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Every feel like you aren't properly prepared to lift the weight people expect you to "lift?" If not, chances are you need to take another look.

Football coaches are so often expected to be be experts in everything, and sometimes that forces us to "fake it til you make it." Unfortunately, that often means that the football coach is assumed to be an expert in Strength & Conditioning regardless of his background in that field.

This past fall, I finally took a class on S&C principles to fill in the many gaps in the information that I had gathered from clinics, my high school coaches, and my own random experimenting. This S&C 101 series is meant to share some of the highlights of what I learned through that program so that you can apply it for your team.

So lets start at the very beginning....

Question #1: What are the basic principles of training and program design?
Strength and resistance training has the ability to greatly change the body. Specifically, it can affect the "body composition, strength, muscular hypertrophy, and motor performance (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004)." If an athlete adheres to some basic training principles, they be much more successful in making the changes that they are looking for in their body (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004). Here are some of the principles outlined in Fleck and Kraemer’s book Designing Resistance Training Programs:
  1. Voluntary Maximal Muscular Actions: are defined as "the muscle must move with as much resistance as its present fatigue level will allow (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004)." This is not the maximum resistance possible, only the maximum at that particular moment by a fatigued muscle. This occurs whenever "momentary concentric muscle failure is reached (Stoppani, 2006)."
  2. Intensity: Intensity of an exercise is determined by the percentage of the one rep max that is used in a given set or workout. The intensity that is used can affect the results of the workout on the muscle. 60% to 65% is the recommended intensity suggested for healthy adults to achieve strength gain. Higher reps of lower intensity weights "will result in no or minimal strength gain (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004)."
  3. 3. Training Volume: This is a way of determining the total amount of work that an athlete does during a training session, week, month, or period. Volume is estimated by multiplying the weight lifted by the number of repetitions completed. For example, lifting 150 pounds 10 times equals a volume of 1500 lbs. Training volume is an important consideration when developing programs for athletes as it has been linked to positive training outcomes.
  4. Periodization: Defined as "planned variation in training volume and intensity (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004)." Additional changes, such as exercises and variations, can be made in a similar fashion to "vary the conditioning stimulus being applied to a particular muscle group (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004)."
  5. Progressive Overload: This concept is used to continually adapt the workout to meet the athletes increasing strength potential. For example, an athlete that can bench 150 pounds for 5 reps at the beginning of a workout period will soon be able to lift more weight. At that point, lifting 150 for 5 reps will no longer stress the body enough to lead to additional strength gains. The athlete can overload his or her workout through increasing the weight, training volume, number of repetitions, rest periods between sets, or speed of the exercise (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004).
  6. Rest Periods: The amount of time between sets, exercises, and workouts are all referred to as rest periods. The time between sets is usually determined by the goal of the program. The time between workouts is allows the body to recover from the workout and generally allows for one day between workouts.
  7. Principle of Specificity: "To train in a specific manner to produce a specific outcome (Stoppani, 2006)." This concept is often referred to as "specific adaptation to imposed demands (SAID). It means that you train to meet the specific goals that you are hoping to address. If you want to increase your one rep max, then form your workout and all of its components around that goal. Likewise, an athlete looking to build explosive power for use on a football field would form his workout around that goal. This popular training principle is of the utmost importance to trainers as they create programs for their student athletes as they are not necessarily training them all to gain weight or perform the same actions at the peak of their potential. Specifically, athletes can be trained for the specific velocity of their sport (velocity specificity), muscle action used in their sport (muscle action specificity), or energy source most commonly used in their sport (energy-source specificity) (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004).
  8. Safety: Since there is some inherent risk in resistance training, safety is of the utmost importance. Spotters should be used at all times to protect the lifter from losing control of the weight. Lifters should practice proper breathing and exercise technique to mitigate potential injury concerns. Equipment should be properly maintained and safety items such as belts and shoes should be used at all times.

For additional information, check out these references:

Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (Eds.). (2000). Essentials of Strength Trainging and Conditioning (2nd Edition ed.). Champaign: Human Kenetics.

Davies, P. (n.d.). Energy Systems in Sport & Exercise. Retrieved June 29, 2011, from Sports Systems Advisor: http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/energysystems.html

Fleck, S. J., & Kraemer, W. K. (2004). Designing Resistance Training Programs (3rd Edition ed.). Champaign: Human Kenetics.

Gastin, P. (2001). Energy System Interaction and Relative Contribution During Maximal Exercise. Sports Medicine , 31 (10), 725-741.

Stoppani, J. (2006). The Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength. Champaign: Human Kenetics.

With the basic fundamentals of S&C understood, we will move on to take a deeper look and the various cycles and phases of periodized programs.

