Get Big and Strong for Football - Workout with D1 Recruits
Football players are meatheads in the gym by nature, but when trained at a high level of structure they can become beasts on the field. Strength training and lifting is part of every football player’s diet. All football players are trained to squat, bench press, deadlift, and do anything to improve their strength. Although, of all the high school players in the country, a small percentage are doing movements and exercises that are going to maximize their athletic potential before college.
Collegiate level strength training programs are more rigorous, technical, and advanced compared to high school programs. The average high school football player may only lift 3-4 times a week with their team in-season, but then be left to their own devices in the off-season. This is where supplemental performance training comes into play.
In the off-season, football players that want to play in college need to be working with a performance coach to work on improvements that will prepare them not just for college, but also the next season. Working with a specialized program like the ones we offer here at Garage Strength are going to work on aspects of the sport that may not often be focused on through school-led programs like balance, lateral agility, power production, and blast impulse. In this article, we will follow along two highly ranked Penn State recruits through a workout. We will go through a leg workout with five star recruit and shot put state champion, J’ven Williams, and four star tight end, Joey Schlaffer.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Why Football Players Should Lift
Football players need every aspect of fitness for their sport. No matter the position, a player will need strength, size, muscle, speed, and endurance to perform at the highest level of competition for their team. Lifting weights is going to improve every single quality that a football player would need out on the field.
Depending on the role of the player, they might need more of one aspect than another. If we take five star recruit and Penn State commit, J’ven Williams, for example; he is a lineman and needs to get big for football and strength to block defenders while still having insane acceleration to explode off the line. Then on the other hand, there are other athletes like four star tight end and Penn State commit, Joey Schlaffer. As a tight end, Joey needs more speed and agility to run routes while still maintaining an elite level of size and strength to block when needed. Both of these athletes have very versatile roles on the field, and require training custom to their tasks throughout a game day.
With football being one of the most lucrative and popular sports in the country, the competition is at an alltime high with more and more individuals setting goals to play in the NFL or try for an athletic scholarship. The work that football players do in the weight room has a direct impact on their success in the sport. Those that continue to train aggressively and consistently in the off season are going to be far ahead of anyone that only trains in season.
What Kind of Training Football Players Need
Since football players are such versatile athletes, they need versatile training. They need to have the strength to block other players, shake off defenders, or bring down a fast moving target. They also need to have muscular endurance that will allow them to play the entirety of four quarters without fatiguing too much throughout the game.
Sure, the basics of football training are centered around strength and speed, but what about the detailed aspects of the sport. Blast impulse is the acceleration and ability to produce a lot of force in a short period of time which is needed to blast off the line. Football players also need to have an incredible core because they might have to perform in constantly changing positions with different distributions of force.
Football players need a mix of bodybuilding to gain muscle mass, power production training to build speed and strength, and plyometrics to improve coordination and balance. Each of these adaptations can be achieved with a detailed program that caters to a specific player’s needs for performance. Over time, this level of training and intensity will take a toll on the body so recovery and a healthy diet needs to play a principal role in training, but that is a topic for another article. Let’s take a look at what a leg day looks like in the life of a couple of Penn State recruits.
Warming Up as a Football Player
Football players can be tough athletes to coach through workouts. Especially as a young athlete where they may lack the understanding of a proper warm up. Warming up these athletes for any workout should incorporate balanced work, preparing the upper body, loosening the lower body, and dynamic movements that relate to the work being done that day.
Since football players are going to be doing a lot of dynamic compound movements like cleans, power snatches, and squats, they need to develop balance over time. One of the best ways to incorporate balance into warm ups is by starting with PVC pipe roller walks. PVC walks are going to immediately engage the neural drive to stay on the roller while strengthening the feet. J’ven and Joey are going to start their warmup with 4 lengths of PVC pipe walks at around 15 meters. Then they will get into warming up the rest of the body after getting the mind focused during the PVC walks.
Warming Up the Upper Body
Warming up the upper body is important even for a leg day because they will be incorporating cleans and snatches into the workout. The goal is to engage and stimulate the upper back, shoulders, and triceps. The way we are going to warm up the upper body is through a dynamic version of downward facing dog, into an upward facing dog pose, then pushing pack into that downward facing position.
This should be a fluid motion starting with the but in the air then controlling the chest to the ground and arching the back into the upward facing dog pose. Once the athlete is in the upward facing position they will immediately push back up to warm up the triceps and shoulders.
Warming Up the Lower Body
Since the workout we are going to follow J’ven and Joey through is a leg day workout, we will warm up the lower body a little extra. Although, these exercises will still incorporate balance and upper body warm up as well.
That first movement is going to a banded overhead squat. J’ven and Joey are going to take some powerlastic bands overhead in a snatch grip then perform a few sets of overhead squats. Holding the band overhead will continue to warm up the shoulders, traps, and upper back. Getting into the squat position is going to warm up the legs, knees, and ankles for the positions they will be getting into later in the workout. The overhead squats will continue to work on balance and help the athletes focus on getting into a full range of motion.
