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Off Season Workoutsby: Danny Arnold
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Off-season training should take a different focus then your typical change of just changing the amount of reps. It should take a turn to pre-hab (exercises that help prevent or minimize injuries), technique, and individual or positional needs.
In my past twelve years of really getting involved in NFL programs I’ve seen something that is a trend among strength coaches and athletic trainers that is very alarming. One of greatest concerns to me is how once the football season is over, the strength coach takes over the players development process and the athletic trainer hands off most (if not all) responsibility of player development to the strength coach. Although in most cases this is done because the athletic trainer has to now dedicate his/her time on to other sports that are beginning their season (basketball, track, etc.), this is a huge mistake.
Ironically, one of the most important times when athletic trainers should spend a lot of time with their football players should be immediately after the season is over to take care of all those injuries, weaknesses, or concerns that they couldn’t or didn’t have the time to attend to during the season because of many different factors. One big factor is having to tell the head coach that one of his star players should sit the next game because his injury could get worse. In addition, a player is more likely to admit pain and/or concern he has to his body right after the season is over because now he is not in a pressure situation to have to play. Even worse, he let’s his fellow teammates down because he won’t play in the next game due do the fact that the team athletic trainer kept him out of next week’s game for precautionary reasons.
With that being said, a program that includes a post season evaluation needs to be added when creating an individuals off-season program. It’s simple: just have the athletic trainer follow the same evaluation he/she had before the season started and conduct it immediately after the season is over. When that is concluded, share that information with the strength coach and now he/she will be able to develop a program that will not only build for the future, but a program that is going to mend many, if not all, the injuries the player suffered during the season. This will eliminate many of the reoccurring injuries players suffer season after season.
Of course not everyone is going to have injuries, so we have put some pre-hab exercises that all strength coaches can implement into their current off season program. These exercises will not require much more time then any typical warm-up exercises. Actually these exercises will aid strength coaches from making the mistake of not properly warming up players before heavy lifting. It is best to perform these exercises prior to the scheduled lifting for the day. Proper technique and great concentration is very important when doing these exercises. In addition to the examples below, we have placed the positions that should, without a doubt, perform these pre-hab exercises.
Rules to follow:
1. It is always best to do any pre-hab exercise isolated (one side at a time). This will allow the player to stay focused and not be able to use other body parts to aide on the movement.
2. Repetitions should stay between 12-15.
3. Amount of weight or resistance should be controlled. Be very clear when explaining to the players that it’s not “how much you lift”, but the proper technique that used is most important.
4. Area around the player when performing exercises should be clear because when doing isolated exercises (e.g., single leg squats) and some one bumps you, you are more likely to loose your balance and fall.
5. The first few times these pre-hab exercise sessions take place, the athletic trainer should be present to answer any questions and/or concerns the player or strength coach might have.
6. If pain is felt during these exercises, immediately inform the athletic trainer. The possibility of a mis-diagnosed injury could be present.
Here are some off-season exercises that have proved successful:
A. Lower body pre-hab (See Photo l).
B. Side Lunges (very slow & keep chest up)-see Photos 2A and 2B
Photos 2A and 2B: 3 X 15 steps each direction (every position, excellent for lineman and linebackers)
C. Single leg squat (you choose one) -
See Photos 3A and 3B
Photos 3A and 3B 3 X 15 leg squats (every position, excellent for skilled positions)
D. Stability testing 3 X 30 seconds
(you choose one) - see photo 4
Photo 4: Stability testing: squat as low as you can but do not pass parallel and maintain your balance. (every position, excellent for skilled positions)
B - Upper body pre-hab exercises:
Internal pulls (very slow & keep elbow tight to the body) - See Photos 5A and 5B
Photos 5A and 5B: Internal pulls - 3 X 15 steps each direction (every position, excellent for quarterbacks and receivers) Also do it reversed so you rotate externally and do the same reps and sets.
Danny Arnold is the director of all operations for Plex. Together with his staff, he is recognized as the leader in providing innovative training and Transitional Sports Therapy (TST) to help athletes reach their fullest potential. Arnold can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 381-240-0253. You can reach his web site by logging onto www.plex.cc.
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