Periodization is characterized as the "planned variation oin the training volume and intensity" in a given workout (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004, p. 6). It is done to help the athlete maximize the gains possible for their body through strength training and to prepare them for peak performance at the right time. In order to reach that goal, a periodized program is commonly broken down into a series of cycles and phases. Each of the cycles and phases serves a specific purpose in the strength development of the athlete and is backed by years of research dating back to its introduction in over 50 year ago by Russian physiologist Leo Matveyev (Baechle & Earle, 2000).

Here is a breakdown of each of the cycles commonly used in periodized programs:

  • Macrocycle: The macrocycle refers to the overarching plan that is being implemented for the athlete. It often refers to a annual calendar of workouts that takes an athlete from one season to the next but can also be as long as four years for Olympic athletes. Macrocycles are made up of multiple mesocycles and microcycles (Baechle & Earle, 2000).
  • Mesocycle: A mesocycle is a period of several weeks to three or four months within which an athlete completes various microcycles. These cycles often take an athlete from a period of active rest, through a workout progression, to another period of active rest. These cycles are often formed around the competition calendar of the athlete in a process known as undulated periodization (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004).
  • Microcycle. A microcycle is a period of time that ranges between one and five weeks and refers to the amount of time that an athlete works on a specific phase or period of their workout. "This short cycle focuses on daily and weekly training variations (Baechle & Earle, 2000, p. 515)."
Phases are the different concepts that are used to form each of the different microcycles used with the larger mesocycle and macrocycle framework. Since there are a few differing ways of breaking down this information and sets of common terminology, I will be using the European terminology as I describe the different phases below (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004):

Preparation Phase: This phase is often the longest of the phases and places an "emphasis on increasing an athlete’s tolerance for more intense training (Baechle & Earle, 2000, p. 516)." It consist of a few smaller phases, that are used as microcycles, that push the athlete to increase their loads over time and force adaptation. Here is how Bachle and Earl define the types of lifting that takes place during each of these subordinate phases:

  • Hypertrophy / Endurance Phase: "Lot to moderate intensity workouts (50-75% of the 1RM) with very high to moderate volume (3-6 sets of 10-20 repetitions)."
  • Basic Strength Phase: "high intensity (80-90% of 1RM) and moderate volume (3-5 sets of 4-8 repetitions)."
  • Strength / Power Phase: high intensity (75-95% of 1RM depending on exercise) and low volume (3-5 sets of 2-5 repetitions)."
First Transition Phase: Initially referred to as a short break, often 1 week, between the preparatory and competition phases. Can also be used between mesocycles within the same phase.

Competition Phase: This phase is used during the competition season and can take different forms based on the length of the competition season. For shorter competitive seasons, this phase should consist of very high intensity, that is above 93% of 1RM, and very low volume (1-3 reps). Since this keeps the athlete in "peak condition for (only) three weeks" (Baechle & Earle, 2000, p. 517) this is not ideal for longer seasons and those programs are advised to shift the focus of the competition phase to a program that will maintain the athlete’s strength through the season. This means using moderate intensities and volumes in place of the very high intensity and very low volumes listed above.

Second Transition Phase: Commonly referred to as active rest and is used to transition the athlete from the competition phase to the subsequent year’s preparatory phase. This phase often lasts between 1 to 4 weeks and athletes generally participate in "unstructred, recreational activities preformed at low intensities and low volumes (Baechle & Earle, 2000, p. 518)."

Before you can put your periodization plan into place, you must first insure that your program is made up of the proper activities to best prepare your players for success on the field. The key phrase here being "on the field." In other words, we are much less worried about if they can win a power lifting competition than we are preparing them to do their job at a high level on the field. That is not to say that power lifting is "wrong," as it will be helpful for some athletes some times. The problem is assuming that that is all that any player needs to be successful.

Properly understanding the training needs of your team starts with the Needs Analysis.

A comprehensive needs analysis is a crucial component to helping athletes achieve optimal benefits from a resistance training programs. This process includes two distinct phases that "includes an evaluation of the requirements and characteristics of the sport and assessment of the athlete" (Baechle & Earle, 2000, p. 396). As part of the sports analysis, we will address the specific needs of football players on the field. This includes the muscle groups used, the way they are used, the energy systems they rely on, and the most common injury sites for football players (National Strength and Conditioning Association, 2007). When that is complete, we will assess each individual athlete tailor the program to fit their individual needs. This phases addresses past injuries, position specific needs, and training experience among other factors to create a clear picture of what that individual athlete needs to be at their best (National Strength and Conditioning Association, 2007).

By addressing the needs of our athletes, both individually and collectively, we are better prepared to build a successful program. The needs analysis will take place at the beginning of the off-season giving us all the data we need to create an off-season schedule for the athletes (Baechle & Earle, 2000). With this information, we are able to build the proper strength to benefit their play, train the energy systems they use during competition, and prevent injuries before they happen through strengthening exercises. This will undoubtedly result in a team the as big, fast, strong, and healthy as we can possibly field leading to more wins on Saturday’s.

