In today's ultra-competitive sports arena, those who do not start strength training in high school for the first time could 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.
An Increasingly Demanding Sport
Changes Over The Years
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.
Weight & Speed
- Back in the 50s linemen averaged approximately 200 pounds; the 60s about 240 pounds; 70s it was 260 pounds; and the 80's they where a monstrous 280 pounds.
Today they average more than 300 pounds with some topping the scales over 340! The linebackers are also faster than running backs and receivers of years gone by. And running backs and wide receivers are clocking sub 4.3-second 40 times. Now, that's not fast, that's warp speed!
Strength Programs For Youngsters
- 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.
There are even some strength training programs that are available for pre-teen athletes. How early can a youngster begin a strength program? Well, numerous studies have been done on the subject with no clear and definite answer, but, for the most part, 13-years old is your best bet.
So, what has happened, over the years, that has developed athletes into "super" athletes?
Is It Because Of Drugs?
- Some would say yes, especially those at ESPN and all the other normal media outlets. But those are the idiots of the sports world.
Then Could It Be The Food?
Nutrition of today is beyond that of the years past when eating raw eggs to get big and strong was the fad.
What About All The Different Supplements We Are Able To Take?
- The supplements that are available to athletes today are way beyond taking brewers yeast.
Ok, Then What Is It?
- It's everything and the advanced training techniques that we have developed over the years. All these gambits of techniques and styles have evolved over the years. There is speed training, agility training, quickness training, and different styles of strength training.
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.
The Modern Football Player
A Gridiron Machine
College Strength and Conditioning provides football specific strength and conditioning programs for each athlete. My strength and conditioning programs are created based on the latest scientific research, books and of course several years of experience in the strength and conditioning field.
The goals of any strength and conditioning program are to maximize each player's performance, minimize their chance for injury, and build them into well conditioned machines 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 (see below)) and power lifting movements like the bench, squat, and deadlift. Each program is completed with supplemental exercises and core exercises; as well as speed, agility and quickness drills.
Programs consist of a combination of programs that provide various stages of physical development throughout different periods of the year. Basic periodization programs are sued 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.
Off Season Training
- 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 & 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 and each will last 4-to-6 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.
The Off-Season Goals
- 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:
- increase your strength
- increase your speed
- increase your stamina
- increase your confidence.
Power Base Program
Monday/Thursday (Explosive Lifts)
- Hang Clean, Split Jerk, Power Jerk, Straight Leg Deadlift, Hyperextensions, Hammer Curls, Wrist Curls
Tuesday/Friday (Strength Lifts)
- Back Squat, Flat Bench Press, Lateral Lunges, Incline Bench Press, Step-ups, Dips, Calf Raises, Tricep Curls, Crunches Russian Twists
Build The Explosive Speed During The Off-Season
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 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 and 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:
- Single & Double leg hops standing in place.
- Single & Double leg jumps over at least 6 small hurdles (use anything if you do not have hurdles or medicine balls) placed at about 18 inches apart. (If you want more height, keep the balls closer; if you want more forward movement, place the balls further apart.)
- Single leg hops with forward movement: skipping
- Double leg hops forward. Before you hit the ground try and turn 180 degrees so that when you land you face the position you took off from. Leap up again and make another 180 degree turn to again face forward.
- Side jumps. (Jump to the left and then to the right) I usually do these when jumping rope.
- Side jumps over a bench (Try a set of 10 after a set of squats).
- Do split squats over a bench either free standing or with dumbbells in the hands.
- Box jumps. (Jump forward, to the right, to the rear and then to the left and repeat in the opposite direction.)
Arm Explosive Exercises & Medicine Ball Exercises
- Push-up Jumps. These are hard. Push-up jumps with a handclap. Assume the push-up position and leap up off the floor and then back to the push-up position. Advanced: Assume the push-up position. Push off the floor and leap up to a block approximately 4" high. More Advanced: As you improve in your ability to jump upward, jump up as high as you can.
- Push Up jumps sideways over objects. (As you jump over the objects from a push-up position, your feet will slide a little so your body is still in good position).
Catching and throwing medicine balls can also be used to develop arms and upper body explosiveness.
- Medicine ball chest-pass between two people. The key to execution is making the passes as forcefully and as quickly as possible. As soon as you receive it, repel it back.
- Medicine Ball Overhead-pass. Throw the ball from behind the head forward and/or upward and forward to a partner. Have him return it so you can catch and throw again.
- Medicine Ball Side arm-pass. Assume a front facing position. Have your partner throw the ball at you to the side. Catch it, return it as quickly as possible.
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. Most football players are looking more and more like bodybuilders rather than the entrant in a pie-eating contest. Yet, some of the best linemen in College or the NFL tip the scales at more than 325 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 in the 21st century. No matter what level you play on or want to play on, keep focused because how you train is the number one factor in if you make the cut or not. So, get moving and give me one more rep you rookie!
Coach Curtis Schultz
Q & A With The Direcor Of Strength & Conditioning
Coach "C" is the Director of Strength & Conditioning at Das Iron Reich and develops and prepares football teams and individual players for the upcoming season, and combines.
Whether you're a pro, collegiate, high school or middle school player, everybody's treated the same, and when I mean that, I mean I'm from an old-school type mentality. You will come to work, and work hard. That's the way I operate.
[ Q ] How do you prepare an athlete to win?
- That's not as easy as it sounds. It takes many facets to prepare an athlete to win.
It involves mental, physical and emotional work.
I think that many things that an athlete learns through weight training are transferable to the playing field. Athletes have to develop a mental toughness by enduring hard forms of training.
If an athlete is challenged in his training he develops the proper attitude and discipline, which I think definitely transfers to winning.
This also helps them to be focused.
And for the most part a player has to have a passion for the game and a passion for the program he or she is in, and believe wholeheartedly in their training program and the preparation they are going through for competition.
[ Q ] What do you have an athlete do when they arrive at camp?
- Immediately we started to coach hard. I start to coach speed development aggressively implementing an aggressive speed development program and doing everything we can to enhance change of direction and agility. Then, the other thing that we look at is their level of conditioning.
You could say that the training program is simple and complex. It's simple in that we don't have any magic potions or supplements. We install an old-school mentality by lifting multi-joint using free weight exercises. We are detailed in teaching technique with supervising.
[ Q ] Do workouts vary depending upon a player's position?
- There are some things you can do from a specificity standpoint by position, but for the most part everyone will do core multi-joint movements.
They will all do the Olympic lifts, benching, and squats including quarterbacks, kickers, snappers and even if you're a holder. It doesn't matter. We're looking to develop overall power, strength and speed in every athlete.
[ Q ] What are the most important strength exercises that should be emphasized for football players?
- Now remember this is personal. Many strength coaches all have different thoughts on this. One S&C coach from Michigan State University didn't even believe in doing any Olympic style lifting. So, again this is what I believe the most important strength exercises are, and they are the
- , power snatch, squat, bench-press, and Jammer (if you have one).
Properly performed movements can have a dramatic effect on an athlete's performance. These exercises all carry over to the athlete's ability to produce and transfer power throughout the body.