Strength & Conditioning Part 2: The Lifts and My Formula

Now final to the MEAT of any Strength and Conditioning program… The actual lifts

I want to start off by saying that all the research I have read shows how Olympic lifts (Cleans, Push press, Jerk, snatch) are the most important for football players.  Now I agree that they are great I have come to realize that in my current situation it just is not feasible. 

OLY lifts are the most difficult to teach and learn.  They require a ton of time put in to teaching it, and although I feel confident in my ability to teach the lifts (I have taken classes in how to teach OLY lifts, and watched DVDs) it is just very difficult to all the kids I have when i have kids coming in and out due to different schedules, playing other sports, flat out missing days.  Ive built my program around them in the past and ended up spending all my time teaching and reteaching and the kids never got the opportunity to really work on getting stronger. 
The other reason is they require a lot of space and resources.  We have a tiny weight room, literally its the smallest one I have ever been on before.  We have no bumper plates, and no floor space.  We don’t have any rubber matting to lay down outside and do them on the blacktop.  So banging and bouncing barbells around just isn’t an option. 

I had to develop my plan around what I do have.  I have 3 squat racks, a few benches, a good amount of dumbbell’s of various weights, free weights, and a Jammer machine.  That’s it, and honestly its not ideal but I can make it work.  Really all i want is a weight room full of Squat Racks with benches i can slide in and out but unless I improve my grant writing drastically that will not happen yet.

The KING of LIFTS

My #1 Lift is the Squat.  I call it the King of lifts.  It is the foundation my entire program rests on, I feel that squats improve football players more than any other single lift.  The best players I have ever coached have been fantastic squatters. 
To be able to squat deeply, and with heavy loads, you have to first have great strength, hip flexibility, core strength, and coordination… everything that is needed to be a great football player.
Research has shown a DIRECT correlation with Squat 1RM and sprinting speed as well as VJ.

My Formula for each day in the Weight Room

I have to admit I stole some of this from a great S&C coach I met and spoke with a year ago.  He is the S&C coach for a school here in NorCal who played in the state championship game a year ago.  I liked his concepts, and he was a realist like me.  He loved Olys but didn’t have the time, or resources to teach them.  He believed in total body workouts because he noticed kids would skip days they had to squat and never miss days they were set to bench.  He wanted to make sure his kids got to do a major lower body lift every day they showed up.

So since we do total body every MWF, each lifting day will include the following:

  • 1 Major Leg Lift
  • 1 other Leg lift
  • 1 Push
  • 1 Pull (same axis)
  • 1+ other Auxiliary lift

That’s it, that’s how I plan out my workouts each day.  It seems simple, and I have had people say that you need to be doing a ton of workouts.  I disagree, the only people I see who do 1,000 workouts per day are body builders.  They ridiculously overload 1 or 2 muscle groups for 1 day out of the week then do something else.  They are not building well balanced, functional athletes.

This formula here leads to an overall athlete with total body strength and balance.

Now I will break down each of the components that make up the daily formula

Major Leg Lift

These are your standard leg strength lifts.  Multi joint lifts that you can build strength on.  The ones i use are:

  • Back Squats
  • Front Squats
  • 1 Legged Squats (Bulgarian Split Squats)*
  • Dead Lift (using hex bar, it puts the load more in the rear taking stress off of the low back)

 I am not going to go into too much form on these lifts but I must add that I preach full squats on Front, Back, and 1 legged Squats.  The deeper you go the more Glute and Hammy activation you get.

The newest thing I am in love with is the 1 Legged Squat.  It is great because although the balance can be tough at first, it is easier for most athletes to get to that full deep squat position, it puts less stress on the lower back, and it actually increases the amount of Glute activation as compared to a standard Back Squat.

I truly believe that the Glutes are the most important part of speed… Flat out big Glutes = fast… don’t believe me? Look at every good female sprinter… I guarantee… Baby got back.

Other Leg Lifts

I consider these leg lifts to be a helper to the BIG LIFTS.  Usually use them to work different muscles, or at least in a different way, and these are with less of a load.

Lunges
Calf Raises
1 Legged RDLs
1 Legged Squats *

Glute development.

PUSH

  • Push Press
  • Jammer
  • Bench
  • Incline

Everyone thinks Bench is great but it has almost nothing to do with some one’s ability to play football.  You will never be on your back on a bench on the field.  Statistically, you only carry over 40% of your bench strength, into how much power you can exert by pushing out while standing.  So a 300 lb Bench presser (pretty good for your average HS kid) can only push out 120 lbs of force while standing upright.
I prefer doing Push Press and Jammer instead, they are more realistic to football and are more functional.  They require total body coordination and explosion.

The problem is… KIDS LOVE BENCH… for some reason apparently equals masculinity.  So since they want to do bench anyway, I only include it in my routine on Fridays (the hardest day to get kids there, I use it to lure them in)
Now on M and W, I tell them they can bench press, AFTER they have finished their other lifts.  This way they will work quickly, finish up their prescribed lifts, and then I do not mind if they finish with Bench Press, as long as they have done “my” workout first

Another note,
I will include some DB stuff for Bench and Incline.  Unilateral training (training one side of the body ) has its benefits.  I don’t mind them doing DB bench and incline as much when they do just 1 arm at a time.

PULLS

I separate these into Horizontal and Vertical Pulls. 

Horizontal

  • Bent Over Rows
  • Seated Rows
  • Reverse Pull Ups

Vertical

  • Pull Ups
  • Lat Pull Downs

It is important to include a pull for every push exercise you do to keep your body balanced.  We have all seen that muscle bound guy at the gym who benches all day everyday, he looks strong but he cant move and is at risk for pulling something because his body is out of balance.  A Strong back will only improve their lifting in the other categories.

AUXILIARY

These are the smaller lifts, that I mix up everyday.  These lifts have their merits for building an overall athlete and hitting more muscle areas but they are not by themselves gonna build you football players.

  • Shrugs
  • Bi’s and Tri’s
  • Hammy dips
  • Hip Extensions
  • Any other workout you want

Putting It All Together

You can see that this program is very flexible yet simple.  As a coach, you have a menu of lifts to choose from in each category and you can pick the ones that you feel your kids need that day, or for that week.  You can hit the body in different ways, and more importantly the ability to mix things up on the kids does a great deal to keep them interested and engaged.

You can see that for many categories I have more exercises than days per week to choose from, so no, we might not do every one of the lifts at least once on a given week, but I try to make sure we always do at least one of every single lift in my menu every 2 weeks.

For example I value Back Squats and 1 Legged Squats more than I do Front Squats.  We wont do Front Squats every single week, but we will do them at least once every 2 weeks.

I Focus on certain lifts more than others while planning.

This system is also very easy to teach the kids.  At my old school, I left after running S&C program for a few months, the new coaches that came in didn’t know a thing about S&C, and the kids I had taught took what i had taught them and began coaching themselves in the weight room.  They had memorized my basic formula, hitting a major leg and other leg per day.  Doing a pull for every push they did, and those kids got stronger and much better even without any knowledgeable coaches around them.

Well if anyone stuck around to read all this, thank you, I appreciate it. 
This is not by any means the end all or be all of S&C, but it is the formula I use, and it is something I have seen work first hand. 
I plan on having one final posting regarding S&C, probably tomorrow.  In that post I will discuss how I can potentially incorporate Power movements into my plan this off season.

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