Friday, August 29, 2014

The 5 Worst Football workout exercise habits you need to break today

For many football players, doing the right or wrong exercises in the gym can make or break your season. Worse yet shorten your career.

Your body is an investment and you think, "Where do I focus my efforts? Do I do speed, agility, and quickness drills? Should I lift weights explosively? Are plyometrics the way to go?" You fumble around the gym, pretending to know what you are doing and hopefully not get hurt in the process. And soon football is something you used to play. Career over!

It really doesn't have to be that way if you know what to focus on. First, erase everything you've learned about exercise and working out for football. Keep it simple, get good at the basics and start by avoiding these 5 bad habits!

1. Combining skill training and strength training

The research on skill transfer is very clear...skills don't transfer from one task to the other.  Skills are classified as "open" or "closed".  Exercises like power cleans and flipping truck tires are examples of a closed skill, even tho you can't make a sports drink commercial without someone doing them, they have no transfer the "open" skill set the game of football requires.

The right approach is to build strength in safest and most productive way in the gym by doing proper weight training, then go out to the football field and practice your skill for your sport and position.  This means that if you're a quarterback working on throwing mechanics and footwork, do so in helmet and pads on the football field and not on a beach in the sand with a bungee cord strapped to your waist.

2. Avoiding Exercise Machines

Are machines better than free weights?  It's an age old question and everyone has their opinion.  The facts are, your body is a rotational animal and free weights have resistance from one direction, physics tell us that there's only a very small part of any free weight exercise where there's direct resistance on the muscle. 

If you're using the best machines available (which few teams do), machines are far more productive than free weights because they give the proper resistance throughout the range of motion.  In understanding the limitations of free weights you can adjust your strength and conditioning program accordingly to the most productive exercises.

3. Taking a Fast & Furious Approach

Urlacher doing highly destructive exercise to his joints
There are more injuries in sports now more than there ever was.  I see so many athletes doing their weight training completely wrong. Fast reps, not complete reps, etc. Exercises like power cleans, plyometrics, and explosive exercises are the single most cause of injury either directly or indirectly today.  They put your body under a tremendous amount of force that can set an athlete up for a disastrous injury.

During weight training, take 4 seconds to lift and 4 seconds to lower the weight and pausing in the contracted position. When you're lifting the weight slow and controlled your muscles actually do all the work, not momentum which not only builds strength faster but is much safer as well. 

4. Plyometrics

JJ Watt for the sport of jumping up on boxes
Jumping up on plyo boxes and various plyometric hops may look impressive but at what cost?  The joints and connective tissue take an absolute beating during plyometrics.  Explosive power is almost entirely dictated by your genetics, some people have advantages and some don't.

With 4 preseason games, 16 regular season games, playoffs, not to mention all the camps and practices you get more than enough explosive work in. Nothing prepares you for the explosive moves on the football field better than just playing the game of football.  You barely have enough time to recover from normal football life let alone additional wear and tear of explosive plyometrics.

5. Using Speed Gadgets

Robert Griffin III...injury after's part of the reason
Parachutes, bungee cords, speed ladders, and special speed shoes are among the many gadgets that do not increase your football speed.  None of these gadgets will help you be faster covering a running back coming out of the backfield or keeping up with a receiver running his route.

Changes in stance, footwork, hand placement, and eliminating unnecessary movement is by far the most productive way to increase your speed and quickness.  Also take time on a regular basis to practice running technique and running fast.  Yes, I said practice running fast! I know it makes too much sense doesn't it?

I'll be writing in depth articles on each of these topics in the coming weeks.


  1. I have been preaching this for over 40 years! Good technique and a strong desire will do more than using all the gadgets in the pantheon of training! I have seen a 130 lbs. high school defensive back hit like he weighed 300 lbs. because of his desire to hit and his near perfect technique! I also believe that those who play other sports allow for the crossover effect where the drills and playing of other sports will enhance the playing of different sports!

  2. sounds like A Jones, Dan Riely, Tom Laputca, El Darden, Jim Flannagan, Jim Peterson, pull out the Colorado Study or the West Point project, and get Casy Viatar on the line. train hard, rest, train harder, rest and train even harder, get strong and play the game... basic A Jones stuff......

    1. Exactly! Butkus was directed to A. Jones back in 73 to rehab his knee prior to his last year with the started a lifelong friendship between them. It's very interesting to read about the relationship as there's many stories AJ wrote about training Butkus.

    2. So, let's go the next step and talk about one set VS. two or three sets. Dan Riely was really the one who took it to the football level when he left WP and went to PSU.
      Bill Brosseau