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In-Season Strength Training Program for High School Football

Football Team LiftingIn-season strength training is something that is often neglected or mis-understood in high school football. Many coaches pull way back and stop lifting as soon as the season starts. Other coaches feel like they should be able to keep going just as hard as they were over the summer. Coaches need to find a balance during the season, as it’s very easy to over-train, especially on the lower body. This is a program we are implementing this year with a high school football team we work with closely.

Keep in mind that an in-season program like this is only appropriate if the athlete has been lifting during the off- and pre-season. This is important because this program uses percentages of a 1RM for a couple of exercises that must be determined prior to start of this program.

Bench Press GuyWe typically lift on Mondays and Wednesdays for Varsity players who compete on Friday nights, and on Tuesdays and Fridays for Freshman and JV players who compete on Thursday nights. The progression for Freshmen and JV players is slightly different than Varsity because many of these athletes are inexperienced lifters. Their coaches are also more interested in development than maintenance, so keeping them fresh for games is not as big of a concern.

Here is the program:

 

Day 1

Squat 3 x 3-5 @ 80 – 85% 1RM (see progression below)

Bench Press 3 x 3-5 @ 80-85% 1RM (see progression below)

Chin Ups 2 x 8-12 to failure (or Row if they can’t do chin ups)

Curl & Press 1 x 8-12 to failure

Shrugs 1 x 10-15

Glute/Ham Raise 2 x 10

Manual Resistance Front & Back Neck

Manual Resistance Ankle

Calf Raise 1 x 15-20

Core Work – varies each workout

 

Day 2

Power Pull 2 x 5

Box Jumps 3 x 5

Walking Lunges

Nordic Hamstring 1 x 10

Incline Dumbbell Press 2 x 6-10 to failure

Dumbbell Row 2 x 6-10 to failure

Shrugs 1 x 10-15 to failure

Pick 2 from following and do 8-12 reps to failure

Incline Chest Press

Shoulder Press

Push Ups

Dips

Pick 2 from following and do 8-12 reps to failure

Pulldown

Inverted Row

Cable Row

Machine Row

Core Work – varies each workout

Game Day Guns – variety of arm exercises


The progression on the squat and bench press is based on predicted 1RM percentages. We did a predicted max test late in the summer, and will use those numbers for the season. Because the new coaching staff values strength quite highly, we wanted to make sure the athletes weren’t losing all of the strength they gained during a productive off- and pre-season. For those two exercises, here is the progression we decided upon.

 

Weeks 1-2: 3 x 3 @ 80%

Weeks 3-4: 3 x 4 @ 80%

Weeks 5-6: 3 x 5 @ 80%

Weeks 7-8: 3 x 3 @ 85%

Weeks 9-10: 3 x 4 @ 85%

Weeks 11-12: 3 x 5 @ 85%

 

High school football in Michigan plays a 9-game regular season schedule. We started this program two weeks prior to Game 1, giving us a total of 11 weeks to work with. This also allows us to progress into the first week of playoffs, which we hope is necessary.

Squat 1At the end of the season, if our athletes are able to perform three sets of five reps with 85% of their pre-season 1RM, we will be very happy with the results. We will also tell the athletes to perform as many reps as possible on the last set for bench press, mainly because they enjoy working hard and because it’s not dangerous. Pushing to failure on squats can be dangerous, so we coach them to stop before they get there. The point of this workout is to use relatively heavy weights for the fewest number of reps possible and still maintain strength throughout an entire season.

The progression for most of the other exercises is not a major concern of ours as long as the athletes are working hard. We know the athletes well enough to allow them to choose their own weights and reps on many exercises. For these exercises, we are simply looking for good technique and hard work. This also allows us the flexibility to quickly change exercises for injuries that occur throughout a football season.

Our Freshmen and JV teams will progress faster, and we encourage them to do as many reps as possible on the last set of bench press and squats. The football coaches are more concerned with long-term strength development, so we simply train hard through the season. These teams play a shorter season, so we only need to plan on nine weeks.

For most of these younger athletes, their predicted 1RM will improve quickly because they have not trained very long. Many of them also begin with very poor technique, so good technique coaching will also help them progress quickly. Their progression looks like this:

 

Weeks 1: 3 x 3 @ 80%

Weeks 2: 3 x 4 @ 80%

Weeks 3: 3 x 5 @ 80%

Weeks 4: 3 x 6 @ 80%

Weeks 5: 3 x 3 @ 85%

Weeks 6: 3 x 4 @ 85%

Weeks 7: 3 x 5 @ 85%

Weeks 8: 3 x 6 @ 85%

Weeks 9: 3 x 6 @ 85%

 

Feel free to implement any version of this program you see fit, and please comment below if you have any questions about it.

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3 Responses to In-Season Strength Training Program for High School Football

  1. Mike January 13, 2012 at 1:28 am #

    Hey Jim, I have a lot of 8th graders (next years freshmen) who have never even seen a weight let alone picked one up. Because we are a small school, about 3-4 hours north of you, we don’t have a lot of kids showing up. Since these kids don’t show until July, no winter or spring training, would you still have them do 3×5 on the squat and bench, or have them do 1×10 instead, until they get stronger?

  2. kielbaso January 13, 2012 at 3:04 am #

    Great question, Mike. This program was intended for a varsity team with considerable lifting experience. I wouldn’t have an 8th grade team do this. I think you can do more than 1 set of 10, but I wouldn’t go very heavy with them. For kids that age, they really need to focus on learning proper technique and they often have no idea how to choose appropriate weights. There is really no rush to get them strong, so take your time and really focus on teaching them good form. I might have them to 2-3 sets of 10 just so they get more practice on the exercise and so you have more time to coach them. I would start really light (like just the bar, or even lighter for some kids) and very slowly increase the weights. When they can do 3 x 10 with great form, add 5 lbs. Every time they can do 3 great sets of 10, add 5 lbs. Some kids will be able to add more than 5 lbs and you’ll have to make a judgement call depending on the kid, his attention to detail, strength, etc.

    During the season, I would have them squat just once a week, probably on Saturday or Sunday if you have practice. Continue your slow progression through the season so they add 5 lbs every time they get all three sets of 10. Their legs might be a little tired, but the long term payoff will be worth a little fatigue early in the week. Of course, you’ll want to do a complete, total body routine – not just squats and bench – and I would have them do a second workout on Monday or Tuesday that isn’t as intense, especially on their legs. Get them used to lifting consistently.

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