Physical Demands of Football

Football is a difficult sport that can take its toll on athletes regardless of their condition / preparedness. For that reason, it is essential that the training that they complete is designed to meet their specific needs on the football field. Our program focuses on the gametime needs of our athletes to use their lower body, core, and upper body muscles groups by specifically meshing their primary movements with similar actions in resistance training. Here is a detailed breakdown of each the role each of those major muscle groups plays in our sport and an introduction to how we train those muscles.

Lower Body Muscle Groups

Muscles of the lower body are very important for football. The game of football is played from the ground up and players must use the muscles from the lower body to transfer power from the ground into forward movement. Starting at the calf Gastrocenmius and Soleus provide the ability to perform the running motion and pushing movements that are very important for blocking and tackling. These muscles are key in the power transfer from the larger muscles attached to leg above them. Muscles in this part of the body are best trained in the manor they will be used during a football game; by transferring of a load from the ground up. Mulit-joint movement and change of directions allow these two muscles to develop in way that is successful in football. While not a muscle, the Tendo Calcaneus ( Achilles tendon) is very important in this part of the leg. This tendon is key for the transfer of weight from the upper part of the leg to the feet. Tearing of this tendon can lead to surgery and long recovery times. To prepare this tendon for the tremendous job of supporting the strain of the power transfer the lifting program must put it under stress often. Moving up the leg we come to the muscles of the upper thigh. These include; Rectus femoris , vastus medialis, vastus lateralis,vastus intermedius, Biceps femoris, Gluteus maximus, and Gluteus Minumus. The value of the muscles cannot be understated. The four muscles that make up the quadriceps (Rectus femoris , vastus medialis, vastus lateralis,vastus intermedius,) are one of the largest muscles groups in all of the body and allow football athletes to perform many of the jumping explosive movements that the sport requires. Just as important as the muscles of the quadriceps are Gluteus Maximus, and Gluteus Minumus. Theses muscles are at the top of a posterior chain of muscles that are used to transfer energy created in the core to the lower leg muscles and then eventually to the ground through the feet. The muscles in the lower body are key for playing the game of football. These muscles if properly trained allow players to run faster, jump higher and hit harder.

Training the Lower Body

In order to train the muscles groups in the lower body effectively weight training programs must contain lifts and exercise that mirror requirements of the game of football. The programs must build around lifts that focus on multiple joint movements that focus on the transfer of force. Isolations exercises are not a core exercises set for the lower body. We must build our football players a base that will allow them to generate the power and speed that the game of football requires.

Core Muscle Groups

The core muscles of a football player may be the single most important muscle group on the whole body. Players must have a strong core to withstand the impacts on the body during a football game "Corestability" is defined as the ability to control the position and motion of the trunk over the pelvis to allow optimum production, transfer and control of force and motion to the terminal segment in integrated athletic activities." (Kibler, 2006) Core stability must be at a premium in the training regimen. A player that doesn’t have a strong core is going have problems with back injuries. The muscles of the core include; external and internal obliques, latissimus dorsi, serratus posterior and anterior, and erector spinea. Developing these muscles as a group is key to the over development of healthy football player. The development of core strength must be a priority for any strength program. The benefits for injury prevention alone dictate the importance of core stability.

Training for Core Development

The development of the core must be an important part of the strength program. Core development is a part of the primary lifts, squats for example will help to develop the lower back and abdomen muscles. While development can be had in the primary lifts, the core is to important not to dedicate time to the development of this muscle group. Daily abdominal work must be incorporated into the program, stabilities and crunches are not enough. In addition, plyometrics can be huge for the development of core stability. These exercises are going to insure that athletes will be prepared to support the bulk of the upper body and transfer it to the lower body.

Upper Body Muscle Groups

The muscles in this group of the body probably get the most attention from football players as a whole. These are ego lifts; they draw attention from players because development in this group of muscles is the more noticeable than on other places on the body. Exercises that affect the muscles in this group have their place in a lifting program. The game of football places a high premium on upper body strength and bulk due mostly to the need for protection on the shoulder joints from impact. The important muscles in this group include: Pectoralis major and minor, trapezius, biceps brachi, triceps brachii, deltoid, and latissimus dorsi. These muscles form a group of muscles that provide a football player’s primary muscular protection from the impact they will receive over the course of a football game. This groups just like the other groups mentioned above must be trained through exercises that transfer force across whole groups of muscles.

Training for Upper Body Development

Exercises for the upper body must be a balance of transfer and isolation exercises. These lifts do not necessarily need to be ground based. The need for added upper body bulk requires some isolation exercises be included in the development program but only as supplements to the exercise that transfer force across the muscles. The effectiveness of a football player is often determined by how fast they can meet force with force. Upper body strength is often a where this force must be recalled. Some research indicates that training with different speeds allows the upper body to transfer force faster. Plyometrics play a huge role in developing faster upper body power out puts (Jones, Fleisig, Escamill, & Lamak, 1995). Upper body is a great place to incorporate plyometrics to the program to allow athletes to apply strength quickly and effectively. Upper body bulk and power will always be a part of the game of football.

