Gabriel Harrington was the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Colgate University. In his final season as a coach the Raiders became the Patriot League Champions. Gabe retired after the season from Colgate to pursue other endeavors. Gabe shares with us his progression that he used in teaching athletes the barbell squat.
Gabe explains ....The post season is the perfect time to take a couple of weeks to revisit your squat technique. Ironing out bad habits and reinforcing fundamentals will pay back tenfold. This is the teaching progression I used with my players.
PROGRESSION #1: STANCE BASICS
• Begin with feet slightly wider than shoulder width – toes pointed slightly out
• “Spread the Floor” with your feet: if you were on ice, you would do the splits – this helps to keep your knees from buckling in during the movement
• Push through the heels, falling forward can put unnecessary strain on your spine – keeping your weight back keeps your center of gravity from falling forward and helps keep your knees behind your toes (more on this later)… try lifting your big toes slightly just before performing the movement
PROGRESSION #2: BREATHING
• Always breath into your belly, not your chest – this helps promote internal stability around the spine
• Breath in at the top – now hold your breath on the way down and in the bottom position for a split second (unless you have high blood pressure)
• Once upward movement is initiated breath out as you stand up
PROGRESSION #3: WALL SQUAT (BOX)
• This series will help you learn to sit back rather than down when you squat as well as to keep your knees behind your toes
• Begin by setting an adjustable platform or low box near a wall – make sure it is sturdy enough to support your bodyweight!
• Set the platform such that as you sit on it the tops of your thighs are parallel with the floor
• From the seated position place your toes against the wall and assume your squat stance
• Take a breath into the belly, Spread the floor, lift your big toes and stand
• Try to sit back onto the platform without “plopping” down onto it and return to the standing position once again
• Once you can repeat this 2-3 times in a row without “plopping” down you are ready to move onto the next progression
PROGRESSION #4: WALL SQUAT (PARTNER)
• This time begin standing with your toes against the wall in your squat stance
• Breath into the belly, spread the floor, lift the big toes, push your hips back and maintain a good arch in your spine
• You will notice that at ¾ of the way down you will have to use your hip flexor muscles to pull you down
• This is where it gets tough! Your partner will have to spot you from behind and keep you from falling backwards – your partner’s job is to push you forward enough so that you can pull yourself down to parallel… you want to get used to your hip flexors working hard here!
PROGRESSION #5: WALL SQUAT (SOLO)
• Once you feel comfortable enough, try this without your partner
• Note that this is the exact form you will use with the bar on your back – you must master this exercise before moving on!
• You may pick this up right away, or you may have to practice 2 sets of 3 reps on this each day for as long as a couple of weeks to master it – either way, stay with it because it will pay you back down the road!
PROGRESSION #6: MODIFIED FRONT SQUAT
• Once you have mastered the wall squat place an empty barbell across your shoulders and extend your arms out straight with your thumbs up to the ceiling and at eye level
• Now squat like you’ve been practicing against the wall: breath into the belly, spread the floor, lift the toes, push the hips back and maintain a great spinal arch
• The purpose of the bar here is to give you some feedback as to whether you are falling forward or not – if the bar rolls off your shoulders you are falling forward – check your weight distribution and keep working on it!
• Once you can do this for a set of 2-3 reps in a row you are ready to back squat!
PROGRESSION #7: HOLDING THE BAR ON YOUR BACK
• For the back squat, we want a “low bar position”
• To achieve this, squeeze your shoulder blades together hard – this will create a natural “shelf” for the bar to sit on... The “shelf” is your trapezius and rear deltoid muscles contracting – the bar ill sit here comfortably without feeling like you are rubbing your spine with the bar
• Grip the bar firmly – experiment with the width of your hands for comfort – try to turn your wrists in… they won’t move very much, but by contracting your wrist muscles your wrists will hurt less from the awkwardness of the position
• Keep your eyes up and push your head back into the bar (like when you try to make your neck look bigger in your team photo)
• Note that this may feel uncomfortable at first… your wrists and upper back may not be strong enough initially to support much weight in this fashion, but STICK WITH IT, your upper back will grow thick with muscle from supporting weight in this manner – not to mention this is the most advantageous way to hold the bar (in time your spine will thank you)
PROGRESSION #8: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
• At this point, having mastered the previous progressions, the back squat should be a breeze
• Perform your practice sets with no more than 2 reps at a time with light weight until you get the hang of it (have a partner watch you!) and add weight slowly – in time you will have a healthy and impressive physique from all of your hard work!
