced that most high school lifting programs are centered around those types of movements.  Understand, however, that many high schools are simply copying the programs run by high profile college athletic departments.  Your 9th or 10th grader is not a Division I athlete – let alone your 8th grader – so how can the physical training for a 20-year-old be applicable to a 14-year-old?  Simply put, it is not.  A foundation of integrated strength must be built before and then simultaneously with the learning of barbell exercises for best results.  And remember, that the results we are focused on at TAT are on-the-field results of athletes playing their sports better, not simply getting better at certain lifts!  We want you to PLAY STRONGER not just lift more weight!

I hope you have learned something about athletic development in this first installment of what can be expected when your 8th grader begins training at TAT.  Look in the coming weeks for the second installment, detailing what can be expected over 3-5 months.

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