Athletic Performance Improvement Series - Strength Training Exercises!

Building functional strength is not just about lifting heavier weights, or the heaviest weight ... I've put together part two of this series to cover solutions, safety and previews of the strength training program. Check it out!

If you just follow the training program reviewed in part 1 of this article, you can expect to experience noticeable improvements in your speed, conditioning and football performance. You will even notice an increase in strength. The Part 1 exercises make your body more effective using your muscles and releasing your inner strength.

But, to take you to the next level of elite athletic performance, following a sport specific strength training program is mandatory.

First there are a few questions to consider.

  • Why is building strength and muscle mass important for football athletes?

  • What resistance training exercises and training methods produce the best improvements in functional strength that result in improved football athletic performance?

While most athletes can benefit from improving their ability to apply force (strength) rapidly to accelerate their body and movements, this is especially true for strength sports like football.

Additionally, in football the ability to generate quick powerful movements is just one of the important factors; another attribute is to have the ability to overcome the body contact of the sizeable opponents you are playing against. This is where developing functional strength and functional muscle mass comes in to play.

Building functional strength is not just about lifting heavier weights, or the heaviest weight or just building bigger muscles. For example, other important factors of functional strength and body development include:


    • Proper form and technique.
    • Sports specific muscle development.
    • Optimum muscle balance.
    • Total body strength.
    • Neuro-muscular activation.
    • Improved sports specific bio-energetics.
    • Effective range of motion.
    • Maximum starting strength.
    • Maximum increases in concentric, eccentric and static strength.
    • Maximum speed of the muscle contraction cycle.
    • Ability to generate maximum power output (strength/force & speed/velocity)
    • Ability to produce maximum impulse/momentum; a function of running acceleration/velocity and body mass.
    • Increased frequency of powerful muscle contractions.
    • High strength & power to body weight ratio.
    • Delay the onset of physical and mental fatigue.
    • Increase the duration of effective athletic activity.
    • Muscle movement synergy of lower body, midsection and upper body.
    • Anaerobic strength endurance/stamina to sustain explosive all out effort over and over again during the game.
    • Neurological conditioning for enhancement of motor skills.
    • Reflex activation.
    • Improved agility, mobility, coordination, stabilization, elasticity, flexibility and overall football athletic performance.

Avoid Training The Wrong Strength Training

What is the wrong strength training? For example, if you train to just lift heavy weights or to lift a maximum amount of weight for one rep, like a powerlifter or Olympic lifter, this may result in a strength advantage early in the game, however, as the game progresses, this type of strength training does not build anaerobic strength endurance/stamina, and by the second half of the game extreme fatigue will set in.

It also does not build functional strength and can lead to muscle imbalance, reduced range of motion, and other counterproductive training induced conditions.

Another example is when football players mistakenly follow a bodybuilding style resistance training program; your muscle size and strength may increase, but this style of resistance training does not optimize your strength/power to body weight ratio, and will not get you the best football performance enhancing results. Furthermore, in both of these examples, these weight lifting approaches do not produce the "best" results for improving football playing athletic performance.

There is another big training tragedy that often occurs from following non-sports specific strength training. Most athletes are driven by a passion and desire to be the best. When they follow these inappropriate strength training approaches, when they are not getting the athletic performance results they expect, two things usually occur.

They start working harder and longer using the incorrect strength training approaches, which leads them farther and farther away from their athletic performance goals, becoming a victim of the training harder but not smarter syndrome. Or they give up in frustration and deny themselves the opportunity to experience the athletic performance improvement effects that an effective sports specific strength training program can produce.

Athletes may also start thinking that lifting the heaviest weight is the goal, but this is not the goal. Performing the right sports specific resistance exercises, and using the optimum workload that results in improving athletic performance is the goal for football strength training.

In other words, being the best at lifting weights or the most muscular is not the goal; the goal is performing the best strength training exercises, the best way that is the most effective for improving your football playing ability in the game and reducing athletic injuries.

As a general rule the higher up the football playing ladder you advance, grade school, high school, college, professional, usually the better the team prescribed strength training programs get. However, you don't have to wait to be on a college football team to follow a comprehensive football strength training program.

One Solution:
Health & Body's Football Strength Training Program.

When properly designed, an effect sports specific strength training program will develop muscle strength, speed, acceleration, size and functionality to increase the ability to improve performance on the playing field and to also decrease injury. Explosive power development requires muscular strength and speed of contraction. Functional explosive power also involves enhancing your body movements to increase your football performance.

Progressive resistance training can be used for power development moving heavier weights quickly (and safely). Strength development also improves immediate energy production, nervous system functionality and anaerobic endurance/stamina needed to sustain explosive muscular contractions over and over again during the game.

