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Get Football Strong

June 8, 2012

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Football is a combative sport, one that requires a great deal of strength, toughness and discipline to play at the highest levels. To be successful, you need to understand that football strength is demonstrated between the sidelines, not in the weight room.

If you are a serious player, forget about becoming a powerlifting champ or a muscle magazine cover model. Lifting maximum weight for a select few exercises will not prepare you for the game; nor will hours spent in the gym pumping iron in hopes of gaining pounds of muscle. Learn how to build strength with the goal of becoming a better athlete.

Injury Prevention

Train your body to withstand high-impact collisions with a full-body strength program. When selecting exercises, focus on core lifts such as the Bench Press, Squat, Deadlift and Pull-Ups. Also, include exercises that build the neck and traps (more on this below), hamstrings, quads, calves, groin, glutes, chest, back (upper and lower), abs and grip.

Learn more about building muscle to prevent injury.

Progressive and Competitive

Your strength-training program should be competitive, but you’re not competing with teammates or opponents. You’re competing with yourself. Throughout every exercise, try to lift more weight or perform more repetitions than the time before. You’ll develop maximum strength when you enter the weight room with an attacking mindset of "one more rep."


Football success is not given. It's earned. Hold yourself to a high standard and do the little things well. Maintaining a workout log with a list of exercises, seat settings and previous weights lifted will go a long way toward keeping you focused. Make sure to perform the small exercises—like neck exercises—with the same focus and intensity as your core lifts. Become a champion by paying attention to detail.

Brain Protection

Head contact is a fact of life for football players. Although rules and equipment are designed to keep you safe, you need to protect your head by training your neck and traps. Perform neck and trap training at the beginning of your program, keep accurate records and strive for strength improvements to keep yourself off the injured list.

Neck and Trap Routine

4-Way Neck

  • Sit on bench looking straight ahead with upright posture
  • Perform neck extension, flexion, lateral flexion (right and left) against resistance for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 1x12-15 each direction

Single-Arm Seated Dumbbell Shrugs

  • Sit on bench holding dumbbell at side with elbow straight but not locked
  • Shrug shoulder
  • Slowly relax shoulder to lower dumbbell
  • Repeat for specified reps; perform set with opposite arm

Sets/Reps: 2x12-15 each arm

Dumbbell Shrugs

  • Assume athletic stance holding dumbbells at side with elbows straight but not locked
  • Shrug shoulders
  • Slowly relax shoulders to lower dumbbells
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2x12-15

Dumbbell Row

  • Bend at waist until torso is parallel to floor
  • Keep core tight with knees slightly bent
  • Hold dumbbells hanging down with slight bend in elbows
  • Pull dumbbells up until elbows are level with torso
  • Lower to starting position; repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 8-10

Check out our Football Workout guide to customize your own summer football training.

Douglas Scott
- Douglas Scott, CSCS, has been a member of the faculty at Pingry School (Martinsville, N.J.) since 1999, serving both as a teacher and coach. Currently...
Douglas Scott
- Douglas Scott, CSCS, has been a member of the faculty at Pingry School (Martinsville, N.J.) since 1999, serving both as a teacher and coach. Currently...
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