Football is a game of leverage, power, speed and strength. It would be tough to pick all of the best exercises for a football player. It would really depend what you place your greatest emphasis on. This article will pick the five best strength and power exercises that could have the greatest carry over effect to the field.
The hang clean would be a great choice. The hang clean involves the whole body producing very high power outputs. It will give the football player optimal neural recruitment, enabling him to develop high power in minimal time. I prefer the hang clean as opposed to the power clean because there is not as much skill and teaching required for the hang clean, yet, the same benefits are received. There is nothing like having a high power output that requires the whole body to work in unison.
Pull-ups should be a staple in the program as well. These will allow the player to develop optimal upper body strength. A modified version may need to be used for the bigger linemen or for those players that lack experience in performing a pull-up. This is one exercise that will show relative strength in the players compared to their body weight.
Single leg squats or pause squats. It is not uncommon to find players that have huge back squat numbers, yet they cannot perform one single leg squat. I would rather have a player be able to perform a set of single leg squats as opposed to back squatting 500 pounds. Most of football, or all sports for that matter, are played predominantly with a unilateral component. This means that running and jumping are done one leg at a time. This is a much more realistic movement and if you are following the principle of specific adaptations to imposed demands, then single leg squats are great. I would perform a progression from Bulgarian split squats, to elevated single leg squats which will allow you to control the depth to pistol squats, to weighted single leg touch and go squats and finally to single leg body weight squats. The last two can be used interchangeably. This requires a high degree of strength and will require that all the stabilizer muscles of the lower body are firing optimally.
The Jammer extension machine would be another great exercise to include in the program. Weights can be moved at high speeds. Because of the range of the machine, it will decelerate by itself, almost resulting in a plyometric type of upper body exercise. This makes it superior in my opinion to the bench press because of the low velocity typically seen with the bench press and the fact that it has to be decelerated at the end of the movement. The Jammer also calls for high force output through the ankles, knees and hip, making it a triple extension exercise, similar to the Olympic lifts.
The final exercise that can be done in a gym or out on the turf is the weighted sled push. By using a ground based sled and pushing with the handles, this becomes a very athletic fitness specific exercise. The athlete will be low, they will be using their legs unilaterally and because of this, they will be getting core stabilization. These are all awesome for a football player and very specific to what will be happening on the field. The upper body muscles will also be at work, isometrically contracting and stabilizing. Looks like blocking an opposing player with all of the proper mechanics of running built-in. If you don’t have sleds, just use your imagination to alter the exercise. Partner pushes or partner sitting on towel pulls with a forward lean would be a good replacement.
These exercises are compound and complex. This article did not address any isolated or assistance work, which would be put into any exercise program. These exercises can be the foundation of your football training program. Use these to build an unstoppable football player.