Should you use Bodybuilding for Football Strength Training?
Bodybuilding is typically looked upon as an archaic means of strength training. People say it will not help with sports performance; that it will not help athletes improve in their realm of training and competitive sport.
When we talk about bodybuilding, we need to establish that the focus needs to be increasing muscle mass, improving myofibrillar hypertrophy (not just sarcoplasmic hypertrophy), and thinking about looking for adaptations to be made. As strength coaches, we need to look at various points in an athlete’s career and acknowledge the precise, specific adaptations to get help get their level of play to the next step. This is a key concept when talking about bodybuilding.
Will bodybuilding be a hindrance to their performance or will it elicit a nice adaptation to get them to the next level? If done correctly, the ladder.
Supports Other Modalities
There are numerous, different modalities we need to look for when training football players. Off the bat, we want to focus on technical coordination. We have to think about the elements behind football. Athletes need to be explosive and have a fast first step. Athletes also need to be able to coordinate and react rapidly. Athletes have to be FAST, able to move their feet like lighting, and be able to take on opponents.
Opponents can be extremely strong and explosive themselves. This means quite a bit of absolute strength is required. Taking absolute strength and developing technical coordination through the Olympic lifts, we develop athletes who are explosive and extremely strong. Now we can factor in some reflexive work to teach the body how to have the skill of contractions and improved dynamic trunk control.
That is great and everything, but this article is supposed to be about bodybuilding?!
Bodybuilding is the Special Teams of weight training. It plays a vital, important role. However, it doesn’t get the spotlight and it isn’t on the field for the majority of plays. Any fan of football will say, Special Teams are very, very important. Bodybuilding supports technical coordination, absolute strength, reflexive strength, and has a couple of key areas where it dramatically improves the performance of a football player.
Isolate Lagging Areas
Bodybuilding can be utilized for specific players and specific positions to use movements in very high rep schemes to develop areas that are lagging more effectively. Specific areas, like the hamstrings of running backs and wide receivers, can be targeted and triggered through isolation. We may also have joints that are banged up, say the shoulders of safeties or quarterbacks, that can be isolated to try to strengthen and develop the area so it is less prone to injury.
Learn To Grind
Bodybuilding teaches athletes how to grind. Being under tension for long periods of time and doing rep ranges in the neighborhood, with minimal rest between sets, is brutal. Bodybuilding is challenging. It is not for the faint of heart. It teaches football players how to grind and push through long periods of discomfort. Bodybuilding training that teaches how to engage the muscles when in discomfort, it will help athletes dominate deep into the game.
One of the biggest factors behind bodybuilding is the focus on increasing the overall size of the muscle. Athletes with bigger muscles can put out and generate more force. We can imprint muscle mass size to help athletes gain healthy, lean muscle mass. All of a sudden, the athlete has a pump all the time, tremendous amounts of sarcoplasm entering into the muscle cells and expanding the size of the muscle, and the athlete can gain weight easier.
This is big for football. Size and speed matter with football. Using proper training methods will create positive responses and adaptations to the training.
Bodybuilding-based training pays off a lot. After football players do their big lifts--Olympic lifts, absolute strength work--we can finish off with some bodybuilding. Athletes get a big pump in their arms, quads, hamstrings, and the athletes feel big. They have some confidence and are walking around with cut-off sleeves.
The athletes feel big, stronger, and better about themselves. Guess what happens? The athletes start to enjoy coming in to train and engage more with training. That is huge. Athletes who like to train will give a better effort and output. It creates an avenue to educate as well so the athletes can see how everything is intertwined.
And finally, an opponent with huge muscles can be intimidating. Seeing those striations in the muscles plays a big mental game with opponents. On top of the intimidation factor, bodybuilding plays into strength endurance and pays off late in the game.
Remember that bodybuilding is not just training football through bodybuilding. We are not training bodybuilders. We are training football players. We use methods that improve technical coordination, dynamic trunk control, absolute strength, and we will utilize methods of bodybuilding to improve athletes’ confidence, enhance their enjoyment of training and increase that intimidation factor. Bodybuilding will also allow us to improve lagging areas, build lean muscle mass, and teach athletes to grind to improve strength endurance for when things get tough.
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.