by Team Snapbac
Football is not only a team sport, it’s a full collision sport with a constantly changing field and 22 human variables. It may seem impossible to adequately train for the game when you’re sitting alone in your garage gym, but that’s not entirely true. Pro-players are constantly working on their athletic form and abilities even when the team and the coach are no where to be seen. If you are taking your football career or dreams seriously, then you are working out morning, noon and night, memorizing plays, studying technique and packing in nutrition that keeps your mind and body ready for the game.
When it comes to what you know about your position and the thousands of possible live sport actions and reactions, that training is up to you and your dedication to American football. But when we’re talking about getting your muscles and cardio prepared for next season and all of its training, play, and recovery, that’s something we can help you out with. You don’t need a whole team to get your body in shape and ready to dominate the field. A training partner can be helpful to spot you and provide accountability on those days when you just can’t muster the will power, but they don’t need to be a football player or even an athlete. If you have access to a basic weight room and a pair of sneakers, then you are ready to get in shape at home for try-outs or stay in shape for next season.
Football may not require you to run long distances or for long periods of time, but it will push you past your limits to gain as much ground as possible within five to eight seconds. Once the action grinds to a halt, you have 20 – 30 seconds to recover. If this is how the game is played, then this is how you must train. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be prepared for the occasional 100-yard sprint or half-gasser. Your cardio workouts demand bursts of energy in varied distances for a minimum of 60 minutes. Your average game is a little over three hours, but actual time with movement on the field is clocked in around one hour and hard bursts of energy are even less, but it’s better to be prepared.
There’s nothing wrong with heading out for a three to five mile run in the mornings and keeping a steady pace to manage weight and lung endurance, but this is not football training. You need a routine that will increase your speed, power and rate of contraction. Here are a few football training exercises and at-home drills you should incorporate today.
When you begin, your form is even more important than your speed or endurance. Be sure to have your hands flat, palms facing in towards each other, fingers straight and pointed and your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. You want one hand to go up and come parallel to your ear while the other goes down and is parallel to your glute. They should pump in rhythm with your legs bringing your upper body into the momentum. Your knees and thighs should come up, nearly parallel to the ground with each stride as the opposite foot digs into the earth. You will increase your energy output with intentional force from the foot connected to the ground. Never let your heels touch down. Stay on the balls of your feet!
Start on either sideline and sprint as hard and fast as you can to the other and back again for 106 2/3 yards. This is one rep and you want it under 20 seconds. Now do nine more, each under 20 seconds with 30 – 60 seconds of rest in between. When this starts to feel easy, try to run each rep under 18 seconds with 15 – 30 seconds of rest in between until you can sprint full gassers, sideline to sideline four times for 213 1/3 yards, with each rep under 40 seconds.
Now it’s time to get your muscles burning and lungs heaving with 300-yard shuttles incorporating random changes in direction. Start on the goal line and go as fast and hard as you can for 60 yards, or to the 40-yard line, turn and go back, then go 20 yards and back, 40 yards and finally 30 yards and back. This can be done in any set of increments. To train for live play, have a friend call out the yard line as you begin running. This will start increasing your agility and perfect your acceleration and deceleration. You need to be able to stop, turn and start again as quickly as possible without risking injury to your ankles, knees or spine. Practicing this outside of the game will give you those extra seconds to consider your form until it becomes second nature.
Three-hundred yards is just one rep, and two is the minimum. Be sure to time yourself and take into consideration the more stops and turns you make, the slower your time will be, but with practice even that number will begin to decrease.
To become one with the field, your body needs to know what each yard line feels like, how long it takes you to get between them and the energy you need to run them all. This next drill, when performed in perfect form, will do all of that while conditioning your muscles and cardio. Begin at one of the goal lines and run to each yard line and back, starting at the 10-yard line and back to goal, then to the 20-yard line and back and so on until you’ve made it to the 100-yard line and back. Time yourself with each run and work to beat your initial times. You can give yourself 30 seconds break in between each run and work that number down until you can run it all without stopping.
There are thousands of different ways to build up your lungs, grow accustomed to chemical changes under extreme physical exertion and become a faster runner. Try to change it up regularly, and if you can’t get to the field, use your local park, neighborhood streets or anywhere that you have 100 yards of clear access.
If you’re a lineman, you want to be big, really big. It’s your job to be an impenetrable wall with a Mack truck coming at you. You also need to be strong, but if you’re a running back, wide receiver or the quarterback, then you need lean muscle that packs a wallop but can also accommodate speed and agility. This means that your position on the field is a strong determinant of the type of weight lifting you need to focus on. Timing is also an important component to strength training and a periodized workout program that breaks up your year into early pre-season, late pre-season, in-season, and off-season is important to reduce your risk of injury, over-training and burn-out.
Early pre-season, you will be focusing on your aerobic endurance in the weight room, building bulk and functional strength like grip and core. During late pre-season training, you will turn to more focused strength building, maximum power and an anaerobic approach to weights. During in-season, you do not want to push your limits, so it will be better to maintain your strength, power and size and modify free exercise times according to team training. Off-season workouts are just as important because this is when your body gets a much needed rest and can recover from any latent injuries or pains. You still need to keep up with light activity and try not to lose much of your aerobic conditioning. This is a great time for cross-training and dabbling in other physical activities.
To build up your upper body, work with flat and inclined bench presses, inclined dumbbell presses, rows, shrugs, military presses, weighted chins, weighted dips, clean and jerk and snatch. Depending on your position and your weight goals, you will modify low- and high-weight and low- and high-reps.
For strength training without size that incorporates endurance, you want to lift heavy and fast. This activates your fast-twitch muscle fibers allowing for quick strength training. You want to lift your maximum weight as explosively as possible, think speed lifts, to develop acceleration and power, and to avoid too much bulk, simply lower your reps and increase your rest time in between sets.
If you need size and bulk, you will be spending more time in the weight room and increasing your weight. You will want to pump to the point of failure and decrease your rest time in between sets. You can also take it slow and steady!
To build up your lower body and work out your legs, squats and box jumps can be your best friend. Front squats, weighted squats, static box jumps, depth drop to box jump and any other variation will get you sweating. Remember strength training needs resistance too, so work with deadlifts, weighted leg curls, calf raises and the classic leg press.
Take a day to focus on your full body strength with an emphasis on your core. Push press, power cleans, snatches, abdominals, standing and laying down medicine ball chest toss, chin-up bar leg raise,
Training days should be alternated upper body strength, lower body strength, full body strength, plyometrics, cardio and agility and flexibility with a day of rest.
NFL and the yoga mat are rarely thought of at the same time, and yet this ancient practice of aligning body with breath while developing patience and flexibility is gaining ground for its benefits on and off the football field. It hasn’t become quite common place, but Brandon Marshall of the Seattle Seahawks, Sam Darnold of the New York Jets, Vernon Davis of the Washington Redskins, Steven Hauschka of the Buffalo Bills and former Giants receiver Victor Cruz have all made it a regular part of their training. Coaches of the Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, and Cleveland Browns have all integrated yoga into their team practice. The Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, the Giants, and New Orleans Saints already offer yoga training on recovery days. These pro-players and teams have the upper hand when it comes to reducing the risk of injury, enhancing focus, discipline and balance and building joint integrity.
When muscles are over-trained or injured, they begin to knot up and become denser as a form of self-protection. This is where cold stretching in a yoga series could actually lead to long-term length and when practiced regularly, it can prevent over-conditioning and muscle damage. If you’re not quite ready to attend a Vinyasa flow class, you can start by getting a foam roller to work out your tight muscles and a stability ball for core support during stretches. To loosen tight lateral hamstrings, lie on the ball to reinforce the natural curve of your spine and restrict movement in your lower back. Then extend your legs up a wall keeping your ankles and big toes together. Once you feel your hamstrings loosening up, begin separating your legs into a ‘V’ position stretching out your hip adductors. As you grow comfortable with slow, intentional static stretches, it’s time to bring in a professional instructor. Begin with Hatha yoga to learn form and breathing while holding basic poses to develop strength and flexibility. If you are nursing an injury or over-worked muscles, try out Iyengar yoga. When you no longer feel challenged, you are ready for Ashtanga or Vinyasa which both work through athletically challenging flow sequences that demand precision, form and control. Lastly, if you like the heat, try a Bikram class. This may feel easier as there are only 26 postures to learn and each class runs through the sequence twice in a heated room around 105 degrees with 40% humidity.
There are other forms of training that we didn’t dive into like plyometrics, skill and technique practice based on your position, cross-training, anaerobic vs. aerobic conditioning, footwork, ladders and shuffles and so much more. This will give you a good place to start with your at-home football workouts, but remember to always mix it up and if you’re serious about playing, get a personal trainer.