“When you have the skills, the strength, and the mental outlook that comes from the weight room, it goes a long way towards helping you succeed on the field.”
-Mike Alstott-- Tampa Bay Buccaneer All Pro Fullback
Speed is the amount of distance covered in a given amount of time. Acceleration is how quickly you get to top speed. Acceleration and starting ability are the most important speed related factors in football. Strength, particularly in the quadriceps, hamstring, and hip flexor groups, plays a role in all of these abilities.
Power is the product of force and velocity. Power is the ability to exert strength in a given time frame. This is the initial explosion off of the line. Another good example is a vertical jump. It takes about .2 seconds for most athletes to go from flexion to extension at the knee before leaping. Why do some athletes that weigh the same amount jump higher than others? They can express more force via strength and motor recruitment in this time frame.
To go a little deeper, power=force X velocity. It takes .6-.8 seconds to develop maximum strength. This occurs when you fail to move a load under maximum strength expression and is called an isometric contraction. Maximum power is expressed at 30-50% of maximal strength, since velocity of movement decreases as maximum strength expression is approached. Therefore, maximum power expression takes .2-.3 seconds. This is equal to the time it takes to make a block or a tackle. Therefore it makes sense to train for maximum power.
Agility is the body’s ability to change direction while maintaining speed. Power, and therefore strength is at the root of agility. Key areas are the legs, hips, abdominals, and low back.
HOW IS IT DONE?
Strength is developed at the facility mainly through the use of free weights. Free weights are supreme since the various stabilizers and co-contractors come into play, not just prime movers, much like during a game situation. A foundation of strength and stability is necessary in order to build upon this foundation using other modes of training in a safe, effective manner. Other modes utilized include plyometrics, medicine and Swiss ball training, speed training, and agility training. In addition, cardiovascular conditioning is enhanced during drills using appropriate work/rest ratios to mainly tax the phosphagen energy pathway, which is the main pathway utilized during the game.
Plyometrics utilize the body’s stretch reflex to yield a more forceful contraction. The goal of plyometrics is to increase power output. It is the linking of speed and strength to develop reactive power. It also teaches good coordination and agility. One needs a good strength base before performing plyometric exercise.
Medicine ball training is utilized in correspondence with weight or resistance training to develop power. Motions can be multi-planar and sport specific. The core, which consists of the abs, back, hips, and thighs, can be targeted in a sport specific way. Athletic ability is enhanced. The core contributes greatly to body power.
Swiss ball training enhances balance and teaches strength expression and coordination in unstable environments, much like the playing field. Activation of prime movers in a motion is 100% only when balance is present during the motion. Therefore, functional strength is enhanced by improving balance alone. Neutralizer and stabilizer muscle action is enhanced. High levels of nervous system activation occur, which leads to a reserve when the athlete hits the playing field.
Speed training utilizes strength training and plyometrics. Sprint resistive and sprint assisted methods are used more specifically to target stride length and stride frequency respectively.
Speed and Agility training is also accomplished by overloading very specific parts of bigger movement patterns. Work/rest ratios are designed to enhance the appropriate metabolic pathways.
The total program is affected by and should be planned in accordance with at what point of the season the athlete is in. Generally speaking, the program moves from very generalized in the off season to more specific as the season approaches. Initially strength gains and muscle mass, if needed, are emphasized. As the season approaches, more emphasis is placed on translating these gains to sport specific speed and power. The younger the athlete, the more skills training should be at the forefront. Provisions should be made in programs to blend skills and conditioning accordingly.