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Football preseason workouts completed in phases

By Ben Cook

Phase 5 continues the exercise plan through early August, when the second session of summer school ends for many collegiate players. During the second week in August, collegiate athletes return for fall camp, and high school athletes are getting into their practice season. This is a good time for coaches to test players for the year. Players should be reaching a peak in their power output and performance in agility and speed activities.

Resistance Training
The basic purpose of this phase is again to increase gradually your level of nerve activity and excitability. Muscle mass continues to increase but less from a fatigue-related response and more from the load increases planned during the exercises.

Types of Exercises
The exercises during this phase consist of basic lifts and multijoint supporting and assisting exercises. You will use less cable and machine resistance in favor of free-weight resistance and power-producing techniques. As in all phases of the plan, you exercise the larger muscle groups first in the workout, working smaller muscle groups last.

Rest, Volume, and Special Sets
Rest 2:00 between the sets of basic exercises and 1:00 between the sets of all supporting exercises throughout this phase. This added recovery between sets of basic exercises ensures that with each repetition you will effectively excite the nerve pathways that activate the muscle. Rest between exercises remains at 1:30.

The number of sets and repetitions in the workouts gradually decreases over the seven-week period. This lowered volume is another method of increasing the overall level of nerve activity and excitability, which, in turn, increases power output. This phase includes no special sets.

Repetition Style and Speed
During this phase the style of repetition is less strict. Perform each repetition with good form to avoid injury. Incorporate more speed or force into the movement to compensate for the higher resistance that you are using. Even though the speed of the arms and legs may seem slower because of the heavier weight, the muscles will be working at a higher speed or force at the cellular level. By week 35, you should be pushing with everything you have to move the resistance while maintaining good form.

Speed means power. This simply means that the faster you can move a heavy resistance, the more powerful you are. This also means that the faster you can move your body against a resistance, or against gravity, the more powerful you are.

The objective during power-type resistance training is not overall muscular fatigue or momentary muscular failure, as in hypertrophy resistance training (phase 1). In fact, failure of the muscle to perform may be detrimental during a power-producing phase of training.

Power training produces its result at the level of the nervous system. Proper power training can result in improvements in motor unit recruitment, increased firing rate of the motor units, synchronization of motor units, and clearer, faster nerve information arriving to the muscle (disinhibition). In short, power training trains your nervous system to send a fast and clear signal from the brain to a more readily accepting muscle. As a result, you can call more muscle fibers into play and therefore produce a more powerful movement.

To prompt the nervous system to produce a more powerful impulse, I recommend doing some movements, such as medicine ball throws or jumping exercises, with a moderate level of resistance (60 percent of 1 RM). This will produce higher movement speeds. You can perform other movements, such as weight-training exercises, with heavy resistance (80 percent or greater of 1 RM), which will result in slower movement speeds. Some strength coaches feel it is necessary to perform traditional weight-training workouts with low resistance at high speeds to optimize speed or power output. What is occurring inside the muscle, however, is independent of the external speed of the arm or leg. The speed of muscle-fiber contraction determines the power output. Some athletes may seem to move slowly, but they still might be generating high muscular force.

Execute the repetitions in this phase with a pausing tempo. You can perform some repetitions without pause. But as the resistance begins to cause fatigue, pause for an instant in a locked-out position to allow momentary recuperation. This will help insure that each repetition is powerful.

Running and Conditioning
Conditioning during this phase is much the same as the conditioning in phase 2. If you would like to create a different plan for this time of the year, be sure to emphasize a gradual increase in sprint training yardage over the phase. Usually yardage begins around 700 to 900 yards and increases over the weeks, to somewhat less than 2,000 yards per sprint workout session. After a heavy sprint workout, customarily conducted near the first day of the week, a reduction in exercise intensity can provide a form of active recovery. The second exercise session of the week can therefore consist of combination runs or short distance work. The final session of the week can return to sprint training or agility work, foot-speed drills, and plyometric activities. A second sprint workout should include fewer yards and a slower time than the first workout of the week. Using different exercises and exercise formats provides you with more movement information for your sports skills.

When scanning the program you may wonder where the plyometric drills are. I use plyometric drills on the speed days of week 31. But other plyometric movements are subtly incorporated into the conditioning plan, in the applied-skills section of the workout page. Remember that most athletic movement is somewhat plyometric. Unlike track, football consists of a variety of events meshed together rather than one event performed in one direction. With that in mind, plyometrics should probably be incorporated into related football movement drills. Do not overuse plyometric techniques by performing them too often. One plyometric workout per week should provide benefits while minimizing potential harm. Also keep the number of sets and repetitions of a plyometric workout in the low to moderate range. One or two sets of 10 repetitions conducted over five exercises should provide a safe and sufficient plyometric workout. More is not better with this type of exercise.

Weeks 31 to 37 include three conditioning workouts each with these emphases:

  • Monday - Agility drills;
  • Tuesday - Game simulation sprints;
  • Thursday - Speedwork (practical strength for sprint form and starts);


By the end of phase 5 agility work has replaced interval sprints altogether. You can perform these drills at high speed with little rest, thus producing good cardiorespiratory benefits. The conditioning training workload is reduced from four days per week to three to boost recovery, in turn furthering power output.

This is an excerpt from 52-Week Football Training.

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