By Elton “Croc” Crochran, M.Ed, CSCS
Every coach whether they admit it or not, has fallen victim to reviewing or implementing training methods because of their catchy name. “Triphasic training” wouldn’t hit the same if we called it Tempo Lifting. Westside barbell wouldn’t bring the same intensity if it was called Periodic Max Training.
While working at a small secondary school in San Antonio with less than 200 athletes from grades 6th-12th, I coined my balance/coordination and exercise selection/progression, “Rhythm and Flow.” The definition of Rhythm that I refer to from Webster’s dictionary is “Movement, fluctuation, or variation marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements.” As strength coaches, we must be proficient in teaching movement, fluctuation, and variations in our training.
While working with a 6th grade pre-athletics group, I noticed a huge gap in balance and coordination for almost all my athletes. Teaching my athletes how to skip was a challenge because of the coordination that was needed between the upper and lower body. This issue was persistent throughout the middle school, and there were several high school athletes who also struggled with similar coordinated movements. My frustration grew because many of these kids could learn how to do a “tik tok” dance in two minutes, but couldn’t skip with the opposite arm, opposite leg up.
I began scaffolding drills that required minimal coordination, and then progressed from there. A-skips work great for developing rhythm however I had several athletes that would skip with the same knee and arm up. To eliminate this issue, my athletes began a-skip series by progressing from a 1) A-Walk; 2) A-March; 3) A-Switch; and 4) A-Skip. Other drills that I used to improve our rhythm were power skips or bounding, unilateral upper/lower body movements and different skip series. I made it a habit to ensure that all my drills and lifts would flow together.
Flow is what I use to describe my exercise selection for progressions/regressions. If something flows, then there is a smooth, uninterrupted movement or progress. I teach my athletes that a great athletic stance is the foundation for several of our lifts and drills. Day 1, I would teach my athletes what it means to have their feet “hip width apart” so that I could teach them how to properly hip hinge. First, I have my athletes place their hands-on top of their hips followed by placing their feet underneath their hands. When teaching the hip hinge, I start with teaching the “PVC Hip Hinge” exercise. With one hand on top and one hand on the bottom, a PVC pipe is placed on the back of their head and butt, and touches between the shoulder blades. The movement requires a hip width stance, slight bend in the knees and is executed by pushing the hips and butt back.
By teaching this hinge movement pattern, I’ve also taught our athletes how to RDL and execute the Hang Clean Pull, Counter-Movement Jump and Lateral Row while keeping a flat back in the weight room. Another movement that flows from the weight room to running is the “half kneeling press.” We progress from a half-kneeling landmine press, to a split-stance landmine press to a landmine push jerk. Many athletes struggle with this unilateral lift and want to press with the same side knee up rather than pressing with the right arm, left knee up. It’s important that my athletes master this because when skipping or marching, they tend to march with the same knee and arm up, which is incorrect.
These drills and exercises are core components in my program, and I hope that other coaches can benefit from what I call, Rhythm and Flow.
Coach Elton Crochran, or Coach Croc, is the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Veterans Memorial HS in San Antonio, TX. Prior to coaching at Veterans, Coach Croc has spent the past 3 years teaching and coaching at various high schools. Before transitioning to high school strength & conditioning. Coach Croc spent over seven years as a collegiate Strength & Conditioning coach. Coach Croc currently holds his NSCA CSCS, HSSCC, and Master’s degree in Kinesiology from Hardin-Simmons University.