Question and Answer for Strength Coaches

IN – SEASON TRAINING IDEAS

The goals of our in – season football training program depend on who is doing the training.  For the upper classmen that have been in the program and are playing, the focus is injury prevention and strength maintenance.  For our underclassmen that are not competing as much, it is strength/power improvement as well as injury prevention.  The athletes that are not competing but are red shirted or on the scout team will spend time on fitness as well as strength/power development.

Typically we train strength and power on Monday with snatches, squats and bench being our big lifts.  We follow that up with power and speed on Thursday with cleans, single leg lifts and incline presses.  We always include lots of back pulling in order to prevent imbalances in the shoulder girdle. The modality will change from bars to dumbbells, the loads and volumes will fluctuate and the exercises will also change.  For instance, in an in-season cycle that changes every 3 – 4 weeks, we could do the following:


Exercise                        Week 1 – 3                 Week 5 – 7                     Week 9 – 11

Monday – big lifts

Snatch                        Bar – hang                     1 Arm DB – hang                 Bar floor

Squat                           Safety bar                        Back squat                         Front squat

Bench                           Bar                                    Db’s                                     Floor

Thursday – big lifts

Cleans                        Bar – floor                        Bar – hang                        Db’s – hang

Single leg                  Bar squats                        Db hi box step – ups        Db 3 way lunges

Incline                        Db’s                                   Bar                                       Db alternate


We keep the sets and reps low as we are attempting to keep our strength and power levels high while not wearing out the athletes with the volume. Typically, our in-season volume is about 35 – 45% of an off – season workout.  A Monday workout will be about 45 – 60 minutes depending on the work capacity of the athlete.  A Thursday session will typically take 30 – 45 minutes.  The fitter and fresher the athlete, the quicker the athlete will finish.  The prescribed loads will be in the mid to upper ranges (80 – 90%) on occasion.

Weeks 4 and 8 are transition weeks.  They typically coincide with exam weeks in school.  The coaches cannot pull off on practice and the game is the game.  Therefore, we give our athletes off Thursday from lifting.  This allows for mental, physical and emotional recovery as well as some extra time for studying.

The athletes in football not involved in competition will workout Friday either at 6:00 am if the game is away or at 2:30 in the afternoon if we are at home.  This workout is purely for fitness.  We emphasize strength with dumbbell and bodyweight circuits and conclude with a big interval sprint session. For most of this group, this is the hardest day of the week.

The practical goals of our program depend on which athlete we are focused upon.  For our upper classmen it is constantly adjusting the training modalities from bars to dumbbells, machines or tubing in order to accommodate the various injuries, bumps and bruises the game of football imposes on the human body.  For our new players it is adjusting to the demands of scheduling their time and getting accustomed to actually lifting weights in a scientifically designed, demanding program with structure.  For our non – competing athletes we are training toward a max in the strength/power lifts while attempting to build upon their foundation of fitness.

Each athlete gets an individualized workout based upon his or her maxes sport and position.  This workout prescription is further adjusted on the floor in consultation with the strength coach as the athlete begins their training session.  We have set times for each team or group to train.  Most of our athletes train before practice.  Occasionally we have teams that train post – practice.  At the end of each training session the athletes are required to get their workout sheet initialed upon completion.  This insures one on one interaction between the coach and the athlete each and every workout.  At the end of every workout the athletes will get a recovery drink and stretch for 5:00 to aid in restoring their body to pre – workout levels in time for practice


SUMMER TRAINING IDEAS

During the summer months we usually have 65 – 75 football athletes here, depending on the summer school schedule.  By July both basketball teams are here in full force and we generally have 30 – 40 athletes from other teams that are here for various reasons.   We open at noon since the morning is devoted to classes and have our first group of women athletes at 1:15.  Our first group of football players is at 2:30.  At 4:00 we have our second group of women, at 5:00 our men’s basketball team and at 5:30 our second group of football athletes.  This allows for plenty of room, good safety and lots of coaching, instruction and supervision. We usually wrap up the day between 7:00 and 7:30.

We are a “mid – major” school and our athletes are in summer school or, in the case of some of our athletes, working.  Therefore, our athlete’s mornings are taken up with class or work.  That is the reason for the late schedule.  Other schools I have coached at had all of their athletes in summer school, which caused our football schedule to be a 1:30 lifting/running group followed by throwing at 3:30 and a 4:30 lifting/running group.  On that schedule our day wrapped up about 6:00.   In that model the morning was again slotted for classes, tutors and studying.  I know some of my colleagues have early groups or are exclusively early workout teams with football finished by 10:00 a.m. each day.  We do that in the winter, on Fridays, but in the summer we generally become an afternoon and evening team.

The athletes that go home are given a separate workout plan that is more generic in nature.  This is due to the fact that they will not have access to the same type of modalities (sleds, chains, rubber bands, hills, sand pits, etc.) that we have access to here.  However, when they return they are accountable for their level of fitness by the point system we use as they begin their workouts for the fall.  Larry Smith, my head coach at the University of Southern California taught me the point system.  I thought it was an ingenious way to help make competitive what could be a negative at the beginning of the year.   It is evenly weighted with 15 points for the weight room and 16 points for the running.   Each athlete must attain a score of 23 of 33 points or 70% in order to pass.  We accomplished all of our testing as a part of the voluntary training program so no practice time was used.

During the summer we use a lot of variety to foster compliance and excitement.  We expect our leaders to lead and our followers to follow.  We have always built in breaks and use every toy that we can think of to make it different and fun.  We have watermelon on occasion and Popsicles after big running days.  I have had guys go to nearby schools and throw with their guys and it is generally a fun time of preparation.

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