In the NFL, once the Super Bowl is over the football year comes to an end for fans. But for the coaches, players and training staff it marks the start of a new season. And one of the first items on the priority list for the NFL player is getting healthy and in the best physical and mental state possible.
But what makes up a great offseason program? What areas need to be addressed? This article will look at some crucial aspects that an effective offseason program must include.
The initial step in starting an effective offseason training program is setting proper and realistic goals. These goals must have input from the player's coaches, medical staff and, of course, the player himself. Preparing for specific weaknesses in the player's game or physical body, adjusting his body type to suit a change in scheme (i.e. lose or gain weight) or simply improving in certain fundamental football techniques are all examples of important goals to set.
Once the goals are set, incorporating all of the following categories is critical for a successful offseason training program.
A thorough physical exam that can detect any physical abnormality, joint, muscle or ligament dysfunction is a must. This exam will help the player focus on areas that need specific improvement.
Properly preparing the players body to effectively move should be a priority. Restoring properly needed range of motion in certain joints and muscles must be a part of the daily program. Furthermore, this aspect must include a three dimensional approach in which the body is "activated" to move forward and backwards, side to side and rotationally. Proper and efficient movement will create the proper foundation for the following categories.
The essence of any outstanding offseason program is the development of functional strength and power for the football player. Strength is defined as the ability to generate as much force as possible with little focus on how fast it takes to perform the exercise. Power is the ability to generate forces as fast as possible.
Strength training allows for muscle development, growth and protection for the player. Power training is important so that the player can function at a fast speed while still exerting force. Productive programs will use a "periodized" system of training. In other words, various aspects of the training program are changed throughout the offseason to maximize strength, power, avoid over-training and create specific physical changes to the player's body.
The "core" is the "buzz word" in today's fitness industry. The proper development of the core muscles (abdominal, obliques and hip muscles) not only may decrease the player's chance of injury, but also improve his ability to transfer forces to his limbs.
Not only should this program prepare the player to get into "football shape" (cardiovascularly), but also improve their "football speed" (speed in changing direction, making cuts, etc.) This is accomplished by creating a graduated and systematic program that takes into account multiple variables, such as the total distance run (position specific), effort level, rest time, distance per rep and directions/angles of running to name a few. Improving football speed can be accomplished with work on movement mechanics, resistance running, overspeed training techniques as well as the benefits from the strength/power program mentioned above.
"Agility is the ability to rapidly change direction without the loss of speed, balance or body control'" Bruce W. Craig, PhD, Strength & Conditioning Journal.
Agility training should be position specific. It should include all of the elements of movement that a particular player will possibly perform in a game.
The offseason is the best time to work on improving specific football skills. Focused and proper instruction, along with specific coaching corrections, produces "difference maker" improvements in skill training. Doing excessive drills with poor or sloppy technique will not produce positive results.
»NUTRITION: You are what you eat. Fuel your body correctly.
»VISION TRAINING: The better a player sees the ball or their opponent, the faster they can prepare themselves to perform the proper technique.
»SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY/FOCUS TRAINING: Positive, focused thinking makes good players become GREAT players!
In my upcoming articles, I will take a more in depth look into each of these categories that make up an effective offseason program.
-Brett Fischer is a licensed physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, certified strength and conditioning specialist and a certified dry needling provider. He has worked with the University of Florida, New York Jets, PGA & Senior PGA TOUR and the Chicago Cubs.
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