Off Season Football Training | Don't Make These Mistakes
We know the offseason is a great time to recover from the trials and tribulations of the football season. We also know the offseason is a great time to take a step to be able to play a kid’s game forever. It’s a time to get stronger, faster, and better at the sport of football.
Do you want to bench press 300+ lbs?
Do you want to clean 300+ lbs?
Do you want to squat 500+ lbs?!?
Do you want to run a sub 4.5 forty yard dash?!?!
Do you want to use the off-season to become a touchdown terror, a tumultuous tackle for loss tantalizer, and just a sheer terminator on the football field?
Improvement is attainable. It’s doable. It can be done.
But it can only be done if these mistakes aren’t made.
4. Making Quantifiable & Actionable Goals
The biggest errors don’t occur shooting for massive lifts (quantifiable goals), but arise around not establishing actionable goals.
What is an actionable goal?
An actionable goal can be saying, “I’m going to train five to six days a week starting NOW, all the way until football season starts in August.” That takes commitment. That takes showing up. That takes being present. That also means that if the family goes on vacation, time isn’t being taken off. On the contrary! It means going full-steam ahead, establishing rituals and routines to achieve the quantifiable goals (the bigger lifts, the numbers, the weight on the bar) because of establishing and executing the actionable goals.
At Garage Strength we see not establishing actionable goals as a big mistake being made by football athletes. We’ve seen coaches do this: not establish goals, don’t revisit goals weekly/monthly, making it hard for them to hold their players accountable long term. Granted, holding kids accountable for that length of time is difficult, especially with high school kids not at the collegiate ranks. BUT!
If coaches establish a consistent system and hold athletes accountable at least on a monthly basis based on athlete’s training schedules, coaches can establish how to get those goals early and knock them off the board because the actionable goals come into play.
3. Neglecting Mobility
We’ve seen football players neglect mobility time and time again; they try to avoid mobility. We hear them say, “I’m not going to focus on mobility; it’s not a big factor in my game.” The problem is, IT IS a huge factor in the game.
Why is neglecting mobility a big factor in improving play on the field? Better yet, how does mobility improve football ability? Actually, there is a multitude of ways in which improved mobility enhances performance on the football field.
1. Mobility is a huge factor in improving hip level
If a football athlete can play with a lower hip level, the athlete will move better and, more often than not, win that fight, especially down in the trenches. In addition, greater hip mobility allows for a better shimmy, more effective cutting.
2. Mobility leads to more stability, resulting in less likelihood of injury
Healthy shoulders are tantamount to staying on the field. Let’s face it, football is a contact sport in which the body is a force to be reckoned with and the shoulders are the lead impact bio-mechanism. Staving off injury is a necessity, and increased stability highlights the necessity of focusing on mobility during the offseason.
3. Mobility in the ankles can create a steeper shin angle
Did you know that being able to get the shin at a steeper angle via ankle mobility increases the body’s ability to accelerate at a faster pace? It does.
4. Mobility improves recovery
By mobilizing the body and doing stretching exercises, foam rolling, and strengthening movements, the combined efforts work together to improve recovery from each session, minimizing soreness and increase blood flow. Being able to recover faster in the off-season allows the athlete to get more work done.
5. Mobility lengthens the muscles
Lengthening is strengthening. If an athlete can lengthen their muscles, they will get stronger. Performing stiff leg deadlifts will strengthen the hamstrings. The same thing with the pecs, if the muscles get more mobile, the shoulder girdle gets more mobile, allowing to get deeper bench pressing with the dumbbells helping to recruit more high threshold motor units. This means a better stiff arm on the field and a better punch driving those hands into the chest on the line.
Football players need to hit mobility in the off-season four to five days a week for fifteen to twenty minutes a day.
2. Not Improving Weak Points
This has a lot to do with the ego.
As strength coaches and football coaches, we need to analyze each player’s weaknesses. And by weakness, we mean identifying where joint integrity is an issue or joint stability is an issue. This will help strength coaches to analyze where movement patterns are off, but on top of that strength, coaches can analyze the athlete’s play on the field alongside the movement patterns. Now every single weakness can start to be addressed.
Lack of mobility in the ankles? Hit up the mobility routine. Weak down in the hole? Improve stability through a full range of motion to play a little bit lower. Slow out of the cut? Struggling with the vertical jump? Utilize some Olympic lifts, high bar back squats, and use some different jumps to dramatically improve that first step.
Maybe the football player has a huge back squat in the weightroom but has no dynamic trunk control and is weak from a unilateral perspective. Let’s have them perform some single leg squats. Another big one is athletes not enjoying catching the clean in the hole because of a weak front squat. If the front squat is weak, that needs to be addressed. Gut strength needs improvement, the torso needs to be addressed and all of it is used to improve the play on the field.
We can take a step back as coaches and analyze each group of positional players. We can take it even further by breaking it down to the individual athlete’s needs with the position. This will help diagnose the weakness and prescribe solutions to develop a better overall player and team.
1. Not Learning Skills
When we say skill, we need skills on every single level. Not liking learning is a horrible trait to possess. Learning is tantamount to growing, improving and advancing oneself. Upgrade that gray matter ‘cause someday it may matter.
Football coaches will hammer skill work into players and athletes will put blinders on and resist, just being obstinate. This can go all the way down to learning the olympic lifts properly, learning how to clean, and learning how to snatch. Just as bad, it can be resisting to learn how to take better steps as a skill position player or proper footwork as a lineman. Even down to the combine tests, the 5-10-5, the 40-yard dash, L cone or vertical jump, there are technical skills in all of these movements.
If athletes can learn the technical mindset that goes along with the Combine tests, the technical skills that go along with the olympic lifts, they buy into the value of learning skills and begin to look at the game of football with a cerebral approach. And that’s what it takes to get to the next level.
Let’s face it, there are more pre-snap adjustments at the college level than at the high school level. We know there are way more pre-snap adjustments at the professional level than at the college level. Why does this all matter? It all matters because taking a mindset that learning technical skills is valuable, football players aren’t just meatheads who want to smash heads on the field, but meatheads who want to hit people with a skillful approach through precise handwork and footwork.
By embracing the struggles that come along with learning technical skills in the weightroom, that all of a sudden changes the athlete’s approach to a more mindful approach on the field that can help dominate the opponent.
In the off-season make sure there is a focus on learning more skills that can be applied on the field. Athletes need to also adjust and attack weaknesses to improve performance capabilities, as well as hitting up that mobility on the regular. During the pursuit, make sure there are quantifiable and actionable goals that are established from the beginning of the offseason to the start of the season while training in a periodized program.
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.