Breath into the belly
Spread the floor
Lift the toes
Drive through the heels... and.... Get Strong
A Series of Pendulum 5-Way Neck Machines in the Colgate Weight Room
Trying to administer a three day per week percentage based bench press program around a student-athletes schedule is daunting. During the academic year, for a variety of reasons, the school week may only be four days or less. There is Labor Day, teachers workshops, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving vacation, the winter holidays, spring break, in Northern America winter snow days, all of which may disrupt a lifting schedule. Athletes also have competition, midterms, finals, religious concerns, special school events and there is often late travel during the competitive season that causes limited rest for the participant and all alter the best-laid plans.
A Bench Press Program that always works regardless of schedule:
Day #1 - Bench Press - 3 sets of 5 reps
Warm up any way you choose, but once you have selected your warm up method the method should never vary. When you can accomplish 3 sets of 5 repetitions add 10 pounds the next Day #1 workout, also add 10 pounds to your warm up weights.
Every Day #1 you must total 15 repetitions. If you achieve 5, 3, 2 repetitions in your sets this means you are down 6 reps from your 15 rep total of 3 sets of 5 repetitions. Continue performing additional sets making up the 6 missed reps.
Day #2 - Bench Press 4 Sets, your goal is 40 reps in 4 sets
Warm up any way you choose, but once you have selected your warm up method the method should never vary.
When you begin this program start the first workout with a weight you can do 15 reps with the greatest effort. Your goal is ultimately to get a total of 40 reps in 4 sets with the chosen weight. When you accomplish this add 10 pounds the next training session.
Every Day #2 you must total 40 repetitions. If you achieve 15, 8, 6, 5 repetitions in your 4 sets this means you are down 6 reps from your 40 rep goal total. Continue performing additional sets making up the 6 missed reps. When you can accomplish 40 reps in 4 sets add 10 pounds.
Day #3 - Bench Press 4 Sets with the Day #2 weight
Warm up exactly how you did on Day #2. Do 4 sets of maximum repetitions with the Day #2 weight. When the 4th set is finished regardless of the total number of repetitions accomplished the Day #3 bench press is completed.
This same program can be used in-season with this adjustment:
Day # 1 - 3 sets of 6 reps for a total of 18 reps
Day #2 - Bench Press 4 Sets, with the goal of 40 reps in 4 sets, always making up the reps that were not accomplished in 4 tries.
Day # 3 - You will only bench press 2 days per week and resume the three day per week program when the season is over.
If you have a short week out of season and can only fit in two days of training choose Day #1 and Day #2.
If you can only fit in one day of training, in or out of season, choose Day #2.
A simple program that will always Get you Strong. The only catch is that it does require EFFORT!
NBC Chicago Link to News Video
Train eight ways on the Pendulum 5-Way Neck Machine to Get the head and neck Strong
Liberty Christian High School is located in Argyle, Texas about 40 miles northwest of Dallas. The team at Rogers Athletic helped design their Pendulum weight room.
Hip Presses and Squat Pro's are an important part of the Liberty strength program.
A great weight room to train in and Get Strong.
Siena Heights University is located in Adrian, Michigan. Former University of Michigan defensive tackle Jim Lyall is their first head coach. Siena Heights outfitted their new weight room with Pendulum equipment, a great way for the SHU Saints to Get Strong.
Pendulum Power Rack System Can be Expanded and Changed from Year to Year
The Pendulum Squat Pro and Hip Press Complement one Another
The Pendulum 3-Way Row and 4-Way Necks
Pendulum Pulldown System
Gabe Harrington has a Masters degree from Michigan State University. He has coached at MSU, the United States Military Academy and most recently was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Colgate University Patriot League Football Champions. Gabe explains that sometimes it is important to back off from something.
Strengthening the muscles of the head and neck should be a part of any good strength program. Training these muscles for strength and size (and therefore injury prevention) requires lots of hard work and effort. The side effects include general muscular soreness and fatigue. While this is normal and considered part of the process, there is a time and a place for everything.
Assuming your players have trained hard for many months and are now in two-a-day camp, it is time to adjust. As a strength coach, you must take into account the new stresses on the body: wearing a helmet for several hours each day, contact (read collision), film study, and less than optimal sleeping conditions to name a few.
