Ten Tips to Improve Your Football Training

TAGS: injury, muscle, sports, speed, conditioning, athlete, strength, Elitefts Info Pages

1.      Cut out the jogging.

If we all simply followed this one, there’d be better results and more time for real training. Jogging has no place in a football training program. None. Not as a warm up, not as a cool down, and definitely not as punishment.

Football is an explosive sport, not an endurance feat. You sure as hell shouldn’t be jogging during a game, so don’t do it in your training. Sprint, walk back, repeat. If someone tells you that you need to jog to build your “aerobic” base, run. It’s a good time to practice your sprint technique.

2.      Learn to love max effort work.

The other day I came across two websites promising elite football training programs that were meant to increase your strength and explosiveness. Both were centered on doing sets of 10, 8, 6, and 4!

They were obviously written by personal trainer types who copied it out of some bodybuilding magazine. Trust me. Sets of ten aren’t going to build absolute strength. It’s a recipe for disaster. Disaster as in you getting your head knocked off when you take the field.

Learn how to do max effort work properly and start using it right now. There’s a reason it’s popular—it works! You will get stronger and faster and become more explosive. Those are pretty important to football and just about every other sport.

3.      Learn to apply max force to the bar.

This is where the haters (or HIT’ers) go wrong. They see a guy doing ME work, and they see the bar moving fairly slowly. This, of course, leads them to believe that lifting heavy will make you big and slow. What they don’t see is that the bar is being pushed as fast as possible, and that’s what’s important.

If you want to get faster and more explosive, you’ve got to learn to apply maximum force (speed) to the bar, even if it’s heavy.

To put it simply, if I asked you to deadlift an empty bar as fast as possible, I’m guessing that bar would almost fly up. Now, load the bar to 95 percent of your max and do the same. Yes, the bar will move much slower, but the intent to move it as quickly as possible is what counts. This is what tells your brain to make your muscles fast. Your brain is pretty smart. Don’t try to out think it.

4.      Change grips, bars, and stances often.

Football training is about preparing yourself for the rigors of a chaotic game. The game moves fast and from all directions, and it rarely is played the same way twice. Thus, you need to change up the resistance and how you move it very often.

Changing your grip, the type of bar used, or your stance is a good way to fight central nervous system burnout and avoid accommodation. It’s also a great way to train the body in a multitude of angles and positions. The choices are endless and EliteFTS has about a million bars, handles, and machines to choose from. Pick a bunch of them and change things up as often as possible every week.

5.      Don’t fear body weight movements.

It’s true that you can’t train for football using body weight movements alone. However, they shouldn’t be neglected either! Body weight movements like push-ups, chin-ups, sprinting, and free weight squats can be used to warm up, deload, and in some cases, add real bulk to the upper body.

Obviously, if you have any experience, the average push-up isn’t going to be much of a challenge. But try doing bar push-ups with a band or chains around your back. Now you’ve got yourself a nice upper body bulking exercise that fits nicely into a repetition upper day. Or if you really want to get hard core, get yourself some blast straps and do blast strap push-ups with a band around your back. If you have trouble gaining mass in the chest, triceps, or delts, this movement will get you over the muscle building hump.

Free weight squats are great for warming up before a training session, practice, or game. And don’t forget that sprinting is a form of body weight training.

6.      Get a sandbag and lift it.

Building weight room strength is essential if your football training is going to be successful. However, if all you build is strength in the weight room, you’re in trouble! There seems to be a disconnect between what goes on in the gym and what happens in the field. Sure, a stronger player will always win, all things being equal. But all things are rarely equal.

Guys who excel, especially at power positions like the line, linebackers, and running backs, seem to be guys who can take what they’ve built in the weight room and transfer it to the field. They tend to possess strength at odd angles and from weird positions. If you’ve ever blocked another human or tried to tackle them, you know that you aren’t always in the perfect position. You need to find ways to train both standard strength and strength in odd positions to prevent strength leakage.

Sandbags are the answer. Way back in the olden days of the 1990s, dinosaur training came along and introduced us to odd object lifting, the kind you see in World’s Strongest Man competitions. Dino training taught us about rock, stone, sandbag, and barrel lifting, all of which are great for building that odd strength. But the problem with rocks, stones, and barrels is that if dropped, they can become a real safety issue. If you drop a rock on your foot, you’re screwed. If you drop a sandbag, you’ll just look like a big dummy.

