Middle School expands athletes’ strength program

By Alex Leichenger

The middle school strength and conditioning program has been expanded after the construction of a new weight room as part of last year’s campus renovation.

The school hired Michael Tromello to fill the new position of Middle School Strength and Conditioning Head Coach last year and added Lindsey Benson to the staff last month. Strength and Conditioning Head of Program Greg Bishop oversees the coaching and operations at the Middle School.

Tromello said he is in charge of formulating workout plans for all the athletes at the Middle School. Additionally, he teaches fitness classes to seventh graders, in which he gives “an intro to the weight room, nutrition, and body well being.”

Fitness, which used to be a required Physical Education course for eighth graders, is now required for seventh grade students.

“It is really imperative in this class that I spend the time to really go over basic movement patterns needed to lift weights as eighth graders,” Tromello said.

The focus of the middle school program centers on technique as opposed to pure strength, Bishop said. Through the training, middle school athletes will gain “increased neuromuscular coordination” that will ease the transition towards making “strength gains” by weightlifting.

“The eighth graders are on a plan which introduces them to very basic movements,” he said. “Beginning in the ninth grade, the students begin to use weight while performing some of the exercises, but still relatively light with an emphasis on technique.”

The staff pays close attention to each athlete’s medical background and physical maturation when designing workouts.

“We take a conservative and pedagogical approach at the middle school, which along with excellent supervision decreases the risk of injury,” Bishop said.

“There exists a very large variation in the biological maturation in children, so certain exercises may be taught differently and/or at different times due to the needs or limitations of certain student-athletes.”

One challenge in preventing injuries and overtraining is balancing the workload of each athlete with school and club sports workouts, he said.

Unlike at the upper school, athletic teams do not have time slots for workouts. Instead, students train during their free periods with the supervision of both coaches. The weight room is available to all middle school students, as are Tromello and Benson. Tromello said he trains an average of 100 athletes each day.

“The increased teaching time that we now get to spend with the student-athletes of Harvard-Westlake should allow us to concentrate on the performance side of training at the upper school,” Bishop said.

“The goals of the upper school programs are to reduce the likelihood of injury and increase performance on the playing field.  All of these goals take time and a progression; now we get to spend five to six years with our student-athletes teaching them the proper way to train for sports.”