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A Football Weight Training Program

Weight Training for Football

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Updated July 18, 2011

Mike Brown Chicago Bears Veterans Mini Camp Practice

Mike Brown Chicago Bears Veterans Mini Camp Practice May 2008

(c) (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Comprehensive training programs for individual sports are “periodized.” That is, they are broken into three or four phases in the year with each phase concentrating on a particular fitness development. Periodized programs provide a progressive buildup to peak fitness and performance.

For professional sports that utilize weights in their training -- which is most sports these days -- each phase has different objectives and each successive phase builds on the previous one.

Important note: This program is a generic program designed to suit body contact football in general – NFL football, Rugby, and unique codes like Australian football. It does not necessarily include football (soccer), although elements of the program could apply to soccer weight training.

Football requires good aerobic fitness to provide endurance for sustained effort, and strength, and even bulk, to break through or effect tackles. The part of the program outlined here is confined mostly to the weights and strength development part of the program. You will need to do cardio training to develop aerobic fitness early pre-season and then build up anaerobic fitness with sprints, shuttles and intervals to be fully prepared for the season start.

Aerobic fitness means you can jog, run, cycle or ski for a long time at moderate pace without getting too tired. Anaerobic fitness means you can keep going longer at high intensities before your legs and body slow down. Both are important in football, especially if you are likely to play the whole or most of the game. When you optimize all elements of fitness -- running fitness, strength and power, you can claim to be at peak fitness.

A year-round football weight training program could look like the program I’ve outlined below. When I use the term “football” I mean any of the codes I included above. If I mention something that doesn’t apply to your sport, just modify it appropriately.

Early Pre-Season

  • Players are preparing for the season and starting to build up after the off season.
  • Emphasis is on building aerobic fitness, basic functional strength and muscle bulk, which is called "hypertrophy".

Late Pre-Season

  • Players are working up to the start of the season and pre-season trials are imminent.
  • Emphasis is on building anaerobic fitness and maximum strength and power.

In Season

  • 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.

Off Season

  • You won the title, or you hopefully came close; 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 go 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 training.

Role-Specific Training

Within a generic training program for a particular sport, further specialty programs 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 (US), 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.

Always warm up and cool down before and after a training session. A medical clearance for exercise is always a good idea at the start of the season if you have not had one previously. Now, let's get started:

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