Improving effort and tempo in the weight room

Improving our participation was the biggest priority of this past off season.  I wrote a prior article about Creating Off Season Competition.  The numbers went up, and this trickled through to our spring ball and now into our summer practices.
We essentially were able to weed out the non committed kids and our attendance is better than it has ever been in my 4 years here.  We finally had kids showing up every single day but then came the next hurdle.

I looked at what our kids were doing in the weight room and I wasn’t happy with all of them.  They were there in the weight room but some left not sweating and I saw them milling around far too much.  I knew I needed to make a change to make sure each kid was WORKING during hour lifting sessions.

I then recalled a phone conversation/interview I had with CAL S&C coach Mike Blasquez.  Since CAL has no made the change to no huddle spread, I asked how it has impact his weight room philosophy, especially in regard to their tempo and rest in the weight room.  He said they had to change how they rested and now all of their rest times are sped up.  They try to mirror the frantic pace of a Tony Franklin style practice within their weight room.

I decided with our equipment limitations I wouldn’t be able to go quite as fast as what a D-1 college might do in their weight room, but I knew that the days of just writing the workout on a whiteboard and letting the kids free lift were OVER for our program.

I decided that from now on, EVERYTHING is going to be timed.  We use a segment timer in practice every day, why not in the weight room as well.

First I analyzed our weight room, the equipment we had, and the number of players we had at each level.
we typically have in the low 40s per level.  For some reason everything in our weight room comes in 3s… 3 squat racks, 3 bench presses, 3 adjustable benches.

Using that information I came up with the following guidelines for our weight room.

  • We will always workout in groups of 3, no groups of 4 are allowed because it will destroy our tempo
  • We will have 5 lifts/exercises per day
  • Each of the selected lifts has 3 locations (rack, bench, pull up bar, location outside)
  • Each “station” will have 9 minutes, then we rotate
  • This totals out to 45 minutes to complete our workout
We typically do between 3-4 sets of each lift… 9 minutes doesn’t give the kids much time to screw around.  To complete their lifts they basically have to do their set, rack it up, change weights, and the next person is lifting right away.  Kids can’t hide out like they used to, I know where I started each of them so I know what lift they are supposed to be doing at a given time.
To keep the kids on schedule I use a timer app on my phone.  Since the rotations happen every 9 minutes, I just keep restarting the 9 minute timer after we rotate from each station.
I see our working harder and getting more done than ever before.
Our school is months away from an entire reconstruction, which includes a new weight room.  This process will be even easier when we have a more state of the art weight room that has nothing but racks in it.
If you have a set up with many racks and free weight your players never have to move… each rotation simply means changing to a new lift.  This way is even better because you can better control the lift order of each student for maximal gains.
The next step I am going to make is to create a CD with music that has the 9 minute intervals built in to it.
I got this software for doing so and it is my new weekend project.

 

Teaching Vertical Set

I get messages at least once a day asking me something football related.  This off season I would say the number 1 thing has been asking how to teach vertical setting.  I have written articles in the past on vertical setting and drills for pass pro but I want to use this article to tie it all together.

This is the order I would go about teaching things.

Find a scheme
Vertical setting can and will work in any type of pass protection scheme.  I have used it and seen it used at the HS and College level in BOB, half slide, and full slide protections.  Pick a scheme (maybe have a 2nd as a change up or adjustment) and beat your rules in to your kids head.  Vertical setting is great, the best thing since sliced bread, but if you flat out don’t attempt to block a defender because you’re kids don’t know who to block, or more importantly, where their eyes need to be, it won’t matter if you back hand spring set… you’re QB is dead.

Decide your ideal depth
Colleges and vertical set purists have been using a 4 step vertical step approach )inside out inside out) as far as I know since it’s invention.  My original Vertical Set post explains this.  Middle of 2 seasons ago I adjusted ours to a 2 step approach.  4 steps was getting us too close to the QB’s face and he felt uncomfortable and I felt we could still do our job with 2 steps of depth.  I dubbed this technique Vertical Set 2.0 because it was the new edition and used 2 steps.  You need to decide what is best for your kids.  If I was brand new to it I would work 4 steps initially and see how the OL and QB felt with it and then adjust it to 2 steps from there.