Energy Systems

Football is played fast will small breaks. Players must be ready for the short periods of explosive movements lasting up to six or eight seconds followed by short breaks of between 15 and 30 seconds. Anaerobic energy systems provide the initial energy needed to complete an activity and require no oxygen at the time of exertion to provide said energy. Aerobic energy sources pick up where the anaerobic systems leave off by continuing to provide ATP to the muscle, the difference being that this systems amount of ATP is limited by the "limits of oxidative phosphorylation and of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems to deliver oxygen to the muscle (Gastin, 2001)."

The Phosphagen System, also known as the ATP-PCr system, provides adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to the muscles for immediate use in sports and or movement. It is used for "short term, high intensity activities and is active at the start of all exercise regardless of intensity (Baechle & Earle, 2000)." This system is used for the first 5 seconds and can be elongated by the phosphocreatine for an additional 5 to 8 seconds (Davies). The Phosphagen system provides the immediate energy required for sports that need short burst of power, but cannot be relied on to provide energy for activities that require power for longer periods of time.

Since football players largely derive their energy from the anerobic and phosphagen energy systems, it is important that we test our athletes in that way. This will provide a better understanding of how they will actually compete on the field. Likewise, this information should inform the exercise choices that we make within our program as a means of building conditioning in using those energy systems.

Bibliography

Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (Eds.). (2000). Essentials of Strength Trainging and Conditioning (2nd Edition ed.). Champaign: Human Kenetics.

Davies, P. (n.d.). Energy Systems in Sport & Exercise. Retrieved June 29, 2011, from Sports Systems Advisor: http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/energysystems.html

Fleck, S. J., & Kraemer, W. K. (2004). Designing Resistance Training Programs (3rd Edition ed.). Champaign: Human Kenetics.

Foran, B. (2001). High Performance Sports Conditioning: Modern training for ultimate athletic development. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics.

Gastin, P. (2001). Energy System Interaction and Relative Contribution During Maximal Exercise. Sports Medicine , 31 (10), 725-741.

Hoffman, J. R., Cooper, J., Wendell, M., & Kang, J. (2009). Copmarison of Olympic vs. Traditional Powerlifting Training Programs in Football Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 129-135.

Jones, K., Fleisig, G., Escamill, R., & Lamak, L. (1995). The Effects of Compensatory Acceleration on Upper-Body Strength and Power in Collegiate football players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, , 95-105.

Kibler, W. P. (2006). The Role of Core Stability in Athletic Function. Sports Medicine , 189-198.

National Strength and Conditioning Association. (2007, March). NSCA Flight Manual - Module 4.

Once you know what the team as a whole needs and the particular requirements for each position, it is time to fit the program to the individual players. This ensures that the players individual variables are acknowledged and included in ensuring proper training.

One of the best ways to do this is by using the needs analysis worksheet suggested by the National Strength and Conditioning Association to gather the initial information for your football players (National Strength and Conditioning Association, 2007).

This worksheet covers a variety of essential information ranging from the demographic information and history of the athlete to an overview of the needs presented by their individual sport. Each of these individual pieces helps coaches understand their athletes a little bit better allowing for more detailed and specific training guidance throughout the program. Below is an overview of the various categories of information that you should record and the rationale for collecting said data.

