How to Maximize an Athlete's Training ROI

When you hear the words “return on investment,” or ROI for short, images of the stock market and retirement funds come to mind. People put money in to these investments expecting something in return – more money! The more money that comes out, compared to money put in, the greater the ROI.

With sports performance training, you want to increase your ROI just as you would with your investment funds. Instead of looking solely at money, an athlete also has to consider time – the most valuable resource of them all. For every hour an athlete trains, they should expect to receive things in return – greater strength, power, speed, etc. With the limited time most youth athletes have, it is important that they maximize their ROI for every hour they put in at the gym.


1. Drop Olympic Lifting

It may come as a surprise that I would recommend eliminating Olympic lifts considering they are cornerstone exercises in many high schools here in the U.S. Sure, they can be great exercises for athletes if they have many hours of experience learning from a qualified coach, but the truth is many athletes never reach an adequate level of competency, due to lack of practice and poor coaching. This ends in countless hours of wasted training time and many sore backs.

The biggest issue with Olympic lifts is that they are complex global movements done at high speed. To become competent at these lifts, it may take months, if not years, of practice. Once learned, any extended break from these movements – say, a sports season – will require a reacquainting period once training resumes.

To get the most out of your athletes’ training time, it would be wise to completely eliminate barbell Olympic lifts from their routine.


2. Pair Exercises Together

A great way to get more out of every training hour is to pair two or more exercises together. When using straight sets (not pairing exercises together) it would be a challenge to complete more than 3-4 exercises in an hour’s time. But, if we paired exercises together, we could easily complete 6-8 different movements – if not more.

The key with pairing exercises together, without negatively affecting their efficiency, is to pair exercises that do not compete with each other. This could be done by pairing an upper body movement with a lower body movement or pairing a pushing movement with a pulling movement. When one area of the body is resting, the other can be worked, and vice versa.

Combining exercises in this manner greatly increases the amount of work that can be done in a training period.


3. Eliminate the Unnecessary

Far too often as strength coaches we look for what we can add to our programs to make our athletes better. Instead, many of us should be asking what can we eliminate?

Excessive coaching cues, complex movements, and exercises that take a long time to set up kill productivity in the weight room.

With training, just like many other things in life, the basic route is usually best. Every minute spent explaining a new or complex movement is a minute your athletes are not training. Even if you feel an exercise is slightly superior, you must weigh the time it takes to explain and learn the movement with any added benefit it may offer.

While not the most exciting, sticking with the basics will more times than not yield greater results than the “latest and greatest” workout routine you find on YouTube.


Wrap Up

Athletic development isn’t quite as black and white as numbers on a spreadsheet, but the concept remains the same – how can I get the biggest return for what I put in? In strength and conditioning it is easy to get lost in 40 yard dash times and squat numbers, but ultimately all that matters is how an athlete performs on the field/court/ice. With this end goal in mind, a coach can create an off season training program that maximizes every hour their athletes put in at the gym.