Football weight training programs are unique animals.
You need to prepare your athletes for the physical rigors of the sport while at the same time making sure you don’t overwork them.
This is a topic that our CEO, Carl Hardwick, is familiar with, having played for Saint Mary’s University.
After years of owning gyms, coaching functional fitness athletes, and creating coaching education, Hardwick now understands how to create an effective weight training program while keeping your athletes fresh for their games.
How to Periodize Football Weight Training Programs
What is Periodization?
Periodization is planning blocks of time as phases of work. These blocks include periods of accumulation, intensification, pre-competition, competition, and deloading.
For football athletes, this means laying out what time of year you will focus on different characteristics in your weight training program, to align with the competitive season.
This article will break down how to write out a football weight training program following the periodization method taught in the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program.
Step 1) Accumulation
This phase is about building the base for the season to come. The main focus of this phase is building volume, skills, and technical ability.
Accumulation is very physically demanding, so put it as far away from the normal season as possible. In a typical football season, accumulation takes place in the spring and summer.
This phase looks nothing like the sport and will include a greater emphasis on the weight room. The focus of accumulation will depend on the weaknesses that each athlete needs to develop. They may include building absolute strength, filling in any characteristic flaws, and developing reaction time under fatigue.
Step 2) Intensification
The next step in the program is intensification. The focus here is decreasing the volume of training and increasing intensity.
This phase takes place just before training camp. The athletes are training both in the weight room and on the field.
(Free Resource: Learn how to alter volume and intensity in your training programs with this free download.)
The goal of intensification is to refine what the athletes are already working on. Training here should be lower volume, focused on preserving the central nervous system and not taxing their skills.
Since the athletes are on the field practicing their craft, make sure what you’re doing in the gym is not taking away from that.
Step 3) Pre Competition
Pre Competition is about simulating the structure of competition. This is usually a training camp for the athletes.
During this phase, strength training looks very similar to what it will look like during the season. Reduce hours spent in the weight room during this phase and don’t prioritize strength and conditioning over the sport. The athletes need this extra time to recover from their on-field training.
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Step 4) Competition
The competition phase is the regular football season.
The reality here is the athletes will not be putting in a lot of work in the weight room. They need time to recover from the stress of the game.
Three days inside the weight room is often adequate for in-season football athletes.
- If the game day is Saturday, they will likely need to spend Sunday recovering.
- Plan a challenging training session on Monday.
- Then, on Wednesday, do a training session at 50% of the volume.
- Use Friday for a preparation day, and do very little training.
Don’t worry about athletes getting weaker during the season. The priority is sports performance, not gaining strength, and it is unlikely that you will see significant drops.
Above everything, prioritize recovery and don’t let strength training take away from that. You will see better performance from well-rested athletes, so always err on the side of doing too little.
Step 5) Deload
Once the season is over, roll into a deload. This is the time taken off post-competition specifically for recovery.
Fight the urge to get your athletes back in the gym too quickly. It can be disastrous if they come back too early.
Have your athletes step away entirely from physical activity and give them a mental break. They won’t come back fatter or weaker, but the time off will help them recover and get back in shape.
As a rule of thumb, put the sport first. Some of the best athletes in the world are trash in the weight room.
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