The NFL Draft is just a few days away and although NFL season doesn’t actually start until September, players across the nation are still hard at work preparing for the first kick-off of the year. Building an effective off-season training program is extremely important when it comes to injury prevention, building strength and ultimately having success on the field, and this goes for NFL players, all the way down to Pop Warner players.
There is no doubt that every player’s off-season training program is different, but one thing all players can agree on is they want to build a training program that will have a positive and lasting impact on their performance. So if you’re ready to get serious about reaching your full potential on the field this season, try incorporating these tried-and-true techniques into your off-season training program.
Metabolic conditioning can be applied to many different workouts, but what it really boils down to is developing structured patterns of work and pairing them with strategic rest periods that are designed to elicit a desired response from the body. For football players, this can be translated into a cardio-based training program focused on activating all of the muscles used in common movements on the field. Yes, many football players already incorporate running drills into their off-season training, but these are highly focused on conventional, straight-ahead running. This kind of training can be beneficial to players in some ways, but it completely disregards the muscle groups used in lateral or backwards movements, which are extremely common for players to do in football games. Not sure where to start? Check out this metabolic running program designed by strength and conditioning coach, Ben Peterson. It focuses on training all the muscles used in 360-degree movements.
Isometric exercise focuses on control, as opposed to traditional weight lifting that is more force-driven. Isometrics are a different kind of strength training, as they involve isolating muscle groups and contracting them for brief periods of time to increase strength and endurance. They also work to improve the stability and durability of muscles, which in turn can be instrumental in preventing injury or rehabilitation of an existing injury. Football is a contact sport that causes a lot of wear and tear on the body, so injury prevention is a key aspect that should be focused on in off-season football training. The benefits of isometrics are endless for football players, which is probably why teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Stanford University regularly incorporate them into their training programs.
Now, we know having a healthy diet isn’t necessarily a “training technique”, but we would be remiss not to mention the impact nutrition has on your performance as an athlete. Having a poor diet will leave you with repercussions, no matter how hard you hit the gym in the off season, yet many players fail to take this into consideration when developing their training program. When developing an off-season nutrition plan, there are a few things we recommend taking into consideration. For one, muscles need an adequate amount of calories to grow and recover. Not just any calories, though. Athletes should focus on eating carbohydrate-rich foods, like whole grains, vegetables and rice, along with lean proteins and healthy fats. It’s worth noting, though, that the amount of calories you need to intake depends largely on the amount and type of exercise you are doing, as well as your total body weight. Here’s a chart that can be used to easily determine your caloric needs based on these factors.
Another thing to take into consideration as a high-performance athlete is the amount of the three main macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) you are eating each day. Each of these macronutrients play a key role in your performance and health, so it’s important to get an appropriate amount each day. This study suggests 5-8 grams per kilogram of carbohydrates per day for athletes undertaking 2-3 hours of intense exercise, 5-6 times per week. It also suggests that competitive athletes require 1.5-2 grams per kilogram of protein and 30% of their total caloric intake of healthy fats per day for optimal results in muscle mass growth, fat burning and overall performance.
While this article has barely skimmed the surface of what it takes to become a successful football player in the off-season, it is definitely a great starting point. On-field success truly is accomplished through effective and strategic off-season training and the three techniques discussed above are crucial for muscle gains, fast-twitch responses, athletic endurance and everything in between.