We’re 4 weeks into our high school football season and I’ve already lost 8 pounds! I feel like I’m getting weaker also. What can I do? I only have time to lift about 2 days a week. Is this enough? I’m having a good year so far but if I continue to lose strength and weight, I think my performance will suffer at the end of the year.
You are experiencing a common problem. Most athletes gain size and strength in the off-season only to see their gains disappear when it really counts. I always ask my football players, “What good is it to be big, strong and fast in May, if you are going to let yourself get small, weak and slow in November?” This question usually helps them realize the importance of a properly designed in-season strength & conditioning program.
It is appropriate that you said that you’ve lost 8 lbs. and that you feel like you’re “getting weaker also”. I say this because the #1 limiting factor in maintaining your strength during the season is your ability to maintain your bodyweight. If you lose weight during the season, chances are your strength will be lost as well. Basically, the best way to maintain your strength during the season is to maintain your muscle mass. The in-season programs I design for my high school football players keep this in mind.
You also mentioned that you could only lift 2 days a week. The good news is that’s all you need! I think one of the reasons that high school kids give up on their in-season strength training is because they set unrealistic training goals. They say that they’re going to lift everyday and then when they don’t have time, they get frustrated and quit training all together. Remember that you now have to go to school, football practice and meetings. All three of these are of utmost importance. So we must set realistic goals.
You must know that you can maintain your size and strength by lifting only 2 days a week. I feel the best way to go about this is to lift the day after the game (usually Sunday) and then again mid-week. The day after the game I would focus mostly on muscle mass maintenance. Warm-up and then perform 2 work sets of 6-10 reps for all the major muscle groups of your body. This workout will help you recover from your game as well as prevent muscle mass loss. A sample workout is as follows:
A. Barbell Squats – 2 sets of 8-10
B. Flat Dumbell Bench Press – 2 sets of 8-10
C. Chin-ups – 2 sets of max reps
D. Standing lateral raises – 2 sets of 8-10
E. Dumbell Curls – 2 sets of 8-10
F. Swiss ball crunches – 2 sets of 25
*After you warm-up, this workout shouldn’t take you longer than 35 min.
You would perform your “explosive” lift(s) during the second workout of the week. This is the day you can also work on your “weak links” (usually upper back/external rotators). Here’s a sample workout for Tuesday or Wednesday:
A. Hang Cleans – 3 sets of 3
A. Box Squats with chains (50-60% of 1RM) – 6 sets of 2
B. Reverse Hyperextensions – 2 sets of 10
C. Bent-over Dumbell Rows – 2 sets of 8 each arm
D. Cable external rotation – 2 sets of 12 each arm
E. Abs (choice)
Hope these guidelines help.
What is your opinion on training with isokinetic machines to improve power output? I’ve been reading a lot about one particular isokinetic machine that a lot of pro athletes are using. Have you ever used isokinetic machines with your athletes?
Yes, I’ve experimented with isokinetic machines. And no, I don’t think that they are the best things for improving an athlete’s power output. You see, isokinetic machines maintain a constant speed no matter how much force an athlete generates. For an athlete to express power he would need to accelerate the weight! That is why I like the use of chains draped over the bar for this purpose. You can still accelerate the weight.
It is also important to know that just because a pro athlete is doing something, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best thing for you. Many pro athletes have made it despite of what they’ve done, NOT because of what they’ve done.
I’m an 8th grader who didn’t make weight for football this year. I’m not fat. I just grew taller this year and put on weight. I love football and I’m going to dedicate this entire year to training. I have a chance to be the starting running back next year for the high school varsity. I’ve been lifting with my dad 3 times a week, but I need to get faster also. How many days a week should I start running? I’m also not flexible at all. Should I stretch every day? Thanks for your help. I love this website. I look forward to coming home from school every Friday and checking out the new info.
A: : Robby,
You sound like a dedicated kid. I’m assuming you’re also a good athlete, considering you might be starting on the varsity as a freshman. You seem to be on the right track. A proper strength-training program is of utmost importance for you at this point. Check out my article, “Why is Strength Training Important for Athletes?” in the articles section of this website. You will learn that strength training will help you with a lot more than just strength!
I’d love to help you out. When I was your age, I was doing the same things you are. My life revolved around football and I was training with my dad as well. So here’s my advice with regards to speed-training guidelines:
If you are lifting 3 days a week, I would recommend only running 2 days per week. I’m assuming that you will probably get tested in the 40-yard dash during your high school football camp. This is (unfortunately) how most high school coaches measure speed. My advice to you would be to keep your sprinting distances shorter than 40 yards during this time of year. The only time you have to exceed this distance is about 4-6 weeks before you go to camp. At this point, anything over that distance isn’t a speed session; it’s an endurance session. And there’s no need to build speed endurance before you have built any speed! Always start your speed sessions with a dynamic warm-up and then work on your football stance and start, 10 & 20 yard sprints and explosive lateral movements. You can split these things up over the 2 speed workouts. And get strong in the weight room!
Also, spend at least 20 minutes working on flexibility 3X a week. Top priority should be given to your hip flexors, gluteals, hamstrings, adductors and quads. After a couple of weeks, bump the flexibility up to 5X a week. Remember that in order to become more flexible, you must TRAIN for flexibility! So take it seriously.
I read in one of your posts that you said the number one muscle to get strong for bench-pressing heavy weights is your triceps. I have to admit that I am obsessed with my bench press. Although I don’t play any sports, I was wondering if you could help a 17-year-old kid who just wants to bench a lot to impress his friends. My bench stinks and the only direct tricep work that I do is 4 sets of tricep pushdowns after my chest workout (I know you’re going to make fun of me). I alternate between the rope, straight bar, “V” bar and E-Z bar when I do the pushdowns. Please help!
Thanks for boring me with all the different bars you use when performing tricep pushdowns. That was really valuable information. You should write a book, “Why I Can’t Bench Press 2 Wet Socks”, by Nick. All right, I got it out of my system. Now I’ll help you.
First things first - memorize the following
equation: Weak Triceps = Weak Bench.
Once you memorize that equation, you’re half way there. Now that we know the importance of tricep strength, we must get them strong. Below is a list of my 5 favorite triceps exercises for developing freaky tricep strength. Try performing one of them as the first exercise on your “chest” day. Multiple sets of low reps is the best way to get strong. Try performing 4-5 sets of 1-5 reps. Alternate these exercises every 2 weeks. DON’T perform any regular barbell bench presses during this time. After 8-10 weeks, test your bench press. You’re going to be amazed at how much stronger you will be without having benched!
#1 – Rack lockouts
#2 – Weighted dips
#3 – 14” grip board presses
#4 – Olympic bar skull crushers
#5 – Decline dumbell tricep extensions
Male models love biceps, meatheads love
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