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Football 2006: staying strong all season.

At last, a long, hot summer's worth of intense running and lifting has culminated with the beginning of summer camp!

Everyone's priority gears must now make a dramatic shift from the general aspects of physical development to the specific skills and demands imposed by practices and games.

The coaches must make sure to account for their lifting sessions in the summer camp and in-season calendar.

Even with the additional time constraints and the heightened physical stresses induced by practices and games, it is vital to administer an effective strength-training program for the duration of the season.

While there are never any guarantees, a progressive strength program can help sustain performance and serve as an injury deterrent over the course of the season.

Each phase of the in-season program (i.e., summer camp, early part of the season, and mid/late season) presents its own set of special considerations.

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Let's take a look at some troubleshooting suggestions that might help you avoid some of the administrative speed bumps that surface when planning the in-season program.

SUMMER CAMP

The summer camp period is a brutal time for the players, thanks to the intense practices held in the sweltering heat and sparse recovery time dictated by the hectic schedule.

The recently implemented college mandates prohibiting consecutive two-a-day practices is progressively finding its way to the table in many state high school associations. It is, in our opinion, a step in the right direction, providing the players with more time for physical recovery, fluid replenishment, and the implementation of high-performance nutritional strategy.

The athletes ultimately benefit from the cumulative effects of the additional recovery time and are able to hydrate more completely in the diminished time spent in the blistering heat.

A collateral advantage of the 2-1-2 practice schedule is that a moderate lifting session can be inserted on the single practice days. These, obviously, should be low-volume affairs with focus on the basics and the avoidance of marathon sessions that do more harm than good.

We know that even a minimum investment of time during this period can mitigate strength losses and increase pre-existing strength levels over time. Even if you're able to squeeze in only two lifts per week during camp, it will pay dividends in the long run.

Here's an example of a summer camp lifting script:

* 4-Way Neck Machine - 1 x 8-10 reps each direction

* Shoulder Shrugs (varying implements) - 2 x 10

* Front Squats - 3 x 8 w / moderate weight

* Glute/Ham or Hamstring Curls - 2 x 8

* Bench Press - 3 x 6 w / 75-80% of estimated max

* Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows - 2 x 8 each side

* Barbell Military Press - 2 x 6

* Towel/Rope Chin-ups - 2 x max reps

* Core Targeting (various exercises) - 2 x 1 minute of continuous reps

Notice the upper body emphasis and moderate workload indicated for the leg/hip/low back regions. This is by design, as these areas consist of extensive, broader muscular compartments that take a severe beating during camp and require a significant amount of recovery.

With those target areas, we are attempting to provide an appropriate dose-response stimulus without depleting an already delicate energy balance.

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EARLY SEASON

Once you get out of camp and into the weekly routine of game preparation, the schedule isn't as crammed in the early part of the day, thus allowing more opportunities for lifting. Coaches normally pare-down the practice duration and intensity as the week progresses.

In our case, we conduct a moderate intensity Sunday evening (day after the game) practice with an emphasis on special teams. Earlier in the afternoon, the entire team lifts in two separate 45-minute sessions (offense / defense).

Monday is our designated "off" day with no football or strength-training activities on the docket.

Our harder practice days are usually on Tuesday and Wednesday, with a lighter arrangement on Thursday and a scripted walk-through on Friday.

The players are required to get a second lift in on either Tuesday or Wednesday, preferably Tuesday for those who get 50 or more snaps per game.

For most of these players, this will be the last lift of the week. The rationale is to give them a wider window for recovery as we hit the middle of the workweek.

Players who get very limited snaps (e.g., special teams or back-up assignments) get a third lift in on Thursday, and "red-shirt" players get in an expansive lift on Friday.

One example of an in-season lift is as follows:

* 4-Way Neck Machine - 1 x 8-10 each direction

* Shoulder Shrugs - 2 x 10

* One of the following multi-joint movements: Back Squat, Front Squat, Front Squat-Press, Dead Lift, Leg Press - 3 x 8-10

* Romanian Dead Lifts (commonly referred to as "straight-leg" dead lifts) - 2 x 10

* Incline Barbell Bench Press - 3 x 6-8

* High Lat Pulls/Rows - 2 x 8

* Dumbbell Standing Military Press - 2 x 8

* Horizontal Rows - 2 x 8

* Dumbbell Supine Bench Press - 2 x 8

* Grip Work (varying exercises) - 2 x 10-15

* Core Targeting (various exercises) - 4 x 1 minute of continuous reps

MID/LATE SEASON CONSIDERATIONS

As the season progresses, attention must be given to the fact that guys are going to get "nicked-up" and a few alternative plans must be put into place.

