weight training

Fixing High School Strength and Conditioning.

My name is Deerick Smith and I am the Director of Strength and Conditioning at Southside School District in Southside Arkansas.  I am a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA and am currently in the Masters of Exercise Science Program at Concordia Chicago. I am the owner of Smith Performance specializing in online training programs for schools and individual clients.  In my daily job, I work all the male and female athletes at the school 7-12th grade.  There are many programs throughout the country doing a fantastic job with strength and conditioning however there are also many programs unknowingly putting athletes at risk.  The three biggest problems I see with Strength and Conditioning at the High school level are:

1-Programs that are too far advanced in terms of the athlete’s abilities.

2-Lack of understanding of Olympic lift programming.

3-Overuse of brutality to create mental toughness.

I cannot count the amount of times I have heard an athlete or coach say “we are following the University of _________ Strength and Conditioning program”.  The problem with this is the fact that they have no understanding of the progressions that led up to the exercises in that program. Many of the exercises being used could have had three years of progressions leading up to them. They also do not have the athletes at their school that are using that program at whatever university it may be.   Any division 1 even division 2 school is full of the best athletes from various High Schools across the country. What can be done with them is far different than what can be done with most athletes at the High School level.  A quote from Strength Coach Dan John resonates with me in terms of programming for High School athletes “anything works but not everything works” If you stick to a simple program then you will see results. If you bounce around from different method to different method then you will not achieve the results you could.

There is also a lack of understanding of the programming of Olympic lifts into strength and conditioning programs. Clean and Snatch variations can have a huge impact on the development of the High School athlete if taught and programmed correctly, they can also put the athlete at an increased risk of injury if they are not taught or programmed correctly.  When programming Olympic lifts, I never program more than five reps per set and usually do no more than three reps per set.  This is because the Olympic are so dependent on proper form, all lifts require technical abilities but with the Olympic lifts and their variations this greatly increases.  The more reps programmed the more stress on the CNS and the more the athletes form breaks down. I simply live by if you cannot do or coach an Olympic movement yourself, then don’t have your athletes do it! There are many progressions that go into learning the Olympic lifts and their variations. You don’t just simply program cleans into your workout without taking your athletes through the process of learning the different aspects of the clean.   There are many ways to achieve the stimulus that Olympic movements provide without doing the Olympic movements.

Lastly and one of the biggest problems I see are coaches trying to create mental toughness through brutality in the weight room or in training sessions.  While many may not agree with it my thoughts are if an athlete shows up every day on time and gives his or her full effort on the task at hand then they are already mentally tough. This world is full of soft individuals who simply cannot show up and do what is expected so to do this they are already ahead of a lot of the population. It is not our place as coaches to grind kids into the ground through brutal workouts that leave them laying on the floor drenched in sweat gasping for air in the name of “mental toughness”.  Special forces, Marines, and the Army and Navy do a lot of these type workouts and are some of the baddest men and women on the planet but that’s the key, they are MEN and WOMEN, not Jr High and High School KIDS.  I look at it through the lens of do my kids respect me or do my kids fear me, while both will get your athletes to buy in the first is the key in truly developing your program.

Below is an example of what a structured day SHOULD look like:

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All of our programs at Smith Performance are designed around a pull, push, squat, dynamic movement and carry every single training day. This allows for variety within the program while still providing a consistent stimulus for growth.  Coaches are wearing many hats and stressed thin as it is, not all districts have the budget to have a certified strength and conditioning coach overseeing the programs. Smith performance provides the ability for all schools to have a program designed by a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.  We also offer individual programs and professional development for school districts across the United States teaching coaches how to oversee the weight room and design a proper program. The weight room is the most dangerous place on campus, make sure your athletes are safe and your coaches are educated with Smith Performance.

If you are looking for an online training program for your school or individually let me work for you to design the best program to fit your equipment and abilities.  All programs are CUSTOM made to your goals and strengths. I work to develop the total athlete, mobility, injury risk reduction, increased speed/power and strength. All programs are delivered directly to your phone through the Teambuildr app.  You can contact me by cell at 870-613-0075, on twitter at @coachdeesmith or via E-Mail at coachdeesmith1@gmail.com. Let me help maximize your teams yearly development.



”FUN”ctional Training

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.