Most high school football programs tend to do a pretty good job with the off-season strength training program, making their players bigger and stronger, only to abandon the program once two-a-days start.
Too often the season starts and the strength training program comes to an end.
With players having to learn new offensive and defensive schemes, as well as working on specialty skills, the workouts tend to be the first thing pushed aside.
That’s unfortunate because of all the hard work and gains accomplished in the off-season need to be maintained in-season. If not, you will gradually start to lose strength gains. And rest assured, there are some programs out there that find the time to keep their players in the weight room. You’ll know who they are come the last 2-3 weeks of the season and playoffs.
Some athletes start to feel weaker after just one week not lifting. Typically it only takes 4 weeks to start losing muscle mass and it will dissipate at a rate of 5% per month when not lifting. A 225-pound linebacker will be down to 210 within a few weeks, much weaker, and possibly losing battles on the field. Football season takes a toll on the athlete. The stronger your athletes are, the better they will perform, while also decreasing the amount of injuries that are sustained.
Once the season starts, athletes need to be in class 5-6 hours a day, another 3 hours on the football field, do homework, eat, and hopefully get enough sleep to be productive the next day. With that being said, when do you find time to train?
Using your typical off-season workout is not only impossible but also ineffective. The biggest mistake football players make, outside of not lifting at all, is that they tend to use the same training program they used during the off-season. Overtraining becomes a big problem. The body is already being taxed on the field, making it unable to recover as it did in the off-season.
Taking into account all of these new challenges, our goal in the weight room is to stimulate muscle, not destroy it. We use a few basic core movements to stimulate the large muscles quickly and intensely, then let them recover. Most of the supplemental exercises used in the off-season are eliminated. A reasonable workout is one that helps our athletes maintain strength, power, and can be accomplished in roughly 30 minutes, twice a week. The key is intensity, focus, and the right exercises. Our main goal in-season is to maintain the size and strength we developed during off-season training.
Example of an in-season workout
- Monday–Squats 3×3 @ 90% or 3×5 @ 85%
- G.H.R 4X10
- Heavy abs 4X10
- 3X3 @ 90% or 3X5 @ 85%
- T-Bar or Bent over rows 4X8
- Clean and press or Power press 3X3 @ 85%
This would be a one-week example of what I have my athletes do during their competitive season. Of course these movements will change frequently throughout the season to avoid accommodation, rotating in various exercises, but the volume of sets and reps would be close to the same. Remember: our focus is to stimulate the muscle and maintain strength levels throughout the season. With proper training adjustments throughout in and off-season, athletes can expect to perform better and maintain a competitive edge over the rest of the pack.