Serious football players know that there is no off-season when it comes to training and staying in shape.
As soon as the game season ends is when training for the next season begins with weight training as well as training for agility, flexibility, speed, and conditioning. But once the season approaches, continuing to perform drills and exercises at game-level intensity will ensure that you are ready to play at your peak performance and crush the competition.
We’ve compiled some of the best training tips from coaches and fitness experts for staying in peak shape during the football season and all year around.
Prepare yourself mentally
Whether playing for the NFL or a local or school league, one thing that all top players have in common is a passion for football. When you’re waking up early to train, running drills, or getting ready for game day, remind yourself why you’re doing it and let your passion fuel your focus and drive.
Get a physical exam
Whether you’re a pro athlete or a dedicated weekend ball player, getting an annual physical from your doctor is a good idea. An exam of your heart, lungs, musculoskeletal system, and anything else your physician deems relevant will ensure that you’re healthy enough to meet the demands of the season and make you aware of specific things to address in your training.
Warm up with stretches and dynamic movement
A two-part warmup of stretches and dynamic exercises should happen before every game or practice. Stretches that target lower body muscles such as the calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors should be emphasized. A dynamic warmup that includes drills like high knees, shuffles or jogging will increase the core temperature and get your muscles and joints ready for power and agility challenges.
Strength training and power development
Football players are some of the world’s most powerful athletes. You can increase your strength and power in your lower body, upper body and core muscles throughout the football season by changing the number of reps and amount of weight or resistance in your strength-training exercises every one or two weeks. Volume and intensity don’t always need to increase, just making changes to your program will challenge your muscles in different ways which will allow your strength to keep improving (and keep you from getting bored).
Running and agility drills
Drills that require speed and movements like the ones required of your specific position during a game are the most direct way to improve your performance on the field. For example, a defensive back might run over 1,000 yards over the course of a game, but only in roughly five-second intervals (the length of a play), so the agility drills should incorporate short but powerful sprints with changes of direction.
While serious lower-body and upper-body strength are necessary for football players, a lot of the power that they need comes from their deep core muscles. If you have a hard time holding a plank for at least a full minute without your back arching or hips lifting, adding a serious core strengthening program to your routine is essential.
Hydration, nutrition, and sleep
No matter how hard you train in the gym or on the field, you won’t be able to improve your performance without adequate nutrition, hydration, rest and recovery. Make sure that you eat the recommended number of calories for your size and caloric output and adequately balance your protein and carbohydrates to provide you with energy and to allow your muscles to rebuild. Hydrate before, during, and after games and practice sessions. Avoid sugary drinks and excessive caffeine. Rest and replenish electrolytes after intense exercise and make sure you get plenty of quality sleep.
By following these training tips, you can achieve your top physical shape during the football season as well as maintain your fitness and skill levels throughout the year.