Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Book Review: Football Training like the Pros

Football Training Like the Pros
by Chip Smith
238 pages, Published 2008

Football Training Like the Pros, going by just the name, sounds like it's a collection of glossy photos of current NFL players, a few bogus workouts centered on bicep curls and leg presses, and some empty motivational chapter about playing hard. It's not. It's a total approach to improving the strength, explosiveness, speed, and flexibility of a football player, written by a coach with experience working with professional football players. My own experience with football is very limited, so I'm not sure if all of the drills and such are actually good ones. But they're here, and presented well.

The book covers:

- dynamic stretching and warmups
- agility ladder drills
- static stretching
- speed work - including overspeed work, resisted running, and general speed work
- swimming/circuit training combinations for cardiovascular fitness
- strength training

Each of the sections opens with a short but easy to understand explanation of the specific topic at hand, and why it's useful and necessary to work it. Each section contains a large number of pictures. They also have explanatory text about the pictures and techniques, tips, and methods to integrate the exercises.

So for example, the warmup contains a series of pictures of warmup techniques, a step-by-step guide to the technique, and explains how to use them as a complete warmup. It makes it clear what the techniques are meant to do and how to do them. The same is repeated for ladder drills, overspeed training (running with negative resistance to speed you up), stretching, etc. Alternative drills are also discussed.

The pool workout section is especially interesting. The author combines a medley of swimming, water-resisted sprinting, and weight training techniques into one. When the initial pool circuits are completed, the athletes are then to complete a timed "giant set" - really a complex based on time, not reps - for 25 seconds per exercise for two complete circuits. The body is warmed up and pre-fatigued, and then it is hammered with a circuit for time. It's clever and interesting, putting two activities together in a complementary fashion not usually seen in sports training manuals.

The weight training section is good. The only machine training is the leg press, otherwise it's all dumbbells and barbells. Lifts are centered on compound exercises, like power cleans (from the floor or from the hang position), bench pressing, cable rows, and even plate-and-band resisted jumps on a Vertimax. Some isolation exercises are used, but the author strongly pushes as them secondary exercises, not your primary builders. These include curls and reverse curls, Ts and Ys, shrugs, and pullovers. Form is good - no guillotine bench presses, partial squats, or other dangerous form. The author recommends training to or near failure on exercises, plus forced reps (partner-aided reps) for extra intensity. He also supersets plyometrics with weight training, trying to create a synergistic effect. So you may squat for strength and then jump for explosiveness, and back again. Warming up properly and using drop sets, proper volume, and other similar training techniques are covered. So is loading and weight progression. It's refreshing to see someone stressing that even a strong young player must start with an empty barbell, and work up slowly as he improves his strength and technique. This is true, but it is important to stress to younger readers more concerned with getting 315 on the bar any way they can than getting 225 with good form.

Its final pre-appendix chapter is a rundown of the training program used by NFL player Brian Urlacher for a recent season of play. The training is especially interesting because it was conducted at high altitude. That may limit its usefulness as a case study, however - unless you've got a training facility at high altitude to use for yourself. Still, it is interesting to see how the pieces come together and how the program was generated.

Two appendixes give a detailed set of tables for workouts, and by-position training methods. If you're a position player it's useful to have a by-position discussion and the appendixes cover this nicely.

Content: 4 out of 5. Very complete. It's exactly what it advertises and it's a useful book for any football player needing training guidance..
Presentation: 5 out of 5. Clear pictures, easy to read text, logical layout, and the pictures match the described techniques. Tables are easy to read and well laid out.

Overall: Probably a must read for a football player, but still interesting if you are not. The section on combining pool training with weight circuits is pretty interesting all by itself.

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