The fact is 64 percent of no-huddle coaches have made changes to their off-season lifting program and cited the following reason for doing so: How can you expect your players to move at a breakneck speed in-season if you’re not training it in the weight room. So we reached out to a select group of no-huddle coaches and found that many are now training for endurance and speed, not strength. Our results are in this 7,500-word report.
By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
Fact: 63.7 percent of coaches have made changes to their off-season program since going to the no-huddle system. Makes sense right? How can you expect your players to go at breakneck speeds on the field if you’re not teaching that pace in the weight room? According to our research, that teaching needs to occur now in the winter conditioning program.
Many of the no-huddle coaches we spoke with specifically credited their off-season development as the main catalyst for providing them the ability to use the tempo they needed in-season to be successful. Although this seemed like a natural progression, we felt that this was a component of football that may be neglected among tempo coaches. So we researched it. We wanted to know that these no huddle coaches were doing in the weight room this winter that helped to generate the endurance, speed and resilience needed to run the no huddle system.
So, the pocket of coaches we reached out to was small. We simply targeted those coaches that have worked with us before on our No-Huddle System special report (read The No Huddle Study here). Of these coaches, 40 percent (majority) of them have been utilizing the no huddle between 1-3 seasons. Which means they have drastically changed their weight program recently, the data below is new and cutting edge. Many coaches have cited these programs below as reasons why they’ve been able to compete and defeat larger programs.
And if you’re concerned about space issues in your weight room, chew on this: 81.9 percent of these programs share the weight room with other teams.Now keep in mind this is not strength and conditioning special report. There are no videos of players performing squats, lunges, etc. You don’t need us to tell you what these exercises are. A quick search on youtube.com can find that. But we did provide you with something better: In addition to our research, we also provide you with the email addresses of the no huddle coaches featured in this research report, so you can contact them yourself to elaborate on the work they are doing right now to get their program better.
Biggest Change This Off-Season
We began our research by asking one simple question: “What is the biggest change you’ve made this off-season in your weight program to accommodate no huddle tempo?” Our findings are below:
High Interval Training (H.I.T.) Reducing Rest Periods
Coach Priebracha, Montgomery High School (NJ): “We spend our time focusing on reducing rest periods between sets and continual push to ‘sprint’ through the work out. The entire lifting should take no longer than 45 minutes. Go fast in your reps, speed up your rest, get next lift quickly.”
Coach Stichel, Archbishop Curley (MD): “We use a fast paced whistle driven program. We take 30 seconds to complete lift with 15 seconds to change weights and members for next set. It’s all done on whistle commands.”
Coach Hansen, Hinsdale HS (IL): “The conditioning aspect of the program has been researched, and we have implemented more high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.). This gets our players used to the repetition of maximum effort for a short time followed by a short rest period. We feel that this type of training mirrors what will take place on a typical offensive drive.”
Coach Majeski, Highland Community College (KS): “The biggest thing we have done is cut down the rest between sets in the weight room. The reasoning is, yes, you can do more weight with a longer rest. The person who takes longer rest will have to lighten the load when the rest break is shortened. The person who takes shorter breaks will be able to use more weight when the rest periods are increased. We feel we will get a better overall conditioned player. A strong player that is tired loses strength rapidly. A strong player that is in condition will wear down his opponent.”
Anonymous: “We have utilized more metabolic conditioning work, especially focused on work to recovery ratios that mimic a long offensive series.”
Using Cross Fit Programs:
Anonymous: “We have incorporated CrossFit type workouts for our explosive training days. We try to use a wide variety of exercises with our workouts; we really believe that CrossFit is a good way to train your body to react to all types of situations. Some of the most common CrossFit moves we use are thrusters (front squat to push press), clean and jerks, box jumps, pull-ups, pistols (single leg squat), explosive step-ups, and explosive lunges. We also incorporate supersets with some regular exercises. Such as bench press with clap push-ups after or squats with split squat jumps after. Other things we may do are add an agility ladder as one of our stations in circuits, med ball abs (middle of sit up position catching a med ball at all different points), and all different kinds of plate raises sometimes on commands as a team for a little extra fun.”
Coach Boswell, Trenton HS (MO): “We would do a CrossFit workout that was tilted more towards running and bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, pull-ups, air squats, etc. The reason we decided to give it a try was because of another program (Lafayette High School in St. Joseph, MO) that was doing something similar. They are a spread no huddle team.”