When I was at Colgate University, I had spent several years refining my programming to achieve optimal techniques and loading cycles. In my final year, I had come up with what I felt worked best for my players, given their environment and our coaches practice style. Our camp program looked like this:
- Get in the weight room EVERY DAY that there was only one practice. This helped to account for the two-a-day time slip, where three days feels like three weeks. If your players come to the weight room as part of their daily routine, it helps to achieve a psychological sense of normalcy.
- Being in the weight room with this frequency DOES NOT mean to lift every day. We had a three workout rotation that was based on several factors: observations from the strength staff and athletic training staff from being at practice each day, talking with our coaching staff daily to anticipate the coming schedule as far as contact, etc. And most importantly, talking with our veteran players to see how they were feeling and making adjustments accordingly.
- The three workouts were: two different total body lifts (short and not too intense), and one accessory type workout performed circuit style involving shoulder pre-hab movements with 5-10lbs, bands, bodyweight, foam rolling, and stretching. How these workouts cycled were based on the previously mentioned observation factors and never did we lift on two consecutive days.
HEAD AND NECK SPECIFIC
- Lift #1: flexion and extension 1x10 on the Pendulum 5-way neck machine (at 45-90lbs), 1 arm shrug on the Pendulum 5-way neck machine ( at 70-115lbs)
- Lift #2: dorsi flexion/tilt 1x20 on the Pendulum 5-way neck machine (at 45-55lbs), nods 1x20 on the Pendulum 5-way neck machine (at 90-115lbs), band upright row 2x20
- Accessory workout: flexion, extension, rotation and combination movements with gravity being the only resistance x30 seconds each, blackburns x30 seconds, shrug/lat raise x30 seconds, external rotation x30 seconds
As can be seen, this is very light and designed to keep some volume of work on the musculature while not causing overload. And more than anything, it helped our players stay healthy and feel good.
In contrast, in the summer program prior to camp our HEAD AND NECK training cycle looked like this:
- Monday: Manual 4-way neck 1x12 (maximum effort), Barbell Shrug 3x12 (heavy to light, max effort all sets)
- Tuesday: dorsi flexion/tilts on the Pendulum 5-way neck machine 2x20 (at 45-90lbs), 1-arm shrug 2x15 (at 45lbs), external rotations, and pull-apart variations with mini bands
- Thursday: 4-way neck on the Pendulum 5-way neck machine 1x12 (maximum effort), DB shrug 3x12 (light to heavy, max effort last set)
- Friday: jaw work focusing on the masseter 2x20 with bands, scapular elevation 2x20 (bodyweight), scapular depression 2x20(bodyweight)
This part of our program easily consumed more than one full hour (of the NCAA allowed 8 hours) dedicated solely to the head and neck. The point is this, when you are in camp you don’t ask your players to squat at 85% of their one rep max, so why would you ask them to train their heads and necks that way? However, before you back off from head and neck training, make sure you are backing off from SOMETHING.
Gabe Harrington has a Masters degree from Michigan State University. He has coached at MSU, the United States Military Academy and most recently was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Colgate University Patriot League Football Champions. Gabe explains how you can get a lot done in a small area.
THE 20 YARD “SMACK DOWN” RUN
Many great speed and conditioning drills can be performed in just 20 yards. One of them is the SMACK DOWN run. I like this drill, because it has a very low incidence of injury – you can run your players at full speed, but because of the short distance the incidence hamstring pulls are kept to a minimum (in ten years and thousands of players, I’ve had zero). Because players are running at full speed, they are going to GET FASTER. If the volume is high enough, and it is, you get a great conditioning effect. Also, because of the necessity to follow both visual and audio cues its carryover too many sports are quite high, not to mention personal and team accountability (more on this later). The only equipment required is a whistle, stopwatch, and a stretch of 20 yards (a football field is optimal, but not necessary), and finally it’s just plain TOUGH.
But first, a few rules:
- All reps are performed at FULL SPEED with aproximately a 2:1 rest interval, that is, one group runs and then rests while the other two groups run.
- A rep is either 1x20 yards (One!), 2x20 yards with directed plant foot (Two, right!), or 3x20 yards with plant foot (Three, left!).
- The structure is: six perfect reps equals one set.
- The full smack down is four sets with one minute for rest and water between sets (start with just two sets and work up to this).
- During a set the only rest allowed is when the other speed groups are running!
