Over the course of a football season, players will experience a decline in strength and power without continued strength training. This obviously will affect performance on the field so continuation of the strength program throughout the season is crucial for success.
Ten years ago, in-season weight lifting programs were mostly non-existent at the high school level. Strength training at the college level was done only one to two times a week, and usually after practice. Traditional programs emphasized higher reps with less weight because the players were already exhausted from practice by the time they hit the weight room. With what we know now about periodization and hitting your peak prior to the start of the season, why go back to light weight and high reps?
Many high school and college football programs are now using a system that keeps the weight and intensity level high, and the reps low to maintain strength and power throughout the season. High intensity, lower volume workouts are the best way to maintain what the athletes worked so hard for over the summer. Many schools have added strength training classes during the school day, or athletes have access to the weight room prior to school allowing for training without practice fatigue.
Here is a sample program:
Day 1: (3×4)
Explosive deadlift with a shrug
Day 2: (3×4)
Glute/Ham or RDL (3×8)
Day 3: (3×8)
This is what a typical in-season program would look like with lower volume because time is limited, but with high intensity for optimum strength and power. If your schedule will allow for a third day of training, use lighter weights but perform the exercises explosively. Note also that this schedule includes mostly compound movements to work multiple muscle groups in a minimal amount of time.
Be sure to alter the program for a week or two during the season to prevent plateaus, and to make the program more exciting for your athletes. For example, weeks three and six use plyometric training or explosive medicine ball drills in place of weight training. Combination lifts are another excellent option. Examples would include a front squat into an overhead press, hang clean into a front squat, and a dumbbell deadlift into a bent row. Be creative during these weeks because any change in the stimulus to the muscles will help prevent plateaus and complacency.
During the season, safety in the weight room also needs to be stressed with the athletes. When lifting with heavier weights and low reps, a spotter is required. Athletes also need to understand the importance of hitting the proper number of repetitions to maintain their strength levels. Using too much weight, relying on the spotter to complete the reps, and using poor technique could all lead to injury. Nor will it produce the desired results.
With more time allotted to strength training during the school day, be sure to take advantage of these advanced training techniques to keep your strength and power levels up throughout the season. You’ll see a difference in your performance especially at the end of the season.