It can be tough to make time for in-season workouts. Grueling practices and long film sessions can take a lot out of you. But in-season workouts are essential for keeping your body functioning at a high level.
About 80 percent of the NFL, college and high school football players we work with tend to neglect their in-season training. Most (if not all) football players go through a hard strength and conditioning program from June through August, and they tend to get into their best shape of the year for Week 1. Week 1 is obviously important, but if you can keep your power output high all season, you will reap the benefits in the playoffs.
Here are 5 strategies to vastly improve your strength and speed as the season goes on. They can help prevent injuries as your body fights through the physical and mental stress of the season:
1. Focus on concentric movements in your in-season workouts
The concentric portion of the exercise is when the muscle is shortened—for example, the press portion of the Bench Press. By focusing on that portion, you can limit soreness while still training for power and strength.
The muscle lengthens in the eccentric portion of the exercise—for example, lowering the bar during the Bench Press. During this portion of the exercise, there is more damage to muscle fibers, which can lead to increased soreness. Damaged muscles have an impaired ability to work at full capacity and can lead to submaximal performance.
Other benefits of concentric-only training: it can excite the nervous system to increase muscular activity and promote nutrient utilization within the muscle, which can help in post-training or post-competition recovery.
The above video features some concentric-dominant exercise options for your in-season workouts.
2. Go through an extensive mobility session every day
When you increase the range of motion of your joints, your body functions more efficiently and healthily.
3. When conditioning, train the energy system that is used in your sport
If you are a lineman, short explosive Sled Pushes with 20 to 40 seconds rest make more sense than down blocking and running. Tempo runs are a great asset for skill position players, and a bodyweight movement circuit can be a tempo alternative for linemen to aid with recovery and take stress off of their joints.
4. Lift heavy, but not too heavy
Too many times, athletes in-season refer to training as "maintenance." To perform at your highest level, you need to be training hard during the season. By keeping reps in the 4-8 range on most multi-joint movements, you will stay strong all season long. There aren't many potential benefits in testing your 1RM or training to failure during the season. Both of those strategies may tax your central nervous system too much.
5. Hydration and Nutrition
It is in your best interest to fuel your body well during the season, especially when you are both competing and training hard in the weight room. Waking up and eating breakfast, hydrating properly and consuming the right foods on a daily basis are vital for maintaining strength, speed and optimal body weight—and for preventing injuries.