If there’s one area where most football players really drop the ball, it’s in-season strength training. They bust their butts for nine months in the weight room only to let all that new-found strength vanish by game four.
In-season training can be tricky. You have practices, games, meetings, and work and/or school, depending on your level. Your energy is being pulled in many different directions, but you must leave some for the weight room even during the season.
Strength leads to speed and explosiveness. Guys who stop training tend to slow down and get injured as the season progresses. The team that has fast, strong guys come playoff time are the teams that win.
First, you need to make sure you kick your recovery into high gear. If you aren't really amping up the following recovery methods during the football season, you’re already losing:
- Ice baths
- Epsom salt baths
- Foam rolling
- Proper nutrition/hydration
If your recovery is on point, you can and will have the energy and ability to train hard in-season. There are three ways to make sure that you supercharge your strength building program during the season.
1. Use partial lifts
We want to focus on top end strength here, really going for 85–90 percent consistently. The problem is that can sometimes be tough, especially after a tough practice or a really hard hitting game. In these cases, instead of doing a full lift like a bench, squat, or deadlift, do partial versions of these key exercises.
A quarter squat, rack pulls, lockouts on the bench…all these are great for working the central nervous system to put power out without taking its normal toll on the muscles, which are already tired.
2. Drop the negative when possible
We want to get stronger in-season, but we can’t afford a lot of soreness. This is the time to concentrate on concentric-only lifts—lifts where the negative or lowering portion is eliminated.
For example, deadlift and drop the bar. Do a clean pull and drop the bar. Do a power clean and drop the bar. For lower body, eliminating the negative is sometimes very useful. This isn’t something to do for long periods of time, but if you alternated doing a heavy, concentric-only lower body day with the partials dominated session, you’ll maximize strength and minimize soreness.
If you want to have your guys continue to increase strength and power in the legs, you need to increase the amount of work you do on sleds and Prowlers. A lot of this stuff can replace weight room movements. For example, lead off your lower body day with something fairly heavy like a deadlift, concentric only. Then instead of doing Romanians or good mornings, do upright sled pulls for the hamstrings. Or do lateral pulls or shuffles or scissor walks.
You push low, you push high, you backpedal. You’re hitting all the important muscles (glutes, hams, calves, hips) hard but with almost no eccentric. Every time you take your foot off the ground when pushing, you eliminate the negative. This allows you to increase work capacity and strength while minimizing soreness.
If all you could do was:
- Concentric deadlifts up to 80 percent for a single or double
- Prowler backpedals X 4 pulls
- Upright sled pulls X 4 pulls
- Lateral pulls X 2 pulls each way
- Band leg curls, 3 X 12–15
You’d be golden and you wouldn't be sore.
Use the three methods laid out here to continually get stronger and faster and increase your work capacity all season long so that your team is the biggest, fastest, and strongest team come playoff time.