How do we incentivize the “grind”? Most of your players will end up enjoying the strength training process, and seeing themselves get stronger, faster, and bigger. But, let’s face it, the “grind” can be a dang grind sometimes. We need to remember that these are 14 to 18 year old kids, they still like to do frivolous things and have fun. Hell, I’m 33 and I still like to do dumb things too! So, how do we incorporate FUN into strength and conditioning and still promote, competition, toughness and functional strength? This article will touch on rewards, competition, and challenges all designed to put some fun into your training programs. If you haven’t read my article on effective strength training then you need to go check it out here (Simple But Strong). These exercises are not meant to merely push them to compete, but to breed winners through competition. I am not seeking competition, but DOMINATION in the weight room, on the field, and in life from my players.
Rewards are an obvious way to incentivize your players to train hard. But there is a catch, they cant be too frequent or they become expectations instead of extra incentive. As far as rewards go, follow these 2 rules and the kids will want them.
1-Can they eat/Drink it; Protein bars, Candy, Protein Shakes, Fast Food
2-Can they wear it? Will others see it? Social recognition can be important to them.
Its that simple, if it falls into one of those two categories they will compete for the chance to win. How do you determine the winner(s)? Again, keep things simple. Here are some examples
- Most reps on the last set attained (pick 1 of your core movements)
- The player who completes the conditioning portion the quickest
- The player(s) that did not miss a day that week
- The player who is working out with the weight closest to their old max (pick 1 core movement)
- The player you ID as taking leadership roles (explain why as a group, and use specific examples, again social recognition)
These are all easy ways to provide some incentive and extra motivation, don’t make it a daily occurrence, or even a weekly occurrence. About every other week or so seems to be right. Whole team rewards are great too! Here are some great examples of whole team rewards:
- After lifting, instead of conditioning have some of the coaches set up a giant slip and slide outside while the players continue to lift. When they come out for conditioning and see that instead you just had an easy and huge moral boost. They will go nuts.
- Have an ice cream/snow cone truck show up to lifting so when they finish, it arrives and they can all go get something cold to eat. (obviously something like this would be dependent on funding, you want it to be free for them…)
- Have T-shirts made for the players that never missed a day of training all off season
Competitions are a great way to condition and compete at the same time. Most of the time the players will not realize how tired they are until after the event is completed. They can be as simple as relay races (get creative). Or as complex as games. Divide the field into 4 separate zones that way you can have 8 teams all playing at the same time. Gatorball is a great fast paced game that will get them all breathing hard. Flag football is an obvious choice. There are countless games that could be played, set it up in a tournament fashion so you have a team that is declared champions, but have the losing teams still play each other so they are still moving and competing. Tug-A-War might be the simplest one, yet gets the most heated and competitive. The most fun to watch…. Is towel fights. Take a towel, roll it up and tape it. Then have to players grab it with one hand overhand grip and the other underhanded. Have each players hands staggered with the others. Then say go and watch you wins, gives you an instant view into who your fighters are and who will need extra motivation to keep from quitting!
I love challenges. You can literally make anything a challenge that you are already doing in the weight room. Here is what I choose to do. Every Friday is called “Big Friday”. Each Friday one of the Big 3 lifts (Push Press, Front Squat, Dead Lift) is going to done for the heaviest set of five possible instead of 5 sets of 5 across. Rotate the lifts so they are done every 3rd week. For example, if it is the week for Front Squat, instead of doing 5 sets of 5 at 205 pounds, the lifter will start light and work up heavier each set until he cannot get 5 reps any more. The players who get the highest total get to write their names up on the boards as king of that lift until the next time that lift is done and somebody beats them. On the boards you will have 3 groups for the lift. OL/DL, RB/LB and WR/DB. So you will have 3 kings for each lift. The players love to write their names and totals on the boards, and they get a big kick out of erasing the name of somebody they beat. Here are some other simple examples:
- Who can hold 205 the longest in a locked out Dead Lift position
- Who can Plank the longest
- Who can do the most push ups/sit-ups/ pull ups in a given time period.
All quick and easy to judge. Give a reward for the winners if desired.
These are all simple ways to take some of the grind, out of the “grind”. As coaches, its our job to make sure we are promoting healthy competition and keeping moral high. We want our players to want to be there. Kids want to be successful, and they want to have fun too. There is no reason we can’t give them both. What better way to keep kids in the weight room working hard, than creating an environment in which they have fun doing it in? In doing so, you will create not competitors; but instead, you will develop Dominators! Please subscribe to my email list so you can be notified whenever I post a new article, and give me a follow on twitter at @thecoachvogt.