Article by: Jim O'Neill
Opening Day Shouldn’t End a Football Team's Weight Training Program
High school football programs tend to do a pretty good job at strength training in the off season, working three to four days a week to make their players bigger and stronger, but what happens when summer two-a-days begin? And the season itself?
Too often, the first August practice is the end of strength training for football players. The combination of installing offenses and defenses, working with special teams and focusing conditioning workouts tends to push weight lifting aside for football teams.
Once the season starts, a head coach often has to add a teaching load to his schedule, and the kids – who spend six hours or more in class and two to three hours on the football field – need to get home and eat, do homework, squeeze in a social life and, hopefully, get more than seven hours of sleep.
The football team’s strength training program is one of the first casualties, pushed aside by the more immediate tasks of plugging a leaking defense, putting in just one more offensive set and, well, managing the season.
That’s a shame, because all that strength training a football team does in the off- and pre-seasons really needs to be maintained in-season. If not, it fades and, rest assured, someone (or two or three) in your conference is finding a way to keep their football players on a weight lifting program ... and they’re the ones who are going to win the big games at the end of the season.
Why Football Teams Need to Strength Train In-Season
Some athletes feel weaker as soon as a week to 10 days after they stop weight lifting. It takes just four weeks to actually lose lean muscle mass, and it disappears at the rate of some 5% per month when you’re not lifting. So, that big, 300-pound tackle you’ve groomed all year could weight about 285 a couple of weeks into the season if you don't strength train your football team. By the end of the season he could be losing battles on the field.
A reasonable workout, one that can help your athletes maintain – and even improve strength – can be accomplished in roughly 30 minutes, twice a week.
The key is intensity and focus, and the right exercise selection. That means selecting exercises that work a larger group of muscles quickly, including triple-joint extensions, and complex ground-based movement.
Strength Train Smart Two Days a Week
If you play Friday night, and watch films Saturday or Sunday, take 30 minutes before or after to lift. It’s also a good time to do some easy runs, maybe 40 yard shuttles at a 70% pace to get legs moving again. Your second lift would be Wednesday, giving you a solid 48-hour rest before game day.
Set up groups of two or three players, ideally by position or general strength. That way you get a little team building and won’t have kids changing weights as often. Rest between sets should be short.
Day One Strength Training Includes:
- Legs, back and shoulders: A three-way clean or other combination lift. You get a good workout for the legs, shoulders and back on one station quickly. Go lighter, about 75% for two or three sets of five reps.
- Chest: Bench press, incline, or push-ups. Two to three sets of 5-8 reps, not more than 80%.
- Triceps: A set of 10-12 skull crushers followed by a set of 10-12 close-grip bench presses. Optional second round.
- Biceps: Standing “Around the World Curls” with dumbbells. It’s a combination of regular curls, hammer curls and cross-chest curls rolled into one. One or two sets of six reps (three distinct lifts in each rep).
- Core: Try a set of 8-10 Turkish get-ups.
Day Two Strength Training Includes:
- Olympic: Clean and Push Press or jerk. Three sets of 4-5 at 80-85%.
- Legs: Squats. Two sets of 6-8 at 80-85%.
- Chest: Dumbbell bench press. Two to three sets of 5-8 reps at 85%.
- Back: Bent over row. Two sets of 8-10 at 80%.
- Triceps: Standing French curls or triceps pushdowns. Two sets of 15 at 75%.
- Biceps: Standing Straight-bar curls. Two sets of 15 at 75%.
Get after it in the weight room and your team will be stronger on the field as the year wears on. Remember to periodize and to keep the intensity high. Track progress, keep an eye on your players’ body weights and watch them play better deeper into the season.