  1. Athlete Demographic Information:
    1. Rationale: This information is important for properly group and track the athlete during his time in our program.
    2. Includes: Athlete’s Name, Sport, Position(s) Played, Date of Assessment
  2. Sport Analysis Information
    1. Rationale: This information (as outlined above) provides us with the data that is unique to football helping us better plan the program to meet the athletes needs.
    2. Includes: Sport Analysis, Sport Description, Movements That Must Be Trained, Most Common Injuries
  3. Athlete’s Physical Inventory
    1. Rationale: This information provides added information that guides individualizing the program to fit the athlete’s specific needs and provides baseline readings on physiological traits that can effect performance or alert staff to potential problems or changes with the athlete’s health.
    2. Includes: Physiological Description of the Athlete, Injury History of the Athlete, Training Experience Level, Body Composition Data (Height, Weight, Body Fat Percentage)
  4. Speed and Explosion Data
    1. Rationale: This information provides functional performance data that can be used to compare an athlete to his peers and his previous scores while providing a deeper understanding into the potential of that athlete on the field of play (Foran, 2001).
    2. Testing Method: Athletes rotate through four stations that produce digital times / heights for the runs and vertical jump. Coaches will measure the broad jump using a measuring tape.
    3. Includes: Vertical Jump, Broad Jump, Pro Agility, 10 Yard Dash, 40 Yard Dash
  5. Lifting Data
    1. Rationale: Varies for each lift. Explained below.
    2. Testing Method: Athletes will rotate through the four stations. Upon arriving at each station, the athlete will complete a lift warm-up set at roughly 50% 1RM before completing two attempts to record their max. Max data will be based on a 1RM conversion chart allowing athletes to complete between 2 and 5 reps as a max attempt. Coaches supervise for proper technique and safety.
    3. Individual Lifts:
      1. Hang Clean: This lift challenges the athletes to reach triple extension through their joints as well as trains them to explode from a static position. This is a perfect replication of the action that a football player does on every play in a football game. By using the variations listed, we train different angles and different "take-off" points that apply to different situations on gameday. This lift allows us to gain strength and power while working on weight transfer from the ground into the hips and produce power through the upper body. This helps create power and has been shown to increase aan athlete’s vertical jump more significantly than other lifting programs (Hoffman, Cooper, Wendell, & Kang, 2009). The basic hang clean lift can be modified to train for many different types muscle groups. These will include snatch, clean and jerk, dumbbell cleans and power cleans.
      2. Bench Press: This lift is crucial to allowing football players to powerfully impact their opponent on the field as it allows them to provide force perpendicular to the bodies alignment. The bench press helps build the pectoral muscles in addition to the anterior deltoids and the triceps. In addition, this lift is key for football to add upper body bulk and strength for power. Upper body strength is of key importance for offensive and defensive linemen. This lift can also be modified so it can match the needs of the athletes.
      3. Overhead Press: This lift "strengthen(s) the muscles of the shoulder girdle" which is an essential area of need for football players. By adding strength and stability to this area, we are protecting our athletes against injury and giving them additional strength to transfer the power from their lower body through their arms and into an opponent or up for a ball. In addition, these lifts are ground based and teach stability and balance for our athletes which is a crucial skill for athletes that are constantly being knocked in one direction or another. Similar to bench press the difference is the added benefit of adding bulk and range of motion to the shoulders. Variations include Standing press, Military Press, Push Press, and Push Jerk.
      4. Squat: This lift is done to "develop strength in the quadriceps, thigh adductors, gluteus maximus, and hamstrings…(and) strengthens the muscles, ligaments, and tendons surrounding the knee (National Strength and Conditioning Association, 2007, p. 45)." This strength is vital to a football player’s ability to hold his ground and move the opponent on the football field. The additional benefit of knee health is crucial to help football players avoid the knee injuries that are all too common in football players due to the collision and cutting aspects of the sport. While adding bulk to the lower body, squats have the added benefit of working to help core stabilization and balance. It involves the balance to keep a large amount of weight and perform a squat. Squats will be done multiple times a week. They allow for our players to train the lower body for the game of football which involves large amount of pushing movements. Squats can be modified in many ways to adjust for players needs examples of these are: Front Squats, Dumbbell squats, and over head squats.
All initial needs analysis testing will be completed at the beginning of each off-season or when a new athlete enters the program. The entire analysis will be updated annually as part of the kickoff to the off-season program the information will be used to create their training regimen. Additional testing will be conducted following the completion of two mesocycle in our training calendar to tweak the workout of the athletes as the athlete progresses. This data will be compared against the athlete’s previous benchmarks and against their peers as a means of addressing training problems and successes.

Conclusion

The ultimate goal of any program is set up to prepare out athletes for peak performance during the football season. Players have to be able to develop the muscular strength to within stand the collisions that happen over the course of season. Applying force quickly through the lower body is the game of football, in no other game is the difference between athletes on the field. The difference in size, speed, strength of the different players on the field is what makes the game fun to watch. With this in mind building a program that is based around core Olympic style and multiple joint movement exercises is a key to success in the game of football. Isolating the core movements that will be used to perform the athletic movements associated with the game.

Creating a workout that meets each of these characteristics is only possible if your team starts with a detailed understanding of both the athlete and their particular sport. By obtaining the movements, injury risks, and muscles grouping used in football, you can create a program for that meets those needs. These plans can then be further individualized by adding athlete specific information such as lifting maxes, injury history, and experience level.

Bibliography

Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (Eds.). (2000). Essentials of Strength Trainging and Conditioning (2nd Edition ed.). Champaign: Human Kenetics.

Davies, P. (n.d.). Energy Systems in Sport & Exercise. Retrieved June 29, 2011, from Sports Systems Advisor: http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/energysystems.html

Fleck, S. J., & Kraemer, W. K. (2004). Designing Resistance Training Programs (3rd Edition ed.). Champaign: Human Kenetics.

Foran, B. (2001). High Performance Sports Conditioning: Modern training for ultimate athletic development. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics.

Gastin, P. (2001). Energy System Interaction and Relative Contribution During Maximal Exercise. Sports Medicine , 31 (10), 725-741.

