15,484 high schools played 11, 9, 8, or 6-man tackle football in 2014. Over 1.1 million boys and 1,698 girls participated, more than double the next closest sport, basketball. All participation numbers are available on the National Federation of High Schools website. Maxpreps lists a total of 438 champions in all 50 states, most of whom recognize state champions. A few states such as California, do not have a true state playoff system, so 55 California teams ended their seasons victorious, calling themselves champions within various divisions in the 10 sections that California is divided up into. In 2015, CA is testing a brand new system that invites the 47 champions who played 11-man football into a 2-game state tournament, so there will be 13 “state champions” in 2015.
At any rate, if we are to assume that half of the 15,484 teams across the U.S. made the playoffs, and 438 ended with a championship victory, then that means approximately 7,300 teams ended their season with tearful, dream crushing playoff losses. Then there were the 7,700 teams who did not make the playoffs but might have ended their season winning a meaningless game 10 before turning their equipment in. At any rate 97% of the teams end their season with the bitter taste of defeat in their mouths and a powerful flame burning to work harder for next season.
Coaches spend December doing a few things: collect equipment, organize awards banquets, and getting to know their families that they last saw in late July. Another thing that every successful coach will do is sit down in December and map out a strength and conditioning program that spans from January to July. I would like to put some thoughts down on paper on how I organized our program.
- Time. All high school coaches are bound by a bell schedule. The key is to get maximum reps in that amount of time.
- Multiple Sport Athletes. While playing other sports should be encouraged, it creates a weight room where some athletes are in a heavy, off-season regimen, while others are on a lighter, in-season maintenance routine. This is very difficult to plan for.
- Equipment. There are many great workout systems that you can follow and even purchase. But you will always have to adapt to the equipment you have and the number of athletes.
- Nutrition. Your athletes need proper fueling, otherwise their body will burn muscle to create more ATP. The challenges are: lack of knowledge, they don’t buy the groceries, and the school cafeteria is not setup to provide the necessary calories required of an elite athlete in training.
PHILOSOPHY and GOALS
My philosophy was that I needed every athlete working very fast. They needed to do everything quickly: warmup, setup stations, lift, and change weights at very fast speeds. Why? We only had limited time and I wanted to get as many reps in on as many muscles as possible. Another reason was I believe that working out at an intense level where nobody is standing around translates to the playing field. Every year I had multiple coaches complement our teams on how hard we played and how hard we hit. I believed that there was a direct correlation to how intense our weight room operated.
IF YOU WANT TO PLAY FAST, THEN TRAIN FAST
BUILT in MUSCLE RECOVERY TIME:
It is easy to run a weight room where nobody is sitting down and being lazy. That is easy to spot and correct. But an area where so many coaches lose time is when they allow athletes to not lift for 1 or 2 minutes while they are between sets. I totally understand that the muscle that was just fatigued needs at least a 1-minute period for ATP regeneration, so I designed a workout where the athlete was working a different muscle while that muscle was being rested. For example:
Bobby does Heavy Back Squat 5 reps and Jonny is his spotter. As soon as Bobby is done, he gets ready to spot Eddie doing his back spots while Jonny picks up a barbell to do split jerk (shoulders). So Bobby’s thighs are recovering while he is spotting! As soon as Eddie gets done squatting, he becomes the spotter, Bobby goes to split jerk, while Jonny is now doing Box Step Ups (thigh muscle again, but explosive, fast twitch). So Bobby is still lifting (shoulders) but his thighs are still getting a break to build up some more ATP. Bobby continues following Jonny, so Bobby does Box Step Ups while Jonny does 30 reps of some sort of ab work. Bobby’s shoulders are resting but now his thighs need another break, Bobby replaces Jonny and works his ab muscles while Jonny takes his turn at the squat rack. When Bobby gets back to the squat rack, everyone adds weight and they all start their 2nd set.