Because they change shape and are hard as hell to get a handle on, sandbags provide an excellent path to transfer strength. Josh Henkin’s sandbag training information and sandbags are top of the line. Get one, load it up, and lift it. Squats, carries, overhead work—it’s all good. Add sandbags to your football training, and I guarantee you’ll notice a huge difference within weeks.

7.      Accentuate the negative and explode.

This is for those who need help putting some quality muscle on. I rarely advocate slowing down the lowering portion of a lift, but for some assistance movements, slowing the negative and then exploding up can lead to solid muscle gains. Do not do this on max effort or dynamic effort movements!

Take the average row movements. Most guys lift the weight, let the weight free fall, and then repeat. If the goal is to bulk up the back, you need to slow that lowering. This is a bodybuilding method, but isn’t that the goal for that specific movement? If you’re trying to bulk up, you need to train a bit like a bodybuilder sometimes. Remember all that Weider principal garbage about using negatives? Well, it has a small amount of merit. Most muscle is built during the eccentric portion of the lift, so focusing on that will help put some size on you.

8. Start doing dynamic effort work.

This is where so many coaches and players get tripped up. Many of them are embracing max effort training but are afraid to put speed work into practice. I get emails about this constantly. Guys think that in order to do speed work you need all kinds of exotic training aids.

In reality, you need to lift that bar as fast as possible. If bands scare you, just buy chains. A basic chain set up is inexpensive and easy to use. Load them up to correct the force curve and blast off.

Explaining all of the ins and outs of DE training is beyond the scope of this article. There are plenty of resources available about how to set up and implement DE work. Remember, as football players, we need to develop a high rate of force development if we are to run faster, jump higher, and hit harder. Rate of force development is built with DE work. Drop the fear and start doing it today.

9.      Compete in the off-season.

We’ve all heard it at one point—“You’re training for football, not to be a powerlifter.” There’s a lot of truth to that. You shouldn’t train exclusively like a powerlifter, Olympic lifter, or Strongman. The demands of the sport just call for too many different types of strength. However, I’m telling you that you should compete in powerlifting, Olympic lifting, or Strongman in the off-season. Why? Glad you asked…

The off-season is a time to train, get your mind off of football a bit so that you can let your brain recover from the six-month pounding it took, and get prepared for the next season. It’s also a time when a lot of guys slack off. Sure, there are always in-gym pressures to stay on your game, but that’s not always enough.

By competing in another strength sport, you accomplish three things:

1.      You keep the competitive fire burning. There’s no time for slacking when you have a meet coming up.

2.      You help those sports grow and thrive. Football training has its roots in all three strength sports so show your support and help make those sports bigger and better.

3.      You get a hell of a lot stronger. The simple act of competing is enough to make you push yourself past limits that you’d normally wouldn’t.

Plus, remember that you won’t play football forever. At some point, you’ll have a choice—stop playing and become a fat civilian or stop playing and start putting all that athleticism into one of the strength sports. We know what the average guy does. But we’re not average, are we?

Don’t get crazy with it and forget your football training. Specialization is for another time. Train hard and you’ll do pretty well in any of the big three.

10.  If your leg training is lagging, try jumping.

This is a simple and effective method to get your leg training going again if you’ve hit a wall. It’s not something you should do every session; save it for when you really need it. There are times when it seems like nothing will get your heavy leg work moving forward. Your ME training goes flat and progress stalls, yet your assistance exercises are steadily improving. What gives?

Perhaps your brain isn’t being told of the extra strength needed to hit new PRs. What you need to do is wake up your central nervous system and get it firing so that it can tell your muscles to lift the damn weight. Fancy types like to call these potentiation exercises. Just know that by adding five box jumps (or other explosive jumps) before starting your max effort work, you will have your central nervous system firing.

Grab a box that is about 80 percent of your best box jump height and perform five singles. This will get your explosive juices flowing. You’ve seen guys sleep walk through their football training programs, never getting as strong as possible. This is like a cold bucket of water. Your brain and muscles will be awake and ready to roll.

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