The late spring-early summer is prime time off-season training for football. Although off-season training kicks officially starts in February for most high school and college athletes, May through mid-August is usually when everyone kicks it into another gear.
In addition to your strength work, your conditioning is should start to get cranked up a notch as well. Camp is approaching and every serious athlete wants to be able to dominate for four quarters.
What good is being strong as hell if your conditioning sucks? To add to that, what good is being strong and conditioned if your athletes are slow and lack power?
What we need here is a well-rounded, diverse program that emphasizes real world strength, speed and conditioning. That’s the key to developing a good training program for your athletes, along with keeping them mobile, flexible and healthy.
I want to show you guys what I do at my facility, Tutela Training Systems in Clark, NJ during the May through Mid-August time frame.
We'll start by breaking our program down in sections, then tie it all together.
Summer Football Training Component 1: Strength
We prepare our athletes to be at their strongest come the start of the season.
From my experiences, alternating from 3 full body days per week to an upper/lower split every 3-4 weeks has been extremely beneficial.
Football obviously involves the entire body, so why not train that way?
I prefer dedicating one day to maximal upper body strength with accessory lower body, followed by lower body maximal strength with upper body accessory work, then followed by more of a dynamic/strongman day.
On that third day is where we typically incorporate most of our jumping and throwing however I don’t strictly limit those movements to that day.
Now, full body days are great but I have found them to be way too taxing on the central nervous system to do all the time. With that said, I've seen great results from switching to an upper/lower split after 3 weeks. During that time frame our athletes have not only developed more work capacity but also feel refreshed and excited to do strictly upper or lower body work. I prefer a conjugate style template during this point of the year, since conjugate periodization gives you the biggest bang for your buck in a short time period in my opinion.
This type of split is certainly not the only method out there, however it has produced incredible results for our athletes at our facility. Give it a shot and watch your guys get strong as hell.
Summer Football Training Component 2: Power
Athletes can be strong and not be powerful, but they can’t be powerful without being strong.
Power = strength x speed so if you’re weak you cannot produce enough force fast enough. That’s why developing a foundation of strength first and foremost holds premise.
But let’s assume we are already there. Your athletes have been training all off-season with proper coaching and now have a good foundation of strength.
I prefer using jumping and throwing variations to work on power development. Some guys rather do Olympic lifting, which is great if the lifts are taught and coached properly. Either way, the important thing is that you incorporate power work when the time is right.
I prefer working on power development prior to a lower body session, utilizing contrast training or designating a day to work on power and speed.
All have worked for my athletes, I suggest trying them all out and see what works best for you and your team.
Summer Football Training Component 3: Speed
Most athletes need to get faster. Don’t inhibit a player’s speed development by having them do their speed session following a strength session.
From my experience, designating a speed day or incorporating speed work prior to the start of a strength session is the way to go.
However PLEASE keep this in mind….
When training for speed you should have one thing in mind:
Getting your athletes faster, not killing them with bleachers, tempo runs, bear crawls, gassers or any other brutal conditioning methods.
Speed is speed and conditioning is an entirely different animal so don’t confuse the two.
If you want them to get faster you must focus on speed drills and give them nearly full recovery.
If you keep this in mind and combine it with a good strength program, your athletes WILL get faster. And that’s what we want. Not to show our dominance by beating the shit out of them with conditioning.
However, ass-kicking certainly has its place, which brings me to my next point.
Summer Football Training Component 4: Conditioning
As I mentioned earlier, speed and conditioning have to be looked at as completely separate things. If speed work is not done on a separate day from strength training, it should be done before your strength work. This way the athletes are fresh when trying to maximize their fast twitch fibers. This will only inhibit the athlete’s strength by a small percentage where if you reversed the two, their speed would be greatly inhibited.
On the contrary, conditioning should be done post strength work. This is due to the fact that when your goal is to increase an athlete’s level of conditioning you are going to be doing work that is extremely taxing that will leave the guys fatigued with depleted glycogen stores. They are now in a weakened state and not only is it unsafe for your athletes to strength train in this condition, but their progress will be counterproductive.
Get the most out of your players by strength training first, then go outside and work on their conditioning.
Summer Football Training Component 5: Mobility/Flexibility
Flexibility is referring to the range of motion of the muscles, whereas mobility is referring to the range of motion of the joints.
It’s critical to emphasize both to ensure your athletes avoid common injuries that are actually avoidable.
It’s not uncommon for most teams to work on mobility by incorporating a dynamic warm-up during a “flex” period before a practice. It is uncommon however, for coaches to incorporate a dynamic warm-up prior to strength training. Typically the team will go through a brief stretch period before the start of their strength training. This is completely outdated and isn’t enough.
Take advantage of the 10-15 minutes before the start of their strength training to incorporate a dynamic warm-up to focus on not only your athletes flexibility and mobility, but to increase their core temperature and heart rate, teach proper mechanics and movement patterns, lubricate the joints, activate the central nervous system, activate the muscles being trained and to put your athletes in a more ready, safer state to train.
Flexibility is best done after strength, speed or conditioning work is done for the day. Unless we have an athlete that has extremely poor flexibility, then we have them do some light static stretching prior to the start of their warm-up.
Creating Your Summer Football Training Template
Typically our athletes strength train 3 or 4 days per week at our facility, depending on the program. Full body programs are usually 3 days per week, whereas upper/lower splits are usually 4 training days per week.
We incorporate power work on designated days or at the start of a training session when the athlete is in their freshest state. We also love to incorporate contrast training where we will go for a heavy lift immediately followed by some type of jump. I recommend incorporating all of the different variations.
Speed work is also done on either a designated day or before the start of our strength work, depending on the athlete’s schedule. Typically we work on speed training once or twice a week. Make sure you don’t confuse speed training with conditioning!
Conditioning is to be done on its own day or after strength training. You don’t want your athletes’ technique to be compromised due to fatigue, nor do you want their strength to suffer.
Flexibility and mobility should be done every day. Starting each speed, strength or conditioning session with a good, thorough dynamic warm-up and finishing with static stretching.
Be sure to include stretches for the low back, glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, quads and hip rotators in your static stretching. You certainly want to include stretches for the upper body as well, but it’s too common that teams do a few typical stretches like toe touches and butterflies. The entire posterior chain needs to be addressed along with the hips.
Emphasizing mobility and flexibility drills will not only help prevent injuries, but they can also help your athletes recover.
I hope this helps you guys design a killer off-season template for your team.