- If ANYONE jumps off-sides, touches the line with the wrong foot, doesn’t touch the line, or loafs in any way the rep does not count and is to be performed again. In this way, a set could consist of six perfect reps, or six perfect reps plus any bad reps (which of course don’t count) for a total of more than reps… this is where accountability comes in.
Here is a sample using football players:
Break your players up into three speed groups: Linemen (OL/DL), Middle Skill (LB/TE/QB/SPEC/FB), and Skill (WR/DB/RB) positions.
The coaching commands are as follows: number of 20yd sprints – which foot touches - set - whistle.
For example, the coach might say, “TWO, RIGHT - SET” – then blow the whistle to start the drill. The first speed group will sprint 20 yards at full speed, touch the line with their right foot and sprint back 20 yards through the starting point at full speed. Immediately following this the second speed group is up, performing the same drill (Two, right). Immediately following them is the third speed group, if there were no errors then this would be one rep. The coach should say the commands for each speed group and for each rep. Group one is now up again for the next rep.
A sample run template is as follows:
1 (one), 2R (two right), 1 (one), 2L (two left), 1 (one), 2R (two right) = 6 reps or one set
Rest/water x 1 minute
1, 2L, 3R, 1, 2R, 3L = 2nd set oof 6 reps
Rest/water x1 minute
1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1 = 3rd set of 6 reps
Rest/water x1 minute
2L, 3R, 1, 2R, 3L, 1 = 4th set of 6 reps
The above template is an example. Running programs are set by coaches based upon the the teams fitness level. Like any drill or running program ease into it, be smart and Get Strong.
Ask about the Pit Shark Belt Squat
A very interesting study was completed comparing the effectiveness of suboccipital stretching versus direct stretching techniques in changing the range of motion of the hips. The suboccipitals are four muscles (rectus capitis posterior major and minor, obliquus capitis superior and inferior) they are located directly below the occiput or base of skull in the back of the upper neck and have a high density of proprioceptors. For this reason the neck is regarded as an important proprioceptive organ for postural processes. It has been shown by stretching this muscular group you can actually change the flexibility of the hamstrings.
Stretching the muscles in the back of the head and subsequently increasing the range of motion of the hamstrings is counterintuitive yet occurs. Researchers took this counterintuitve process of range of motion one step furthur, they examined what would happen to the hip flexors when stretching the same sub-occipital muscles that lengthened the hamstrings.
Using a reliable hand-held dynamometer to determine the end point of range of motions of joints, they divided subjects into three groups: cervical stretch, hip stretch and sham/placebo. In the sham/placebo group the researcher did movements that it was full well known elicited no results, the subjects were unaware that nothing would occur. After careful statistical analysis only the suboccipital groups stretching procedure increased hip flexion range of motion significantly.
Based on studies it appears that stretching the back of the neck not only increases the range of motion in the hamstrings, but also increases the range of motion of the hips. Training the head neck and jaw elicits many surprising positve performance results as the athlete Gets Strong.
Often athletes are asked to remain in shape when on vacation or away from their prospective program for a few weeks. A simple plan and a 20 yard area whether it is on a football field, at a park or on the beach will Get it Done.
All you need is a yard stick to measure 20 yards marked off in 5 yard increments, a stop watch and motivation.
Time each drill. Run each drill at full-speed. Lean through the line at the finish. Rest 3x the time it takes to do each drill. All drills are done twice.
1. Forward sprint to backward run, 4x in 20 yards.
2. Forward sprint to shuffle, 4x in 20 yards.
3. In the 20 yard area forward sprint followed by a down/up between the 5 and 10 yd line and another after crossing the 15 yard line, sprint through the finish.
4. Carioca 50 steps in 20 yards.
5. Shuffle to backward run, 3x in 20 yards.
6. Down/up to shuffle to backward run, 2x in 20 yards.
7. Bear crawl 5 yards, sprint to the 15 yard line and do 10 push ups and sprint to the finish.
8. 10 sit ups followed by back pedalling to the 15 yard line turning and sprint through the 20 yard line.
9. Bear crawl 5 yards followed by 10 push ups and 10 sit ups, bear crawl 5 yards followed by 10 push ups and 10 sit ups, bear crawl 5 yards followed by 10 push ups and 10 sit ups, bear crawl 5 yards through the finish followed by 10 push ups and 10 sit ups stand up as quick as possible. This also is a full speed drill.
