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Speed Report: The Virtues of Off-Season Conditioning - Is It Good for Football Speed?

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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To every football coach, the word conditioning means getting fit to play or producing stamina for performance situations. Conditioning is, in reality, a performance trait, most useful during the season. It can cut into your periodization schedule in the off-season, when in reality, it’s not relative to development for that time frame.

You should center your off-season training on speed and power, not on conditioning. Your skills, speed, flexibility, and athletic movement speed and control will then be significantly advanced by the start of season. The title “Strength and Conditioning Coach” in the collegiate world is now being modified to “Athletic Performance Director.” The word “conditioning” is a small part of the total equation necessary during the off-season for training. Some coaches use a conditioning regimen year-round with the players, thinking this is building them into some type of “super” athlete that can outwork work their foe. The fact is that you’re just wearing them out physically with the over-training.

A body is protoplasm and not steel. It’s in need of rest and work in a balanced capacity. The work needs to be specific and quality-based. More is not better. Conditioning should begin closer to the season if you are to do conditioning at all. The reality is that to be ready for competition doesn’t take six months of conditioning. Only five to seven weeks is necessary to establish a solid training effect. Several of my clients do not do conditioning during the winter and have won consecutive state championships.
Do You Have an Abundance of Time? Most Coaches Don’t
You have a chance to build speed to a maximum level for each athlete if you choose the proper ingredients and blend them with a properly designed plan that targets progressive growth. The last thing you want is to waste time on conditioning in the off-season. I’m preached that over and over in the eight years I’ve been doing the Speed Report. What can be accomplished in the time frame we have is extremely important. Speed development is no exception to that rule.

We clearly wouldn’t do heavy sprint work five straight months in advance of the season. So what value would be gained by allowing your athletes to spend their energy on conditioning when it’s not relative to the time frame as a physical concern? Energy should be placed elsewhere to be a productive catalyst for stimulating more important items that will make the players better athletes, not over-trained athletes.
The Reasons Coaches Condition Off-Season
Most coaches work hard and try to learn things that will be productive for the team and provide good concepts that improve their athletes’ performance. Sometimes it’s unfortunate that we have to borrow concepts that others have used for various reasons. Often, they’re not always accurate or sound.

At some point, a head coach settles into a certain belief system. Hopefully, the one that makes the most sense is the one he’s associated with as he came up as an assistant. A coach that conditions for an extended period in the off-season will usually over-train his athletes. There are usually two reasons for this. One, they think the athletes are becoming more physical by running them with volume workouts month to month. The other reason is that they feel it makes the players tougher mentally. Conditioning in the off-season is, in reality, a poor trade-off for skills and specifics needed for maximizing football growth. Without fail, you will delineate the speed potential you’re trying to improve if you choose to condition year-round.

Pete Carroll has had great success at both the collegiate and professional level. He came to the realization while at USC that more is less. He exclaimed this at one of his last clinics for football coaches while at USC that, ”Less is More” and quality, not quantity translates to a better athlete. He’s trained quite a few in the last decade and they consistently play fast for four quarters.
Conditioning and Speed - Both or One?
Here are several provisions important to speed training for the off-season. You won’t find conditioning on this list. Your development concerns should be:
•  Correct technical skills and applying training drills.

•  Developing power on the field and in the weight room.

•  Quick speed and speed combined.

•  High velocity movement transitions.

•  High energy and precise focus and execution of quality performance, consistently.

•  Precise movement control at varying speeds with varying speed percentage’s applied weekly. 

•  Balancing quality and quantity day-to-day with your package.

•  Varying speed training procedures must reflect less and not more.

•  Speed development that has quality values and is technically oriented and not volume jaded. This ensures maximal growth for time spent.

•  High frequency and recovery need to be balanced at each training session. Short recoveries will not tap the neural system correctly; that is, same workout with less results.

•  Remember that cross fit training is the wrong energy system for football.

•  Train the way the game’s played - high (short) intensity and recovery. It’s an anaerobic event and the key to specificity.

Coach Baskett began his career as a football speed coach in 1979. During the last 35 years he’s consulted and trained hundreds of coaches and thousands of athletes nationwide. In the last year he has worked directly with high schools in California, Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, and Pennsylvania. Over the last few years he has also consulted with Texas Tech, Ohio State, USC, University of Washington, and the University of Mount Union. You can reach him directly for more information or if you have specific questions on your training program. Coach Baskett is at and 858-568-3751.


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