Originally published September 2001

It is not uncommon for an athlete to want to do extra work in the weight room, even after an extensive training session. While this kind of enthusiasm is inspiring, it can often lead to overtraining and a decreased training effect of the program. Do you simply turn the athletes away, hoping that they are content with their workouts? More often than not, this athlete will go to the student recreation center, commercial gym, or elsewhere to "complete" his workout. As a coach, I believe that an athlete must be given the tools, education, and guidance to reach his potential. I will examine why and how to administer extra workouts for the off-season football player.

The point of extra workouts, from a coaching perspective, is to raise the athletes work capacity, decrease the weak areas, prevent injury, and give the athlete a template to follow.

For the sake of this article, I'm going to assume that the athlete lifts four times/week for no more than 60 minutes, run three times/week consisting of mostly speed training, and performs sport-specific drills two times/week (7 on 7, pass blocking, etc.). Two workouts per week are devoted to upper body training and two for lower body training. This adds up to nine total workouts/week, which is quite extensive and demanding. By adding extra workouts, the idea is to add to the total training effect, not take away from it. By concentrating the extra work on the athletes' weak points, making sure the workouts are brisk and short, and monitoring and educating the athlete, a coach can successfully add extra workouts to his program.

RECENT: Seminar Squats

Let's look at the typical athlete's weak points. First, most athletes are weak in the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, low back) and abs. Extra work on the glute-ham raise, back raises, Reverse Hyper®, good mornings, single-leg squats, lunges, sled dragging, band-through belt box squats, pull-throughs, and leg curls are excellent choices. Pick two exercises for 2-3 sets. The workout should not be hard, but almost rehabilitating. For the abs, variety is the key. Work on the stability ball, dumbbell side bends, leg raises, ab wheel, weighted sit-ups, standing crunches with bands and any other ab work is good.

For the upper body, most athletes should work on shoulder stability (external rotation and upper back work), triceps strength, and lat work. Some good choices would be; seated Cuban press, external rotation with dumbbells, face pulls, triceps pushdowns, DB triceps extension, DB rows, light DB bench presses, rear laterals, push-ups, chest supported rows, pull-ups, and wide grip benches. Mix and match 2-3 exercises and switch often. Remember they should be light workouts, short and to the point. No more than 15 minutes should be devoted to any of these workouts.

Placing these workouts is also key to their success. Here's a good example of how to place extra workouts in a weekly training schedule.

Sample Training Week

Workout 1 - Upper Body Training
Workout 2 - Sprint Technique 

Workout 1 - Lower Body Training
Workout 2 - Skill Training
Workout 3 - Upper Body Extra Workout

Workout 1 - Conditioning
Workout 2- Lower Body Extra Workout

Workout 1 - Upper Body Training
Workout 2 - Sprint Work

Workout 1 - Lower Body Training
Workout 2 - Skill Training
Workout 3 - Upper Body Extra Workout

Workout 1 - Lower Body Extra Workout

As you can see, the extra workouts are always after the main workouts and never before them. One could also do extra work on the same day, provided that enough time is given for the athlete to recover. One should start with one or two workouts a week and see how the athlete reacts. Once his work capacity increases, add in others gradually.

Always be alert to see if the training on the main workout days is less than optimal. These should only be administered to athletes that have been in your program for over a year or have a vast training history before coming to you. Sometimes having an over-enthusiastic athlete can be as difficult as having one that has no work ethic. Hopefully, by using these guidelines you can harness his dedication and make it work for him.

Header image credit: Sergey Nivens © 123rf.com

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