The Weight Room As a Compliment to “Feed the Cats

by Dominic Zanot


Tony Holler’s “Feed the Cats” has generated amazing dialogue within the track & field community. “Micro-dosing”, “X Factor”, 10m Fly, “Record Rank & Publish”, etc. are becoming more and more common among track and football programs. With the Track Football Consortium, expect the “Feed the Cats” movement to rapidly grow.

This “movement” has created further questioning and debate regarding the most effective strategies to improve speed. One ongoing question/debate is the role of the weight room… Is it necessary? Does it help? Does it hurt What exercises? How much weight? How many reps? How many sets?, etc. These legitimate questions must be answered in order for coaches to decide if the weight room will become, to quote @pntrack, an “X Factor”. Harrison Track & Field (@HTownTF) will use our experience over the last 15 years to provide a weight room plan that has worked well for our program.

Who is @HTownTF?

Harrison High School @HTownTF is a public school in the Northern NYC Suburbs of Westchester County. We graduate 250-275 kids per class but compete in the same section as some notable large high schools such as New Rochelle (800-900 per class), Mount Vernon (600-700 per class) and North Rockland (600-700 per class). @HTownTF is placed in the same division as these schools, and more, that are significantly larger than us for qualification to our state meet. In order to compete at the highest level, we had to give our team a difference maker. Our staff feels the difference has been the commitment to the weight room. Specifically, the Olympic Lifts.

Essential Understanding: Strength vs. Power

There are many different ways to show strength. A deadlift, back squat and lunge all demonstrate strength, which is the ability to apply pressure against some form of resistance.

Does sprinting and jumping demonstrate strength? Yes. Every time the foot contacts the ground it is applying pressure against resistance.

Does strength training enhance speed?  Only if the movement produces power. Power = Work/Time. In most traditional strength training exercises, there is little to no power being developed because time and speed of the movement is not a priority. A traditional deadlift, traditional back/front squat, lunge, etc., by nature of the movement itself, makes it difficult to generate high levels of power output.  

The Olympic Lifts and their variations are DIFFERENT from most traditional strength training exercises because they encourage and value the speed at which the weight is traveling. What does this mean? Athletes performing the Olympic Lifts are moving mass (their body weight and the added weight of the barbell) as fast as they possibly can, therefore they produce high levels of power (Work/Time). When athletes sprint, jump or throw, their success is dependent upon this same formula. 

In addition, the Olympic Lifts value the elastic properties of muscles and tendons. In the Olympic Lifting community you will often hear people remark about the “whip” of the bar as it accelerates from the thigh to the shoulders and/or overhead. This a result of the rapid stretch/reflex of the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings to accelerate the bar. The effect is similar to the demands of those same muscles during a sprint.  

Another benefit of the Olympic Lifts is the way you receive the bar (often referred to as “the catch”) at the shoulders or overhead. When the bar is received, the Olympic Lifts demand that that body is not driven downwards. When the body resists the downward pressure of the bar, the athlete is training to efficiently make ground contact and reapply pressure against it. Again, similar to the demands of sprinting.

@HTownTF makes sure our athletes understand these benefits. Our staff intentionally connects the demands of sprinting and jumping to the Olympic Lifts and their variations, which includes the same cues. For example, our cues for block starts are the same we use for the power clean: “Set the shin angle”, “Shoulders over hands”, “Flat back attack”, “Load and explode”, “Punch the ground”. This consistency provides purpose and meaning for the benefits of the Olympic Lifts and their application to sprinting/jumping.

Finally, the Olympic Lifts DO NOT cause muscle hypertrophy (increase in muscle mass). Therefore, there will be minimal body weight gain, if any, with the improvements in power output from completing these exercises. As a result, your athletes strength to bodyweight ratio will improve. However, they will not necessarily “look” stronger… , but they will be able to perform better! This is why the Olympic Lifts are known to create “invisible strength” that only shows up when a performance calls for it.  

The link below is a current Harrison Track & Field senior sprinter (6.62 55m) performing a Rack Clean w/a 2 second hold.


Also linked is the same athlete performing a Split Jerk. 


Practical Application: Incorporating the Olympic Lifts into your program

The Olympic Lifts are a very technical style of strength training and need to be coached correctly. If the Olympic Lifts are completed incorrectly, or, your athletes do too many sets/reps, their central nervous system will be overworked, which is the enemy.  

If you are in doubt of how to coach these lifts, either get trained, hire someone who is trained, OR, don’t use the Olympic Lifts at all.  Just as with sprinting at max velocity, there is a fine line between microdosing and overdosing. It’s ALWAYS better to microdose the Olympic Lifts.

Below is a sample week during our indoor season. @HTownTF has incorporated this general model into our practices over the last 15 years.   