Hoffman, J. R., Cooper, J., Wendell, M., & Kang, J. (2009). Copmarison of Olympic vs. Traditional Powerlifting Training Programs in Football Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 129-135.

Jones, K., Fleisig, G., Escamill, R., & Lamak, L. (1995). The Effects of Compensatory Acceleration on Upper-Body Strength and Power in Collegiate football players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, , 95-105.

Kibler, W. P. (2006). The Role of Core Stability in Athletic Function. Sports Medicine , 189-198.

National Strength and Conditioning Association. (2007, March). NSCA Flight Manual - Module 4.

Far too many athletes are currently supervised in the weight room by the well intentioned coaches who have a strength coaching background. As a result, these athletes are part of cookie cutter programs that ignore periodization principles that have become generally accepted in strength and conditioning circles.

The program has been designed for athletes who are part of a football team to apply the periodization concepts to their current workout system. This program will provide a general periodization framework that can be applied to the team as a whole allowing the coaches to then adapt the program to the individual athletes based on their needs analysis of each athlete and the positions that they play.

Warm-Up

The warm up we use for our strength sessions is the same warm-up that we use for all football related activities. This comprehensive warm-up takes around ten to twelve minutes to complete. During this time, the athletes experience an increase in their "heart rate, blood flow, deep muscle temperature, respiration rate, and perspiration (Baechle & Earle, 2000, p. 322)." This, in turn, prepares them for the movements associated with the training that they will be completing that day. In addition, the exercises contained in this warm-up are specifically geared to prepare the athlete for the game of football and to increase flexibility as a means of building speed. These actions are dynamic and target specific areas of the body to include often overlooked areas like the lower back and hips.

For a complete review of this warm-up, click here.

Program Objectives

Periodization refers to the "variations in training specificity, intensity, and volume organized in planned periods of cycles within an overall program (Baechle & Earle, 2000, p. 514)." These changes in training volume and intensity are done to promote overall muscle development and growth in order to meet the specific goals of the athlete (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004). Since our athletes are all preparing for a 13 week season that begins on the second week of August, we us different periods throughout the year to help them reach peak performance when the season begins. In other words, we have use different mesocycles during the off-season, pre-season, in-season, and postseason time periods to make up a comprehensive macrocycle. Within each of these mesocycles, we use the hypertrophy, basic strength, and strength/power phases in concert with transition and active rest periods to systematically build the athletes muscle and conditioning in preparation for the season.

Our goal is to help each athlete prepare his body optimally for competition. To do that we must evaluate the athletes thoroughly and apply our program to them in a way that fits their individual needs through every phase of the program. By decreasing volume and increasing intensity while shifting from the hypertrophy to peak phases together with the progressive overload philosophy, we are maximizing strength gain for an athlete throughout the athletic calendar (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004). In addition, we are ensuring that they do not overwork their bodies or peak at the wrong time.

Program Timeline

The timeline of our program is built around the football season and is broken down into five distinct periods shown below creating an undulating periodization program. The length of each period is determined by contemporary strength development literature as well as the variables that are presented by our schools academic calendar. Here is a look at our strength training calendar:
Time Period Weeks Period / Phase
Post Season 1 – 4 (4 weeks) Weeks 1-3: 2ndTransition Period /Active Rest 
Off Season – Part 1 5 – 19 (15 weeks) Weeks 5-8: Hypertrophy PhaseWeeks 9-13: Basic Strength PhaseWeeks 14-16: Strength/Power Phase

Weeks 17-18: Peaking

Week 19: Active Recovery

Off Season – Part 2 20 – 34 (15 weeks) Weeks 20-22: Hypertrophy PhaseWeeks 23-27: Basic Strength PhaseWeeks 28-30: Strength/Power Phase

Weeks 32-33: Peaking

Week 34: Active Recovery

Pre Season 35 – 40 (6 weeks) Weeks 35-37: Strength/Power PhaseWeeks 38-39: PeakingWeek 40: Active Recovery
In Season 41 – 52 (12 weeks) Weeks 41-52: Maintenance

Exercises

The general goal for all of our athletes is to help them increase their power and explosion while preparing their bodies to withstand the physical beating that comes with a college football season. We will be using a version of the NSCA’s suggested lifting program. Our athletes will complete of two days (Monday and Thursday) of explosive lifting and two days (Tuesday and Friday) of strength lifting each week (National Strength and Conditioning Association, 2007). The program is set up to:
  • Provide appropriate rest of a minimum of 24 hours between workouts and 72 hours between large-muscle group exercises like squat or press.
  • Addresses "muscle balance across joints, as well as both upper- and lower-body muscle groups (National Strength and Conditioning Association, 2007, p. 10)."
  • Exercises the large-muscle groups early in the workout to ensure maximal effort.
  • Allows for variations and choices by the athletes when targeting specific muscles at the end of lifts.

