In today’s ultra-competitive sports arena, those who do not start strength training in high school for the very first time could very well be a step behind many of their peers. Every athlete knows the value of a head start. How to get one is the million-dollar question.
Football is probably the most physically demanding sport on the playing field today. It requires a combination of speed, strength, power, agility, and mental toughness. Let’s look at some of the facts of the game, and why it’s becoming so demanding. Back in the 50’ lineman averaged around 200, the 60’s about 240, 70’s it was 260 and the 80’s they where a monstrous 280. Today the average lineman is 300 pounds with some topping the scales over 340! The linebackers of today are faster then what running backs and receivers were two decades ago. Running backs and wide receivers of today are clocking sub 4.3 40 times. Now, that’s not fast, that’s warp speed!
So what has happened? Well, over the years, what has developed are football “gridiron machines.” Is it because of drugs? Some would say yes, especially those at ESPN, all the other normal media outlets and the “ignorant.” But those are the idiots of the sports world. Then could it be the food? In part, yes. Nutrition of today is beyond drinking raw eggs like Rocky did in the past to get big and strong. What about all the different supplements we are able to take now? The supplements that are available to athletes today are way beyond taking brewers yeast and liver pills. Ok, then it’s the training. Yes, that too is a big part. Training regiments of today far surpass those done in the early 80’s.
It’s everything! The nutrition, supplementation and advanced training techniques. Part of what has happened is that scientific knowledge obtained through advanced nutrition, improvement in supplementation, and new training protocols for strength and speed development has made the football player what he is today: A Gridiron Machine. College Strength and Conditioning provides football specific strength and conditioning programs for each athlete. All these gambits together along with discoveries in speed agility and quickness training with the strength coach have come together to build a gridiron machine that is getting better and better each year.
The number of middle school and high school athletes building their bodies has increased dramatically in recent years, and most High School programs are creating large weight rooms to accommodate these young athletes. My strength and conditioning programs are created based on the latest scientific research, and of course several years of experience in the strength and conditioning field.
The goals of any strength & conditioning program are to maximize each player's performance, minimize their chance for injury, and build them into well conditioned machine to compete at the highest level on the field. So, strength and conditioning, in terms of player development, is an integral part of any successful football program. Football training includes both explosive Olympic lifting (cleans, snatches, overhead presses, and jerks) and power lifting movements like the bench, squat, and dead lift variations. Each program is completed with supplemental exercises and core exercises; as well as speed, agility and quickness drills. Though there are some strength coaches that do not believe in Olympic lifting for football and some utilize the H.I.T. program still. With the NCAA 20 hour rule - that’s 20 hours a week for training that the Strength coach has with team in the weight-room – that’s it. No, that’s the whole football program.
Programs consist of a combination of exercise that provide various stages of physical development throughout different periods of the year. Basic periodization programs are used for year round football strength and conditioning programs. Each phase will maximum gains in a minimum amount of time, which is about every 4 to 6 week period.
Here are some fun ways to do active off-season training instead of playing basketball
Tire Flipping: to develop the hamstrings and glutes.
Sledgehammer Work: to work core and grip strength. This is a great method for energy system training and motivation.
Sled Training: used to boost leg power and stamina.
Log Lifting: a great way to develop OVERALL STRENGTH!
Farmers Walks: another great core, leg and stamina builder.
Car Pushing and Pulling: Fun! See who has the Guts!
Sandbag or Med Ball Tossing: a great way to develop arm strength and hand quickness.
Basic Football Off-Season Strength Programs
Most Strength and Conditioning Programs are designed to incorporate multiple joint exercises, implement explosive training movements, utilize the progressive overload principle, and then use the periodization concept with a split routine. So, will this routine.
There are phases or mini cycles each will last four to six weeks. These phases will constitute a cycle. At the end of each cycle you should get tested or test yourself to determine your improvement or possible areas you might need more work on. The mini cycles are: Phase I- the foundation phase; Phase II- the strength or building phase; and, Phase III- the peaking phase. There are also many goals that MUST be obtained during the off-season strength and conditioning program, first and foremost the need to increase the player's size. The following are all standard: first to increase your strength, increase your speed, stamina, and most importantly your confidence.
General Warm-up Phase
Ground-Based Mobility Phases
POWER BASE PROGRAM
Monday/Thursday (Explosive Lifts)
Straight Leg Deadlift
Four Way Neck
Tuesday/Friday (Strength Lifts)
Flat Bench Press
Incline Bench Press
Triceps & Biceps
When you start talking about speed training, there are several things that come into play, such as running form, building strength, raising work capacity, recuperation, exercise selection, and rotation of those exercises to avoid adaptation, and of course, speed work.
