Football Training For Explosive Power
American Football is a violent sport. Large athletes moving at incredible speeds hurl their bodies into one another to either move or prevent an odd-shaped object from entering the zone at the end of the field, commonly referred to as the endzone. The players attire themselves in pads and helmets as if costuming for a Mad Max film. On top of this protective garb, they dawn matching uniforms to demonstrate their allegiance to a geographical city. Audience members gather in droves to holler, hoot, and yell support and encouragement to the team they pledge allegiance to. It is quite the spectacle to behold.
No matter all the grandstanding that takes place, the players on the field must be athletes. The process of becoming a great football athlete requires work. It requires time in the gym. It demands the performance of exercises in the weight room to enhance the skills, capabilities, and physical capacity to perform on the yards of a field of grass or turf.
One of the key elements behind football is understanding what stance the athlete will be in. Typically, a linebacker, running back, and d-back are in an athletic stance. That quarter squat position with the head on the swivel
Moving forward, we know that from a neurological perspective, while in that stance, there is going to be an afferent signal sent to the brain. The brain will then send an efferent signal to the muscles to execute a possible task. This means there is always a read and react component to football. A lot of reactive capability is demanded of football players.
In addition, there are mobility, technique, and power production demands in football. The power production occurs over very short periods of time and requires the athlete to coordinate rapidly and the ability to absorb a lot of force.
This means we need to focus on the stance/athletic position, rapid rates of coordination, force absorption, and technique. This leads to the best exercise to be utilized to becoming a better football player.
There are a number of different reasons why this is the best lift for football players.
Right off the bat, there is a shorter range of motion for the pull. The athlete is put in what is nearly a quarter squat position to begin the lift; this is parallel to the athletic stance we previously discussed in the blog. This requires the athlete to coordinate a ton of force in a very short period of time. In this regard, the afferent signal is sent to the brain to execute as quickly as possible to move the barbell with the efferent signal ponging back. This training of rapid rate of coordination transfers great for linebackers and other positions on the football field.
The two-block clean also requires a great amount of force absorption. The movement demands the athlete reuse the energy to stand the lift up after absorbing the force of the barbell weight. We also want to draw attention to the cognitive coordination work within the movement. The athlete needs to execute the lift from a technical perspective. This helps develop lessons of learning technique in the weight room to lessons of learning technique on the field.
Now when the athlete takes on the load in the two-block clean, they need to hit a really deep, mobile position. It requires a nice and tight upper back in conjunction with mobile hips and ankles so the knees can track forward over the toes. This movement also helps develop absolute strength, especially for longer-limbed athletes. So not only can this lift be used to improve mobility, but can be used to improve absolute strength.
Why Not From The Hang?
We like the movement from the hang. We like high hang cleans and we like low hang cleans. The reason we like coming off the two-block is that there is no eccentric load. When there is no eccentric load, the afferent signal needs to be stronger. The athlete has to be tenser off the blocks to hold that position, requiring faster coordination compared to the eccentric load of the clean. The eccentric load has the body already recruiting muscles for the specific muscle actions being demanded.
Hangs are great. Two-block cleans are better.
Creating rapid rates of coordination by improving neurological signals in the form of afferent and efferent communication cycles is an often overlooked element of performing the Olympic lifts when developing football athletes. While hang cleans are great, the demands put upon afferent signaling within the body from performing cleans off two blocks is superior. Putting the football player in an athletic stance also creates more transfer of training, replicating the athletic starting stance of many positions on the football field. There are added benefits of mobility training and technical development. Linking all of these elements together answers why the two-block clean is the best exercise for developing football players.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.