By special guest author Logan Cobb, BS, CPT, and Certified Athletic Trainer. Check him out at www.thefitnesslife.net
Just for fun this morning I googled “offseason football training” and I got approximately 9 million hits. Articles on everything from increasing speed, team building exercises and even one about being a better soccer goalkeeper…c’mon google this is America and football is not soccer. As is the case with almost anything you research today, there is no shortage of information out there. The hard part is finding the good, reliable information that is backed up with some kind of legitimate research or study. I found plenty of articles about how to increase your bench press, squat max or how to lower your forty-yard dash time. But only a select few links mentioned anything about improving mobility, flexibility and addressing specific weaknesses an individual may have.
Bigger, Faster, Stronger seems to be the mantra of most offseason training programs for athletes, especially football players. This should ultimately be the goal, but the path to that goal is what I want to change. Yes, you can get stronger if you go to the gym and do your bench, squat and cleans 3 days a week and on paper you will look better to your coach, or to the scout who may be recruiting you, but will you be a better athlete? Have you really improved yourself on the football field? We are only as good as our weakest link and this holds true for your bodies as well as your teams.
Movement – The first step to a good offseason program is a movement assessment to find the areas of the body that are limited, figuring out why they are limited, and addressing those limitations with proper stretching, activation or strengthening work. Some athletes are blessed genetically, but eventually all movement limitations can lead to injury on some level and not even the best athletes can change a game sitting on the bench. Squat depth and strength can improve with proper hip mobility along with reducing the risk of low back injury while performing the lift. Bottom line is proper movement of the body leads to better performance across the board, but it is rarely addressed in an offseason program for one reason or another.
Core Stability – no, I don’t care how many sit ups you can do. In fact I don’t even have my clients do full sit ups anymore, but that’s an article for another time. I do care how long you can hold a plank with a neutral spine, or how long you can do a V-sit with proper technique. This is the second most skipped part of offseason programs that should be fundamental for any athlete. Every movement an athlete makes is translated through or supported by the core and yet it often gets overlooked. Core activation should be made apparent during every exercise you do, becoming mindful of it during exercise will make it automatic during play. Core stability and strengthening programs have shown to reduce injuries by as much as 44% in some populations, which keeps players on the field that much more.
Strength – Now is the fun part. We have addressed proper movement and proper core stability, and it’s time to get to the part everyone enjoys; getting stronger. Improving mobility and making sure the core is activated & strong will give us an increase in our strength lifts before we even touch the bar or dumbbell. Increasing strength is the best way to improve your stats across the board. Once the body is moving and activating correctly, then we can push the limits and make new PR’s.
In review, we must establish proper movement within the body by doing a movement analysis. If limitations are found, we must address the limitation using proper means to reduce or eliminate the limitation. Next we address the strength and activation levels of the core muscles. A truly strong core is the foundation of any great athlete. Once those two are established, we are handed the keys to the castle and we can start really getting to work!
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