So, before you begin developing explosive speed you should first strength train the lower body for at least 3 months specializing in core work then hips, quads, and hamstrings. Here are just some of the exercises you will be doing for strength training the lower body; both front & back squats, standing, side and walking lunges, glute - ham raises (if you have a machine), stiff-leg deadlifts, and Reverse Hyper work (if you have this machine too). Now, most commercial gyms/fitness centers do not have a Glute-Ham or a Reverse Hyper machine so I’ll try and show you a couple exercises that will only imitate the exact functions of these machines. Let’s get started.
To build explosiveness you should train for the specifics of football and your position. As you do the strength work, you should also begin doing plyometric work too (jumping & bounding) and you should also be doing changing direction short runs and jumps too. Here are some of the Plyo exercises that you should do:
Arm explosive exercises and Medicine Ball Exercises
Catching and throwing of medicine balls can also be used to develop arms and upper body explosiveness.
Football Nutritional Guideline
Each one of you are different with different needs. Some of you are in need of gaining muscle while losing body fat, while some may need to just gain muscle, and still others will want to maintain their current levels. (*note – remember gaining muscle and strength does NOT constitute being slow and sluggish). With this in mind some basic guidelines are going to be given for all of you to follow.
The nutritional needs of an athlete differ from the average sedentary person. To function properly you will require six different types of nutrients including carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water. In this first section water, protein, carbohydrates and fats will be addressed in the next section vitamins and minerals will be addressed. You as an athlete require higher calories and more fluid intake than the average person does.
Your calories will come from the sources of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It is important that as an athlete you take in 1.5 grams of protein daily. The rest of your caloric intake will consist of carbohydrates and fats.
You should try to eat (weather trying to lose body fat or not) every 2.5 to 3 hours which would typically constitute 5 to 6 meals per day. These do not need to be large meals, but they will keep your body fueled for the day. Once you have depleted your stores of glycogen which is where your energy comes from it takes 48 hours to replenish it. Your body must stay fueled no matter what your course or objective is.
Fish, lean red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, cheese, eggs, milk -- you may also add in protein shakes as well.
Pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, vegetables, lentils, beans, fruits
You want monounsaturated fats, which can come from nuts, seeds, avocados, flaxseed oil, olive oil, and peanut butter.
Water is the MOST important nutrient you will put in you body. You should consume anywhere from 4 liters to 6 liters of water per day. If you are feeling thirsty you are already dehydrated. Never wait till you are already thirsty. Keep water with you at all times.
NOTE: It is preferable that your foods are baked not fried.
Caloric needs? The best way to determine your caloric range is to monitor how much body fat you are carrying. Weight is not always the best indicator especially if you are gaining weight, as muscle weighs more than fat. Therefore, if you are gaining muscle and losing fat you can still be gaining weight. Body fat tests are not the most accurate thing and can fluctuate upon many circumstances giving inaccurate information, but the mirror does not lie. However, if you do want your body fat tested then Hydrostatic weighing is the most reliable. If you are losing more than 1 or 2 pounds per week then it is not all fat you are losing, it is also water and muscle (which you need). If you are gaining more than ½ to 1 pound per week then it may not all be muscle it may as well be fat. Your initial gains or losses will be quick and then will start tapering off. These are basic guide lines – remember each one of you is different.
Water intake and sports drinks? Again water is your most important nutrient and you should take in 4 to 6 liters of water daily, if you are thirsty then you are already dehydrated. You will NOT perform at your best when dehydrated.
Sports drinks are a matter of choice and are most beneficial if your activity lasts more than 90 minutes or is in an especially hot environment. If you do use sports drinks use those that contain 15-18 grams of carbohydrate in every 8 fluid ounces. Drinks with higher amounts of carbohydrates can cause dehydration, cramps, nausea or diarrhea. Most sports drinks contain the two electrolytes sodium and potassium. These electrolytes are beneficial for replacement in the body when exercising more than 90 minutes or again in an especially hot environment.
Vitamins and Minerals: It is very hard to consume enough and the varieties of food we need to get all of the vitamins and minerals that our bodies require. However, many of the natural sources of vitamins and minerals from fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are not available in supplemental form. Thus, natural, fresh produce is especially important for recovery during intense training.
You should also take a multi-vitamin/mineral daily with additional C.
This Is What It Takes...
When I was coming out of high school a 200-pound player was considered pretty big, and 250 pounds was huge. Not anymore, that’s small. I don’t believe I said that. Why can’t I believe I said that? Well, because my philosophy as a football coach is “I don’t care how big you are as long as you are strong, quick and can get the job done.”
But today football players are looking more and more like bodybuilders rather then the entrant in a pie-eating contest (but there are those few). Some of the best linemen in College or the NFL tip the scales at over 300 pounds and they do not have to worry about their physique or their belt size as long as they dominate on the field.
That’s what football strength and speed training has accomplished. No matter what level you play on or want o play on; keep focused because how you train and how consistent you train are the factors if you start or are a back up, make the team or get cut from the roster. So, get moving and give me one more rep rookie!