Whether it’s a lack of finances, or whatever, sometimes football players have to “wing-it” when it comes to training in the off season.

If you’re ever in a position where you have to “wing-it,” it’s smart to at least understand the fundamentals of off season strength training, so you can get the most out of your training, and ultimately, your potential.

I decided to research off season strength training, and find out what reputable, qualified people in the industry say on the topic.

Today I’ll be sharing what I learned.


Lesson #1 – Offseason and In-Season Strength Training Should Be Different


In Strength Training for Football…, the author, Phil (he doesn’t give his last name, but he’s a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), says you should not be doing the same routine in the off-season that you do during the in-season period.

As a football player, you have three high-level phases of strength training throughout the yearly cycle:

Center David Molk had the best bench press performance amongst players at his position at the 2012 NFL Combine, with 41 repititions of 225lbs. (ICON Sports)

Off-season, in-season, and transition.

Each of these phases are broken down even further, but since this post is about off season training, only the off season phase will be broken down today.

Each phase has a different objective, which explains why the routines and philosophies should be different.

Here’s a quick summary of what your objectives are in each of the three phases of strength training:

Off-season: Build size, strength, and power.

Related: What Every Serious Football Player Should Know About Protein – Part One


In-season: Maintain the gains from the off season.  The amount and intensity of in-season weight training should be reduced from the off-season workout.

Related: The Truth about In Season Football Training


Transition: Resting period.  Lasts approximately for a month, and gives your body and mind time to recuperate.


Lesson #2 –  Four Categories (aka Periodization) of Strength Training for Football


Let’s revisit the Strength Training for Football… article real quick.  In it, Phil, the author, recommends that your strength training regimen be broken down into four categories:

1) Anatomical Adaptation/Functional

2) Hypertrophy

3) Maximal

4) Power

He recommends doing them in “macrocycles,” where you’re (for example) doing the anatomical adaptation/functional stage for 4-6 weeks, then the hypertrophy stage, then the Maximal and Power stages.

I’ll try to briefly go over each phase.


Functional Strength Training/Anatomical Adaptation Phase

This period of training helps you develop muscle balance and joint stability, with the end goal of decreasing your susceptibility of getting injured when the season rolls around.

Related: Bounce Back Faster! 5 Essentials of Athletic Injury Management

It also preps your tendons, ligaments, and muscles for the next phase of the training regimen.

In Periodization Part-2: Anatomical Adaptation,  Mark Ginther, a training specialist with 20 years of experience, does a good job of explaining this phase of your training.

He recommends that during this period, strength and skill training should be done four to six hours apart, or even on different days altogether, if possible.


So if you’re a wide receiver, for example, you should try to run routes and stuff like that at least six hours after your strength training session is done during this stage.

Related: Workout for Wide Receivers Part 1

He also mentions that the amount of time you spend in this period varies, and depends on how experienced of an athlete you are.

Phil (the author of the Strength Training for Football… article, to refresh your memory) recommends that players new to training should spend between 8-to-10 weeks in this phase, and experienced players should spend between 3 to 5 weeks in it.

He goes on to recommend circuit training during this period.


Hypertrophy Strength Training Phase

This is the second phase, where you build lean muscle mass.   This stage of the regimen is focused on growing your muscles and gaining bulk.

Linemen should spend more time in this period than other positions, as bulk is most important for linemen.

In Football Strength Training, Patrick Beith, Co-owner of Athletes Acceleration (he also serves as a speed trainer and has a BS in Science in Exercise Physiology), recommends that you spend no more than half of your overall strength training regimen on hypertrophy strength, even if you’re a lineman.

If you spend too much time in this phase, it will negatively impact your speed and agility.


Maximal Strength Training

This is the third phase, where you develop your explosiveness, by building your fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Because of it’s impact on your explosion, this phase plays a major role in your results in the broad jump, vertical jump, and the rest of the combine drills that NFL scouts use to gauge your explosiveness.

During this phase, you want to “explode” into the lifts, using bursts of energy.

You want to perform these lifts as fast as you can, while maintaining good form.

During the Maximal strength portion, the focus is on your major muscle groups.

This period uses extremely heavy loads, where you’re doing 85% to 100% of your one rep max on the lifts.


Power Strength Training

This is the fourth and final stage, where you develop your power.

It’s “power” that helps you win the collisions on the field, not strength.

Power and strength are closely related, but they’re not the same thing.

Plyometrics are one of the most popular exercises for the Power phase of off season training.

“Strength” is your ability to exert force on someone or something using your muscles; “Power”, involves strength, but also takes into account how far the object is moved, and how much time it took to move that object.

Related: POWER Football: How to Increase Energy Levels Naturally – Part One

What you’re doing in the Power phase, is training your central nervous system to fetch the necessary fast twitch muscles as fast as possible.

This phase plays the biggest part in your speed development.  These lifts combine tactical movements with skill, so the number of lifts you want to do per session is low.

This phase can include plyometrics, ballistics, and isotonic lifting.

Plyometrics – where you’re usually using your bodyweight to do fast, explosive movements rapidly.

This includes training like box jumps, and other training methods that involve jumping.

Ballistics – This is similar to plyometrics, but the difference is that you’re applying force throughout the entire movement. With ballistic lifts, you’re lifting weight while accelerating, and releasing the weight.  Medicine ball throwing is an example of a ballistic lift.

Isotonic – In isotonic lifting , you’re doing lifts like power cleans and jump squats.  In a nutshell, in this phase, you’re doing some of the more traditional exercises that you did in the other phases, but with lighter weight, and you’re doing it in quick explosive bursts.

Click the link below for part two:

Football Offseason Workout Program – Strength Training Fundamentals Every Player Should Know – Part Two

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Reference webpages:

Curtis Schultz’ – Power Athlete Football Strength Program

Strength Training for Football… The Elite Approach

Rest and Overtraining – What Does This All Mean to the Dedicated Bodybuilder?

Periodization Part 2: Anatomical Adaptation

Football Strength Training 

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