Using a repetition range training system for high school athletes is a great way to increase strength performance. In addition, it establishes the proper training mindset. Through systematic goal-setting and periodization of workouts, athletes can focus their workouts on effort. But it isn’t just about max effort—it is about the work that goes into the workouts over time to produce the gains athletes strive for.
Furthermore, I have found that an 8 week periodized workout fits nicely into my 8 week term classes. We utilize a system of 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 and 4 sets 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. As the reps go down, the weights go up. With this system, proper technique and work ethic must be observed all the times because some students will want to conquer the world as fast as they can.
By stressing the phases of our repetition range system, students learn about the physiological adaptations taking place instead of just watching their numbers go up. In other words, they are learning why those numbers are going up.
Performances on the field or court are ultimately celebrated on game night. Though, they are the results of countless hours of practice and preparation that make them possible. Conquering the columns of a repetition range chart allows individuals at any level to set goals, monitor success, and measure gains.
Goals are a major driving force behind motivation. Which is why I use the repetition range charts as manageable definitive goals. Many of my student athletes have a goal of making varsity—that’s great but very broad. By focusing on our repetition range charts, our students are able to safely and effectively manage their goals on a weekly level. This helps them to understand the time and energy required to achieve these goals.
As students see and experience gains throughout our repetition range charts, they are rewarded with motivation that helps them see results. They may not move from junior varsity to varsity in one term, but they can move up our repetition range charts relatively quickly, especially those who were untrained prior to entering the class or program.
This chart is quite linear, which is good for high school athletes. However, by digging in a little deeper you will find that you can play with the charts to get a percentage-based result.
Example: Telling athletes to go +1 on their charts and performing the last 2 or 3 sets of the chart will allow you to overreach with athletes. Also, going -1 on the charts allows you to back off your athletes. I have found this system to be quite beneficial for differentiating my athletes.
We only max out our athletes a couple of times a year, and with so many in-season athletes in our program it is difficult to identify our athletes’ max efforts throughout the year. Percentage-based workouts are not applicable to us because of these factors and thus we have found the repetition range charts to be the best for us in our setting, and it has worked very well.
This weekly progressive overload, coupled with exercise progressions, provides the instructor with ongoing formative assessments. The written tests combined with term participation points (daily work) will be the basis of the summative grade. Weekly participation points, as well as test and quiz scores will be added when applicable. This process helps us in an educational setting.
For my classes and programs that do not include initial strength training orientation, we start with establishing or reestablishing our training number. This training number is the chart they will follow for any particular exercise they are performing. The charts can be effective for any exercise but is best utilized for the large muscle lifts such as Squat, Clean, Bench, Deadlift, Push Press, etc.
For the first chart of 3×12 I have the students select a weight they are familiar with from prior training and tell them that the last couple of reps on each set should be strenuous. If they fall short by 2 reps they need to go down a chart and reestablish their training number for the next set.
Establishing a Number
If they are beginners, we the weight for them based on what we have observed leading up to the session. Firstly, we discuss if the load was too easy or too hard. Secondly, we discuss why it is important to do all sets and reps of a workout as it is a part of the building process and our system. We have a worksheet that we use for our beginners that walks them through this process early on in the program.
Once they establish this number, they must focus on performing the exercise with proper technique and grit. Once the athletes are able to complete a chart with relative ease they move up a chart. Lastly, we discuss moving athletes up and sometimes down a chart if needed.
Measuring (and Rewarding) Gains
By using this system, the athletes are always going up in weight by following the weekly charts. Bumping up a chart means an increase in strength. We can manipulate these charts if we wish to unload athletes, deal with injuries, but we can also manipulate them for upcoming competitions, dynamic effort days, etc. We also ask our sport coaches to inquire about their training numbers as well to discuss strength gains and effort.
Our athletes do not max out very often. Though, we feel we can track their progression via the training numbers. If a coach simply asks for a max they don’t learn anything about the work that has gone into that particular lift. However, this system encourages and rewards growth for all athletes training. In the same manner, each individual is rewarded. We have a personal record (PR) bell in the weight room, whenever an athlete goes up a chart they get to ring the bell. All athletes in the room will respond with 3 claps to celebrate.