By: Mike Snyder, CSCS, Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Trinity High School
In-Season Training Considerations for Football
Every year in late November or early December when our football season ends at Trinity High School, I know that as the team’s strength and conditioning coach my “season” is about to begin. From the 3rd week of January up thru the end of July the team’s work with me and my staff is their main focus. Yes, they have some football commitments like 7on7 and various camps scattered throughout their calendars, but nothing that affects their training with me. In June and July our kids are doing some form of football work, but they are not wearing pads at this point. Come the first week of August, this all changes.
It is during the first week of August that we strap on full pads. Once this happens, what I am doing with our team off the field is no longer the top priority. On field work is more intense, the yardage on their legs increases and their bodies are taking a literal physical beating. I would not be doing my job as a strength coach if I did not make some adjustments to our program.
Here are a few of the adjustments that we make at Trinity as we enter our season.
Overall Volume – During our off-season program we train in a [3×5] manner. Meaning we lift 3 days per week, with 5 main movements each session. When we transition to the in-season program we go to a [3×3] approach, with 3 main lifts. Below are examples of each. On the left you see an off-season training day and on the right and in-season training day. Both are “Upper” sessions with the Bench Press being the primary movement of the day.
If you look at the July 17th session of the off-season program my guys did a total of 227 reps within their workout. Compare that to the August 3rd session of the in-season program and they completed 169 reps. Between the two sessions 58 total reps have been cut out. I believe this is critical in keeping our guys fresh as the season’s wears and tears add up and ultimately plays a major role in our success.
Movement Selection – Generally when a new movement is introduced to someone they will become sore from performing it. That is natural. It is a new stress to the body and stress in that form will make you sore. There is nothing wrong with that. But when guys are already sore from practice/games when they walk in to the weight room I want to reduce the likelihood of that becoming worse from anything they do with me. For that reason I do not introduce any new movements to them while they are in-season. Everything they do from August until the end of the season they were already doing in July, or it is a small variation of what they were doing.
In the example shown below, taken from an off-season Session L they are performing an RDL w/pause to a Hang Clean + Front Squat along with a Walking DB Lunge. Compare that with the in-season example above and you will see a Hang Clean + Front Squat (no RDL now) along with a Reverse Lunge. Both, while not the same movements, are similar enough to previous movements that they will not cause any unfamiliar stress to the body.
Movement Selection (2) – Keeping with the thought of reducing stress on the body, I will remove movements from our in-season program as a whole if I think they take too much out of our guys. For us this movement is the Back Squat. Our guys get plenty of axial loading and spinal compression every day out on the field from running in to each other repeatedly. In my opinion, we can keep our legs strong in other ways (unilateral work, front squat variations) without putting a bar on our back in-season.
Be Adaptable – As a strength coach, you have to be the most adaptable person on staff. You need to be able to make changes at a moment’s notice. For me it happens weekly, if not daily in-season, where an athlete will come up to me and say “Coach, I hurt **insert body part here** in practice and I can’t do this. What can I do?” It never fails. It is here where you have to rely on your experience and exercise library to be able to prescribe something for your athlete that will allow them to get the job done in a manner that you see fit.
Be Adaptable (2) – This last one is a personal preference. Along with being able to adapt your programming to injuries, as you map out your in-season training I think you should plan the training accordingly with your team’s schedule. For us this year, we are very heavily front loaded in terms of the level of competition we play. For this reason we did not perform the Front Squat as a main movement in our training. We performed the movement, but it was done with our Hang Cleans. By doing this, the Front Squat was limited in weight by the amount that the athlete could Hang Clean. Now that we have reached the midpoint in the season and the level of competition that we face is not as great, we will re-introduce the Front Squat as a standalone movement to our athletes and push them harder on it as we finish our season and prepare for the playoffs.
This is by a no-means an all-encompassing list of what we do or what you should do. But it is what works for us. Hopefully you’re able to take something from it. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me.