Sep 9, 2016More on the Hatch System
Last week, we introduced the Hatch System, which utilizes Olympic lifts and their derivatives. It is a method of explosive training originally created for competitive weightlifting but that has become embraced for ground-based sports. It relies on Olympic movements because they involve full-body work and power production, which translate well to the field and court.
When used in competitive weightlifting, the Hatch System is typically broken up into an intense five-day schedule with double sessions on three of those days. However, this is not suitable for college or high school athletes due to the auxiliary demands that come with being a student-athlete. For strength coaches at these levels, Hatch suggests implementing a three- or four-day lifting regimen composed of 60- to 90- minute sessions. This format allows the athletes adequate time to recover between whole-body explosive workouts.
Under this plan, one week would create a microcycle. Each day should consist of a full-body routine with a balance of pressing and pulling movements, but the strength coach should decide which specific Hatch 10 and assistant exercises are done. The day-to-day loads should be determined by the time of year, sport, positional requirements and goals, and each athlete’s ability.
A mesocycle consists of three loading microcycles followed by a fourth unloading microcycle. Mesocycles are commonly structured in a three-cycle block for optimal results. The first consists of sets of four reps for explosive exercises and sets of six reps for strength exercises at 65 to 80 percent of an athlete’s one-rep max. The second mesocycle switches to sets of three reps for explosive exercises and sets of five for strength actions in the 70 to 90 percent range. The third, peaking mesocycle drops to sets of two or less reps for explosive exercises and four or less reps for strength exercises at 80 to 100 percent of one-rep max.
This pattern of alternating through the mesocycles can be adjusted and repeated to form the yearlong macrocycle. The mesocycles can be lengthened or shortened along the way to accommodate the demands of the offseason, preseason, and competitive season.
Although the benefits associated with the Hatch System are numerous and well-documented, some strength coaches are hesitant to try it. One frequently cited reason is that it focuses too much on the Olympic lifts at the expense of other important exercises. However, there is room to incorporate other activities such as plyometrics, corrective movements, and sports-specific training without deviating from the Hatch System’s core principles.
For instance, plyometric exercises go hand in hand with the explosive training aspect of the Hatch System because ground-based sport athletes need to know how to jump and land correctly. Plyometrics also give players a break from training with an external load and can help prevent injuries.
When it comes to addressing dysfunctional movements or deficits, many of the Hatch 10 and assistant exercises are similar to the actions used in the Functional Movement Screen and can provide opportunities for identifying and correcting strength imbalances. And sport-specific exercises make great auxiliary activities in the Hatch System. For sports that incorporate rotational and lateral movement, strength coaches can add work with cable machines, medicine balls, and elastic bands as assistant exercises.
Another commonly cited concern about the Hatch System is that the Olympic lifts put athletes at a greater risk of injury in the weightroom or cause players to add too much muscle. If a sport coach, athlete, or medical professional expresses this concern, a strength coach can take a modified approach to the system by removing some of the Hatch 10 exercises from their program or using simpler variations to create a system that works best for their team.
In cases where the Hatch System has already been implemented, complications can arise if athletes are physically unable to complete some of the Hatch 10 lifts. This occurs most often as a result of poor flexibility or a lack of proprioception. These are problems, however, that are easily remedied.
If an athlete lacks flexibility, strength coaches can keep their loads light and modify their range of motion, stance, or grip on the bar. For instance, if a player can’t properly pull from the floor, start with the bar on plates or blocks and gradually move closer to the floor as the athlete’s range of motion improves. If the individual has trouble gripping the bar for a front squat, have them use a wider grip or attach grip straps to the barbell.
When the player lacks proprioception, try teaching the lifts in segments using light loads until the athlete’s technique improves. For instance, a hang snatch can be much less daunting for an uncoordinated athlete to learn than a full snatch.
BRINGING IT TO BASKETBALL
As the strength coach for the LSU women’s basketball and softball teams, I currently incorporate many of the Hatch 10 and assistant exercises to build explosive athletes. I teach all of the Olympic lifts and their derivatives in a similar vein as Coach Hatch, and I assign and progress the athletes’ sets and reps according to his teachings. However, I like to put my own stamp on the program by adding a circuit-training component.
In the offseason, the basketball team has weightroom sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Our workouts are divided into two 20-minute halves with a brief three-minute “halftime” rest period in between to represent the structure of a game. The first half contains our major strength-building movements such as the Hatch 10 and corresponding assistant exercises.
The second half of our workout is a circuit consisting of five rounds of four stations. Each station requires 30 seconds of work and provides 30 seconds of recovery. Instead of including Olympic lifts in the circuit, we complete explosive lateral and rotational movements as well as sport-specific exercises, core work, conditioning, and light plyometrics. The circuit remains true to the tenets of the Hatch System by emphasizing explosive movements, but it also includes supplemental activities that develop basketball-specific agility and endurance.
In regards to periodization, we follow the traditional mesocycle format of three loading weeks followed by an unloading week. During this time, loads decrease by five to 10 percent, the players complete easier auxiliary exercises, and the circuit stations switch to 40 seconds of recovery and 20 seconds of work. As the in-season nears and team practices increase, we cut back to two days a week in the weightroom.
Built to handle a few tweaks when necessary, the Hatch System can develop explosive athletes for any ground-based sport. And by taking advantage of the Hatch 10 and the corresponding assistant exercises, strength coaches can experience the results that myself and many others have found by incorporating Coach Hatch’s program.