American Football, like many other sports, has a history of coaches with a poor understanding of the sport’s demands inflicting upon players the necessity to run laps of the pitch, and engage in other forms of training at odds with the sport’s unique demands. With a constant stop start style to the play, with the average play lasting no longer than ten seconds, followed by a much longer rest period, its demands are closer to traditional sprinting and weight training methods, than sports such as Rugby or Boxing, where there is a much greater endurance element required. At the same time, the sport has a big element of lateral mobility and technical considerations to consider, absent from pure speed or strength sports.
This article will look at ways to incorporate speed and strength training methods to assist a player looking to improve his speed/strength during the football off-season. Each element will be considered individually. Given the wide range of requirements for the different positions in football, this article will focus on training planning for a typical week for Linebackers, Backs and Strong Safeties, although the advice is applicable to most positions except Kickers and Offensive/Defensive Linemen. Even then, many of the elements would remain broadly similar for these positions.
Strength Training – Most American Football players today will already place a large emphasis on strength training as this has been emphasized for a comparatively longer time in the sport due to the ever increasing demand for larger and stronger athletes. This does not mean that players should automatically follow the training advice handed out in bodybuilding magazines, or follow a generic college training program. Unfortunately, most college programs suffer from being overly simplistic due to the need to try to train 40 or 50 athletes at once in a facility. This type of training leads to the most simple, easy to administer programs being handed out to athletes, rather than the most effective. Similarly, athletes who believe bodybuilding programs can enhance sports performance may potentially gain some muscle size but at the expense often of relative strength and speed going down, as well as a decrease in joint mobility if emphasizing single joint exercises. Additionally, bodybuilding programs’ emphasis on training to failure and exhaustive work on individual muscle groups will lead to less energy being available for the high intensity, explosive work which football demands.