A solid off-season training regimen can give youth and high school athletes an edge and help prevent injuries when the next season begins.
It is important for coaches and parents to assist players in developing an off-season routine that is safe and effective for football. Michael Barnes, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who is currently the Director of Education for the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and formerly the Strength Development Coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers answered some frequently asked questions about off-season football training. The NSCA is made up of experts in the fields of sport science, athletics, and fitness who stay on the cutting edge of strength and conditioning research and education.
When should a football player begin an off-season training regimen?
General fitness levels should be maintained throughout the year. But specific training for youth football in particular can start as early as eight weeks in advance of the pre-season.
Why is off-season training important for young athletes?
Off-season training has many advantages. Some of them include having the body better prepared and acclimated to the specific demands of football. These demands can include tolerance to the environmental conditions (heat and humidity), adaptations to the body such as strength and power, and resistance to injury.
What are the disadvantages to not doing proper off-season training?
The primary factor that would leave a player at a disadvantage of an improper off-season program is not having the body prepared for the demands of football. This ultimately compromises the health and safety of the athlete.
What types of training should be done in the off-season?
There are many effective methods of training in the off-season. For youth football, it is advised that the player acclimate gradually to the environmental conditions. The duration of time, training, and acclimating will vary with the conditions and intensity of the session. General calisthenics, football specific drills, flexibility, and interval sprints are all excellent choices to begin an off-season program.
How should off-season training differ for youth vs. high school players?
The essential components will remain the same for both populations, but the volume and intensity of the youth program will be reduced compared to the high school program. Also, the focus and structure of training will be accentuated at the higher levels of football.
How often should a player train in the off-season?
This will depend on the condition of the athlete and their current activity level. Generally three times per week would be a good start early in the off-season. This should be increased to four to five times per week as the season approaches.
What safety precautions should be taken when training?
Safety of the athlete is priority number one. They should start with a complete medical examination from their doctor and be cleared to participate in the activity. The physical environment should be evaluated by a professional and approved for activity. This would include a weight room and field. A qualified professional to structure the exercise program should be sought out. They should have a degree in exercise science, hold a national accredited certification, and have experience working with athletes.