Andrew Shaw, strength and conditioning instructor at Nashville Christian, knows that the weight room is not a place for a ‘one size fits all approach.’ For any coach or teacher who has been tasked to take charge of the weight room, that is usually pretty clear as they see who walks through the doors.
“Because our strength and conditioning class is an elective, we have 8th-12th graders all in one class period. So as you can imagine, we have students and athletes with a WIDE range of experiences, strengths, and abilities. I wanted to personalize the training and workout experience for my student-athletes given their diverse needs.”
And while personalization is possible with a small group of athletes and a willingness to spend time in excel or Google Sheets, Andrew actually has eight sections of his elective class that he will see throughout the week. So while personalization is the goal, he has to determine what is possible with such a large group of students.
So how can you personalize your athletes’ experience, while also creating a scalable management system? Andrew accomplishes this through high-level programming decisions and individualized weight prescriptions.
The first step in personalization is deciding what program a student should be assigned. There is not just one generic “Nashville Christian Weight Lifting Program.”
In any class, Andrew has a handful of students who have never been in the weight room. For this group, he always goes with the basics before personalization.
“Every newcomer has to complete a comprehensive introduction to training. Once we complete that, they will have baseline numbers established to take the next step into personalized training. But foundation always comes first.”
After the foundation, Andrew can take the next step in differentiating the training for students and athletes alike. After the foundation, there are three main options.
“Some students play one sport. Other students are two or three-sport athletes. We break it down pretty simply: ‘Once you are past your introduction, you are either in the in-season or off-season group. And for those who play no sports, we have a general fitness track.”
Andrew can make adjustments for in-season students that are juggling competitions and games. And for the off-season group, Andrew knows that he can challenge students with additional volume and difficulty.
For all advanced groups, Andrew then takes personalizing a step further with individualized weight assignments.
At Nashville Christian, each station in the weight room has a tablet where students can access individualized weights and reps. Andrew writes and creates workouts that draw from percentages of five core lifts:
1) Front Squat
2) Back Squat
3) Bench Press
4) Power Clean
5) Hang Clean
By creating this extra layer of personalization through weight prescription, every student is appropriately challenged.
In one class, Nashville Christian could have an offensive lineman, long-distance runner, and soccer player. If all three are in the off-season after the fall season wraps up, they might all be doing the same reps and sets, but each one will have different weights.
The weights will even update and change throughout the program. This is where keeping things up to date is critical! [vc_single_image image=”10428″ img_size=”large” add_caption=”yes”]
Keeping It Updated
One of the biggest challenges with personalization is that students make progress, at different rates (A good problem to have!). The impact of personalization is lost if the data being used to base assignments is old and outdated by weeks, maybe months.
To manage this challenge, Andrew is using an app that is helping to keep everything up to date.
“We have a tablet at each station in the weight room that has PLT4M loaded onto it. Each student has their own account that they can log and enter their data.”
To keep all the data current, Andrew utilizes the ‘workset’ function that asks students to enter the number of reps they could complete at a specific weight. Andrew then uses the tools within PLT4M to have students’ weights go up or down based on the result.
By doing this, the students’ five core lifts are updated every week to reflect precisely where they are in their training. Now the individualization and personalization operate in a real-time cycle that is garnering big-time results. [vc_single_image image=”10429″ img_size=”large” add_caption=”yes”]
The Proof Is In The Pudding
Now in his second year of using PLT4M, Andrew has taken his efforts to a new level. Each week, he can go into this coach’s account to review the individual student and class data. From there, he can adjust the program and plan or continue to stick to what is working.
Furthermore, the personalization of weights and the ability to continuously run reports on student progress offers a level of accountability that simply was too much work prior to using PLT4M.
Overall, Andrew is encouraged by the outcomes so far,
“The proof is in the pudding. We probably have the best results we have ever had in our strength and conditioning program. Not only that, the class has never been more popular because of the balance we have struck with training and technology.”