Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Off - Season Football Training - Anaylzing the Individual

I have written before that football is in a class by itself when it comes to off - season training. Click here to take a look back.

For the kid who does not play any other competitive sports, his off - season is going to be 6 - 7 months long. Pre - season begins in June and consists of team conditioning, 7 on 7 tournaments and camps. Full practices begin in the first week of August. Today is November 30, so we are actually closer to the beginning of last season then we are to the beginning of next season.

This is the time of year most of my high school clients begin to call and tell me they are ready to come back into the gym. Each kid has there own needs, their own schedule and their own injury history. I always begin with some form of GPP (General Physical Preparedness) with each kid. Now, in the year round scheme of training, anything that is done outside of the football field is GPP. Lifting, sprinting, stretching and cone agility are all forms of GPP for football. Going to a QB coach, a receiver camp or working on DB drills is Sport Specific Training. What I have kids do at Soar in the first few weeks of off - season training is essentially preparing the body for more rigorous forms of GPP. I hope that makes sense.

Here is what our GPP workouts consist of:

Mobility circuits - basically our warm up
Isometric holds (push up position, split squats, chin up holds)
Bodyweight exercises
Lots of single leg exercises
KB swings and get ups
Sled walks and drags
Shoulder and hip rehab/prehab

FYI - most of this stuff is part of the year round program as well

This is what you will not see most of my football athletes doing in December:

Sprints and agility
Plyometrics (jumps)
Anything that involves them being under a heavy bar (squats, bench)
Position drills


How long does the GPP process take? It depends on the kid and a few other factors. Here are some examples of different football players that will walk through my doors in the next few weeks.

1. Senior - going on to play in college. Since they will be training with me into the summer, we will spend at least 1 month of GPP and then slowly progress into more intense workouts. The exception is the few kids who will report early to their college team. In this instance, I have to speed up the process to ensure they are ready for rigorous winter workouts.

2. Multi - sport athlete. Some of my football guys will go right into basketball or wrestling. In this case, we just continue with our in - season model of lifting. I have to limit volume with them to ensure that they are fresh for their winter sports. I also have some kids who play spring sports like lacrosse. Since these kids will go right into pre-season conditioning in January, I need to progress them faster. We usually spend 2 weeks with GPP and then begin to progress into more intense workouts.

3. Underclassman - football only. There are a ton of different ways I can take the training for this kind of kid. If it is a kid who starts or even plays both ways, we will spend 1 month with the GPP process before we start any kind of intense training. We will also take time to rehab any type of injury that I am comfortable working with. Unfortunately, some of these guys will go right back to lifting heavy at school within weeks of the end of the season. In this case, I still focus on GPP and spend a little time making sure their lifting technique is solid.

But, what if the kid sits the bench? If you don't play much or at all, your body is more than likely healthy. Also, if you sit the bench, you more than likely need to get bigger, faster and stronger. This is the one instance in which I will progress a football only kid faster into off - season training. These kids usually have to lift at school at some point, so my window to work with them exclusively will close quickly. We will spend a lot of time working on the "money" lifts like squats, dead lifts and bench so they will have the technique down when they begin doing it out of my supervision.


It all comes down to doing the right thing for each individual kid. Trying to fit square pegs into round holes is a recipe for injury and poor performance.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fat Burning Favorites

Although the majority of training at Soar is dedicated to athletic performance, there are a number of adults (general fitness clients) that come to me to lose weight, burn fat and just stay in shape. For those who are just getting started and have been sedentary for months or years, I would be crazy to start them with fat burning circuits. These clients, just like my beginner athletes, need to develop a foundation of strength before we even begin to consider high intensity training. Simple strength training combined with low impact cardio will bring about some results for the adult who has never participated in a comprehensive program.

How do I know the client is ready to move on to more intense training? It is pretty simple - I just watch them workout. In the first week of training, the warm up and a few sets of DB presses and bodyweight step ups will have a new client in a full sweat. When I notice in week 3 that the client has doubled their weight in presses (going from 10s to 20s) and is doing weighted step ups, I know it is time to amp it up a bit.

So what are my favorite methods for burning fat? Phew, that is a good question. Search the Internet and you will find Crossfit training, metabolic conditioning, circuits and the dreaded P90X just to name a few.

Here is a list of various exercises and methods I use with my more advanced adult clientele.

1. Bodyweight, KB and MB circuits. A number of different movements with little rest. Pretty simple.

2. Mixing in heavier lifting days in the 4 - 8 rep range. Bench press, squats, deadlifts and heavier rows all fit in to these workouts. Remember, nobody gets stronger pressing 10lb DBs everyday. We always pair up exercises to keep up the pace. EDT training (Escalating Density Training) can also fit into this category. Google it if you are in good shape, have limited time in the gym and are looking for a new way to train.

