The goal of functional training is to make athletes better at the sports they play. You don’t just work out to get stronger, faster and more explosive—you work out to get stronger, faster and more explosive in ways that make you a better player. Tweaking your training to more accurately reflect the movements and patterns of your sport is a great idea for any athlete. But this type of training might be especially useful for football players.
Urban Meyer preaches to his players that success in football is all about “4 to 6 seconds of relentless effort.” That’s the duration of an average football play, and if you’re able to give 4 to 6 seconds of all-out effort each play, you will put yourself in a position to be successful.
Many trainers have adapted the idea of “4 to 6 seconds of relentless effort” and incorporated it into the way they train football players. The idea is that you need to train like you play. By breaking up high-intensity exercises to mimic a football game, you will train the physical and mental abilities and attributes it takes to give 100 percent effort on every play.
Aaron Bonaccorsy is a sports performance coach at the STACK Velocity Sports Performance Center in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He has trained pro players like Bradley Fletcher, Roc Carmichael, Michael Bamiro and several high-level collegiate players. Bonaccorsy embraces the “6 seconds of effort” philosophy when training his players.
STACK caught up with Bonaccorsy to find out more about this style of training and to show how you can incorporate it into your routine.
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Feel the Flow
The basic idea behind “6 seconds of effort” training is to mimic a football game as much as possible without actually playing one.
“The whole thought process behind it is that an average football play is between 4 and 7 seconds. The average rest time between plays is about 32 seconds. It’s all built around that,” Bonaccorsy says. “A maximal-effort exercise for anything from 4 to 7 seconds, and roughly a 30-second rest after that. It’s exactly like the flow of a football game.”
Instead of arbitrarily assigning set training and rest intervals, Bonaccorsy uses the ones that naturally occur in a football game. He also breaks sets into “series” and builds in breaks between “quarters.”
“One series is a set of four reps of a certain drill or exercise, and I set it up so that there are four series in a quarter and four total quarters,” Bonaccorsy says.
To further customize the training to the players, Bonaccorsy asks different positional players to perform different drills or exercises. A defensive back won’t be blocking for 6 straight seconds on a play, so why have him do that in training? Instead, Bonaccorsy might have him quickly push against resistance (such as he would in press coverage), then sprint 20 yards. “It’s all about mimicking what they’re going to do on the field. You want to mimic as close as you can to what they’re doing on the field without changing their movements,” Bonaccorsy says.
This type of training should only be done with on-field agility, speed, conditioning and positional work. Doing high-intensity reps as quickly as possible with short rest breaks is not a good idea for weight room work. Bonaccorsy says, “You wouldn’t want to do Hang Cleans in this type of interval or anything like that. I don’t think that’s a smart thing to do.”
Put It to the Test
Here are some exercises you can perform following this method. These are just the basics. Feel free to get creative and insert your own drills that mirror what you do during games. You can also throw on a weighted vest toward the end of your workout to mimic fourth quarter fatigue—a technique Bonaccorsy often uses with his players.
All drills/exercises are performed for 4- to 7-second intervals followed by roughly 30 seconds of rest.
- Tire Battles (player grabs one side of tire and a partner grabs the other. Each tries to pull the tire toward himself as far as possible)
- Tire Flips (as many as possible within 4-7 seconds)
- Prowler Pushes (as far as possible within 4-7 seconds)
- Short Sprint and Shuffles (sprint 5-10 yards and shuffle until interval is over)
- Battle Ropes (full intensity for 4-7 seconds)
- Resisted Kick Slides
- Tire Jam to Sprint (player grabs one side of tire and a partner grabs the other. Both players try to push the tire toward the other as far as possible)
- Rope Pull to Sled Push (pull a sled toward yourself for 2-3 seconds, then push it as far as possible until interval is over)
- Tuck Jumps (as many reps as possible within 4-7 seconds)
- Med Ball Slams to Sprint (3-4 reps followed by 10-yard sprint)
- Resisted Sprints (20-60 yards)
- Resisted Shuffles (15-30 yards)
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