In-Season Strength Training with Ohio State Football

October 1, 2006 | Featured in the October 2006 Issue

Must See Football Videos

By Josh Staph

Tim Cheatwood, LeCharles Bentley, Nate Clements, Donte Whitner, Anthony Gonzalez, Troy Smith and Ted Ginn, Jr. It's no coincidence that every one of these recent Ohio State football standouts hails from Cleveland. Besides reppin' the 216 area code, each member of this gridiron gang developed his athletic prowess at Speed Strength Systems, under the guidance of Eric Lichter and Tim Robertson.

With these players continually returning to campus jacked, fit and ready to explode, OSU Head Coach Jim Tressel recognized the impact Speed Strength was having on his program and invited Lichter to join the Buckeye family. As director of Ohio State football performance, Lichter now has access to the entire team year-round, giving the Bucks a new weapon for their 2006 national championship chase.

Lichter's first summer at OSU was a bit of a honeymoon period-no injuries, classes or games getting in the way of his time with the team. However, once Sept. 2 rolled around, the harsh reality of in-season training set in. "The biggest obstacle to training in season is the fact that the players have to balance practice, meetings and academics," Lichter says. "The second obstacle is creating a program that allows for physical recovery and well being between games. Finally, there are injuries. Once a guy is hurt, he has to spend time with the medical staff, which cuts into the time we get with him."

Taking into account all of these new challenges, Lichter created a straightforward in-season training program. He says: "Our main goal is to stimulate-not annihilate. We use core and priority lifts to stimulate the large, fast twitch muscles quickly and intensely; then we let them recover. We don't perform any supplementary or secondary lifts in-season. This approach helps us maintain strength, power and explosion without spending time on less important exercises."

Using off-season workouts during the season is neither possible nor effective. "Overtraining during the season is the biggest mistake football players make," Lichter says. "They think they need to perform the same number of exercises with the same weights they use in the off-season, or else they'll lose everything they've built. That's not the case. The body is already being taxed on the field; unnecessary stress in the weight room can cause serious problems."

Barring any major injury, a football player undertaking a proper in-season training regimen should finish the season close to where he started physically. "There will be some drop-off in strength levels throughout the season-it's unavoidable with all of the contact," Lichter says. "But if you maintain 88 to 92 percent of your original strength levels, then you've done a good job."

Every other day during preseason camp, Lichter and the Buckeyes replaced their second practice with a lift. Once the season kicked off, the team dropped back to lifting on Mondays and Wednesdays. "Some people like to schedule a lift on Sundays to give the players more rest before the next game," Lichter says. "I prefer lifting on Mondays-two days after a game. The body experiences such an incredible amount of trauma and stress during competition that it needs a complete day of total rest to heal swollen tissue and cartilage."

To avoid common pitfalls and emphasize what's really important, use these five Lichter-recommended priority lifts during your in-season training.

High Priority Lifts

Power Shrug

• Grip bar just outside athletic stance with shins touching bar
• Assume deadlift position, with back locked, shoulders up, and abs and chest flexed
• Begin initial pull by extending hips and knees
• When bar is just above knees, explode upward by forcefully shrugging with straight arms and fully extending hips, knees and ankles

Sets/Reps/Intensity: 4x3 at 88-94%

Benefits: Maintains explosion in hips and lower body like a Power Clean, but doesn’t aggravate already-tender wrists and elbows with a catch.

Power Pull

• Grip bar just outside athletic stance, with shins touching bar
• Assume deadlift position with back locked, shoulders up, and abs and chest flexed
• Begin initial pull by extending hips and knees
• When bar is just above knees, explode upward by forcefully shrugging with straight arms and fully extending hips, knees and ankles
• Pull bar up, keeping it close to chest

Sets/Reps/Intensity: 4x3 at 88-94%

Benefits: Has same explosive benefits as Power Shrug, but pull portion of lift also works back and shoulders.

Squat

• Begin with bar on back in athletic stance with feet just wider than hip width and toes pointing slightly out
• Keeping weight back on heels, initiate movement by driving hips back
• Squat down with control and good posture until tops of thighs are parallel to ground. Keep knees behind toes
• Drive forward and upward out of squat position, keeping eyes up and chest out

Reps/Sets/Intensity: 4x5 at 85%

Benefits: Stimulates fast twitch muscles of hips, glutes, hamstrings and quads while simultaneously working core.

