People may think that putting together a lifting program is really hard, and there is a ton of thought behind it. While putting together the PERFECT program requires a little time and effort (especially if you are a perfectionist) a basic lifting program is actually easy to put together.
The majority of every athlete lifting program should be filled with big movements. The more muscle one movement uses to complete the better (think squat vs. leg extension). This does two really important things.
First, the athlete gets more bang for his or her buck with the bigger movement – more muscle worked in the same amount of time. Second, it better mimics what that athlete may encounter on the playing field. An athlete must learn to fire and control a bunch of muscle all at the same time in their sport, so why not lift that way?
These big movements can be broken down into a few different categories. Every day an athlete should be doing some sort of squat movement (think squat or lunge), hinge movement (think deadlift), upper body push movement (think push-up or overhead press), upper body pull movement (think pull-up or chin-up), and full-body explosive movement (the Olympic lifts and any medicine ball throw or slam work nicely here).
A final “movement” category one could add to the list would be an “other” category, which would include specific muscle groups such as the hips, abs, and shoulders, or a loaded carry.
“AH HA!” you may be thinking to yourself. "Crunches don’t seem like a big movement, yet he wants me to do them?"
Well you’re right – crunches aren’t a really big movement. That's why the same rules for the first 5 movements apply to the “other” movements – the more muscle you use in a movement the better. A plank is going to beat out a crunch because in a plank I can get you using a good chunk of the muscles that lay between your shoulders and your knees, where as a crunch will utilize far fewer.
The specific movements that an athlete completes will depend on the age of the athlete as well as where the athlete is with his or her training. But it will still come down to a handful of categories, and making sure that each one of the movements is checked off for the day.
The key to the strength coach doing his or her job effectively isn’t super dependent on programming the lift (assuming the program checks the boxes). The strength coach’s duty is to make sure the movements that are programmed are completed effectively with good form.
Unfortunately, it is really easy to get out of form with the big movements, just for the fact that so much muscle mass must be used at once to complete the movement. The ability of the strength coach to teach and provide effective feedback on the movements is what will make him or her effective.
The big movements will provide big results. It may take a little more effort and a little more focus to do them effectively, but after you have it down you will be much better off for it. Save all the in-depth thinking for your sport – because after all that is the reason you are trying to get stronger!