“For any man alive, you’ve got to have some kind of purpose in your life, besides your family. I think you have to have a broader purpose. Something of your work.”
Jim Wendler from Table Talk Podcast Episode 3
Back in August 2020, I reached out to my friend who is heavily involved in everything at the local Finnish baseball (Pesäpallo) team Jokioisten Koetus juniorit. I asked him if they have some sort of strength and conditioning training setup in their training regime, and if not, could I tag along and help out with the strength portion of it all.
In a quick reply, he said, “Not really. I’ll forward everything to the guy in charge so you can get started.” We had a couple of meetings with the head coach and cordially debated a thing or two about the training and decided on the basic outline for the training system. I ran two sessions a week and gave the kids one workout to do on their own: speed, strength, and mass.
We’ve now been running for ten weeks with a simple linear progression with a speed, strength, and mass workout split. We focus on the big lifts but throw in some plyometrics, isolation exercises, and bodybuilding to keep the kids interested. Hopefully, we will make the kids pack on a few specs of muscle to keep them safer during the season. The best part of it all is that the kids realize what they have managed to do.
“I did my previous max for five reps?”
Crazy how working a little bit lighter works by not banging your face to a wall in every workout.
Simple Guidelines to Follow
I follow these simple guidelines with the kids:
- Technique has to be good: Stay the same or get better while the sets and reps go on. Every athlete has their own form and style, and I try to guide their efforts to get better-looking reps.
- Watch the intensity: No missing weights; However, the weight needs to be enough that it does what it’s supposed to.
- Push the kids when possible to show them what they can do.
- Make it fun.
The kids have progressed so much with these guidelines that I can now push them safely on the bigger lifts. Now the fun starts with the possibility to apply more than just 3×5 or 5×5 to include something more challenging to push the athletes to get more out of the training.
- KB Scapula Shrug/Row
- KB Row
- Stiff Leg Deadlift
- Front Squat
- Dead Bug
- Crossbody Single-Leg DL
- Side Bend
- Hip mobility and torso strength: Bird-dog, Hip Airplane, and Hip 90/90 rotations
Speed and Upper Body Strength
- Power Cleans, 5×4 progressing to 3-5 x 2-3 paired with an abdominal exercise
- Bench (any form), for 2×20 coupled with any form of row for 2×15+
- Speed Squats, 5-7 x 2-3, or any form of lunging or forward plane stepping movement for 3-4 x 4-8
- Pull-ups or Lat Pulldown, 3-4 x 5-8 for pull-ups, 8-15 for pulldowns
- Squats, 3-5 sets of 3-10 reps depending on the phase of the program. Pair with a jump of any sort for 3-4 reps
- Bench, 3-4 sets of 4-12 reps, depending on the phase of the program. Pair with a row or ab movement. Twisting ab work is really great to plug in here
- Deadlift of any sort, 3 sets of 5-8 reps
- Arms, “Fill out your shirt sleeves.”
- Machine Leg Movement x 3 sets of 8-15 reps paired with some ab work
- Incline Benching (any form), 3 sets of 10-20 reps paired with a Chest Supported Row for upper back
- Power movement
- Shoulders, Rear Delts, and Arms
All in all, nothing in this training is special. The long-term plan is to have a simple yearly schedule where we can plug in different phases of training to emphasize the needs of the season without sacrificing the acquired adaptations from the weeks of work before.
Fall is the offseason to heal, grow, and strengthen. Early spring needs a phase where we transfer the new gains to speed. Late spring needs a transitioning phase for in-season training, while the playing season is trying to maintain everything acquired, so we don’t need to start all over again from the beginning of September 1.
We’re progressing steadily on all aspects and ensuring that we put in a sufficient amount of work without additional cost on behalf of other training. We’re building the base for the upcoming season and the following years and hopefully for life since lifting weights is more than a sports prep.
I’ve learned at least an equal amount from the kids as they are from me, and seeing the progress of others fuels my training fire. If anyone is hesitating to make the commitment to start any type of training to help out those with less knowledge, take the plunge. It is worth it for you and for the people you’re serving.
Santeri Kankaanpää is a 27-year-old strongman athlete from Finland. He’s been competing in strongman for four years, three of which have been on the national level. Santeri has a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Turku.