The benefits of building "functional" strength/power and "functional" muscle mass for football are obvious, but creating an effective strength training program is not always an easy task.

As we learned from listening to the interviews that accompany these articles, John Wilkins actually pioneered football strength training during his years playing college football. Then during the past decade has made progressive improvements to his football strength training approach. He even trained his teammates to improve their athletic performance, some to even go on to play professional football.

When you review the exercises included in this program, some are familiar and some might be new to you. When you watch the video clips and read the guide when you purchase the DVD or video downloads, you will learn some important attributes of an effective football strength training program.

For example, in addition to performing the proper exercises, the number of reps, how you do the reps, and how many sets you perform are equally important. Plus, importance of effective training volume, succession of exercises and rest between sets. Also, how to modify the strength training program to work best in the off/pre-season, approaching the playing season, and in-season.

Personal fitness trainer John Wilkins (see part 1 of this article for background information) did the work, the experimenting, the expense to attend the professional strength coach workshops, etc. From working with the athletes he trains, he validated that these are the exercises that work best to improve football player athletic performance.

John's football training program works to develop both the body and mind, to help you stick it out through the entire game; strength building and anti-fatigue strength endurance training. A training program to get your mind and body past the grueling fatigue and pain encountered during the game and practice, to continue on in the so you don't quit and win. This type of comprehensive strength training builds functional strength and confidence to be your best in sports and life.

John's instruction guide also includes strength training programs for different levels of ability, for the beginner, intermediate and advanced football athlete. He also reviews the use of specialized training equipment, like the hex bar, and how this can make a difference getting the most benefit from certain strength training exercises.

Safety Guidelines

As a competitive athlete and personal trainer, John stresses the importance of practicing safe training methods for injury prevention. While participation in any sport or training program can lead to injury, by following safety guidelines you can reduce your risk of injury.

Most athletes experience injuries in practice and during competition. The rigors of sports, combined with unpredictable events, can create compromising situations that often lead to athletic injury.

While the primary goals of a speed, strength and conditioning program is to increase athletic performance, a secondary goal of equal importance is to condition the athlete's body to be better at resisting injuries. However, many athletes get injured off the playing field during physical conditioning programs intended to reduce the rate of injuries during practice and the game.

This usually occurs from performing exercises in an unsafe training environment, from rushing through exercises, from using poor form, using workloads that are too heavy and not using a training partner.

Here are some safety guidelines to be aware of in addition to the ones prescribed by your athletic program and training facility:

  • Get regular physical examinations and doctor approval before athletic training, and to make sure your medical records and physicals are up to date.

  • Follow the rules of safety in the gym, practice and playing field.

  • Have your exercise training methods and performance verified by a personal trainer, coach or other qualified individual.

  • Train with a partner/spotter.

  • Check that the exercise equipment you are using is functioning properly.

  • Maintain a health body weight.

  • Properly warm-up and cool-down, including stretching.

  • Avoid doing 1 repetition maximum lifts.

  • On the last rep, avoid going to complete failure, unless otherwise prescribed by your personal trainer.

  • Use adequate athletic gear, protective sports devices, supports, padding, knee wraps, wrist wraps, gloves, straps, etc.

  • Maintain proper strength training exercise form and technique.

  • Seek immediate medical attention when injury occurs.

  • Keep well hydrated.

  • And other applicable sports training rules.

The Football Strength Training Exercise Program Preview

When you view the exercise video clip examples, it is easy to see from Ryan's demonstrations and from hearing what John and Steve have to say about performing the exercises, how when you do them correctly, your chances of injury are reduced.

The following exercises are divided in to a 3-day split routine, where weight training takes place every other day, with the speed training exercises being performed on non-strength training days. The time it takes for this Football Strength Training Workout is estimated to be 90 to 120 minutes, and can get shorter in duration during the season when the rest period between sets is shorter.

Make sure to check back periodically to look for updates
to this article, including more training tips and guidelines
on nutrition and supplements for football players.

Article Copyright © 2006 SUPPLEMENTFACTS International LLC. All rights reserved. Video Copyright © 2006 Health & Body and SUPPLEMENTFACTS International LLC. All rights reserved. Excel Speed School is a trademark of Health & Body. Athletic Performance Improvement Series is a trademark of SUPPLEMENTFACTS International LLC.

Notice and Disclaimer: This article is not intended for use as a substitute for consultation with a qualified medical practitioner. If you have symptoms of any illness or injury, it is essential that you see your doctor without delay for proper treatment. These videos are for education and entertainment purposes only. We strongly recommend that you consult a physician before beginning any exercise program. The viewer should understand that participating in any exercise program can result in physical injury and agrees to do so at their own risk. Additionally, Ryan Pepe is an advanced level football player and you should not expect to be able to follow his training program as demonstrated.