In the last post I went on quite the rant about how football conditioning typically just doesn't fit the bill for the demands of the sport that the athlete must endure during a game. If you haven't read it yet, I suggest you go back and check it out, this post will relate directly to that one.
So my point in a nutshell last week was that we should strive to prepare our football players in a better more realistic way than we do already. So the question remains how can we do that? Well let's look at a few things.....
- Football is not just a linear sport played in a straight line, so we must demand our athlete change direction from time to time
- Football is a contact sport where athletes are asked to push, pull, drive, jump, fall and get back....not just sprint.
- A football game is made up of short all out bursts of energy that include the above combination of movements with about 4 or 5 times that work length as rest. The athelte then repeats this on average 8-10 times in a row before getting an even longer rest of about 5-7 minutes before taking the field again for another series.
How in the world can we similate this? Well there are a few options.
If you are fortunate enough to have your own training facility like APEX the job is much easier than assumed. Due to the fact that I get the chance to either train athletes in small groups or 1 on 1 training sessions it makes finding creative ways to condition them appropriately much easier than training an entire team! An example of a workout that I have athletes go through who are preparing for football goes a little something like this:
After they athlete is properly warmed up and already been put through what I call "skill" work which includes a variety of footwork and sprinting mechanics the workout is broken down into different sections.
1. A couplet of Thrusters(full front squat and press the bar completely overhead with arms locket out) and pull ups. The rep scheme would be 5 Thrusters and 5 pull ups, I would ask that the athlete complete as many reps as possible in 30 seconds. They would then rest 2 minutes between each set. They will complete this 4 total sets.
(Rest 7 min)
2. Sled push 15 yards/ 5 burpees as fast as possible, once a round is finished they will then rest for 1 minute. The athlete will complete 8 rounds of this.
(Rest 5 min)
3. 5 box jumps/ 10 Push Catch Squat or Wall Ball (athelte completes full squat then stands to full extention while throwing a ball to a target on the wall) as fast as possible. Rest 30 seconds between each set, they will complete 5 rounds of this.
(Rest 5 min)
4. The last station will include some kind of reaction drill set up, reason being that the athlete is fairly fatigued and I want them to be mentally alert at the conclusion of the game being able to perform at their peak when the game is on the line.
I would have the athlete do a series of battle rope swings, as they are swinging the rope, they will shuffle laterally in the the direction that the coaches arms point. The athlete will get as many swings in as possible while reacting to the coaches cues, they will work for 7 seconds at a time and rest 25 seconds between each bout. They will complete 10 rounds.
Explanation: Now you can change any of these movements, there is no wrong or right way to go about it. I started with more strength based movements and changed them as the workout went along, the load can vary from athlete to athlete in regards to weight. The rep scheme and time domains I set were to keep the athlete in their toes, simulating a good chunk of what a football game would ask of them but at the same time creating variation. If you notice, there was push, pull, jump, fall, change of direction and reaction all set up into this conditioning session.
What if I coach a team? 30+ players in a particular training session or practice. Well this is where your resources can dictate what you do. My advice would be to utilize some of your weight room time when the guys are set up into groups and do much of what I explained above in different stations. Also while i do believe that it is great to condition as an entire team, I think it can be extremely beneficial to condition your athletes in position groups, RB's with RB's, lineman with lineman....etc. obviously because of the extreme difference in the demands that each position has.
If you do have to have them all together and use one large group an example would be:
1. Short shuttles with burpees: Set the athletes up so that they are running a pro agility (numerous can go at once) instead of athletes knowing which direction they will go, have a coach say "set" then give them a direction that will be their starting direction. Once the athletes complete a full shuttle they then do 5 burpees as fast as possbile and clear out for the next group. Keep the rest at about 30-40 seconds and you can go through as many as 12 of these (simulates a long drive)
(5-10 minute rest)
2. 3 max distane broad jumps+ 20 yard sprint. Simple enough right? The goal is that the athletes are jumping as far as possible not worrying about speed, reseting between each jump to make sure each one is max effort then once their feet hit the ground on the 3rd jump, sprinting 20 yards as fast as possible. Rest about 30-40 seconds between bouts, I would keep this around 6-8 rounds.
(5-10 minute rest)
3. Buddy carry/ Backwards run: partner athletes with someone their size or close to it. Have them shoulder their teammate and carry them as fast as they can for 15 yards once the athlete is past the line and their partner is on the ground both backwards run toward the start line as fast as possible. (Backwards run is not a back pedal, exaggerate the forward lean through the torso and reach the heels up and back engaging the posterior chain as much as possible, emphasize that they pump their arms). Each athlete will complete a buddy carry 2x as fast as possible, rest will be 1:00. I would keep this between 4-5 rounds. (Distance can vary)
(Rest 5 min)
4. Bear crawl x 15 yards forward/ Backwards(not a crab crawl) x 15 yards @75% speed (makes them move controlled so they can't cheat and it protects their shoulders. Once they get back they Lunge foward 2o yards (Back leg much touch the ground each time)/ Backwards lunge back. The athletes will try to complete this drill as many times as they possibly can in 7 minutes. I would add in penalties for if they had to go to their knees on the bear crawl at any point. i.e. 3 burpees everytime their knees hit. : )
By no means am I saying this will win you a state title or a Pop Warner championship. What I am saying is that these modes of conditioning will leave your athlete much more phyisically and mentally prepared for the demands of a football game than just sending them out to run 6 full gassers or 24x110 yard sprints. Anything that you read above can be changed, tweaked, ignored, whatever......but it can be useful. I just wanted to help others understand a way to program for their athletes if they felt as though they were in a rutt and programming the only way they knew how, which in most cases was probably how they were coached at one point. If the information is useful, use it, if not....then don't. If you have any questions or would like to sit down and talk about a program for your school or even a free seminar for speed and agility and olympic weight lifting at your school, or know a program who might like it email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.