Risk/Reward Analysis In Training

Risk/Reward Analysis In Training

“Life is all about taking risks” yea, maybe with asking that guy/gal out on a date or trying a new food, but certainly not in strength and conditioning!


Before I ramble on about this topic, let me make myself clear, I do take risks with my athletes, but not at the expense of their athletic performance.


What exactly do I mean by risk and reward?


Training offers many benefits, such as: increase in strength, power, speed and coordination.  There are also risks associated with training. Athletes who work out incorrectly, risk straining a muscle, damaging a growth plate, and other injuries. THAT’S ONLY IF THEY WORK OUT INCORRECTLY. Obviously, freak incidents do occur, but chances are much lower when the proper coaching is in place.


Also, athletes do get sore and coaches, have to be aware of what is going on besides their strength training. As a coach, it is important to know the game and practice schedules of your athletes to reduce the risk of impeding their performance. Again, with the right coaching, the risk of injury is decreased.


When writing a program, a coach should keep the risk/reward analysis in mind. Every exercise, set, rep, order of each exercise matters. It doesn’t make any sense to program back squats at near maximal weights on day 1 with an athlete who has no previous training history. One also shouldn’t program deadlifts 3×20 for time in the middle of lacrosse season. A coach needs to understand the result of what a high volume compound movement can do to an athlete (soreness, fatigue, injury).


Now, the risk/reward analysis also goes for specific exercises. A few exercises outlined below are conventional deadlift, back squat, and box jump.


-Pulling weight from the floor in a conventional deadlift can be tough for young athletes. To reduce the risk of injury, athletes need to keep a neutral spine, packed lats, and loaded hips. Take a step back and use a kettle bell or other regression one deems necessary to make the movement easier to achieve a better position without risking an injury.


-Holding the bar behind the neck in a back squat is not the easiest movement for some. When done incorrectly, it can put stress on the front of the shoulder and take away from the squat. Make life easy, use a safety squat bar, front squat variation, or kettle bells if the athlete doesn’t have the required range of motion. Again, decreasing the risk and achieving the same benefits.


-Box jumps! Everyone loves this one, but often people try to go too high and end up crushing their shins. The purpose is to develop power from the hips in a dynamic fashion, which is great, but jumping where a person’s feet are barely clearing the box is just asking for bloody shins. Risk/Reward people!


This concept also goes for all the crazy drills and exercises on social media. Coaches do not need to have their athletes perform the most complex movements in order to achieve the results they want. The last thing an athlete wants is to be injured and the last place coaches want there to be an incident is the weight room. Sometimes it takes the simplest of drills to produce the most profound results. 


Coaches should consider putting a note at their desk reminding themselves of the risk/reward analysis every time they program. Produce the most amount of results with the least amount of risk. Doing this will lead to fewer athletes getting hurt in the gym and more reaping the rewards of strength and conditioning.


Feel free to make a comment below with your thoughts. I think all coaches should implement this into their programming in some capacity. It will only help!