Last week, I discussed the speed and strength program that helped make Aziza Ayoub a state champion. Obviously a large part of her success was the running plan her track coach had her on. Our speed and strength program was just part of the ingredients for her success.
I finished up last week talking about how we really worked on Aziza’s running mechanics those first couple years. We needed to enhance the power she already had and start to strengthen her lower posterior.
At the end of her sophomore year, she captured 5th place in the 400M. But she wanted to be even better.
The focal point going into her junior year was strength.
She was talking about moving up to the 800M. Her speed for the 400M would be her advantage as she would continue to work on her endurance. But, if she could get her strength improved that would carry her through that second 400M of the 800M.
We were going to get her on a total body strength program and put off some of the speed work for now. She was getting plenty of runs in soccer, which eventually she switched midway through the season to run cross country the whole time.
The one hitch in the strength program was that Aziza had scoliosis. We had to really make sure her form was tight on her lifts as we started adding deadlifts, power cleans, and jerks. As long as she had good form and we progressed conservatively, her back would only get stronger.
Pound for pound, Aziza became one of our strongest lifters.
Her core strength improved tremendously as she held her plank for an extra 2 minutes than when she began. Getting that core stronger would help her with her other lifts, but also maintain proper posture during her runs to allow her limbs to do what they need to do.
At her strongest, Aziza was squatting 165 for reps of 3. She also deadlifted 175 pounds for 2-3 reps. For more explosive work, we would combine those lifts with plyometrics soon after. She’d do a set of squats or deadlifts, rest 30 seconds, then do a set of some version of jump squats for reps of 12. The two contrasting movements really helped with her explosiveness and power.
Her bench press got up to 90 pounds for 2-5 reps. She was able to power clean 120 pounds for 2-4 reps. Not bad for someone who weighed 110 to 115 pounds.
Did all this help? Absolutely! Aziza went on to win the state championship in the 800M, setting a regional record in the process. She then went on to win the Junior Olympic national championships in Sacramento for the 800M as well. She also was able to drop her 400M time down another 2 seconds, getting it in the 54’s.
Her senior year, the goal was not to screw her up. We wanted to continue and build on her strength if we could, but really it was just to keep it at the high level she got it at as a junior.
The program was a mix of 3-4 weeks of high reps, low weight. Then 3 weeks of low reps, high weight. Then repeating those two phases with the addition of plyometrics or sprints after a set. Sometimes she’d do a set of cleans and 30 seconds later do a 10 yard sprint out.
Keeping the strength phases like that helped her win a second state title in the 800M. She also broke her own regional record again.
It is hard to say if she would have won those state titles without our speed and strength program. Maybe she could have. But, she had relatively little injuries and her kick was pretty powerful. Maybe it was natural ability, but she wasn’t willing to take the chance to NOT strength train.
An awesome high school career that has moved on to the collegiate level. No doubt if more athletes followed her initiative to do the extra work and enhance their natural athleticism, there would be more athletes who felt they had accomplished what they wanted to accomplish.