Over exaggerate the set
I believe, in the beginning it is best to have the kids flying backwards.  I like to have them go for more yardage or steps than I would ask in a game when we first teach it.  My thought is similar to track coaches who train their 100m kids by running 200’s.  After doing all those 200’s, the 100 seems easy.  Same thing with setting, after working back for 5 yards, or 6 steps, doing our 2 step vertical set is faster, and feels more comfortable to them.

Below is a video of my kids setting for depth (6 steps) followed by our wave drill. Sorry the video starts a half second too late.

Wave Drill
The next thing I would get really good at is wave drill.  You can work a ton of kids at once.  You can burn some muscle memory in to them.  You are teaching the kids how to step to cut off an inside rush move or a move to their outside.  I refer to them as Power Step and Slide Step.  The Power step is a hard step, 45 degrees up field and inside with a powerful inside hand punch to cut off a defender.  The Slide Step is a pretty traditional kick slide backwards and out at a 45 degree angle to continue getting depth and widening a defender should rush your edge.
This drill is great for checking kids pass pro posture, hands, body position, stagger, and their footwork.  This clip below shows the kids after a squat day (you will see their signs of leg fatigue).  Here I have them all working one side (same stagger and stance), once we get rolling and kids know what position they will be playing the most and where they will be getting most of their reps we will just line the kids up and they will use the stagger of their position.  I just point to a side and for half of them it would simulate an outside rush more while it is an inside rush to the other half of them.

Mirror
Next I introduce our mirror drill.  This helps them reinforce keeping good body posture and moving their feet laterally to “mirror” their defender.  Here is a LINK to a post I did a while back on the mirror drill.
We eventually progress to working mirror, and then I yell HIT, on HIT the defender rushes and the OL has to execute a punch.

Partner Sets
The next drill I use is what I call “Partner Sets”.  We get a lot of good reps in this drill if the kids will work each other.  We partner up and designate one guy as the OL, one as the defender.  On the OL movement the defender will rush and pick a side working 1 move.  The OL has to Set, incorporate part of wave and mirror drill to stay head up with the defender, punch the defender, and work his feet to cancel this first move.
As the kids improve at this drill I then allow the defender to work a first move followed by a counter.  This can be a great time to work kids on the moves you see most from an opponent, or a specific defender’s best move and counter move.

Live 1 on 1s
By this point we are pretty close to letting them go full out and put it all together.  We will work live 1 on 1s next.  I think of this as the test of how well I have taught them.  They will need to use things they’ve learned doing all of the above drills to be successful.

Blitz Pick Up
As long as you have been chalking, walking through, and teaching your specific pass pro scheme(s) your kids should be able to execute the blocks now.  You can include the RB and QB if you like, or just keep your OL by themselves, whatever works best for you.  Now you will use a full defense to bring pressure (combining the 1 on 1’s into a 5 on 5 situation for your OL, or 6 on 6 if you add the back).  You are evaluating where their eyes are and the blocks they are making.
My biggest piece of advice with this drill is to have your fronts/stunts/blitzes pre printed out on cards.  This is something given to you in TFS but it could be made in PPT in an hour or with HUDL in probably even less time.  Make a card for everything you even think you could possibly see.  Make a copy for each of your lower level coaches as well.  Put them in a binder, keep it in the ball bag, your trunk, your briefcase… whatever.  It makes going through and getting the reps so much easier when you can hold it up rather than talk to the defense and see where to go.  If you are fortunate enough to have an assistant helping your OL or an injured kid they can be holding up the card for the defense while you are coaching up/correcting/praising your OL in the drill.

Here are some other drills from a post a did a couple of years ago.
Drill Videos