On explosive days, the athletes will perform the following lifts:

  1. Clean Variations (Rack Clean, Hang Clean, Power Clean)
    1. Purpose / Rationale: This clean progression challenges the athletes to reach triple extnetion through their joints as well as trains them to explode from a static position. This is a perfect replication of the action that a football player does on every play in a football game. By using the variations listed, we train different angles and different "take-off" points that apply to different situations on gameday.
  2. Vertical Press Variations (Standing Press, Push Press, Push Jerk)
    1. Purpose / Rationale: These press variations "strengthen the muscles of the shoulder girdle" which is an essential area of need for football players. By adding strength and stability to this area, we are protecting our athletes against injury and giving them additional strength to transfer the power from their lower body through their arms and into an opponent or up for a ball. In addition, these lifts are ground based and teach stability and balance for our athletes which is a crucial skill for athletes that are constantly being knock in one direction or another.
  3. Power Jumps with Barbells
    1. Purpose / Rationale: This lift teaches explosion similarly to the clean progression, but allows the athlete to get off the ground. This again mimics potential game actions and builds balance and stability as a ground based lift. In addition, this lift works the shoulders and grip by incorporating the dumbbells (National Strength and Conditioning Association, 2007).
  4. Pulling Choice (Pull-ups, Standing Low Row, Lat Pull Down, Bent-Over Row)
    1. Purpose / Rationale: Each of these exercises works the back and shoulders at different angles in a pulling action to counteract the pushing done in the pressing lifts preformed elsewhere in the workouts. This helps maintain balance and power in different directions and situations.
  5. Bicep Choice
    1. Purpose / Rationale: Bicep strength can often be over emphasized by athletes and over scrutinized by coaches, but it does have a place in a workout as it balances the tricep on the arm and provides strength for arm movements. In addition, this lift strengthens the athletes grip which translates into blocking, tackling, and holding on to the football.
  6. AB Choice
    1. Purpose / Rationale: The suggested option for these days is a plank exercise that builds stability and strength through the abdomen and the obliques. Core strength is crucial to converting power from the legs through the body and into the opponent.
On strength days, the athletes will perform the following lifts:
  1. Neutral Squat
    1. Purpose / Rationale: This lift is done to "develop strength in the quadriceps, thigh adductors, gluteus maximus, and hamstrings…(and) strengthens the muscles, ligaments, and tendons surrounding the knee (National Strength and Conditioning Association, 2007, p. 45)." This strength is vital to a football player’s ability to hold his ground and move the opponent on the football field. The additional benefit of knee health is crucial to help football players avoid the knee injuries that are all too common in football players due to the collision and cutting aspects of the sport.
  2. Auxiliary Leg (Romanian Dead Lift, Clean Deadlift, Walking Lunge)
    1. Purpose / Rationale: These exercises work the leg muscles in slightly different ways and help teach parts of the power clean lift as well. In addition, theses lifts help work the lower back and teach proper "head up" or "see what you hit" body positions that are key to safety in football.
  3. Bench Press
    1. Purpose / Rationale: This lift is crucial to allowing football players to powerfully impact their opponent on the field as it allows them to provide force perpendicular to the bodies alignment. The bench press helps build the pectoral muscles in addition to the anterior deltoids and the triceps.
  4. Shoulder Raises
    1. Purpose / Rationale: These lifts work the shoulder and deltoid muscles to ensure joint health protecting the athlete from injury in competition.
  5. Tricep Choice
    1. Purpose / Rationale: Develops the triceps to balance the biceps and aids in the pushing action on the football field that is essential for all blocking and block shedding actions.
  6. AB Choice
    1. Purpose / Rationale: Suggested activity for this day is the heel touches ab workout, but the athlete can choose different variations. Again, core strength and stability is essential for balance and power transfer for football players.

Conclusion

This program is set up to prepare out athletes for peak performance during the season. It employs the latest research in periodization and workout structure to develop the athlete throughout the year. At the same time, it employs lifts that prepare them for the specific actions that they will be using on the field this fall. Changing to this program will likely have a major effect on the results that we see on the field and the number of injuries we deal with during the season. It is my hope to implement this system as soon as possible.

References

Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (Eds.). (2000). Essentials of Strength Trainging and Conditioning (2nd Edition ed.). Champaign: Human Kenetics.

Fleck, S. J., & Kraemer, W. K. (2004). Designing Resistance Training Programs (3rd Edition ed.). Champaign: Human Kenetics.

National Strength and Conditioning Association. (2007, March). NSCA Flight Manual - Module 4.

Football coaches often confuse plyometrics with agilities and jumping onto boxes. While those movement have the potential to be plyometric exercises, they can also just be conditioning exercises if not done to meet the specific specifications that make plyos effective. Here is a definition of true plyometric exercise and how it works within a movement.

Definition: Plyometric exercises, also known as stretch-shortening exercises, are movements where a muscle stretches eccentrically before shortening during the concentric phase of the movement and returning to the original state (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004). Each of the three phases that make up the Stretch-shortening exercise (SSC) have a specific purpose in the athletes movement and power development.

