BEAST will post a short series on Football Strength and Conditioning; Part 1:
I played organized Football for five seasons. One year of Pop Warner Football (at 130 lbs for the Stratford Jets in Stratford Connecticut) and four years of High School Football at Saint Joseph High School in Trumbull Connecticut. I didn’t come from much of a football family. When I first announced I was interested in playing, my father and I had to look up the positions in an encyclopedia (and not a football encyclopedia; I’m referring to the Encyclopedia Britannica).
I was a great Pop Warner player. I played offensive and defensive guard and on all special teams. The coach frequently pulled my father aside and said to him, “Your son hits like an animal” or “He’s mean on the field. He’s mean … what’s his mother like?” I remember that no matter how hard I hit another player, I always felt that it wasn’t hard enough, including the time I popped another teammate in practice so hard that both our facemasks bent inward. At the end of the season when I handed-in my gear, the Head Coach said to me, “Eggers, you had a great season. You came out of nowhere and did a hell of a job.” I’ll never forget that comment.
The problem was that after Pop Warner I never got any better.
Well, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Let’s just say, I only got a little better; a heck of a lot stronger, but not a heck of a lot faster, and certainly nowhere near as explosive as I should’ve been and probably could’ve been had I been doing the right things. Yes, I was the strongest player on the team, but the highlight of my football career was an All-League honorable mention as a defensive tackle during my junior year. I was always a starter and honestly, I did always give it one hundred percent, but my talent was limited … or was it?
If you’re a young football player reading this, then good for you – you probably always hear your elders saying if I could only go back and do it over again, I would have done “X” or I would have done “Y.” Most of you won’t listen, I know that going in, but for the few of you that do listen, the payoff will be immense. So without further back-story, here are the things I wish I had done as a high school football player – the things I would do if I had a Time Machine.
RB/LB Don Cherry explodes through a 390lb Box Squat
1) Squat More Diligently (specifically the box squat)
When I was in high school, I loved to weight train. However, I was enamored with the bench press and largely neglected the squat. I don’t mean to imply that I didn’t squat at all; I just never gave the exercise enough attention to derive the maximum benefit. I never squatted heavy enough or often enough (or correctly for that matter).
At Beast we are big believers in the box squat. After years of studying the powerlifting successes at Westside Barbell coupled with the athletic incorporation of the movement as successfully applied by DeFranco’s Training in New Jersey, as well as heavy incorporation in our own programs, we are convinced of the benefits of heavily utilizing this exercise. We don’t recommend our athletes utilize a super-wide stance, like many powerlifters, but rather a moderately wide stance, feet slightly wider than shoulders and toes slightly pointed outward.
The parallel box squat teaches athletes to sit back when they squat, activating the musculature of the hips, glutes, and lower back, as well as the quads. The box helps athletes learn the proper squat position. Using the box also breaks the eccentric / concentric chain teaching the athlete to explode out of the hole (the low or parallel position of the squat). Plus using the box requires the athlete to go to the same depth for each and every repetition, so there is no cheating with half repetitions and the ever-popular quarter squats.
2010 Lineman/LB Anthony Dorn pushes through a 365lb Box Squat for a solid Triple
With box squats, or any multi-joint power movement, the key is to perform the exercise consistently. I always disliked squatting and still do, but recently a trainer at Beast paid me a great compliment. He said “All I ever see you do is squat.” That comment was high praise for a lifter once only known as a “Bench Press Athlete.”
We recommend Maximum Effort Squatting once a week, incorporating one set that is an all-out effort (not to complete failure, but close, while maintaining good form).
Some strength coaches suggest that squatting more than once a week will take too much of a toll on a High School Athletes CNS; we definitely monitor how our athletes handle the load and typically supplement their squatting with dynamic leg work (more on that later) – but I will tell you, some young athletes can handle a tremendous load, and with proper rest and nutrition, are able to Max Effort Squat multiple times per week for a given meso-cycle (i.e. two weeks to a month).
The key is to be consistent/diligent, maintain focus, and for the athlete to give a Beastly effort each time he/she steps under the bar.
One of the First Football Training Sessions Conducted at Beast – June 2010
Please follow the link below to read the next part in the series: