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       Fitness Tips For 11/10/2004           

Football Fitness Training
By Greg Sushinsky

     So you want to make the team?  You’ve seen the others out on the 
field on crisp, cool, autumn nights, clashing in their one hundred 
yard pit, and you want some of this.  You want to be a part of this—you 
need to be a part of it—and if someone has to ask you why, well, they 
just don’t understand.  Oh, you’ve got it bad.  You want to make the 

     The good news is you can.  These guys are—or were, at one time—just 
like you.  But maybe you’re thinking, "ah, I’m not like them.  I’m not 
good enough."  Stop!  Don’t think that.  Maybe you’re not as good as 
they are right now, but the good news is you can do something—maybe an 
awful lot—about it.  Whether athletes are born or made is not as 
important as the reality that you can always put in the effort to get 
better, you can improve.  The good news is you can work at it, and 
that good news can pay off.  

     Where you are right now, you’re not quite sure how to proceed.  
You know what you want, but you don’t know how to get there.   You’ve 
not played organized football, and you know you need to work on some 
things before you can even try out for the team.  You’ve played sports 
informally, but you haven’t lifted weights and you can tell that 
strength is one of the things you need for football, and you’d feel a 
lot better about trying out if you could get stronger, for sure, and 
maybe bigger, too.  So how does a beginner start?

    First of  all, it’s important to know that football is a game of 
many aspects and necessary abilities:  speed, quickness, agility, 
balance, strength (more precisely, explosive power), sometimes size, 
aggression, the willingness to hit along with the ability to tolerate 
being hit, and not least important, significant skills and specific 
techniques, as well as the more elusive quality, a feel for the game.  
That sounds like a lot, and it is.  The list isn’t even exhaustive.  
We can add attitude, or temperament, which influences how you apply 
all these other things, how you work at things, and we are getting 
close to a more comprehensive picture.   But don’t be intimidated.  
Most players, even the pros (some all-pros, too) don’t have all these 
abilities in abundance, and again, the best news is that you can work 
at many of these things and make substantial improvements.  

     We’re going to work on one aspect of football that is often most 
lacking (other than game and/or practice experience)—even greatly s
o—among beginners, and that is strength.   Basic body strength.  This 
is where weight-training can be extremely beneficial.   Again, this 
is not the only thing a beginner should work on, and it should be 
integrated into a total training program, but that’s what we’re 
going to focus on here.  Why?  Because this is where some of the 
most dramatic progress is possible, especially for a newcomer.

     At this point, you may be confused.  There are so many things 
you’ve heard about:  explosive training, chain and band training, 
plyometrics, and so on.  And many coaches or trainers will put you 
right into their complex programs from the beginning.  But what 
we’re talking about here is someone who is not yet physically 
developed, who needs the basic foundation for possibly pursuing 
those more advanced (and sometimes controversial) training methods.  
So, let’s break it down.  What do you need the most to start playing 
football?  Two things.  Speed and strength.  If you hear coaches talk, 
whether they are high school or pro coaches, it comes down to these 
attributes.  They’ll sometimes talk around these things, but if you 
break it down, that’s what they mean.  You’ve got to be quick enough, 
fast enough to get from one place to another on the field before your 
opponent, and when you get there, you have to be able to deliver or 
absorb a hit.  And yes, strength plus speed equals power, so let’s 
begin developing strength and speed.

Basic Training

    Before weight-training, you should do a program of basic physical 
training.  This is so important, so often neglected, for any athlete, 
but it can help your football and your later weight training enormously.  
For speed, sprint.  For strength, we’ll do bodyweight exercises.  
Again, coaches and trainers of advanced athletes would say you have to 
do things beyond sprinting to help speed, and some would say bodyweight 
exercises are not sufficiently challenging to develop the kind of 
strength we need here.  But keep in mind these are beginning athletes.  
Sprinting itself, if an athlete has not been on any kind of a program 
for speed, will help bring out the athlete’s latent abilities—you might 
say it will express their speed, same with bodyweight exercises 
regarding strength.  (Advanced athletes, also,  can incorporate these, 
of course, into their more complex programs.)  Some football greats 
have largely developed and honed their speed and strength via sprinting 
and bodyweight resistance exercise.  Herschel Walker comes to mind, 
there are others.

     The purpose of this article, though,  is to get to the 
weight-training, so we’ll cover the bodyweight exercises (calisthenics) 
and sprinting only briefly.  But again, it doesn’t mean they’re not 
important.  Train the bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, 
pullups/chins, bodyweight squats, calfraises, dips, three 
non-consecutive days a week.  Repetitions and sets are up to you.  
Start with a half-hour total for each workout, then work up to an hour 
or even more if you can.  You need to develop the repeated ability 
(stamina/endurance) to do these physical tasks, and it will help you 
develop the ability to get through football practices as well.  Either 
on three other days or after your bodyweight exercises, do a series of 
sprints.  You can include sprints various distances, such as forty yards, 
twenty yards, one hundred yards.  You need to ease into the program with 
both the amount of sprints and the rest times between these.  As you are 
new to this, you will be surprised at the fatigue this creates.  But as 
you build up to it, you will handle it better and you’ll make progress 
in your speed.  Do no long distance running on this program, although 
you may occasionally run up to a mile; occasional quarter-miles or 
220’s might suit you better.  But emphasize the football distances, the 
shorter sprints.  You will be surprised at how much even a 5 to 15
minute workout will help you at this stage of your development.  
You may make dramatic progress in speed and stamina just from these 
workouts.  Keep up this program for at least six weeks; twelve might 
be better.

Beginning Weight Training

     At this point you are ready to tackle the weights.  You don’t, 
however, want to jump into a strength/power program yet, as 
weight-training can stress the body very differently than even your 
basic bodyweight exercises.  Instead, begin with the general whole body 
workout for eight-twelve repetitions.  Coaches who criticize this as a 
“bodybuilding workout” (the ultimate insult in their minds), fail to 
understand (or have forgotten) how this actually contributes to the 
physical foundation and acclimating a novice athlete’s joints, muscles 
and bones to the stress of weight-training.

     Exercise:  Bench Press, Front (a.k.a. Military) Press, Rows, 
(Curls, Tricep Extensions—these two optional), Squats, Calfraise, (Ab 
work optional).  At this point, do one to three sets; this is the basic 
type of workout that has worked for so many athletes in so many sports.  
This workout replaces the bodyweight exercises for now, but keep up your 
sprinting, though you should vary your distances so as not to get stale 
and to try to continue to develop your speed.  In both the sprints and 
the weight-training, don’t train to failure.  Several minutes of 
all-out sprinting intervals at this stage of development may retard 
progress and result in overtraining.  Twelve weeks is a good time frame 
for this program.

Football Workout Schedule

     In our initial weight-training program, you should have gained 
some strength and muscle mass, though the program’s real value for the 
aspiring football player is that it will prepare him for this next 
stage:  the acquisition of significant strength, along with some 
additional muscle mass.

     Here, we’ll work differently, as the program shifts from medium 
repetitions to lower repetitions, with even more focus on the main 
strength exercises.  Strengthening the legs, hips, back and shoulders 
will also contribute to the resistance to injury when football camp 
with contact begins.  Each muscle group will be worked twice a week 
instead of three times, which allows for higher poundages to be used.

      Monday, Thursday (Chest, Shoulders, Arms)
      Bench Press 3 to 5 sets, 6-5 reps
     Front/Military Press 2 sets, 6-5 reps
      Close Grip Benches 2 sets, 6-5 reps
      Curls 2 sets, 6-5 reps

     Tuesday, Friday (Thighs, Calves, Back)
     Squats 3 to 5 sets, 6-5 reps
     Front Squats 2 sets, 6-5 reps
     Calfraise 2 sets, 15-20 reps
     Deadlifts 2 to 4 sets, 8-6 reps  (Tuesdays only; Fridays do Rows, 
     2 to 4 sets, 6-5 reps)  
   If you have done some weight training for one or two years, you can 
progress to the next workout, which is similar to the previous one but 
uses even lower reps and heavier weights and uses an additional set or 
two in each exercise:  

      Monday, Thursday (Chest, Shoulders, Arms)
     Bench Press 4 to 6 sets, 8 repetitions down to 3, increasing weight
     Front/Military Press 2-3 sets, 8-5 reps
     Close Grip Bench 2-3 sets, 8-5 reps
     Curls 2-3 sets, 8-5 reps
     Tuesday, Friday (Legs & Back)
     Squats 4 to 6 sets, 8 repetitions down to 3, increasing weight
     Front Squats 2-3 sets, 8-5 reps
     Leg Curls 2-3 sets, 8-12 reps
     Calfraise 2-3 sets, 10-15 reps
     Deadlifts 3-5 sets, 8-5 reps  (Tuesdays only, Fridays do Rows, 3-5 
     sets, 8-3 reps)     

     Every three or four weeks you can attempt a single, either a 
personal record or maximum in the bench, squat or deadlift.  Your first 
two workouts of the week should be your heavier ones, while you should 
use less weight in the other two, which will be the second time in the 
week you work each lift/muscle group.  Don’t train to failure on these 
programs; the heavy weight will be taxing enough.  Keep something in 
reserve; just keep progressing.  As always, train with good form and 
train safely.  Have spotters or safety racks.  Include warm ups and 
stretching of course.  If any program is too much for your level of 
development or work capacity, back off and try to work up to it.  
Gradual progression is much-maligned these days, but there is still 
a large place for working up to something as opposed to jumping in 
without sufficient preparation).  Long-term progress will be better 
this way, and you’ll have the foundation to go on to more advanced 
programs for football weight-training should you need or require 

     In the last two programs, the four-day lifting programs, you 
should continue your sprinting, apart from your weight-training.  
Either the same or other days is fine, whatever way is realistic for 
you to do and for your body to take.  You should also, in these two 
programs, include some of the direct conditioning, or skill, 
technique and agility drills which your team, coach or off-season 
employs.  And if your team or school has a strength and conditioning 
coach, better still.  You will, of course, and should, follow their 
program or check with them.  There are many good strength coaches 
and programs as knowledge is more available and shared than ever 
before.  If you are on your own and your school, team or program 
doesn’t have a strength coach (or even an off-season program), then 
these weight-training workouts can help you. 

A Combination Program

     Here’s a program for someone who wants to both increase 
strength and gain weight at the same time.  Keep in mind that 
although it is possible to gain muscle mass/weight on the low reps 
program (using as few as three reps), the five to six rep program 
provides a better combination of muscle and strength.  The 
following workout is another way of achieving strength and 
muscle/weight gains by dividing the tasks a bit more.

     In it, you’ll work the bigger lifts (bench, squat, deadlift) 
once a week in a strength workout, with those corresponding 
main muscle groups worked another time in more of a muscle 
mass/hypertrophy workout.   The workout is three days a week.

     Monday (Strength: Chest/Shoulders, Arms)
     Bench Press 4-6 sets 8-3 reps
     Close Grip Bench 2-3 sets 8-5 reps
     Curls 2-3 sets 8-5 reps
    Wednesday (Muscle Mass:  Whole Body)
    Inclines (or Front Press, not both) 2-3 sets 8-12 reps
    Pullups 2-3 sets 8-12 reps
    Curls 1-2 sets 8-12 reps
    Ly. Tri. Ext. 1-2 sets 8-12 reps
    Front Squat (or Hack Squat, not both) 2-3 sets 8-12 reps
    Calfraise (high block, no weight) 1 set of 50-100 reps
    Ab work optional/if it interferes with your trying to 
    gain weight, leave it out

    Friday (Strength:  Legs & Back)
     Squat 4-6 sets 8-3 reps
     Leg Curls 2 sets 8-12 reps
     Calfraise 2 sets 10-15 reps
     Deadlifts 3-5 sets  8-5 reps (Rows 3-5 sets, 8-5 reps 
     every other week)

     This is a good combination workout which should increase 
muscle mass and strength, as many beginning players must do.   
Keep up your additional sprint/football drills—whatever work you 
need to do in that department and can recover from.  As for 
nutrition, if you eat enough and eat right, you should be able 
to gain weight and the muscle mass you need.   For many, who 
either play another sport or work an after-school job or a 
summer job—whatever other commitments you have, it is often more 
challenging to eat sufficient calories and nutritious food even 
more than it is to make it to and through your workouts.  Try to 
eat well, though, and try to eat good protein sources such as 
beef, fish, chicken, etc., milk is good if you can digest it, 
carbohydrates in the way of potatoes, pasta, rice, etc., fresh 
vegetables and fruits and so on are all good.  Don’t load up on 
junk, and you needn’t use many supplements, though protein 
drinks are good (not as good as real food, perhaps) meal 
replacements and protein/energy bars less so, but eat 
something instead of nothing, even if it is at times less 
than ideal if you are trying to gain the weight. 

     In any or all of the workouts, try not to substitute 
exercises from those listed and try to work up to the full 
workout.  Though one acceptable common substitution can be 
power cleans for deadlifts.  Some coaches decry one or both of 
these exercises, but they are great for aspiring football 
players.  Also, if you have to cut back on the workouts, 
though, do so; energy and recovery are at a premium, and the 
idea is to make the workouts effective, to have you strong, 
fresh and energetic when your football training camp begins. 
     This series of workouts should be able to take you from 
being a complete novice regarding weight training for football, 
to a stage where you are stronger and competitive enough to be 
able to develop and display the other football skills you need.  
Naturally, an experienced high school player, or college 
lineman or pro linebacker or defensive back with five or ten 
years experience is going to have different needs, and for them 
a different, more specific program is no doubt necessary.  But 
the principles are the same which direct the construction of 
these workouts:  to become bigger (if needed), faster, and 
stronger.  And these workouts should begin to take care of the 
“stronger” part.

     Work hard in these weight training workouts.  Push yourself.  
Develop a strong attitude to conquer the weights.  Make them do 
your bidding.  Football is a sport that requires a strong attitude, 
and the toughness to surmount obstacles.  Your weight workouts 
can help develop or reinforce that attitude.  You can handle the 
workouts.And remember those cool fall nights?  You still want 
to be a part of that.  With your strong mind and strong body, 
you can do it, you can make the team.
Who is the author & why should you listen to what he has to say?

Greg Sushinsky began as a stick-figure tall, skinny, 5’11" 
133-pounder, & tried the conventional training & hard gainer 
training of the time, which didn’t work.  When he developed his 
own methods of training & eating, he eventually put on nearly 
100 pounds of mostly muscle, using natural methods.  He was able 
to powerlift & bodybuild, & continued his research on any and 
all methods that worked not just for him, but for other 
hard gainers. He is a much sought after writer & continues to 
train & teach his innovative principles today.
Click Here To Visit His Website   
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