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January 15, 2013 • Strength & Conditioning

Powerline: Putting the finishing touches on your workouts

Institute the ‘one more rep’ mentality to push athletes to safely overachieve

Powerline always has been devoted to disseminating safe, useful, productive and efficient information across a broad spectrum of physical training components. This includes organizing, administrating and conducting various workout scripts to achieve a high level of conditioning, speed, power, and strength indices.

On occasion, we have injected some of our thoughts on the psychological benefits that can be accrued from the training environment. The development of mental toughness always should be a byproduct of our strength and conditioning programs. And it does not have to be done — nor should it be — in an overzealous, abusive manner. It’s accomplished with a challenging undertone, yet conducted with common sense in a positive, energetic backdrop.

We call it the “one more rep” mentality. It’s a mindset in which we’re going to work a little harder, go into a self-induced overtime and maintain a workman-like, overachieving attitude by putting a finishing touch on an otherwise completed workout. It doesn’t require a lot of additional time over the original workout; a few extra minutes suffice nicely.

Remember, it’s not so much a physical endeavor as it is a mental challenge.
Here are a handful of our “one more rep” finishers.

Photo 1
NO. 1: Using 75-pound log bags, players perform continuous parallel to slightly below parallel squats to finish a lower-body-emphasis session. With a “pre-exhaust” already in place, these squats help players push through the final rep.

Log bag squats/lunges

With the use of 75-pound log bags held across the back of their shoulders, we have the players perform continuous parallel to slightly below parallel squats (photo No. 1). Normally performed for time under load (TUL), e.g., 30, 45 or 60 seconds, the players are told to maintain a slightly wider than shoulder-width base, keep the chest and shoulders high (i.e., no rounding of the lower back or excessive forward flexion at the mid-section) and lead upward from the bottom position with the head and shoulders.

A forward lunge movement can also be performed, which is essentially a single-leg squat. The lifter starts with a high-leg lift, steps forward to a point where the shin is vertical to the floor, and then drops to a position where the thigh is parallel to the floor.

This is an excellent finisher at the conclusion of a lower-body-emphasis session. There’s a “pre-exhaust” effect in place; that is, the working musculature already has been fatigued with other movements leading up to the log bag squats, making them much more difficult.

One great way to implement this finisher is to pair two athletes and have each of them perform 30-second bouts in an alternating fashion for three to four cycles apiece without allowing the bag to hit the floor.

Dumbbell upper-body complexes

Photo 2
NO. 2: Performed with one arm always extended and the opposite limb executing the lift in an alternating fashion, utilize the dumb bell overhead press immediately following lateral raises as part of a series to close out your pressing, pulling and shoulder-emphasis assignments.

Dumbbells (DB) offer a wide variety of exercise choices, and do so with the added advantage of unilateral–or single-limb emphasis. We use them extensively as primary tools in many of our traditional pressing, pulling and shoulder-emphasis assignments for just this reason.

Here is one of our DB upper-body complexes, which also is performed for TUL, rather than a specific number of repetitions:

  • Forward raises (25 to 30 seconds): With palms facing down, or the thumbs facing up, a straight-arm DB raise is performed from the mid-thigh starting point to slightly above parallel. A brief pause is executed at the mid-range point after which the arms are lowered under control to the starting position. The next rep is started immediately from there.
  • Lateral raises (25 to 30 seconds): With palms facing down and arms at the side, a straight-arm lateral raise is performed to slightly above parallel. After a brief pause in that position, the arms are lowered under control to the starting position. The next rep is executed immediately.
Photo 3
NO. 3: TRX straps are used to implement finishing touches on upper- and lower-body movement exercises.
  • Overhead press (25 to 30 seconds): Immediately upon finishing the lateral raise segment, the athlete begins the overhead press movement with palms facing either in (neutral grip) or out (prone grip). The DBs are pressed from ear level to directly overhead. The lifter is instructed to maintain an upright posture, a relatively flat back and to avoid too much posterior placement (i.e., behind the head) of the DBs when overhead, so as to not place too much stress on the rotator cuff. We often perform this movement with one arm always extended, while the opposite limb executes the lift in an alternating fashion (photo No. 2).
  • Hammer curls (25 to 30 seconds): The routine is completed with the hammer curl movement, which is simply an arm curl performed with the thumbs facing up and the palms in neutral grip position. From the mid-thigh starting position, the DBs are curled to approximately chest level, held in that position briefly, and then lowered under control.

The obvious advantage for all of the DB exercises is they are performed bilaterally or unilaterally for variety and heightened intensity.

TRX strap combos

TRX straps are great tools for a variety of upper- and lower-body movements, and are perfect for implementing these finishing touches. Myriad body weight pressing, pulling, rotational and squatting (double and single leg), exercises — to name but a handful — can be performed with these very functional and useful pieces. They offer a rare combination of traditional and rehabilitative movements in a one-station, very efficient and easily administrated format. We normally string together three to four movements for 20 to 30 seconds apiece in a continuous, back-to-back, TUL schematic.

The mid-range position of the “Y” movement for the posterior shoulder/torso musculature is depicted in Photo No. 3.

Board pushes

Photo 4
NO. 4: When completed at the end of a full weight room workout, the “little buddy” board push taxes your athletes just enough to get them to finish strong.

The “little buddy” board push (photo No. 4) is an excellent conditioning endeavor at any time, but it’s exceptionally challenging when used at the completion of a full weight room workout. The little buddy is a 3 1/2-inch by 1 1/2-inch board that’s approximately three feet in length, with three runners attached to the bottom. It’s pushed from an “all-fours” position with relatively straight arms, and very powerful, fast leg and hip drive over the designated area.

We like to use these as finishers in very short, explosive, consecutive sprints ranging from five to 20 yards. Although we use them for longer distances at other times, we prefer the shorter, faster, sprint-type protocol with limited recovery between reps. Six to 10 reps of five yards (five-second respite between reps), 10 yards (10-second respite between reps), 15 yards (15-second respite between reps) or 20 yards (20-second respite between reps) sprints are a perfect finisher.

Drive sled sprints

Photo 5
NO. 5: To add an element of speed to the end of a workout, utilize the “drive sled,” which offers advantages from ankle, knee, hip and back angles similar to those in a football blocking position.

The “drive sled” (photo No. 5) offers the same advantages, but from ankle, knee, hip and back angles more similar to a football blocking position. Additionally, weight plates are added over time to provide a system of progressive overload; though we do not go overboard with adding weight, as we want to maintain the speed component in this activity.

The explosive sprint distances utilized with the drive sleds are identical to those used with the little buddy boards. Straight arms and a relatively flat back with good knee bend are constantly emphasized throughout the execution of the drive sled sprints.

We also utilize a host of relay-type competitions with both the little buddy boards and the drive sleds, often incorporating both of them in the same races.

Final rep

Developing a winning, finishing mentality is a constant challenge and the process should be a major component that is accounted for with every training session. In 2010 and 2011, our football team did an outstanding job of finishing most of our close games successfully.

In 2012, our relatively young team struggled with doing that in several games, thus leaving a great deal of room for improvement. We will make a point of assuring that finishing strong is addressed in the 2013 offseason.


Ken Mannie is the head strength and conditioning coach Michigan State University. His column, Powerline, appears regularly in Coach & Athletic Director magazine. 


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