Getting a Grip on Group Training

Dustin Myers


While training yourself or an individual client may come naturally to most weightlifters, one of the hardest aspects of coaching is figuring out how to run group, sport - specific strength workouts. I started my training career focusing on one on one personal training, but have transitioned to where most of my coaching is for groups or entire teams of athletes, both at the high school and college level. Here are a few things to consider when setting up and designing a workout program for a team:


  1. Rest


It’s very easy during large groups for there to be too much rest. During the focus, or max effort exercise of the day, have athletes rest anywhere from 1.5 minutes to up to 3 minutes between sets (3 minutes only between max effort single reps).  On all other sets keep rest at 1 minute or less.


  1. Supersets and Circuits.


Exercises grouped as a superset or circuit should be done consecutively with no rest between stations other than a natural transition. Once the superset is complete, rest 1 minute or less before starting another round.


  1. Set Up and Execution


The best way to run workouts in a team setting is to break the athletes up into groups of 4. Pair them together by strength and size. Do not let the athletes pick who they lift with - chances are that most will gravitate towards their social circle rather than someone who has an equal skill set. The less time that is spent changing the bar weight (particularly on the supersets) the smoother the circuit will run. Assign a permanent number (1-4) to each athlete within their group. If a superset lists 3 exercises, athlete #1 will start with the first exercise and cycle through the superset as the others follow them in order. By the time they have completed one round, athlete #4 should be starting the first exercise. This is the perfect time for athlete #1 to rest before he begins his next round. The exercises are in a specific order for a reason, so make sure that all athletes complete the supersets and circuits in order.


  1. Focus and Intensity


You may have the best strength program ever created, but if your athletes do not enter the weight room focused and train with intensity, they will not reap the benefits. In contrast, you can have a poorly designed program that your athletes attack consistently with 100% effort, and they will make improvements. Weightlifting time is not social hour.  Make sure your athletes compete hard and put effort into every set. Your most important job when instituting a program is to get them to take it serious and to WANT to work hard.


  1. Time of Day When in Season


Here is the perfect scenario: Your athletes wake up at 5am, have a healthy breakfast, and come to school for strength training from 6:30-7:30am. Throughout the school day, proper nutrition and hydration will have them sufficiently recovered for practice that evening, after which they will head home for dinner, homework, and be in bed by 9pm.  Of course, this may not be realistic when dealing with groups of high school (or college) athletes with varying degrees of commitment to your program. If you have to perform the lifts before practice, that is not ideal but it is better than nothing. Once you get into the later stages of the season, you can execute the main strength workout either on a Sunday afternoon, Monday morning, or Monday before practice. Additional conditioning style lifts may be completed after practice during the middle of the week.


There are countless variables that go into every workout, so get a handle on the ones you can control. If you have a solid structure in place programming wise, once you get the athletes to “buy in”, your job will be easy. The foundation of every great program is the athletes own effort. If you can get them to consistently give great effort, you will be doing your job. 

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