The old saying is “Champions are made in the off-season”, right? So how does that saying apply to football players, who spend all summer getting bigger, stronger, and faster? In-season strength and conditioning is often overlooked by coaching staffs, especially at the high school level when developing the player’s body is most important. Check out the stats from any of your local high school football teams, and we’d be willing to bet that games at the end of the season tend to be much lower scoring than early season games. This attributes to players coming into the season fresh off of a lifting and conditioning program that has them in peak shape. The problem is, once the player moves off of the program and lets the gains go unattended to, they eventually wear off, which can appear to slow the player down and make them seem weaker on the field. Follow these tips for in-season lifting to ensure that off-season gains only get better, and the finish of the season ends just as strong as it started.
Practice, Practice, Practice
During the season, there is no amount of bench presses that will make blocking schemes more effective, and there is no number of squats that will boost the number of sacks the defense has. Practice is the only thing that every athlete must do in order to get better at their sport. Flip on a college football game, and you’ll see players of all body shapes and sizes. As you go about your lifting for the week, be sure to avoid any exercises that may inhibit your ability to perform at practice the next day.
Avoid Technical Movements
In the pre-season, working on explosiveness off the line, tackling form, or throwing arm strength are basically your primary goals, depending on your position. These types of drills and lifts that build your body up to perform those movements are perfect for the off-season, since you aren’t actually putting your body through the strains of those movements in a game. Plus, many of these workouts are designed to build strength at the expense of technique.
When a football player begins to show signs of strength loss during the season, it usually can be attributed to loss of bodyweight due to the increased amount of running that in-season training brings. Constantly remind athletes that proper nutrition is vital to helping them maintain the muscle mass they built up over the season. A few months of poor dieting can erase an entire year of hard work in the gym.
The body of a football player endures a significant amount of physical punishment on the field and in practices throughout the season, so when looking to provide the necessary stimulus to the body and muscles, it’s important to look for ways to ease the stress that may be put on joints, muscle groups, or tendons and ligaments. For example, in the off-season a broad jump training program can help athletes develop lower body explosiveness, but during the season, the broad jump should be swapped out for a box jump, where the athlete doesn’t land hard on the ankle and knee joints. This movement may cause unnecessary stress and possibly causing injury. During the season, it’s important that players not only think about ways to prevent injury, but also infection. Ensuring that players shower following workouts, regularly use disinfecting hand sanitizer, and clean equipment and pads with Clear Gear Sports Spray following each practice is the best way to reduce the risk of a staph infection or virus to spread throughout the program.
Follow an Individual Plan
Most teams at the high school level will have a significant amount of players who play on both sides of the ball, and maybe even special teams, too. These are not the players that you want to see in the weight room after each practice and on the weekends. The stimulus that these players receive in games and practice settings is more than enough for the majority of them, and pushing out additional weight room hours may not be as beneficial as the rest they may receive would be. On the flip side, 2nd and 3rd string players who do not see much playing time, especially underclassmen, should take the time during the season to carry over their hard work from the off-season and continue to increase the intensity in order to get bigger, faster, and stronger for their time on the field.
Every player that has a dream of playing football at a high level, whether in college or the pros, understands that hard work is a constant, not just a recommendation. Do you or your team have a modified lifting schedule for during the football season? Share some of your tips in the comments below!