How to Train the Muscles You Need For Football Season

Be more explosive on the football field this year by learning the best muscles to train for football season and the best exercises to train them.

Michael Johnson

With weekends featuring Friday Night Lights and games all the way to Sunday afternoon, fall is an exciting and fun time. But football athletes know that preparing for game day starts well before toe meets leather.

Football is a game of strength and power built with off-season weight room workouts. But there should be more to these routines than the Bench Press, Squat and Power Clean. When developing workouts for football, strength coaches need to work on building up the neck; prescribe explosive exercises; employ single leg training; and incorporate the posterior chain. Here's a brief overview of why.

Neck Training

Neck training has become popular lately, and for a good reason. Strong neck muscles prevent concussions and reduce the impact from contact to the head during games. Exercises that strengthen the neck are Manual Resistance Flexion, Extension and Lateral, done with a partner and a neck machine. Shoulder Shrugs are also important, because they help protect the traps and a nerve known as the brachial plexus. Improving strength in this nerve helps with stingers.


Explosiveness is built through triple extension—i.e., achieving a full extension of the ankles, knees and hips. The Clean Pull from the hang position is a great training tool for football, because it promotes a triple extension from a position similar to one required of a linebacker on the field. This movement is known as the second pull phase of the Power Clean. It creates the greatest vertical ground reaction force. Easy to master and even easier to teach, this exercise is safer than an actual Hang Clean.

Single-Leg Strength

Single-Leg Training

Very rarely during a game do players pull strength from both legs at the same time. This is what makes training single-leg strength so significant. Single leg strength is beneficial for sprinting, cutting, planting and landing. Training on one leg also builds core strength. Every strength coach in the world realizes how important the core is for athletes. When implementing single leg exercises in your program, use Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squats, Single-Leg Box Squats, Step-Ups and Lunges in different planes. (Learn more about training single-leg strength)

Posterior Chain

The posterior chain is better known as the backside of the body. It includes the lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves. If trained properly, the posterior chain can be a real game changer. These muscles facilitate explosiveness, so they're of major importance to overall body strength. It doesn't matter how strong the front side of the body is if the backside is not of equal or greater strength. Exercises to develop the posterior chain include Reverse Hypers, Back Extensions, Glute Ham Raises, Glute Bridge variations and Slide Board Leg Curls.

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