3.Sled pushes. Pushing a heavy sled is hard work. Hard work burns fat. Period.

4.Farmers walks and other carries. Have you ever walked through the mall with heavy shopping bags in each hand? Sucks doesn't it? Well, if it sucks, it probably burns fat too. Plus, farmers walks are great for the core and the shoulder.

5. Running 50, 100 and 300 yard shuttles. This is for those who can handle the impact of sprinting. Although I don't discourage my long distance enthusiasts from doing what they love, I do highly encourage some sprint intervals. Again, sprinting is hard work and hard work burns fat.

As always, quality movement trumps quantity every day at Soar. If you struggle to do an exercise right in a rested state, then trying to do it in a fatigued state is a terrible idea. Build your foundation, slowly up the intensity, then start to get nuts!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Building the Athlete - Step 2

In Step 1, I talked about building the foundation and the various concepts that are part of that process. I also said that younger kids will spend months, even years in the foundational phase but kids in the 14- 15 year old range will be progressed faster.

So what happens once a 15 year old begins to master our foundational techniques? Do we introduce new, more challenging exercises? Do we keep doing the same exercises for more reps?

I feel that taking the beginner 15 year old from the foundational stage to the intermediate stage is a process that is crucial and often botched by trainers and coaches. I have seen trainers continue to have high school softball players press 5 lb DBs and do swings with a 10 lb KB for weeks on end. Nobody is getting stronger doing that! I have also seen athletes continue to do 3 sets of 10 reps for months and months hoping to get stronger. Sorry, not going to happen!

Let’s look at an example of an average 15 year old girl with a ZERO training age. I said in Step 1 that I can usually get them to a good barbell front squat with 35 – 45 lbs in 8 – 12 sessions. Let’s say that she can do 45 lbs to a good depth for 10 reps. Now what? Adding 5 lbs to the bar would be an increase in over 10% in resistance and she would probably not get it for 10 quality reps. Do we stay at 45 and go for higher reps? We could, but I have learned that high rep squats are usually not the answer for younger lifters. I would much rather see 4 sets of 6 quality reps with an appropriate load than 3 sets of 12 mediocre reps with a lighter load.

This is when Stage 2 begins for the 15 year old girl. We must begin to lift heavier weight but by paying particular attention to our sets and reps. We would start with 4 sets of 6 reps and the first set would be with 45lbs. She gets it easy with good form, so the next set we would hit 50 for 6 reps which I know she can get. If form looks good, we can go in three directions.

1. I didn’t see anything close to strain and technique was still very good so we go to 55 for the next two sets.
2. I see some strain and technique was good but not great so we stay at 50. Since we are only doing 6 reps per set, I have no worry that she will break down and injury will occur. Basically, we are doing 3x6 at her 8 rep max.
3. If the girl is still squatting to a height above parallel, try to move her an inch lower and stay at the 45 – 50 lbs. I always try to go lower before I go a lot heavier.

The next week I will usually go with 4 -5 sets of 5 reps. Again we start with 45, then go 50 and then assess as we did the week before for the final sets. If we did 55 for 6 last week, our goal is to do 60 for at least one set of 5 reps. If we ended with 50 last week for 6, then we try to get to 55 for 5. This is the same process I use for other core lifts such as the bench press.

Keep your eyes open for the day the light comes on. The day that she masters breathing and driving through her heels. It will happen. It is the day that she shatters 60lbs, then 65lbs and works all the way up to 75. It might even be to a lower box then we have ever used.

This wouldn’t have happened if we kept trying to do 45 lbs for 12 – 15 reps. This girl is now stronger then she could ever believe. Usually on a day like this, the girl can jump up and do a chin up on her own for the first time. The beast has been unleashed.

Many of the high school girls that I have trained that receive All – District and All – State honors have had a day like this at Soar. Believe it, girls can be strong as long as you take the proper steps to do it. You almost have to trick them into believing that they are strong.

I used a female athlete as an example because it seems that many coaches have a fear of making girls stronger. But, the same method applies to the 14 – 16 year old boys that I train. Within the course of the week, we are still doing exercises such as push up variations, DB lifts, 1 leg squats and pull ups in the 8 – 15 rep range. Many different variations of sled drags and pushes are also introduced.

Here are the keys to Step 2.

• Continuing with our foundational exercises but starting to increase resistance by keeping reps in the 4 – 8 rep range. For the record, this does not mean we are going to a 4 rep max on every set.
• Still keeping a stern eye on technique. From time to time, a kid might have a bad day so a step backwards could happen.
• Moving to more advanced exercises in our plyometric progression.
• Getting the athlete to understand intensity. Going 80% does not get you stronger or faster.

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