Explosive Weight Training for High School Track and Field Athletes


From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

There is an abundance of scholarly research on the benefits of explosive strength training for collegiate and and post-collegiate sprinters, hurdlers, jumpers, and throwers. Unfortunately, there isn't as much data supporting such training for high school athletes, but I am going to attempt to make a case for why young track and field athletes will benefit from the kind of training we do here at Barbell Strategy Strength and Conditioning.

Is It Safe?

Olympic Weightlifters are arguably the most powerful athletes in sport. Their training develops extraordinarily high levels of strength, speed, flexibility, and athleticism which is why many other sports look to the weightlifting movements and their correlates for supplementary strength and power training. To the casual observer, these movements may appear sketchy, even dangerous. In actuality, these movements are quite safe, indeed far safer than other activities most parents have no qualms about. For example The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reported that there were 6.2 injuries per 100 hours of participation in school age soccer programs while Olympic weightlifting training had 0.0017 injuries per 100 hours of participation. Ironically, the sport we are most asked to program strength training for, Track and Field, has an injury rate of 0.57 per 100 hours of participation! (Hamill, 1994, JSCR, (8)1, 53-57) So, yes, when properly supervised and coached, explosive weight training is very safe!

Is It Effective?

As I stated above, there is a considerable amount of data supporting explosive weight training for improving sports performance. However, the weightlifting movements themselves are high skill movements and it takes years to get proficient at them with heavy weights. That's the bad news. The good news is that young athletes get great benefits in core strength, rate of force development (speed), strength, balance, body composition, bone density, and lipid profiles while learning to properly execute the lifts. (Sports Health 2009 May; 1(3): 223–226) In other words, when properly administered weightlifting not only helps improve strength and speed, it also helps to "bomb proof" young athletes. Finally, learning these movements early on will give the athlete a considerable head start if she pursues athletics in college: many university programs incorporate the weightlifting movements in their S&C programs.

Our Approach

At Barbell Strategy we supervise each workout and each athlete, always stressing proper technique and safe execution. We subscribe to the old saying, "It's not how much you lift, it's how you lift it." We also recognize that the vast majority of sports specific improvement comes from practicing the specific event itself and as such we regard the work we do as supplemental to the work of the event coach. Our primary job is to help the athlete get stronger, more explosive, injury resistant, and resilient. The specific sports practice will sort these qualities out. If the athlete is stronger and injury free, practice frequency remains uninterrupted and performance improves.

Randy Hauer