Coach Thomas, Burr and Burton Academy (VT): “CrossFit training. We constantly vary functional movements at high intensity. Cardio is built into the workout like condo is built into practice. We are trying to develop quicker/faster athletes, but do not care about their size. We also are trying to incorporate competition and we believe the result has been an increase in mental toughness. CrossFit is constantly varying functional movements at high intensity. We incorporate Olympic lifts, gymnastic movements and mono structural (cardio) activities and compete against a clock.”
Coach Monk, Chaffey College (CA): “We started doing a circuit training that we call four quarters. The circuit drill is four lifts such as close grip bench press, push ups, dumbbell flies, and Russian twist sit ups. The first quarter is 20 seconds, 20-second rest. The second quarter is 25 seconds lifting with 15-second rest. Halftime is 20 seconds. The third quarter is 30 seconds with 10-second rest then the fourth quarter is 35 seconds with 5-second rest. They have to do all four lifts for a quarter. The players love it and it pushes them to work. We talk the whole time on being no huddle and defending no huddle. Converted a traditional program to a high tempo circuit. We felt the conditioning of the program suited the style of offense we play.”
Kyle Ralph, New Palestine High School (IN): “We keep all of our stations within a time restriction, this is especially hard with 6 sets of the core lifts. Our opening few weeks players are required (3 at a station) to do 4 sets of 10 and 2 sets of 8 on squat or bench, whichever it is for that day. That is 3 kids getting 56 reps in within 15 minutes. We work hard to train our bodies for high volume in a very short period of time. This helps us mentally and physically for no huddle as the work/recovery ratio is very small.”
Coach Bassett, Calhoun High School (TX): “We are on a command circuit training basis. Our different stations are designed to start and end at virtually the same time. When a set or series is done, they respond to effectively and immediately advance to another station, ready to perform in less than 6 seconds.”
Coach Rapoza, Rockbridge County High School (VA): “Each player is part of a team (we have 4 total). Teams get points for attendance, performance and competition. We start each lift with a competition (from thumb wrestling to wall sits to push ups to a dance off, etc.) the winner gets points. Most points at the end of the school year get rewarded. It has helped breed a fun atmosphere that is also competitive.”
Using a Whistle System:
Coach Luke, Round Rock Stony Point High School (TX): “We use a whistle system that sets the pace for our starting and stopping of sets. The weight room pace keeps their heart rate up the entire 35-40 minutes they're in the weight room. We also produce overtime conditions so the players to be able to jump back under the bar after about 45 seconds - 1 minute of rest in a normal 3 person lifting group.”
Muscle Endurance Lifting:
Peter Bisson, Pasadena City College: “The majority of our program involves more muscle endurance lifting. While we still incorporate Olympic lifts, we focus on staying stronger longer. We increase the number of lifts we do and we reduce the rest period between lifts. We have seen significant gains in not only our strength, but our muscular endurance as well.”
Coach Simons, Analy High School (CA): “We have gone to a 100% skill position change and a 75% change with our offensive linemen. That change was to train in the weight room with emphasis on high reps with low weight to develop lean, strong kids. With the offensive line, we still do all of the so-called power lifts, but the only high weight/low rep lift is cleans (hang cleans). In other words, our kids are training like decathlete's train with a lot of yoga, stretching and core and lift with a fast tempo. We want players who can run and be athletic.”
Developing Game Like Conditions in Weight Room (Reps on Cadence):
Coach Seagle, Lanett High School (AL):“We start off-season drills and weight lifting exercises on the same snap count that we use on the field. Our quarterbacks rotate starting the drills and we also have them call our "No Play" or "Freeze Play." All of these are done to condition their minds and bodies to the fast pace practices and games. We use our snap count to start every exercise in the weight room, speed room, and mat room. If we do NOT have a QB in that session, a coach or senior will call the cadence. We also try to work as fast as we can in the weight room. It is a precarious situation, in that we have to be careful to not lose good technique, but still work fast.”
David Marean, Wayne Central High School (NY): “We do reps on our cadence. For instance, we will do "Plate Manual’s and will use our fake calls, check with me calls, etc. We will also use snap counts to move weight fast and then ‘finish’ with one more rep. This is all done with our No Huddle Sleeve system so they are training exactly how we call the play in a game.”
