Off-season is upon us! It’s time to bench, squat, and power clean until your players puke. After all, the best high school players in the country bench the most and power clean 300 lbs and up, right? Maybe it’s time to rethink the wheel or at least look at how the wheel actually spins.

The limiting factors for sport performance aren’t found in weight room numbers. Have you ever had an athlete who couldn’t bench 200 lbs but made people look stupid on the field with his ability to change direction, accelerate, and control his opponent with devastating authority? These expressions of sporting skill have little to do with bicep girth or how good someone looks in their uniform. If we as coaches can check our egos at the door and take a good look at what improves sporting performance, you might find yourself on the cutting edge of training youth athletes.

Body control, hip stability, reactivity, rate of force development, and GPP are the keys to aiding sport performance. Don’t get me wrong—it’s important for our athletes to be strong. However, if you stack strength on dysfunction, you’ll find yourself in a heap of trouble.

When training a youth athlete, it’s important to begin with body control. If you were to take a close look at our training program (Football 360), we begin every off-season by mastering body weight movements including split squats, single leg squats, body weight squats, push-ups, pull-ups, and others. We invest a great deal of training volume at the beginning of the year into teaching the athletes to control their bodies. Every workout begins with a dynamic warm up that engages the hip complex and teaches the athletes how to stabilize their center of gravity.

The following is a portion of our week one protocol for warm up. Using a 10–25-lb weight, our athletes perform the following movements:

·        *Isometric squat wood chops, 1 X 10

·        *Isometric squat rotary plate punches, 1 X 10 each side

·        Squat to overhead press, 1 X 10

·        Front squat with the plate extended at shoulder height, 1 X 10

·        Overhead lunges in place, 1 X 5 each side

*The isometric squat movements are performed by holding a low squat position while performing dynamic movements with the upper body.

I spoke at a clinic this summer for collegiate and high school strength coaches. I presented this idea, and I could tell that it was being received with a little opposition. So I had the strongest guy in the room perform an isometric squat with a wood chop (using a 25-lb plate). He almost fell over. After that quick demonstration, the light went on. If you can’t control your body with a little dynamic external resistance, how can you expect to control your opponent?

The second key idea is to enhance the athletes GPP. Scott Hines (Co-Author of Football 360) is a master at developing GPP. During the first 16 weeks of our program, the athletes spend three days in the weight room mastering the fundamental weight lifting movements. On the other two days, they perform GPP work.

The following is the week one GPP protocol for day two and day four:

Day 2 (dumbbells or kettlebells)

·        Push-ups X  30 seconds

·        Burpees X 30 seconds

·        Mountain climbers X 30 seconds

·        Pull-ups X 30 seconds

·        Swing thru X 30 seconds

Perform 3–5 rounds with two2 minutes between rounds.

Day 4 (30 seconds work/30 seconds rest)

·        Body weight squats

·        Medicine ball chest pass

·        Mountain climbers

·        Push-ups

·        Swing thru

Perform 3–5 rounds with one minute between rounds.

We instruct our athletes to perform perfect reps without failing. Thus, if the athletes can only perform three perfect rounds, the workout is stopped. You never want to ingrain a dysfunctional motor pattern with an athlete. If you do, you’re setting your athletes up for injury.

One of the first schools to use our program was Trion High School in Georgia. The head coach, David Humphries, called us after week six and wanted to know when the “intensity” was going to get cranked up. David is one of the best coaches in the country, and the turn around he did there this year is evidence of his abilities. We just told him to be patient and hang in there. When week 16 came and the guys performed maximum efforts in the weight room and performed a movement assessment (40 yard, broad jump etc.), he was blown away. Not only was he blown away with the numbers, but when they went to spring ball, the linemen were able to get in their stances with ease and their ability to control their bodies was heightened.

I heard it said once that physical training, albeit with weights or movements, is just GPP for the athlete. That’s it! Our job is to help our athletes perform at their best on the field, and that begins with building a solid foundation. Football 360 attacks the qualities that are needed for football performance. And as a bonus, their bench and squat numbers will impress.

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