Sep 1, 2017
A Unified Approach to Training

This is an excerpt from Bigger Faster Stronger, Third Edition, by Greg Shepard, EdD, and Kim Goss.

Unification is the concept that all athletes in the public school system should adhere to the same basic training philosophy.

We at BFS believe young athletes, from football players to basketball players to swimmers to golfers, should perform the same core weight training exer­cises. They should also perform the same speed, flexibility, and plyometric exercises. Not just because it’s easier to administer such a program, but because it’s a better program.

We believe that all high schools, middle schools, and many colleges should be unified. Such organization reduces teaching time, prevents many administrative hassles and personality conflicts, and improves athletic performance. In today’s world of budget cuts and reduced coaching and physical education staffs, having all athletes use the same workout program year-round reduces the amount of time needed for teaching new exercises and workouts.

It used to be that the interests of many PE and athletic departments of high schools would often clash, with neither wanting anything to do with the other. Today we live in a different world, where high school budgets are tight, staff sizes are smaller, and compromises are inevitable. PE and athletic departments have to work together, and the best way to do that is by implementing a unified program.

One of the worst problems for the multisport athlete is having each coach prescribe a different strength and conditioning program. We’ve visited countless high schools where the football coach did intense free weight workouts and the girls’ basketball coach did little strength training and only used machines. The girls’ coach would say, “My girls are intimidated by free weights!” and would therefore limit their strength training to inferior exercises. We’ve also met old school baseball coaches who would warn their players, “Weights will make you muscle bound!”

When coaches adopt the BFS system, all athletes perform the same basic program throughout the entire school year and during the summer. Confu­sion disappears, coaches enjoy a spirit of teamwork with their colleagues, and athletes more easily achieve their goals. That’s why it’s no surprise to us when an athletic program does an immediate turnaround after we’ve set up a unified program at a BFS clinic.

At BFS clinics, we go beyond teaching reps, sets, and exercises. Our clini­cians teach coaches and administrators how to unify their athletic program so that it encompasses all sports for both male and female athletes, grades 7 through 12. We started teaching these clinics in 1977, and they are still in demand today.

To keep the terminology simple, we give the school the option of refer­ring to the workout as the BFS total program or naming it after their school mascot. Let’s say the team mascot is a tiger. Everyone does the Tiger stretching program. The Tigers would also have unified speed, warm-up, endurance, agility, plyometric, and weight training programs. It’s that simple—and it works!

With unification, a two- or three-sport Tiger athlete would move smoothly from sport season to sport season without interruption. Let’s take the example of a football player who is also on the basketball team. After the football season, this athlete would not have to wait four to six weeks to get started on a basketball-specific strength training program. He would just stay on the Tigers’ in-season program. Athletes don’t have a Tiger basketball in-season program; they have the Tiger in-season program. Athletes don’t have a Tiger basketball off-season program; they have the Tiger off-season program.

BFS has seen school districts with as many as two dozen high schools, along with their affiliated middle schools, unify their athletic training and physical education classes with BFS. One reason is that if a young man or woman decides not to participate in sports in their freshman or sophomore years, he or she will be at a disadvantage in the junior and senior years if he or she decides to try to get back into a sport. However, if this kid is involved in an athletic fitness program such as BFS, his or her strength, coordination, and other basic athletic fitness qualities would be at a high level. The transition back into sports would also be easier.

Middle school athletes would follow the same guidelines. After they master the technique of the exercises and learn how to spot, seventh graders can do the same workouts that high school athletes do. Because competition at the high school level continues to reach higher standards, athletes must get into the weight room as soon as possible so that they don’t fall behind. Just think of the advantages when those young kids who are maturing and developing with the BFS program transition into high school!

Learn more about Bigger Faster Stronger, Third Edition, at

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