We're in week 10 of our College Prep Program. We have 10 high school seniors from a few different high schools around the New Orleans area who have committed to playing football at the next level. We train 3 days a week in the afternoons with an optional speed session on Saturday mornings.
The goal of this program is obviously to prepare these athletes for the rigors of college football, but their developmental levels vary significantly. My first and most important goal with each athlete is to establish solid movement competency; meaning they need to be able to be able to manipulate their own bodyweight in a variety of different ways with minimal compensations. I want these athletes to be able to perform two major lower body movements: a bodyweight squat below parallel without compromising posture and what we call a "hip hinge", where they maintain a neutral spine and demonstrate the ability to bend at the hip, rather than the waist, and lower their torso until it is parallel with the ground with minimal knee bend.
From an assessment standpoint, I test them on trap bar deadlift and pull-ups. I use trap bar deadlift because it is closer to a squat as a movement pattern, it is much safer than a back squat, and I can get an estimate on both back squat and barbell deadlift 1 rep max from it. I use a 3rm protocol for a couple of reasons as well. Athletes have a more difficult time forcing weight up using compensatory patterns when they have to do 3 repetitions and it is much easier to gauge technical failure too. Pull-ups are an underutilized assessment, and a more poorly executed movement so using them as an assessment tool reinforces the importance of the vertical pull pattern. It also gives me a good idea of my athletes' relative body strength and their ability to manipulate their own weight.
At the half-way point, my guys have made tremendous strides in their movement competency and as a result, the strength gains they will make over the second half will be safer and much longer lasting. The average trap bar deadlift max is 425, up from 385. The average number of pull-ups performed is 7, up from 2. I look forward to seeing how much more the guys progress over the next 10-12 weeks.