Post-Season Lifting Cycle For Big Results in Young Athlete Development

The initial phase of our off-season program is perhaps a little different than what most coaches do when the season ends. It is categorized by low weight, high volume bodyweight manipulation done in succession. It has EPOC benefits utilizing Metabolic Circuits and Complexes throughout the training week. I coach football, and depending how far we make it in the playoffs we will always allocate time for this phase within our yearly programming. This approach accomplishes a few things for us:

Correct Imbalances

I believe that the nature of sport, no matter the activity, naturally causes imbalances in the body. For example, we have players who play one side of the field, and mostly they take on blocks and have the most contact with the same shoulder. Receivers that play one side of the field often make the same cuts of the same foot time after time. The list goes on.

Metabolic Effect

EPOC (exercise post oxygen consumption) has gotten a lot of press as of late and both research and doing this with hundreds of athletes over the last 10 years has showed me it has value. The workouts are tough to get through and have the same cardiovascular effect as “traditional” cardio movements. We have tangible evidence of this as I have my athletes take their heart rate between circuits to ensure they are “on” with their target heart rate.

Primary Movements

We progress throughout this phase every week with more and more difficult lifts as well as more externally loaded lifts. When we begin in week 1, almost everything we do is pure bodyweight manipulation. This kind of goes with the philosophy of “if you can’t do 10 perfect pushups you have no business benching.”  Perhaps a hidden benefit to this is how nice it is on the joints after a season of bashing heads. No, high school kids don’t care about joint health, until they get hurt.  By weeks 4 or 5, almost all the exercises are what I call our main lifts, or, the lifts we will mostly be doing all year. This allows me to teach and perfect form of the athletes while the load is still light.

Plateau Resistant

As a former athlete myself, the worst thing after losing your last game, was to hear your coach (still pissed form losing) screaming at you to get under the squat bar and max out or start with a heavy load. I have found with my athletes, that after a month of doing this phase, they were almost mad at me because they have not benched or squatted heavy since August. They are chomping at the bit to get after it and lift heavy. I have yet to see a kid hit a plateau in the next 16 weeks of lifting after implementing this program beforehand. It compliments the next phases of our program really well.

Coordinates the Kinetic Chain

We use multi-joint, ground-based, athletic lifts whenever possible. I feel it is important to have athletes derive force From The Ground Up. Thanks Dan John, I just stole your hook.

It fits what we do

  1. Everything we do is based on speed. We are looking for kids who can run and strike people. The nature of the lifts having high EPOC and high volume tends to strip body fat off our kids and add some muscle at the same time. It is motivation for them to get lean as they know it will help their chances of getting on the field. Plus, when you were 17 all you wanted was the girls to notice you so why not notice your lean, athletic body right?

Application to Sport

Physically, this is tough to get through. Mentally, it makes you want to quit. This is an ideal platform to teach both sport and life lessons to young athletes. We talk about things like never quitting and standing tall (I don’t let my athletes bend over when tired). This applies to academics(competing in the classroom), relationships (lasting friendships, marriage) We have also seen this come through in the 4th quarter when the other team is on their knees and our guys are bouncing up and down waiting for them at the line of scrimmage. Are my guys tired? Hell yeah! But they will never show it.

I love throwing in a “Fumble!!!” call near the end of the day and have a prescribed lift or activity automatically in place for them to do. It’s as port specific as you can get.

Here is how I organize a training week in Phase 1of our training:

Monday/Friday – Circuits

Metabolic Circuit (Week 1 example) Week 4 Example

Squat – Balance Board Squat                                       Front Squat

Push (H) – Pushups                                                      Flat DB Press

Pull (H) – Modified Pull-ups                                         One arm Rows

Squat (1L) – Walking Lunges                                       Loaded Bulgarians

  1. Push (V) – Overhead Alt. DB Press                    Overhead BB Press

Pull (V) – Pullups with bands.                                      Pull-ups

8-12 reps/lift. Complete Circuit; take heart rate, repeat 4-5 times.

Tuesday/Thursday – Complexes

½ Light Complex

½ Ab Circuit


X 2

½ Heavy Complex

½ Hip Circuit


x 2

½ Light Complex

½ Ab Circuit


X 2

½ Heavy Complex

½ Hip Circuit


x 2

Light Complex Heavy Complex

RDL                                                                 Deadlift

Hang Snatch                                                     Bent Over Row

Hang Clean Squat                                             Hang Clean

Bent Over Row                                                Push Jerk

Curl N Press                                                    Front Squat


6 Reps each Lift.

*If the athletes are really sore on Thursday, we sometimes add a day in the wrestling room where we do a prolonged Dynamic Warm-up followed by some competitive movement drills.


We give kids an active recovery day. This means they try beating us coaches in 4 on 4

“basketball”, where no one dares to call a foul and resembles drunken rugby more so than basketball. Again, it’s another way we get our kids to compete.

I am not claiming this as a fool-proof method for post-season training tactics, it works for us and it’s what we do. We have seen it be successful, so successful in fact, we are thinking of implementing it into our second phase for our kids with body comp issues.

Josh and Tyler Fagan have dedicated most of their lives to helping young athletes improve their game through sound strength and conditioning training progression principles. Check out the site at and sign up for their free newsletter.

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