The Right Way to Gain Weight During the Off-Season

Gain weight during the off-season in ways that will improve your on-field performance.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when a football coach tells a player just to gain weight. Players need to understand that they should focus on developing size that will translate to their on-field performance, not simply add pounds.

These days, football players are not just bigger, they're leaner and they carry more power per pound than they used to. As Mark Verstegen, founder of EXOS, said, "They have way less dead weight and they know how to use it."

Gaining Weight for the Sake of Gaining Weight

For high school players, gaining weight for the sake of gaining weight may have some benefits. Say you're a linebacker who weighs 215 pounds and then balloon up to 235, a significant weight gain. This may help you leverage yourself against the big boys; however, if the weight gain isn't performance-based, it will catch up to you, especially in the fourth quarter.

Carrying extra weight to leverage yourself against linemen without increasing your conditioning, power output, and general strength will do you a disservice. If you're worried about dealing with linemen, you should be working with your coaches to learn proper mechanics.

Think about it this way: put on a 10-pound vest and play a full game with it. That extra weight may help you with leverage, but you'll have to work much harder to move.

RELATED: Tips for Healthy Weight Gain

Weight-Room Strength vs. Sports Performance

Let's say by the end of the off-season, your weight room strength has gone up, and your agility, sprint, conditioning and power output has stayed the same. Weight room strength is nice to have, but if your performance numbers have diminished or maintained, then as I coach I've failed you.

Football players need general strength, but they need to be powerful enough to maintain their performance for the whole game. The goal of the off-season is to get better across the board. That means improving your conditioning and overall performance, not just weight room strength.

Remember, the goal isn't to become a powerlifter but to be better on the field.


Strength and weight gains are beneficial, but you must take into account the cost analysis. Eating a dozen doughnuts a day to gain weight will pack on size and strength via excessive calories, but will it help your on-field performance? Probably not. It'll just make you expend more energy for less return versus a leaner player who can generate and sustain his performance level all game.

This is a simple and basic concept, but it seems to be misunderstood every off-season. With that said, here's a simplified general template we suggest:

Weight Gain Diet Plan

  • Eat whole foods. Make sure your plate is colorful. This should help you take in enough vegetables, fruits, good fats and lean meats.
  • Nutrient timing can help you fuel your workouts, sustain your performance and refuel for the next.
  • Pack on the weight slowly. Generally speaking, adding excessive weight quickly is more than likely through fat. Remember, every pound you put on should help your on-field performance. A general rule of thumb is to gain one to two pounds per week.

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