The second set of exercises we will have them do are some single leg mini hurdle hops supersetted with single leg lateral jumps. With the mini hurdle hops, we want to focus on that fast jump off the ground. This is going to work on balance while also warming up the legs to prepare for heavier dynamic movements later.
Supersetting with single leg lateral jumps will help strengthen the ACL and MCL so that their bodies are used to absorbing and distributing force in an unbalanced position. This combination of exercises is going to prepare the lower body and core for the main lifts that they will be doing during their leg day.
D1 Football Recruit Leg day
J’ven is going to start his leg day with a combination of power snatches and full snatches. Snatches are a great full body movement to incorporate coordination along with building muscle mass. Since J’ven is an offensive lineman, he needs to be able to produce a lot of force very rapidly with his whole entire body. In order to explode off the line in a game and immediately engage his upper body to block against a defender, the snatch is the perfect starting lift to work on full body power production and grip strength.
He will be doing these snatches from a single box, because it simulates the starting position from a lineman. We agreed to do 2 power snatches and 1 full snatch. The power snatches are programmed so that he is able to create force to move the load and stop it just as fast.
The full snatches are programmed to help him with maintaining balance with a load while the upper body is engaged to stabilize it. In addition to balance, it will help continue to develop his range of motion. Linemen will be bigger than any other player on the field, thus carrying the most muscle mass and weight on their frame. With all this muscle, they might run into limited mobility and the snatch will improve creating power out of deeper positions to help prevent injuries.
Joey will be starting with power cleans. Power cleans will serve a similar general purpose as snatches in terms of engaging the whole entire body to produce force. Instead of having to produce more force with his upper body to stop the weight, Joey will use clean to improve the strength of his core and lower body. This is going to come in handy when he has to run a route and maintain control of his body while catching the ball. It will also develop the core and lower body for running through a defender and breaking tackles.
Power cleans are also one of the best exercises for increasing an athlete's vertical jump. As a tight end, Joey will need to sometimes jump or lunge to make a play. Power cleans will help with explosive agility while maintaining control of his body.
Single Leg Squat
After their starting lifts, Joey and J’ven are going to come together and do single leg squats together. WIth the initial lifts, we weren’t trying to push the weight as much. The focus of the initial lifts was to work on moving weight as fast as possible in a controlled manner. The single leg squat is where we will pack on the weight to build muscle in the legs, but continue to hone in on the dynamic trunk control.
For this movement, they will be using the single leg roller stand with the bar on their back. Single leg squats are going to be the part of the lift where volume and weight are increased. This is where we will double down on building strength in the legs to improve hypertrophy. For both J’ven and Joey, this will help with blast impulse in the areas that they need to be explosive and dynamic trunk control for controlling any forces they need to absorb and reapply on the field.
Stair Jumps/Single Leg Hops
The reason that these jumps are supersetted with the single leg squats is because the single leg squats will potentiate these functional actions. J’ven doesn’t need to jump vertically as often as Joey will, so the single leg hops will help improve his balance and agility off the line. Joey on the other hand does need to jump vertically quite frequently. Using single leg stair jumps will work on improving single leg jumping height and distance for when he needs to catch the ball or run a route.
Reverse Slide Jump
The last exercises that J’ven will do to finish his leg day are a reverse slide jump supersetted with sled pulls and pushes. The reverse slide jump will be a sport specific movement that he will need as an offensive lineman. This is a movement that will be done almost in a lunge position. The back foot will be on a valside with the front foot pushing him back similar to how a lineman would move back to create a pocket.
Since J’ven moves well in the initial movement, we can add a dumbbell for him to hold in a goblet grip. The dumbbell does not have to be heavy, only about 20-30 lbs. We want to maintain the explosivity of the movement going backward and stop on a dime to complete each rep.
As mentioned, J’ven will be supersetting this movement with a sled push and pull. Sledding helps force blood into the legs after a long leg day and really intensifies the leg pump. Sledding is also going to help keep his knees healthy by forcing blood into the quads while creating that forward power on the push.
Single Leg RDL
Instead of the reverse slide jump, Joey will be doing single leg RDLs with dumbbells. We have focused a lot on the quads throughout the workout, so we want to make sure Joey’s hamstrings and posterior chain stay strong as well. Single leg Romanian deadlifts are going to build that elasticity and strength in the hamstrings for his vertical jump and speed on the field.
More Football Workouts
Football players are some of the most athletic individuals on the planet in all aspects of fitness. There is more to training football players for just strength and size. Yes, we want football players to be big and strong, but we need to train them as technical athletes as well. Technical and sport specific training from a very young age will help more football players reach their full potential sooner and be better prepared for higher levels of performance.
If you are looking for more football workouts or different ways to increase your performance on the field, sign up for the Peak Strength app to start doing the same workouts that Joey and J’ven have been doing at Garage Strength. Getting a hold of sport specific programming sooner than later is going to open doors for you like it did for these soon to be Penn State beasts.
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Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!
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