Coach Mills, Dinwiddie County High School (VA): “Our QB and MLB are responsible for communication and fluidity of each drill. This helps prepare them for audibles and adjustments on the field. For example, with four in a group, we would have one person squatting, one spotting (rest), one doing box plyometrics, and one doing dumbbell shrugs. We focus on them transitioning quickly from one to the other in a 25 second period working together to get weight on and off and being ready for the QB to begin the next set. If a group is not transitioning fast enough within the time period, the team is penalized (5 up downs - delay of game). We also challenge the QB to speed it up and transition in less than the time period allowed.”
Using Interval Timers:
Bob DeLong, Xenia High School (OH): “We use an interval timer on auxiliary days: Monday (bench, squat, clean, push jerk, neck); Wednesday (box squat, towel bench, clean and jerk, deadlift, neck). We use our practice field interval timer for stations of interval training. Sometimes we have the kids do reps from buzzer to buzzer so they are timed instead of counted and sometimes we do sets and reps that have to be completed in an interval of time. It gives us great flexibility and lets us set the room up anyway we want. Kids just move on the buzzers from station to station. It frees up the coach to teach and remind on technique. We use this type of training on non-core lift days.”
Ryan Cochran, Crook County High School (OR): “Every workout we have ‘blast’ sessions. We work out as fast pace as we can doing different exercises. We try to incorporate going fast into everything we do. Since we have gone to a no huddle system, we have been trying to come up with ways we can work that in the off-season and weight room. Our blast workout is based on what we do on the field. A play typically last 6-8 seconds. We try and get a play off every 8-10 seconds once the ball is placed (depending on officials). One of our philosophies is that we love to have our guys compete and this workout puts them against each other. We will pick an exercise, that will range from core lifts to auxiliary lifts to abdominal workouts. They set the weight. They will go as hard and as quick as they can in the lift for 8-10 seconds (coaches set). They must switch partners in the same amount of time that is in between plays (8-10 sec). We work for 10-12 play drives, so they will do sets of 10-12. They compete for total reps. The loser will do an extra work for losing the competition. It is a way we can bring explosive fast pace into our workouts. We try and do this as much as we can. Our athletes love it because they compete against each other.”
Doug Taracuk, Dublin Scioto High School (OH): “With some of our sets, we allot a certain amount of time to complete the reps. On the squats and clean, we allot 60 to 90 seconds total for all four members to complete the set. This forces our athletes to know the required weight for their partners and to move as a team to load the bar. With our supersets, we allot a certain amount of time to complete all of the lifts required. We may have three exercises in the superset and allow 8-10 minutes to complete everything.”
Tracking Players Progress (Accountability):
Coach Franke, Edgewood High School (OH): “We have a weight board that tracks and records the top three lifters between our offensive and defensive linemen, our running backs and linebackers and our wide receivers and defensive backs. Kids really want to see their name on that board. We had it built professionally so the kids know we take it serious. Also, each player gets a weight sheet once a week. It has all the lifts for that week on it and we use an excel document to create it. On this sheet is each players’ max in specific weights. For each workout, the player will know his max, how many reps and sets to do, and at what percentage weight to perform them at. We learned that most players don't push themselves in the weight room, so we had to create a way to push them. Both of these things have helped push our kids.”
Position Specific Movement:
Matt Farmer: “We always do at lest one exercise during our weight workouts that is an explosive/rapid movement that simulates some sort of game/technique movement. For offensive and defensive linemen, that may be the jammer or speed bag, etc. Skill players would do a more position specific movement. At the beginning of offseason, the focus is on mass and strength. As the offseason progresses, the tempo and duration of workouts are modified to mirror game tempos (2 min, fast, slow). Tempos are changed, so kids can experience moving in and out of tempos, as well.”
What You’re Missing…
Join X&O Labs’ exclusive membership website Insiders and get instant access to the full-length version of this research report, which includes:
- What is the optimal amount of time to be in the weight room if you’re running between 60-90 plays a game.
- What no huddle coaches said was the most important lift they are doing in the weight room right now.
- Why many no huddle coaches are choosing to use a thirty second recovery time between sets.
- The variations of choosing a one-rep max vs. a five-rep max.
- How coaches are finding new ways to delegate supervision in the weight room so that players can move faster in a smaller amount of space.
- Full Circuit Training examples submitted by Aldine Payne High School (NC), Pasadena City College (CA), Xenia High School (OH), Henrico High School (VA), Ninety-Six High School (SC), Chaffey College (CA) and what dozens of other programs around the country are doing to develop their off-season conditioning to fit the no-huddle system.
We’ve found that it is essential to prepare your players right now for the up-tempo offense you will be utilizing this season. The exercises and regiments detailed above will not only help you do that, but it can be done in the weight room immediately.