Football Strength Training 101

November 29, 2018 by  
Filed under Sports Training

Most football strength training programs are a disaster. Sad, since it took a hell of a long time for the football world to catch on to weight training. Then, when it did, it fell into the Flex-inspired bodybuilding laden football training programs. After overcoming the “muscle-bound” theory, bodybuilding style programs made many players just that – big, bulky, and slow.

Thankfully, some of the top D-I schools started to buck the trend and base their training programs around exercises that would actually help football – The Powerlifts, the Olympic Lifts, and their accessory movements.

Most strength training programs for football are now have their base in big, compound movements, but some still over-rely on some, and ignore others.

For example, I’ve received about a billion emails from high school players and coaches about Box Squatting. Glad to hear they’re using such a great movement; but, when asked about Deadlifting I almost always get the same reply: “We don’t do them because we don’t want to hurt our backs.” And back to the dark ages we go…

How do you go about designing a proper Football Strength Training Program? Follow these rules and you can’t lose!

Start With the End in Mind

Too many trainers, coaches and lifters randomly start training with no idea where they are going. “I want big arms,” or “I want to get really strong,” are not goals. They are just wishes. You must begin with the end (goal) in mind.

I can’t tell you the number of times a football player has approached me to review his training program. First question I ask is; “what are your goals?” And, I usually hear something like “I want a huge bench.” Then I look at the program and it looks like something out of Flex magazine. Tons of reps. Tons of “chest” work. Nothing resembling a strength training program that would actually increase his bench press.

See, the goal and the plan of action do not match up.

Coach Charles Staley suggests that we view a training cycle as a Project, rather than a program. A project has a clear start and end date and the objective is clearly defined. Also, when you have an end date, you can then evaluate the results and then make modifications before moving on. It is insane the number of players and coaches who continue to do the same thing in the face of overwhelmingly terrible results.

Here is my 4-step Design Process:

1. Take inventory of your resources!

o What equipment do you have?
o Are there any time restraints?
o Injuries?
o Time of year (pre, post, in-season)

If you design a program, or worse, copy one out of a magazine, and you don’t have some of the equipment to actually do the program, how could it ever work? (This is a reason you should follow templates and not programs; templates allow for creative substitution)

What if you are, for whatever reason, forced to cut back on the days you can use your gym. Designing a plan around a 4-day training cycle and only being able to train twice per week is asking for trouble.

Consider your resources carefully. It’s not just about weights. Remember sleds, medicine balls, plyo boxes. And, don’t just confine it to implements. What about a track? Or, an ideal field to run on. Maybe the school’s wrestling room has ideal padding for jumping exercises. Take all this into account before you start to map out your plan of action. Remember, anything that can be lifted, thrown, pushed, pulled, or rolled can be used in your football strength training program!

2. Establish the Goals.

o The goal must be concrete and have a definite time frame.
o Write the goals out clearly. An unwritten goal is a wish, nothing more, nothing less.

Without a clear time frame, no urgency exists.

It’s the same reason why people will have 10 weeks to write a term paper yet wait until the night before…there was no urgency before! Even with two weeks left there’s the power of saying, “ah, I still have 14 days, I can do it, no problem.” Yet there they are, up at 4a.m. finishing up a rather crappy paper.

Follow Parkinson’s Law: A task will swell in perceived importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.

What does that mean to us? Well, it really makes the only 12 – 16 week model of planning seem obsolete. While long term planning is a good idea, it would be much better to instead have daily, weekly, and 4-week goals.

This is one of the major benefits of having Max Effort (ME) days every week. You are constantly striving to break old records…immediate goal setting/accomplishment!

You will strive to continually one-up your ME days…you will work to hit rep/weight/time records each week and you will aim to shatter last month’s records the week after a de-load. This keeps everyone on-task. There’s no time for “oh, I’ll get ’em next week.” Next week is now, and there’s no time to slack off!

Change “I want a huge bench” to ” I want to increase my bench by 25lbs in the next 12 weeks.” Specifically for football, set similar goals for improvements in speed or jumping ability.

3. Plan

o Now that you have your goals in mind, start to map out the best roads to take you there. If speed is the goal, then jogging isn’t part of the plan!

o Compile your Exercise Lists.

An Exercise List is like taking all of the tools out of your tool box, figuring out what you have to work with, then choosing the right tool for the job. If you plan on getting faster, break out the hamstring builders. If gaining weight and strength is key, then on with the Deads and Squats.

In Part II, we’ll discuss the best exercises for football, but remember, Powerlifting, Olympic Lifts, and Strongman exercises should be the base of your football strength training.

See, most people just go into a program with a few exercises listed and stick to them no matter what. But, when you have lists, it is easy to change things without completely changing your entire training philosophy! Yes, people do this all the time…their bench progress slows and they switch from a Powerlifting routine to something from Crossfit! This is not the way to go.

4. Adapt

o This may very well be the most important step. me points and if you are unable to make adjustments, you will fail. Also, there will be. Things will go wrong at so periods when everything is working 100{2ed1502db88ea180fcb3b3d341f40ec2ecfb1a7122d9e1c63daa06529830d826}. Strangely enough, you will need to analyze these results even harder than the failures. It may be one factor that is leading to great success or it could be 5. You must be mindful and figure this out.

o This is a reason why listing your exercises and other resources is so important. Let’s say your goal is to add 15lbs to your Deadlift because leg strength is holding your speed back. But, half way through your training cycle, your progress stalls.

Do you keep plugging away hoping for a miracle? No. If you are doing your ME sessions correctly, you will be able to identify weaknesses. So, if an athlete’s hips are coming up too fast, he has weak hamstrings. Go to your list, pull out a few hamstring specific exercises and see what works. If RDL’s aren’t giving your results, change do SLDL’s, or more RDL with a pause at the bottom.

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