As a former Collegiate and NFL player, I can attribute much of my success on the field to countless hours I spent in the weight room each week. This article, along with 10 others are going to give a glimpse to each young and aspiring professional football player the type of lifting and conditioning that is needed to be a GREAT player. Much of the information that I will share was taught to me by a number of excellent strength and conditioning coaches, I feel it my responsibility to share this information to help each young player to take their game to the next level.
Making weight lifting an integral part of your daily and weekly personal preparation is a must for every young player dreaming of making it to Division I or the NFL. Much of this has to do with what I like to call, “The Other Guy Syndrome". Each player, Pop Warner to the NFL, has to play against “The Other Guy", both daily during practice and weekly during each game. That “Other Guy" is preparing as hard or harder than YOU to beat and dominate YOU. Therefore, you should always think to yourself during your off season and in season preparation, “What can I do to better prepare myself to beat the ‘Other Guy'?" One critical aspect of this preparation is the manner in which you prepare yourself in the weight room.
In this article you will be presented with 5 points that are key reminders and pointers that can assist you in total DOMINATION over the “Other Guy".
#1 You Don't Have to Lift the Most Weights to Be the Best
One major misconception for most young athletes today is that they have to bench press, back squat and general lift a lot of weight to be a GREAT player. That type of thinking is completely FALSE in today's game. Being strong physically and playing strong are two different things. or example, while playing at Utah State University I had a left tackle that was 6'9'’ and weighed 330 pounds. He was a very committed to getting stronger and spent a lot f time in the weight room, however, there were Linebackers, Running Backs and Wide Receivers on the team that could out lift him in the bench press by 50-100 lbs and back squat more that 100 lbs. than him. Did this mean he couldn't be a good football player because he wasn't stronger than a Running Back 130 pounds lighter than him? NO!
On the football field he would absolutely crush people. He would drive defensive ends into the ground and completely “pancake" Linebackers on a regular basis. Shear weight lifting strength had nothing to do with his dominance. He was able to do much of it based upon technique and maximum personal strength. No matter how hard he worked he could not get as strong as much of the team. But he was extremely strong for his stature and build.
The key principle here is that you need to push yourself as hard as YOUR potential allows you. Be as strong physically as YOU can. Don't worry about the other guy, or how much they are lifting. Your body is different than anybody else on this planet. Workout so you are maximizing your abilities. If you try to lift too much during a set or workout, you will do more to make yourself less strong than you would thinking it will make you stronger. Always remember this tip: Only workout with an amount of weight that makes it difficult but not impossible to do every rep of a set!
#2 Your Lifting Motion Should Be Slow and Fluid
Another common mistake young athletes make when they lift weights, is they move the bar and weight too FAST. I know that sounds a little strange, but moving the weight fast does LESS to strengthen your body than moving the weight slowly.
The first thing you should do if you feel that the bar and weight is moving too fast, is make sure you are lifting the right amount of weight. Sometimes, you may need to put more weight on the bar. However, be careful you don't put so much weight on the bar you cannot do all the repetitions the set is requiring you to do.
Next, count the downward movement of every repetition for three seconds, for example, “ONE one thousand, TWO one thousand, THREE one thousand". Between the 2nd and 3rd second you can begin to move the bar upwards. This counting method will give your muscles the necessary amount of time to get its maximum output in order to increase strength. Be careful, if you can do every repetition of each set while using this counting method, and not even break a sweat, you need to increase the weight amount. However, if you can only do a portion of the repetitions, obviously you will need to take off some weight.
#3 Do Not Sit Down to Rest Between Sets
This concept was taught to me while I was playing at the University of Wyoming. Many strength and conditioning coaches call this the “Active Rest". Really it is a simple principle, it is a way to train your body to rest and catch your breathe without sitting down. For example, think about during the course of long offensive drive, or a defensive stand during a game, the trainers or coaching staff does not bring out benches and chairs to rest on in between plays. You do that in the huddle while the play is being called in.
In essence, this technique is a way to prepare your body during the course of a game. It is simple but you will notice greater endurance and faster recovery while walking around and standing in between sets.
#4 Be Patient. Results take Time.
I am sure many of you at some point have worked out or done a series of pushups and immediately went to the mirror to see if your muscles have already grown. Unfortunately, after looking into the mirror, you immediately notice really no change has occurred and you get discouraged and quit. Believe me this has even happened to me when I was younger. But through my development through High School college and the pros, I came to realize only through strict dedication and persistence would I see results.
For most lifting programs and even those shared in this website, to notice increase strength and muscle mass, you must be completely dedicated to that program for at least 6 weeks without missing a single workout. For example, if you look at Olympic weigh lifters they start preparing months in advance to achieve personal bests in certain lifts. They know they cannot get stronger by just lifting for a week then maxing out. It can only happen through strict obedience of a work out plan and dedication through the end.
#5 Dedicate Yourself To Weight Lifting Year Round
Unfortunately many young athletes tend to focus on lifting weights only during the season and parts of the off-season. Sometimes, they will take a month off to “recover" or they will do nothing until the official off season program starts in the summer. This form of thinking and mentality is very damaging if a player is wishing to be GREAT.
Weight lifting has many forms, strength building, maintenance, and recovery. All three cycles should be used annually. Through personal experience I recommend that you should take off no more than 1 week of lifting every 6 months. No matter the circumstances you should always be strength training.
Casey Poppinga is a former NFL player that writes for the football skills site TouchdownSkills.com