One Coach's Virtual Strength Training Solution During COVID-19

Coach John Garrish John Garrish is the director of athletic development and performance at North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek, Florida. Like many strength and conditioning coaches in the United States, he’s had to drastically adjust the way he interacts and trains athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing means that the normally bustling weight room at North Broward Prep is currently quiet and empty. Despite that, Garrish has found plenty of ways to keep in contact with his athletes.

“(I engage with them) as best as I can,” said Garrish. “Unfortunately, no form of remote training will ever equate to the engagement of training together and seeing each other in person every day. But we're doing everything we can to share programs and check in every day.”

Not being able to use the multitude of Hammer Strength racks and weights normally available for students at North Broward Prep is a detriment. But it's far from enough reason to keep students from being active while they're spending most of their time at home. 

"Frankly, (lack of access to strength equipment) is not possible to make up for," explained Garrish. "We have years of evidence showing the benefits of conventional resistance training and there's no amount of bodyweight reps that we could do that would elicit the same training effect as a squat rack, bar and platform would. However, reality has changed temporarily and we need to make the best of this new reality. It's important that we stay grounded in sound training methods that elicit a response conducive to our school-aged student-athletes' health, development and safety—all of which can still be done with no equipment at all."

Here’s how Garrish keeps the training going through daily, weekly and monthly communication with athletes and students.

Daily Workout Connection

Google Forms: Garrish compiles simple bodyweight workouts that anyone from North Broward Prep (students, staff, parents, etc.) can do from home. This largely reaches the middle school community.

Daily @NBPS_Strength Snapchat Stories: On Monday, Wednesday and Friday he sends three different workout options out to students and alumni communities. Students screenshot the workout script and Garrish gets a notification that they've seen and received it.

  • Option 1: Exercisers with access to a full weight room (this group is becoming increasingly rare unless they have a home gym)
  • Option 2: Those with no equipment at all
  • Option 3: Those that are somewhere in the middle (these students might have dumbbells, bands, etc.)

In addition to the strength development portion, he sends workouts to cover sprint performance and energy system development as well to be completed before lifts. On off days (Tuesday and Thursday) they’re given plyometric workouts that are either in-place, “multiple jump” style workouts or those that include locomotive hops, skips, gallops and bounds.

  • Monday: Acceleration/short sprints
  • Tuesday: Low-volume plyometric workout
  • Wednesday: Max velocity
  • Thursday: Low-volume plyometric workout
  • Friday: Speed endurance, lactic or aerobic training

Note: Sprint performance and energy workouts (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) vary and are created for three groups—those who are healthy enough and feel comfortable going outside, those who don’t want to be outside but have a treadmill and/or stationary bike, and those who don’t fit into either category that can do some basic low-intensity plyometric drills that can be completed just about anywhere.

Daily @NBPSAthletics Instagram Stories: Garrish transfers what he sends out through Snapchat to Instagram and compiles them into a folder to send through email for students who don't follow the school's social media accounts.

Weekly Connection

Zoom Meetings: Garrish meets weekly with students on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and offers virtual office hours on Monday, Thursday and Friday morning. The students address any questions they have regarding the programs and discuss how they're doing not limited to their sleep, hydration and fueling habits. 

Emails: Garrish sends out a weekly newsletter-type update to students and parents. Currently, it includes workouts he's sent through social media for the high schoolers, the Google forms for middle schoolers and a Google doc of workout options for parents and teachers.

Wellness Wednesday Twitter Videos: The communications team at North Broward Prep includes Garrish's input in their weekly installment of "Wellness Wednesday". They offer a recording of a couple exercises people can add to their regimen every week with an intro and brief "how-to". 

Monthly Connection

Tweets: To update and communicate with teachers, staff, community members and colleagues in the profession he shares the various files encompassing each program from the various modalities. Garrish shares a recap of the Google Forms, Docs, Snaps, exercise demonstrations and Zoom recordings from the month to engage non-participants as well as those who might want to follow along in training.

The Importance of Continued Communication

Keeping in contact with students is important from a sports performance standpoint, but it goes much deeper than that.

"It's absolutely paramount for reasons much bigger than how they'll perform whenever we come back to sport," said Garrish. "Can you imagine being 11 to 18 years old and being told you can't play sports? Or that you can't go over your friend's house to hang out? I can't fathom what our young people are going through. I believe physical activity is the number one way to take care of the body, mind and spirit. So, if physical activity is taken away from young people, the repercussions will be much larger than just a couple of bad performances in a few games however many months away."