Linemen, for instance, are notorious for spraining fingers, wrists, and elbows.

While these injuries can hit all positions, offensive and defensive linemen are especially vulnerable due to the heavy collisions that occur in the trenches on every snap. It's an occupational hazard that eventually strikes all of them.

When confronted with these injuries, the players are sometimes unable to handle certain implements in the weight room (e.g., barbells, dumbbells, and other rigid tools).

With the use of specially designed machines (single-limb and "hands-free" models), flex bands, manual resistance, and other more flexible modes (e.g., medicine balls and sandbags), we have designed "no-hands" and / or limited range of movement exercises that work the proximal (above the injury) and distal (below the injury) musculature.

We also have lower extremity alternatives for hip, knee, and ankle injuries that keep the surrounding muscular compartments strong, while also providing a neural stimulus (known as "cross-innervation") to the affected areas that can expedite the rehabilitation process.

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Example: In the case of a knee sprain, the player continues to work hip flexion / extension, inner / outer thigh and hip, and ankle flexion / extension / rotation on the injured side, while performing all of those exercises in addition to full-range movements (e.g., leg press and single-leg squats) with the healthy limb.

Note: We will address training techniques and alternatives for the injured athlete in a future Powerline.

Another consideration, especially as you approach the last few weeks of the season, is the possibility that the full-game players may need to either cut-out a training day during the week, or at least reduce the total volume in their lifting sessions.

This can be accomplished by simply eliminating a few of the "work sets" from each script.

Example: If the session calls for three sets each of five different exercises, you might consider dropping that assignment to two sets per exercise. You've now cut five total sets from the workout, and possibly provided the athlete with a needed respite.

Some tell-tale signs that one of these interventions might be beneficial are a drop in assigned reps / weights for various exercises, lingering soreness, overwhelming fatigue, and increased susceptibility to cold or flu-like symptoms.

FINAL REP

In-season strength training is an often-overlooked yet extremely vital component for the long-term success of your program. We are dismayed when we hear coaches lament about the inability--for any of a host of reasons--to incorporate and maintain at least two lifting session per week during this critical time of year.

Whether you follow a format similar to the one presented here, or use a system that better fits your experience, background, and philosophical convictions, it is important to understand that you must do something!

If you're having difficulties with the in-season program design due to a limited facility, lack of equipment, time constraints, or any other administrative or organizational roadblocks, drop me an e-mail and I'll be happy to offer some insights.

RELATED ARTICLE: TIP FROM THE TRENCHES

A "no excuses" approach to in-season strength training:

High school coaches who are having difficulties revving-up the lifting sessions during the season--for whatever reasons--might want to check these bullet points for some suggestions. I'll bet that your particular problem can be at least partially solved within:

* Schedule your first lift on the day after the game. Many high schools play on Friday nights, and a Saturday morning lift and film session might fit nicely (c'mon boosters club; chip-in for some orange juice, fruit, and bagels for the kids). It also provides the athletic training staff with an opportunity to check on any "delayed' injury situations.

* How about an early morning lift once a week (early in the week would be best) before school starts? We are talking about 30 minutes, or so. It's a great way to start the day, and it gives the kids plenty of recovery before practice.

* Another option for a strength session is a post-practice, on-the-field manual resistance / flex band workout. The flex bands are light, easily transported, and multi-functional. Several bodyweight movements (some schools have outdoor chin / dip stations for exactly this purpose) can be incorporated.

* A post-practice, timed circuit workout of 10-12 movements, 45 seconds per movement, and 30 seconds recovery between sets, can be incorporated in your weight room (the kids just have to remove their shoulder pads and possibly change their shoes quickly) with the inclusion of free weights, machines, sandbags, dumbbells, flex bands, manual resistance, and chin / dip stations.

* Many high schools are introducing strength-training classes to the physical education curriculum, which is a great idea for the entire student body, and an extremely efficient way for the student-athletes to train during the school day. Talk to your principal and athletic director about the possibility of incorporating such a class.

--Ken Mannie (mannie@ath.msu.edu)

By Ken Mannie, Head Strength/Conditioning Coach Michigan State University
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Title Annotation:POWERLINE
Author:Mannie, Ken
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2006
Words:1683
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