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Laying The Foundation

Joe Kenn | Vice President of Performance Education

Foundation, “the basis or groundwork of anything”, “an underlying basis or principle”, “the lowest load bearing support of a structure”, just several definitions I chose off the internet. In our method of program design, foundation movements are those exercises we deem as the most important in developing the specific strength per movement category (Total, Lower, Upper). These movements are the “GO TO” movements for the specific category and are usually the exercises the coach has determined with be evaluated throughout the year. The choice of the foundation movements proves vital in how we chose the rest of the exercises that will be programmed for that specific category.

In the sport of Weightlifting, the foundation movements are set in stone. The Snatch and Clean & Jerk are the movements in which these athletes compete in. Same with Powerlifting, the Back Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift are the competition movements of this sport. This makes it easier to design programs for these athletes because movements they perform in the gym are the ones they are to perform on “Game Days”.

Outside of these two strength sports, most athletes are utilizing strength training as an enhancer to their specific requirements of the sport. This makes choosing foundation movements for the sporting athlete slightly tougher. Although most coaches, will choose variations of movements from these sports, it still makes for interesting conversations as to the why’s one movement is selected over another.

When making these decisions, there are several factors that should be considered:

  1. Training Age of Athlete

  2. Compensatory Risk of Movement (having an effective teaching progression)

  3. Movement Mechanics and Relevancy to the Sporting Athlete

1 ) The training age of the athlete has to be considered. Athletes with low training ages should utilize foundation movements that are less complex than athletes that have higher training ages. A great example is, if the higher training aged athlete is performing a front squat or back squat for their lower body foundation movement, an athlete who is progression through an introduction/beginner phase may be transitioning from a bodyweight squat to a goblet squat.

Coach Kenn performing a 2 KB Anterior Loaded Squat. This is a great movement for developing the strength and technique to advance to the barbell front and back squat

2 - Strength training is a high-risk activity. It is imperative when making decisions of foundation lifts, especially if you will be evaluating maximum effort loads that you look at the overall risk of injury versus reward of heavier loads. Some movements technical efficiency deteriorates more than others as loads increase.

3 - As I have gained more experience on the floor and matured, the overall movement of a specific lift and its relevancy to sport has been a more deciding factor in my final decisions. I am not talking about sport specific training programs, that’s sporting practice, I am talking about how certain movement paths correlates to possible transfer to the athlete’s skill development overall. The biggest example of this in my programming is using the front squat over the back squat as the lead foundation movement for the lower body. In my opinion, simply, the posture position of the front squat is very similar to the basic athletic position of all sports.


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