Phase #1: Eccentric phase

During the eccentric phase, the muscle or muscle group is preloaded and stores up elastic energy and stimulates the muscle spindle (Baechle & Earle, 2000).

Phase #2: Amortization Phase

The second phase of the SSC takes place following the eccentric phase and precedes the concentric phase and is called the amortization or transition. This short phase is where power can be generated as the "afferent nerve synapse with the alpha motor neurons" (Baechle & Earle, 2000, p. 430).

Phase #3: Concentric Phase

This phase is the "bodies response to the eccentric and amortization phases" (Baechle & Earle, 2000, p. 430) and completes the cycle. At this time, the energy that is stored in the muscle is called upon to create power as the athlete makes the next move. This specifically means that the elastic energy is unleashed (Baechle & Earle, 2000).

Lower Body Plyometrics are great for almost all sports specifically fit any situation where the athletes need to recruit a "maximal amount of muscular effort in a short amount of time" (Baechle & Earle, 2000, p. 432). These drills can vary in intensity and direction to best fit both the program and the athlete’s sport specific needs.

Upper Body Plyometrics are best used for sports that require quick powerful movements from the athlete’s upper body. Examples included football, basketball, tennis, and baseball. Many of the exercises used to work the upper body use medicine ball throws or pushup variations (Baechle & Earle, 2000).

For more information on this topic, check out Dr. Yessis' Video on Plyometrics

For additional information, check out these references:

Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (Eds.). (2000). Essentials of Strength Trainging and Conditioning (2nd Edition ed.). Champaign: Human Kenetics.

Fleck, S. J., & Kraemer, W. K. (2004). Designing Resistance Training Programs (3rd Edition ed.). Champaign: Human Kenetics.

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Overtraining is commonly defined as "excessive frequency, volume, or intensity of training, resulting in fatigue" (Baechle & Earle, 2000, p. 159). This is often the result of insufficient rest and recovery time between workouts or competition and can also be referred to as burnout, overwork, or overfatigue (Baechle & Earle, 2000).

Symptoms

Symptoms of overtraining vary from athlete to athlete, but generally a range of both psychological and physiological factors. Psychologically, athletes that overtrain may appear suffer from have a "depressed mood, general apathy, decreased self-esteem, emotional instability … restlessness, irritability" (Kellman, 2010, p. 96). These factors are easier to see and then some of the others and therefore might be visible to a attune coach.

Physiological problems, such as "impaired performance, disturbed sleep, weight loss, loss of appetite, increased resting heart rate, increased vulnerability to injuries, (and) hormonal changes" (Kellman, 2010, p. 96) may be harder for coaches to spot without a dialog with the athlete themselves. Lastly, overtraining has been shown "cause dramatic performance decreases in athletes of all training levels" (Baechle & Earle, 2000). Luckily, these problems can be avoided by carefully crafting workouts around the competition demands of the athlete and employing periodization principles to the athletes macro and meso cycles.

How Periodization Prevents Overtraining

By implementing a periodization schedule, an athlete will be able to avoid many of the potential problems that trigger over training. This starts by performing the correct pre-workout testing to help identify the factors that could specifically effect an individual’s workout plan. Trainers should consider factors of "sex, age, nutrition, prior fitness level, and motivation in training" (Baechle & Earle, 2000, p. 166) when developing the initial workout plan. Next, a workout can be done by carefully crafting and monitoring the intensity of a workout cycle as part of a larger, incremental approach to strength gain. By implementing the hypertrophy, basic strength, and strength power periods associated with the preparatory phase of a periodization system, the athlete will be systematically taken through proper changes in intensity and volume. This helps avoid the "less than optimal training adaptations" (Baechle & Earle, 2000, p. 163) caused by to changing resistance within a workout mesocycle.

Another advantage that is fundamental to periodation programs is the concept of active rest as part of the meso and marco cycles of muscled development. Research has shown that proper recovery can actually lead to increased ability "to train more and thus positively affect overall fitness" (Kellman, 2010, p. 95). Recovery can take many different forms as needed to best fit the athlete’s individual needs. In addition, coaches can look to alternative forms of periodization to meet the seasonal needs of their athletes. The undulating periodization method works specifically to adapt the periodization model to a specific sports calendar and applies best to programs that have long seasons in which peak performance is necessary (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004). In this type of program, overtraining is avoided by shifting the in-season focus away from strength gain and towards maintenance.

Here are a few more articles on over-training:

For additional information, check out these references:

Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (Eds.). (2000). Essentials of Strength Trainging and Conditioning (2nd Edition ed.). Champaign: Human Kenetics.

Fleck, S. J., & Kraemer, W. K. (2004). Designing Resistance Training Programs (3rd Edition ed.). Champaign: Human Kenetics.  

 

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