10. Backward run 20 yards, carioca 20 yards, shuffle 20 yards, sprint 20 yards. These four 20 yard runs are done in sequence without rest. The four runs are considered one drill and are to be done twice.
Training athletes to become proficient at specific drills by mimicking the patterns they do over and over in competition is part of a well conceived agility program. There are also particular agility tests that athletes must practice, as coaches and teams use these tests to evaluate their abilities and talent. Endless possibilities of movements and body positions are part of competition. Constructing an agility program with this in mind will enhance an athletes abilities.
As important as the development of movement patterns in a program is the effort given by the athlete in each drill. Agility is not a jog or middle distance. Agility is a stop and go, twist and turn, bend and hop, shuffle and leap, backpedal and drop all out sprint. There is one speed when doing each agility drill ........FULL.
The 5 Yard Agility Program is easy to set up. It was created to be done by one person, in groups, or together as a team.
Place six cones or objects (t-shirts) 5 yards apart, in the manner illustrated below. The distance between the row of cones 1, 2 & 3 and cones 4, 5 & 6 is also 5 yards.
Run the following drills either by sprinting, backward running, shuffling or carioca. Some drills also may include hopping over the object or quick stepping. The drills shown are by no means all the possible combinations you may do or the order they should be done in. Drills can be started in a position stance, on the ground facing a cone, laying on ones back, on a knee or any conceivable position. Running can start from right to left or left to right or done in any other manner. Be innovative and configure your own drills, adding or subtract cones as needed. Each drill must be run at full speed and finished leaning forward to win.
Example 5 Yard Agility Program:
Drill # 1 8
Sprint a figure 8 twice. Start at cone #5 sprint around cone#2. Do the drill twice.
Drill #2 Low L
Sprint a Low L. Start at cone #5. Sprint around cone #6 and back to cone #5. Turn and sprint around cone #2 and back to cone #5.
Drill #3 Hop Shuffle
Hop over the cone bringing your knees to your chest. Lateral shuffle quickly between cones. Hop again. Continue for 30 seconds. Count reps.
Drill #4 Hop Sprint
Hop over the cone bringing your knees to your chest. Sprint between cones. Hop again. Continue for 30 seconds. Beat the reps in drill #3.
Drill #5 V
Sprint to cone #3. Carioca to cone #1. Backward run to cone#5.
Drill #6 V Hop
Sprint to cone #3. Hop over it with knees to chest. Carioca to cone #2. Hop over it knees to chest. Sprint to cone #1 and hop over it. Backward run to cone#5.
Drill #7 Carioca V
Carioca to cone #1. Carioca to cone #3. Carioca to cone#5.
Drill #8 Backward V
Backward run to cone #1. Backward run to Cone #3. Backward run to cone#5
Drill #9 Shuffle V
Shuffle to cone #3. Shuffle to Cone #1. Shuffle to cone#5
Drill #10 4 Corner Spin
From cone #5 sprint to cone #6. Spin and sprint to cone #3. Spin and sprint to cone #2. Spin and sprint to cone #5.
Drill #11 Triangle
Sprint to Cone #4. Sprint to cone #1. Sprint to cone #5.
Drill #12 Sprint Hop
Hop over cone #5 knees to chest. Sprint to cone # 4 hop knees to chest. Sprint to cone #1 and hop. Sprint to cone # 2 and hop with knees to chest. Sprint to #6 hop and finish at Cone#5.
Drill #13 Star
Add one cone. Start in the center at #7 touch cone #5 and return and touch cone #7. Touch cone #4 return and touch cone #7. Touch cone #1 and return and touch cone #7. Touch cone #2 and finish at cone #7. Perform the drill twice.
Drill #14 N
Sprint from cone #5 to cone #2. Sprint from cone #6 to cone #3 and finish.
Drill #15 Skier
Hop, back and forth, over cone #5 for 1 minute. Count repetitions.
Drill #16. Shuffle Step Over
Step over, back and over cone #5 and shuffle to cone#6. Step over, back and over cone #6 and shuffle to cone #3. Step over, back and over cone #3 and shuffle to cone#2. Step over, back and over cone #2 and shuffle to cone#1. Step over, back and over cone #1 and shuffle to cone #4. Step over, back and over cone #4 and shuffle to cone #5.
Rest intervals are to be set by the coach or athlete based on fitness.
Get Strong on the Pendulum Leg Extension