Bench Press

• Lie with back on bench and grip bar just wider than shoulder width
• Keeping elbows tight to sides, lower bar with control until it touches lower part of chest
• Drive bar up until arms are straight

Sets/Reps/Intensity: 4x5 at 85%

Benefits: Maintains strength in chest, shoulders and triceps.

Bent-Over Row

• Bend over at waist and grip bar slightly wider than shoulder width
• Keeping back flat, pull bar to sternum by driving elbows toward ceiling
• Lower bar until arms are straight; repeat

Sets/Reps/Intensity: 4x5 at 85%

Benefits: Maintains strength in upper and lower back, shoulders and biceps.

A One-Sided Affair

Just because you're injured on one side of your body doesn't mean you should give up on your entire in-season training program. "Definitely train the other side," Lichter says. "The body has a neuromuscular way of compensating. Research shows that when a motor learning pathway is shut down on one side of the body from injury, it can still receive benefits from training the other side. In fact, training the healthy side can help the injured side heal faster."

If you're dealing with a sore right shoulder, knock out some single-arm dumbbell bench or shoulder presses on the left side. If you've got a sprained ankle, rest the injured leg behind you on a bench and get some single-leg squat work with the healthy leg.

Always get your trainer's clearance before performing any sort of workout activity when you're dealing with an injury.

Related Exercises

Bench Press
Bent-Over Row
Power Pull
Power Shrug
Squat
Must See
How to Perform the Euro Step With Iman Shumpert
Views: 84,980
Why You Should Never Doubt Colin Kaepernick
Views: 20,481,851
Jadeveon Clowney on Making Big Hits
Views: 5,013,340

Featured Videos

A Day in the Life of NBA D-League Star Seth Curry Views: 69,070
Kevin Love's Cone Hop Basketball Shooting Drill Views: 9,456
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 2: Laying the Groundwork Views: 133,452
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,308,880
What Ryan Hall Eats for Breakfast
Views: 795,300
STACK Fitness Weekly: How To Do a Muscle-Up
Views: 778,676
Greg Nixon's Hill Training Program
Views: 705,782
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,561,942

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Abby Wambach's Soccer Power Workout

Train Like a Pro: MLS Soccer Strength Program

Bicep Curl Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

How to Recover From a Soccer Game or Workout

Get Faster With This Weightlifting Technique

Build a Strong Upper Body With These Landmine Exercises

3 Habits of Highly Successful Coaches

3 Keys to Better Softball Workouts

2 Brutal 10-Minute Workouts That Deliver Serious Results

Train Like a Pro: Baseball Strength Workout Program

8-Exercise Advanced Chest and Back Workout

Add Surprise Sets for a Great Workout Finisher

Kevin Love's In-Season Workout

How to Use the Pallof Press for an Iron Core

Train Like a Pro: Los Angeles Lakers Strength Training Program

Train Like a Pro: Henrik Zetterberg's Hockey Strength Workout

3 Keys to a Solid Squat Setup

Build Muscle With the 2-Second Pause Workout Program

Train Like a Pro: Dustin Pedroia's Baseball Power Workout

Speed Drill of the Day: Weighted Arm Swings

Increase Athletic Strength with Rotational Bodyweight Training

Jump Higher After a Month With These 3 Exercises

The Un-Liftable Inch Dumbbell: Can You Handle Its Challenge?

The 4 Best and Worst Cable Machine Exercises

Tobin Heath's Powerful Leg Workout

3 Reasons Why You Should Do Full-Body Workouts

Build Athletic Strength with the Playground Sandbag Workout

Use Wave Loading to Take Your Strength to the Next Level

The Top 10 Mistakes Athletes Make in the Weight Room

Get Faster to Pitch Harder

3 Tips to Blast Through Training Plateaus

Todd Durkin's Complete Football Strength Training Program

4 Tips for Reducing Deadlift Back Pain

Is It Too Soon for Olympic Lifts?

5 Quick Workout Fixes for Faster Muscle Growth

Build Bulletproof Chest Strength With This Unconventional Method

Not Making Bench Press Gains? Try These Strategies

Train Like a Pro: Julio Jones 3-Day Sandbag Strength Program

Use Sled Pushes to Increase Speed, Strength and Power

How You Can Olympic Lift With an Injury

Paul Rabil's Powerful Rotational Strength Workout

Speed Drill of the Day: Reverse Lunges

Abby Wambach's Strength and Speed Workout

Build Strong Legs with the Leg Press Lockdown Workout

Train Like a Pro: James Harden's Basketball Maintenance Workout