21-Hour Football Program: Building a Competitive Weight Room Atmosphere

May 25, 2020 | Team Building / Competition, Program Development

By Jeff Wood
Head Football Coach
Bedford High School (MI)


Don Stewart
Strength Coordinator
Bedford High School (MI)

Editor’s Note: X&O Labs is continuing its study into how coaches are advancing their programs to achieve higher levels of success in an ever-changing culture, society and world. We’re calling our study The 21-Hour Football Program because these concepts focus on the 21 hours before and after practice that build a winning culture. In this report, Coach Jeff Wood and Coach Don Stewart outline how they used competition in the weight room to build support for a “doom and gloom” football program. The results are stunning. To access our brand-new study, The 21-Hour Football Program, please go here.


In 2008, the Bedford Kicking Mules football program began a weightlifting program that included all sports in the building. We took over a football program that had dilapidated facilities, no money to fund it and an overall “gloom and doom” attitude towards football with only 9 winning seasons in 58 years. We stressed quick, 45 minutes lifting sessions with base core lifts and auxiliaries to enhance the muscle groupings. Our players observed results immediately.

In 2010, we began looking in to ways to take the gains that we were seeing in the weight room and enhance them through team building. We spent particular time studying ways to create methods of competition in the weight room as a means to foster this team building. Our future Senior players mentor our future Juniors and Sophomores while improving their bodies for the upcoming season.

The bond that was built during these workouts and competitions has been immeasurable in how it has impacted our program. We have had 9 winning seasons in the past 10 years, won the conference 3 times and won 3 district championships. We believe very strongly that the key to this change has come from how we coach in the offseason in our weight room. Furthermore, the competitive nature of our weight room created a “refuse to lose” attitude on the football field. We have won over 3 close games (10 or less points) each year since putting this system into place.

Lifting System Basics

We lift 4 days a week, Monday to Thursday for 1 hour. We have lifting times at 5:30am-7am before school and 2:40 – 4pm after. Players must lift 4 times per week, it is their choice of when. We have found that lifting 3 days a week for 90 to 120 minutes did not make the gains necessary to compete. The 4-day system has worked much better for our athletes and it also doesn’t require nearly as much attention span to lift for 60 minutes. We also found that lifting on Friday was a terrible idea.   It seemed that all “non-players” found an excuse to miss on Friday. Instead, we changed and held them accountable for missing workouts, which is where Competitive Weight Room entered the scene.