- EXERCISE ONE: Back Squat (thighs, slow twitch) 4 sets of 6
- EXERCISE TWO: Spotter
- EXERCISE THREE: Split Jerk (shoulders) 4 sets of 10
- EXERCISE FOUR: Box Step Ups (thighs, explosive fast twitch) 4 sets of 6, ea leg
- EXERCISE FIVE: Abs or lower back. 4 sets of 30
So what I tried to do was put my athletes in groups of 5 and they would rotate through these 5 exercises 3 or 4 times with no stopping. So each athlete did 4 sets of 4 exercises (232 total reps) and I could get all 5 athletes through this in approximately 10 minutes. I would allow 15 minutes because of setup time. The key is that they would be at each exercise for 20-30 seconds, so each muscle got at least 1 minute of ATP recovery before a load was placed on that muscle again.
Once this 15 minute workout was completed, they then setup another 4 exercises. This took 5 minutes (recovery time) and this is when they were allowed water.
- EXERCISE ONE: Explosive Dead Lift (thighs, fast twitch) 4 sets of 6
- EXERCISE TWO: Shoulder Workout. 4 sets of 10
- EXERCISE THREE: Lateral Squat (thighs, slow twitch) 4 sets of 10
- EXERCISE FOUR: Abs or lower back. 4 sets of 30.
- EXERCISE FIVE: Glute Hams. 4 sets of 10.
Again this second set of exercises took a total of 15 minutes. So in 30 minutes I could get 5 athletes to perform 9 exercises, 36 sets, and 460 reps. Not only were the thighs and shoulders worked out, but metabolic & cardiovascular rates were increased. Trust me when i say that every athlete left our weight room with a shirt drenched in sweat. Showers were not an option and there wasn’t enough Axe deodorant at the store to cover up the smell. Our football players just accepted that they were going to work out very hard in a short period of time and it would require a shower before going back to class.
I would have 40-45 athletes broken into 8-9 groups. When I first started we only had 4 squat racks, so half the class was at squat racks while the other 4 groups of 5 were on platforms. Then the groups would switch squat racks for platforms after 15 minutes. Regardless of setup, NO ATHLETE started lifting until I gave a team command. So imagine for a second that all 45 athletes are standing in a squat rack, next to a box, or with a bar in their hands…looking at me. I would yell something like “LIFT TO WIN”…they would repeat what I said in unison, clap 3 times, and start lifting. After they finish their 6, 10, or 30 reps they all rotate to the next exercises as described above and then look at me (this takes less than 30 seconds). I yell something like “NO PAIN NO GAIN”.. they repeat in unison, clap 3 times, and start lifting. We do this before every lift. The message?
THAT WE START AND FINISH AS A TEAM.
- 5-8 minutes: Dynamic Warmup. As a team. Every exercise started with a clap. And I was very visible making sure they were done right.
- 15 minutes: First set of exercises
- 15 minutes: Second set of exercises
- 5 minute: cleanup
- 5 minute: Cool down, static stretch done as a team.
I never could find time to teach proper running mechanics so high knees, falling starts, A-skips, butt kickers, striders are all incorporated in the warmup. At the very minimum they will learn to run with thumbs to ears, parallel thighs, and land on balls of their feet.
COOL DOWN STATIC STRETCH
We just followed the BFS 1-2-3-4 stretching program after every workout. It would take less than 5 minutes, we stretched as a team with me counting down from 10 on every stretch and when I said “ONE” they yelled out our mascot in unison with 3 claps and immediately got into the next stretch, waiting for me to start counting down. Often times I let team leaders do the countdown.
STRENGTH BUILDING PHASE (11 weeks)
The first week back from winter break was spent on getting maxes so players had a baseline to use with their 1-rep max charts that are zeroxed on the back of every workout sheet. After four weeks of following this routine, we spent a week on PLATEAU BUSTERS. While the first 4 weeks is a Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri lifting routine, the plateau buster week was Mon, Wed, Fri and was any fun lifting that I could find. I might bring in a p90x or Insanity DVD or google the workout that the actors did in preparation for the movie 300. But the players LOVED when I designed competitive, lifting relay races where winning team would get a gatorade or egg mcmuffin sandwich. All of these plateau buster workouts are in my SSX Binder that I sell for $37.
WEDNESDAYS were spent in the classroom educating the athletes about proper nutrition for 4 weeks followed by a 4 week leadership training.
