Football Strength Training
Being part of a collision sport, football players clearly need to build muscle mass to protect themselves from the repeated trauma of running into people at full speed over and over during the course of games and practices.
With that in mind, a common mistake made by many in this sport is to over-focus on getting as big as possible while neglecting its potential negative impact on speed development. The bigger you are, the harder it is to play fast.
I am not going to sugarcoat this by saying it is easy to get bigger, stronger, and faster all at once. It is probably the hardest set of goals to achieve altogether, but with a smart training plan it definitely can be done.
The key here is to split up your goals into smaller parts of your off-season, with the right combination of set and rep schemes. Closely linked to this is proper nutrition, because you’ll need to eat enough to get bigger, but you cannot pack on the unwanted extra weight that will slow you down.
Workouts for football often overlook drills emphasizing balance flexibility, and athleticism, but you shouldn’t make this mistake. Athough this is particularly true for skill positions, linemen can also benefit by increasing their leverage and protecting themselves from injury.
Football Speed & Agility Training
There are clear positional difference with respect to speed development needs between linemen versus backs & recievers.
For those on both sides of the ball playing in open space (backs, receivers, linebackers, etc), they need to maximize literally every aspect of movement training. Backpedaling, shuffling, crossover runs, cutting, sprinting are part of almost every play in football for these positions. You’ll need to be able to cut on a dime, accelerate away from or towards an opponent, and must posess lightning quick reflexes for a sport that changes during every second of play.
For linemen, multi-directional first-step quickness is critical. Although they may ultimately be assessed at combines with 40-yard dash times, game success is far less dependent on sprint speed for these players. Acceleration, and good footwork in a small space are your keys. This includes lateral movement, an often overlooked aspect of playing well on the line. Quick feet can be greatly enhanced with a simple tool like a jump rope, along with more advanced agility and footwork training.
Conditioning For Football
Football can be a grueling sport from a conditioning standpoint. It is not uncommon to see highly conditioned high school, college, and even pro players cramping up late in games.
Since each play lasts about 5-10 seconds, work intervals for football conditioning should be about the same. This means sprints of 10-100 yards, or agility drills that cover between 10-50 yards total.
Rest periods are usually about 30-45 seconds between plays, but in today’s game some teams use ‘no huddle’ offenses to cut down rest times. This is an advantage to teams who have trained for it by shortening the rest periods in their conditioning, or simply by running plays in practice at this pace all during the pre-season.
For most cases a 5-10 second work period with 30-45 seconds rest for an increasing number of repetitions over time is a great general format for football conditioning. If you play teams using no-huddle approaches, it is best to move closer to a 5-10 second work/15-25 second rest ratio.
Injury Prevention for Football
There are so many potential areas to cover here that it would be impossible to go into detail on all of them, so what follows is a review of the most critical areas for injury prevention.
Neck and head injuries are probably the scariest category. There is no program that can lower your risk for concussions, but training that builds up neck strength can lower your risk of upper spinal injuries by increasing your neck muscles ability to absorb forces.
The shoulder girdle takes on the brunt of most collisions, and is highly susceptible to bone, ligament, and tendon problems. Stability work and muscle mass development can really help to lessen the strain on this fragile region.
Knee injuries are also common in football. Suprisingly, the best way to protect the knees are to make sure your hips are strong and flexible. Additionally, great footwork while cutting also lowers your chance of tearing an ACL/MCL in a non-contact situation.
Sometimes a loss of flexibility through poor weight training technique can increase your chance to get hurt. For those who limit their range of motion on key lifts in order to use more weight, these athletes should consider the impact of this strategy on movement skills, and how it can turn you into a player who plays ‘stiff’ on the field as the cumulative effect of your training takes hold over time.
Youth Football Training Considerations
Many outstanding college and professional football players spent their younger years playing other sports. Football is a sport f0r many athletes is hard to play for more than 10 years, so starting young is not necessarily as valuable as it may be in many other sports.
Having said that, younger football players would do very well for themselves by incoroporating as much movement, balance, and coordination-based activities as they possibly can.
A foundation of bodyweight strength would also be of great benefit, as this would begin to protect them from future injuries. Strength is the foundation of speed, power, and explosion, key traits for future success in football.
Young players should also incorporate target practice, catching, and other fundamental skills into game-based activities. Sports vision development and balance can be combined with them to really build athleticism at an early age.
Football Training at Power Source
Central Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire football players can train with us in any of our elite programs. We’ll tailor your training specifically to target your greatest areas of strength and power needs, as well as help protect you from any potential injury risks, in our Group Personal Training Program.
Our Speed & Agility Classes are designed to enhance the sprint and agility technique through expert coaching, video analysis, sprint treadmills, and a handful of other tools.
At certain times of year we also run week-long Speed Clinics, and are open to working with teams and organizations to set up a private clinic just for your players. Feel free to contact us at any time to inquire about training for an individual athlete, or private clinic/team training options.