On the track or in the hallway (45 min)

  • Full A Series
  • 4 x 50m build ups
  • 4 x 30m block starts (timed)

In the weight room (45 min)

  • Bar Warm Up x 3
  • Rack clean with a 2 second hold in the catch: 4 sets of 3, 5 sets of 2, or 6 sets of 1
  • 1 Arm Dumbbell Snatch 3 sets of 5, 4 sets of 5, or 5 sets of 3 each arm
  • Partner Glute-Ham Raises 3 sets of 5 or 5 sets of 3
  • Hanging Knee Ups 3 sets of 15


On the track or in the hallway (45-60 min)

  • Full A Series
  • 4x50m build ups
  • Plyo series -OR- short approach jumps -OR- hurdle drills depending on the event group.
  • Medicine Ball Throws 3-4 different throws, 5 reps each throw


On the track or in the hallway (45 min)

  • Full A Series
  • 4 x 50m build ups
  • 4 x 10m fly with a 30m run in (timed)

In the weight room (45 min)

  • Bar Warm Up x 3
  • Split Jerk with a 2 second hold 4 sets of 3, 5 sets of 2, or 6 sets of 1
  • 1 Arm Dumbbell Push Press 3 sets of 5, 4 sets of 5, or 5 sets of 3 with each arm
  • 1 legged squat jumps 4 sets of 6 or 6 sets of 4 with each leg
  • Hanging Leg Swings 3 sets of 10


On the track or in the hallway (45-60 min)

  • Full A Series
  • 4x50m build ups
  • Assisted Pogo Jumps 3 sets of 5 -OR- short approach jumps -OR- hurdle drills depending on the event group.
  • Medicine Ball Throws 3-4 different throws, 5 reps each throw


No practice



Common Concern: How much weight is appropriate?

One of the biggest questions that coaches ask is how much weight their athletes should use for each exercise. This is the MOST difficult question to answer because it is all dependent on the form of each athlete and the confidence of the coach to push their athletes in these lifts. Here are a few rules we follow at @HTownTF:

  1. Speed of the movement > Amount of weight used.
  2. Successfully complete 99% or more of the reps, at all times, with the expected speed and technique.
  3. Slowly and steadily add weight/resistance as long as the speed of the movement isn’t sacrificed.

The ultimate mission is to move heavy weights in the Olympic Lifts as fast as possible. Based on the 15 years of this program, by senior year, our top sprinters, jumpers, hurdlers and throwers have been able to explosively power clean at least 50 pounds over their body weight. Below are some of the many notable improvements from @HTownTF over the last decade that resulted from the combination of a “Feed the Cats” like approach to sprinting and the commitment to microdosing the Olympic Lifts. 


Matt Kongisberg 5’11 155
11th Grade 200m PR: 23.3
12th Grade 200m PR: 22.32
12th Grade Power Clean: 105kg = 231 pounds

Zaid Al Doori 6’0 150
11th Grade 300m Indoor PR: 35.80
12th Grade 300m Indoor PR: 34.95
11th Grade 200m PR: 22.64
12th Grade 200m PR: 21.97
12th Grade Power Clean: 100kg = 220 pounds

George Williams 5’11 150
11th Grade 200m PR: 24.03
12th Grade 200m PR: 22.80
12th Grade Power Clean: 95kg = 210 pounds

110 Hurdles:

Claudio Delli Carpini 6’1 175
11th Grade 110 Hurdle PR: 14.83
12th Grade 110 Hurdle PR: 13.93
12th Grade Power Clean: 110kg = 242 pounds

Robert Merritt 6’2 165
11th Grade 110 Hurdle PR: 15.53
12th Grade 110 Hurdle PR: 14.81
12th Grade Power Clean: 105kg: 231 pounds

Joe Ciufo 5’9 160
11th Grade 110 Hurdle PR: 16.35
12th Grade 110 Hurdle PR: 14.92
12th Grade Power Clean: 100kg: 220 pounds

Horizontal Jumps:

Robert Blue 6’2 150
11th Grade Long Jump PR: 21’7
12th Grade Long Jump PR: 23’4
12th Grade Power Clean: 90kg: 200 pounds

Ian Santiago 6’0 150
11th Grade Triple Jump PR: 41’8
12th Grade Triple Jump PR: 46’5
12th Grade Power Clean: 95kg: 210 pounds


Josh Gallagher 5’9 185
11th grade Shot Put PR: 39’1
12th grade Shot Put PR: 52’3
11th grade Discus PR: 151’3
12th grade Discus PR: 176’8
12th grade Power Clean: 125kg = 275 pounds


Olympic Lifts should be taught like a field event. Introduce the technique early in 9th-10th grade and begin to increase the intensity (amount of weight) during 11th-12th grade. Intentionally coach the lifts for their application of power with your team and explicitly incorporate the cues from your speed work into your lifting sessions. If done correctly, microdosing these lifts in conjunction with microdosing speed, will teach your athletes how to produce more power (Work/Time), handle ground contact and allow them to minimize the need for excessive plyometrics. This is how and why the Olympic Lifts have become, what @pntrack calls an X Factor for @HTownTF. 

Dominic Zanot, Head Track & Field Coach at Harrison High School @HTownTF
Strength Coach for Professional Track & Field Athletes
Speaker/Clinician on the Olympic Lifts for Track & Field

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