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5 Keys to Boost Your Off-Season Training

by: Pobert Pomazak
Head Coach St. Charles North High School (IL)
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Itís an old adage that championships begin with your off-season weight training program.

The old adage is that championships are won in the off season. A positive, challenging and competitive off-season program can help be the catalyst that can set a team apart from the pack in the upcoming season. No two strength programs are the same and one cannot claim to be better than the other. However, there are a few key building blocks that can help to lay the foundation for future football and weight room successes.

1.  Focus on training the core body.
We utilize a periodized program that always begins with a focus on stability endurance. We talk to our athletes about not building a house on sand. Creating strength from the inside out is essential to the program and the athleteís ability to progress to the heavier external loads that will be placed on the body.

By utilizing a triphasic method of training, the athlete is able to effectively strengthen muscle through the eccentric, isometric and concentric contraction of the lift. A strong emphasis is placed on body posture, control and proper movement patterns. Training in all planes of motion helps to create an athlete who can handle his own body weight and successfully prepare the body for the increased workload that will follow

(Chart 1 shows a core body program three days a week).

2.  Train athletes with ground-based lifts and bodyweight dynamics.

Use athletic lifts, not isolation lifts.

Throughout our program our athletes learn the important of ground-based lifts. That is, developing speed through strength. Facility space often doesnít allow for comprehensive SAQ workouts. However, by utilizing multi-joint complex lifts, our athletes understand the importance of foot-to-ground power and how to effectively recruit the body through the kinetic chain.

The workout is built around a series of pushes and pulls and closely monitored by our staff. The workout is split into two 30-minute segments. The first segment is built around Olympic ground-based lifts and the latter is a combination of body weight dynamics and metabolic training.. We rarely target single joint isolation lifts unless the athlete has an identified imbalance in a particular area

(Chart 2 shows a schedule for ground-based lifts).

3. Train for Power - Power is the function of strength and speed.

Train athleticism.

A common thread in the program is the focus of power development. A high level of importance is placed on our power lifts and an emphasis on rate of force production. RFD is how quickly the muscular force can be produced. Training for RFD hinges on the velocity of muscular contraction through the rapid recruitment, activation, and synchronization of motor units. To do this, you have to muster maximal force generation at the beginning of a movement without a preceding stretch or countermovement. 

Deadlifts, power cleans, squats, step-ups and any lift that does not allow for an eccentric momentum are ideal for this aspect. We monitor our athletesí weights very closely but ultimately use an eye test. If the bar looks slow, then they are slow. It is best to use sub-maximal loads when initiating this phase

(Chart 3 shows a training for power schedule).

4.  Single limb vs. two limb lifts.

Training the athlete through proper ranges and planes of motion is only one aspect to a comprehensive program. It is essential to formulate a program that takes advantage of both unilateral and bi-lateral exercises. Include exercises that will tax the athlete on both one and two legs. Utilizing single arm or single leg exercises can help to strengthen muscular imbalances and helps build a periodized program.

Recent studies show that over 75% of all movements in football occur on one leg. We have found success in training our athletes to be able to handle this sport specific environment.

5. Have short, intense, and organized workouts. Have a championship effort and attitude.

The weight room is an extension of the practice field; that is, workouts must be well organized, competitive and above all, intense. We look at each session as our opportunity to compete for that day. Our athletes believe that each day matters and that their effort is essential to the teamís overall success.

As a coach, it is imperative to put the same time and effort into your training sessions out of season as you do to practice in season. Athletes thrive on structure and if the weight room is made a high priority, the athletes will follow. Safety is always first, but a close second is creating sessions that break down your athleteís comfort zones.

Our program preaches a championship effort in all that we do. The foundation of this motto is set in the off-season. Use the weight room as an access point to teach your athletes about the expectations of the program. The weight room is a great opportunity for your players to view your staff in a less stressful environment and increase positive relationships.

About the Author: Rob Pomazak begins his third season as head coach at St. Charles North High School (IL) this fall. He previously spent 12 years as both a physical education teacher and assistant coach at Elk Grove High School (IL). Pomazak earned his Bachelorís Degree from North Central College. He also earned two Masterís Degrees Ė from the University of California (PA) in Exercise Physiology and from North Park University in Education Leadership and Administration.


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