MONDAYS & THURSDAYS were legs & shoulders. TUESDAYS & FRIDAYS were chest & back. The core lifts: Squat, Clean, & Snatch were performed twice per week. The auxillaries were always changing because I wanted to give them variety. If you look at the chart above, notice that shoulders exercises include Incline, Chin Pulls, Military Press, Split Jerk, and Lateral Raises. My goal was that an athlete would not have to do the same auxillary lift until 4-5 weeks had passed. I wanted to challenge them mentally and physically, as well as attack the muscle from as many angles as possible.
So week one was maxes, weeks 2-5 was lifting, week 6 was plateau buster, weeks 7-10 was more lifting, and week 11 was maxes again. Hopefully week 11 would land right before dismissing for Easter break. A daily sample workout looks like this:
I would zerox one sheet for each group every day. The SSX Binder has all 32 daily workout sheets for the strength phase and there was a % guide on back of every one to guide the players on how much weight to lift on each set.
SETS, REPS, VOLUME
I used both the BFS model and the Boyd Epley website as my guide. The sets, reps, & volume changes every week and the 4th week is setup so the players can get their 1-rep max. This gave them an idea of how much they improved. I never wanted to waste a week on “maxing out” so our set/reps at the end of each 4 week micro cycle was 10-8-4-2 or 5-4-3-2-1. I will tell you this: all of our athletes were at 110 – 120% of their 1-rep maxes after this 11-week macro cycle. We did traditional maxing the Thursday and Friday before dismissing for Easter Break.
EXPLOSIVE BUILDING PHASE (11 weeks)
The first week back from easter break we jumped right into a 5-day lifting routine. Mon, Wed, & Fri was identical to the STRENGTH PHASE. Tuesdays & Thursdays we would do PLYOMETRICS, CONES, and LADDERS. Just like before, we would follow this routine for 4 weeks, spend a week on PLATEAU BUSTERS, and then do another 4 weeks. The DVDs in the SSX Binder show my athletes demonstrating a ton of PLYOMETRIC EXERCISES, including proper technique, as well as over 20 cones and ladder routines. It also includes over 30 Kettlebell workouts if your weight room is lucky enough to have them.
I would zerox one sheet for each group every day. The SSX Binder has all 24 daily workout sheets for lifting and another 16 daily Plyo/Agility workout for Tue & Thur. The % guides are updated to account for the strength gains that the athletes should be experiencing. I took the % guides from a Fresno State Strength Coach who is now a full-time private consultant who only trains NFL athletes.
SUMMER CONDITIONING PHASE (6 weeks)
In California, we are allowed 10 days of spring football practice after the last baseball game is played. So we would quit doing plyos and limit the amount of auxillary lifting since our boys were going to practice pretty hard for 2 hours afterschool. If there were no spring football then we would just continue the EXPLOSIVE PHASE and ignore the “Last 2 Weeks of May” section. The last week of school there was no lifting at all. This was time for finals, turning in papers, enjoying the end of the year activities, and seeing our seniors out with style. Since our Weight class was before school (6:30am to 8am) I just cancelled so the boys could sleep in and be rested for finals. If weights were a class during the day, I would have got them in the library or a classroom for study hall.
SUMMER was basically a ton of cross-fit stuff. I found hundreds of metabolic workouts off the internet (XL Athlete and Cross-Fit for Football) and put the 18 that I liked into the binder. Thursdays was TOTAL TEAM THURSDAY….which we divided our team into 16 teams, put them on a 16-team tournament bracket and we competed in the stadium. We did crazy things like push pickup trucks up & down the field, ran up & down bleachers with 70lb blocking dummies over our head, and flipped tires. Win or lose, every team did 4 competitions and the overall champion was rewarded with pizza. It taught our kids how to compete, how to work as a team, but most importantly it got them out of the weight room! They have been staring at those same 4 walls since January.
So to summarize, my entire 52-week Strength & Conditioning Plan followed this rough pattern:
If you want to see much more detail of my S.S.X. Strength & Conditioning Plan for the High School Weight Room, click here.