Strength and conditioning training programs for specific sports get best results if they are “periodized.” That is, they are broken into three or four phases in the year with each phase concentrating on a particular characteristic of fitness development. Periodized programs provide a progressive buildup to peak fitness and performance for competition, a rest period for recovery and a repeat for the next competition phase or timescale.
Within the phases of periodization, other aspects of training need to be incorporated for best results.
Specificity is a general principle in sports training. It means that if you can train in a way that imitates your activity when competing in the sport, then you should spend most of your time training in that way. Runners run, boxers box, swimmers swim, discus throwers throw, team sports practice synchronicity.
Even so, aspects of fitness cannot always be gained from event-specific training patterns. Physical conditioning usually requires activities that supplement specific training. Aerobic and strength training are examples of this. Even swimmers run and lift weights to improve their aerobic and strength and power fitness.
Performance Muscle Groups and Characteristics
Let's say your sport is football -- NFL, Rugby or Soccer -- they all have one thing in common: running, sprinting, twisting, side-stepping, turning and setting for a tackle. It is essential that the chains of muscles used in these activities, -- the anterior and posterior chain -- are developed for strength, stability and power and probably endurance as well. The lower back, gluteals (butt), the hip flexors, the hamstrings, quadriceps, muscles of the back, and front of the thighs, as well as the abdominals are crucial to high performance. This is the powerhouse upon which much of your athletic movement and performance depends.
The Big Six Training Targets
Four main training target outcomes are recognized for weight and resistance training:
- Muscular strength (getting stronger)
- Muscular hypertrophy (getting bigger)
- Muscular speed and power (getting faster and more explosive while stronger)
- Local muscular endurance (lasting longer while getting stronger)
- Aerobic conditioning (longer-term endurance)
- Anaerobic conditioning (shorter-term power/endurance)
Within a generic program for a particular sport, further specialty training may be useful, especially in teams where members have specific roles and certain advantageous physical attributes apply. For example, a quarterback and a defensive lineman (NFL), or a halfback and a front rower (rugby), will probably have a somewhat different program in the gym: one emphasizing speed and agility, and the other bulk, strength and power.
Consider the program presented here to be an all-round program, best suited to beginners or casual weight trainers without a history of weight training for football. The best programs are always specific to an individual's current fitness, role in the team, access to resources, and, no less important, the team coaches' essential philosophy. You will be best served by using the following program in conjunction with a trainer or coach.
If you're new to weight training, brush up on principles and practices with the beginner resources.
Each phase has different objectives and each successive phase builds on the previous.
A year-round football training program could look like the program outlined below.
- Players are preparing for the season and starting to build up after the off season.
- Emphasis is on building aerobic fitness and basic functional strength and muscle bulk.
- Players are working up to the start of the season and pre-season trials are in play.
- Emphasis is on building anaerobic fitness and maximum strength and power.
- Competition is underway and players are expected to be fully functional for competition.
- Maintenance of speed, aerobic and anaerobic fitness and strength and power is emphasized.
- The heavy, building phase program is replaced by lighter weights emphasizing power.
- You won the title; time to relax for a while but you need to keep active.
- Emphasis is on rest and recovery with maintenance of light activity -- cross training, light gym work – and easy on the booze because you don’t want to have to lose too much weight in the next pre-season workup. Several weeks break from serious fitness and strength training is helpful.
- As pre-season approaches, more regular work can resume with an emphasis on building aerobic fitness once again for the pre-season strength training.