5 Training Tips for the Student-Athlete

Matt Underhill, B.A., M.A.T., CSCS
Today, we hand over the blog to Matt Underhill. English Teacher, Dorm Parent, Boys Varsity Hockey and Head Softball Coach, Matt embodies the quintessential boarding school “Triple Threat”. With his coaching hat on, we hear Underhill’s top five tips for the student-athlete.

Here’s Coach Underhill:
1. There is a difference between training and working out
Athletes train; soccer moms work out. That’s not a dig on soccer moms, but working out involves going to the gym, doing some cardio, lifting some weights, and making sure you sweat and get your heart rate up. Training, which is what young athletes should be doing, is very different than working out. Training starts with identifying goals, coming up with a plan to achieve those goals, and tracking your progress toward them. To be a top high school athlete you cannot just “go to the gym.” You have to have a plan, you have to write things down (exercises, weights, sets, etc.), and you have to be working toward tangible goals that make you a better athlete.
2. Almost no one trains hard enough
Here at Kimball Union, and across prep school and college campuses throughout the country, student-athletes are in the gym all hours of the day. There is no doubting the commitment of these young athletes. However, as an athlete you cannot substitute time in the gym for intensity of activity. Think about the last time you trained -- did you work to absolute failure on every set or did you simply complete three sets of ten reps before stopping? The same principle applies to rest times as well. If your goal is hypertrophy (adding lean muscle mass), your rest times between sets should be about one minute, which flies by if you are working hard enough.
3. You have to train at the speed of your sport
If your sport calls for quick, change-of-direction movements (such as softball or tennis), running four miles for your workout does not help much. Granted, it will improve your aerobic capacity, but if you want to be a better athlete you need to train for the demands of the sports you play. You cannot train slowly and expect to play fast. Also, as an athlete you are often off-balance and in a state of transition on the field, ice, or court, so you need to incorporate off-balance movements into your training. You should work on deceleration drills to improve your eccentric strength and your change-of-direction skills.
4. Prioritize Olympic and multi-joint movements
Barbell curls and calf raises may get you ready for the beach, but as an athlete you should be focusing the majority of your attention on powerful, multi-joint movements such as cleans, snatches, push-jerks, thrusters, squats, etc. You rarely isolate muscle groups when you are playing sports, so you should look to use as many muscles as possible in your lifts. Start your workouts with your power lifts (cleans, snatches), followed by your strength lifts (squats, bench press), and supplement your lifts with assisting exercises (often single-joint, such as bicep curls or lateral raises). Heavy, powerful, structural movements will not only recruit more muscle fibers, but they will also increase your bone density and make your joints stronger.
5. You can’t out-train a bad diet
Any sports nutritionist will tell you that there is a direct correlation between your plate and your performance. Here at Kimball Union we are fortunate to have the “dot” system in the dining hall, which directs students toward the healthiest foods (green dots), the least healthy (red dots), and the in-between (yellow dots). Because adolescents typically have faster metabolisms than adults, they can usually afford a few more of the “red dot” foods (e.g. chicken fingers, pizza) than adults; however, young athletes must be choosing nutrient-dense foods, plenty of vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates every day. Remember what long-time physique competitor Clarence Bass once said, “Abs are made in the kitchen.”
Thank you, Coach Underhill, for this excellent insight and stay tuned for more news from The Hilltop.


Kimball Union Academy

603-469-2000  · 603-469-2040 (fax)  · info@kua.org
Founded in 1813, Kimball Union Academy is one of the oldest private boarding high schools in New Hampshire and the country. KUA blends the best of the New England boarding tradition with an innovative, modern educational program for a diverse group of day and boarding students from across the country and around the world. Located in Meriden, New Hampshire in the heart of the Upper Valley, Kimball Union is minutes from Dartmouth College and has direct access to Boston and New York.