How do you train for football?
Football players are notorious for engaging with bigger, faster, stronger. They want to have the whistles inside the weight room, scream, yell, and belittle all the players participating in the session instead of asking, “What can we do to prove the overall performance of the team?”
It isn’t always about screaming. It isn’t always about the effort level. It is important to understand the physical and mental demands behind the sport. We need to know what we are looking for inside the sport of football that we can utilize and train in the weight room that will then carry over to the football field.
Let’s look at the key elements.
1. Technical Coordination
What does that even mean?!?
It means that there has to be some type of static muscular action, followed by a dynamic muscular action, followed by force absorption, and then some type of rapid reaction. This may be a complicated definition, but it is worth it.
A big thing about training technical coordination inside the weight room is because it will transfer well to the football field because it teaches players that better technique creates a better football player. Teaching athletes to focus on technical precision and positions, they can utilize their muscular actions more effectively to get into better positions, use their strength more effectively, and have better leverage over opponents.
We might be doing plyometric series, the Olympic lifts, or different components that engage with auditory cues to stimulate more of a thought process within the athlete to help them create logical aggression. Meaning players will start to manipulate their opponent with their brain and physical skills. Even more reason to utilize technical coordination every single day in training.
2. Absolute Strength
We must acknowledge the physical demands of football. Football players are constantly engaging with opponents that weigh a large amount. Football players are large individuals who are fast and explosive. We have to train and focus on absolute strength.
Absolute strength is a key component behind football. We need to establish benchmarks for the various positions for the main lifts. From there we can see which lifts athletes struggle with and correlate it to various realms on the field. For instance, we can see how an improved back squat creates better performance down in the trenches.
Utilize absolute strength not only to increase technical coordination but to improve what is done on the field. How they engage with their opponents, learning how to grind struggling under back squats or bench presses to know how to persevere against physical opponents.
Remember to establish benchmark numbers for each lift based upon positions. We just want to add in that being stronger creates mentally stronger athletes as well.
Mobility means athletes who have a full range of motion in passive and active positions through specific joints. Football players have to be mobile.
When we talk about using strength movements to improve mobility and absolute strength, football players will also improve their positions on the field. For instance, performing back squats ass to grass improve mobility. Front squats through a full range of motion improve mobility. We can do walking lunges through a full range of motion. All of these movements combined will improve hip and lower back mobility.
Power snatches and behind-the-neck jerks will create a more mobile thoracic spine that will allow for more effective extension and rotation. Being able to rotate better improves the ability to keep the head on a swivel and rotate the trunk to make and break tackles.
Mobility is important. Mobility will help with joint structure and joint integrity, lengthening athletes’ careers and minimize injuries because of a greater range of motion. In addition, athletes will be playing with a lower pad level from greater mobility.
Mobility drastically improves speed as well.
Football players have to be fast. Football players have to train speed. And that means specific speed. We want offensive linemen with the fastest first step possible. It is always about acceleration. Same with defensive tackles. They need to understand the steep shin angle and how to come out of their stance effectively, training speed specifically to the position.
Now that has to be slightly different for how we train a defensive back. They are in an athletic stance out in the open field. We need to train starting positions and drive phase mechanics. Defensive backs have to rapidly make reads, come down hard, sprint, and do what is necessary to make the play. They’ll be training for longer sprints, but they’ll still be doing hill work as well. They’re going to be running a little more than the lineman.
It is important to see that all four of the elements are trained. We have to train technical coordination, absolute strength, mobility, and speed. But we have to train each specific to the position groups. Everything is slightly different but in conjunction with the key elements.
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.