Recently, the facility I work at has been having some renovations going on that will add on to the side of our building. Since our facility is essentially a huge warehouse style metal building, this new structure is also of that type. What's mind blowing to watch is the process of setting a framework to have walls and a roof attached to, and mezzanine built of concrete. The first beam that was put up is 40 feet tall and swayed in the wind, and somehow managed to stay upright by the four bolts that anchored it to the ground.
The cool thing about steel is that it is immensely strong, capable of holding tons of weight, and yet still can bend, twist, and sway in the wind. It can easily be subtracted from, and through good welding it can be added to. It differs from concrete and wood, as concrete crumbles when taken away from, and wood is very difficult to be added to. As my father once told me (as to why working in industrial rigging is nice), "The great thing about steel is that it's forgiving. Make a mistake with wood and you have to start over."
In great fashion, while this new structure has been under construction, I have been working to develop a program that can produce results for young athletes who train under me. While the construction workers create a framework for a building, I have been creating a framework for building athleticism and physical development.
As I watch the work being done, and am doing my own job, I have realized that there is a lot of crossover between building something as physical as a building and abstract as a training system. A good program for any sport or athlete has to be like steel. It is very solid, but can also be easily added and taken away from. It has a set structure, but within that structure there is room for change and direction shift.
This is where I've found a tricky spot. In order to set up a pathway to success for athletes that you are not guaranteed their attendance each day, you need to set malleable structure that meets athlete's needs even in a group setting. Some athlete's show up every day, others every other day, some every other week, so having a good structure allows athletes to partake as much or as little as they desire (as a coach, I would love for it to be more, but I don't control athletes schedules).
For many, people would immediately point to a Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP) style of training. While they are not wrong, we must look at the fact that a majority of the athletes I train our within the ages of 7-15 years old. During the stages of development that these athletes are in, they need less periodized programming and more daily effort, along with a huge emphasis on movement quality and setting a sound base of optimal movement patterns.
In order to meet these needs, I set in on developing a program structure that takes into account the inconsistency of attendance, along with movement needs and general athletic skills that need to be developed. The framework for these athletes rotates on a 4 day week, while the training week is actually 5 days long. This allows for the Day 1 structure to be utilized twice the first week of the month, then the Day 2 structure twice the following week,
and so on with Day 3 and Day 4.
The final product has no name yet, but is nicknamed "the FUN program". Every day of the four day training week is split into 3 distinct blocks (4 for the older kids I work with) that fit into the acronym FUN. The first block is the Foundational block, where we focus on movement patterns that aid in athletic performance and overall health: the squat, hinge, push/press, and the pull. The second block is for Utilization of strength or for Unique loads: carries, sled work, or unstable movements. The last block is our eNjoyable block. This block gets to be creative. Often times a game or challenge that requires some level of basic strength, or a game that utilizes some form of animalistic, ground based movements.
And while each focus for each age group is different, the structure remains the same. The older kids do get a block of explosive, preparatory movements before moving into their Foundational Block as a way to fire up the rate of force development and added nervous system preparedness. This framework however is great because it allows for creativity and individuality for my assistant coaches (who often times run a majority of the class), as well as being rigid enough to hopefully have a positive impact on the progression of the athletes I train.