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Preparation for HS Football, Part 3 - 12/13/2011


Dr. Ken Leistner
Allow me, please, to reiterate one of the most important statements I have made relative to the primary purpose of the high school strength training program. The point needs to be repeated, emphasized, and become a mantra because it is an easily obscured point, especially as your young athletes become muscularly larger, stronger, more confident, and more successful on the field. Every one of these aforementioned results of a properly designed and administrated strength program is possible and should be expected and obviously every one of these results adds to the efficacy of your overall football program. However, not all of the expected results of strength training are of equal importance. The primary purpose of any strength training program for football is NOT to enhance size, strength, speed, quickness, or confidence. These are the “side benefits” of a properly constructed and supervised program because the primary purpose, the one that should be of the utmost importance to the coaches charged with the responsibility of their players’ well being, is to reduce the frequency and severity of injury. The “job” of the strength program, especially on the high school level, is to reduce injuries. From a coaching perspective, selfishly, and again, this is repetition of an earlier statement, your injured player cannot practice at one-hundred percent and perhaps cannot practice at all; your injured player cannot play at one-hundred percent and perhaps cannot play at all. This is a personal disaster for the player and perhaps for the team too. However every young man willing to pay the price and dedicate the time and effort that goes into practice and game play deserves to be at his very best in order to fulfill the goals and dreams he has related to football. Our job as strength coaches or as high school head or assistant coaches charged with the responsibility of directing the strength program is to insure that this is allowed to occur and thus the strength program must reduce the probability of injury while training and when the player enters the field of practice or play.
My emphasis on learning, teaching/coaching, and then supervising the basic strength training movements is no more than common sense and comes from a great deal of experience. The University Of Florida’s Director Of Strength And Conditioning Coach for many years (with the distinction of having two National Championships within a three year period to his credit), is Mickey Marotti. I have been very privileged and blessed to be able to consider Coach Marotti one of those in the profession whom I knew when he was just starting his ascension through the ranks, who I believe I have positively influenced, and from whom I in turn have learned quite a bit. As far back as 1998 when he was the Head Strength And Conditioning Coach at Notre Dame, we talked about the after school, weekend, and school vacation responsibility that we had as adolescents, assisting our fathers in the manual labor employment that both were engaged in. We also noted that most high school student athletes, even those of very limited financial means, no longer held these types of jobs and entered a collegiate football program having never performed a day’s worth of hard manual labor. We agreed that the effectiveness and positive application of so-called “finishing exercises” such as Farmers Walk, Car Push, repetition stone lifting, and the like were in large part due to the fact that they forced these young men to “train hard” and to literally “work hard.” We immediately and humorously recalled that when working for our fathers –in my case as an iron worker and welder from the age of twelve– “working hard” wasn't a goal, nor was it an option; the work was going to be arduous every day on the job.    
Look at your high school players and you will see that the typical youngster needs more muscle, more strength, and more stamina. The sedentary life style of most young people works against the goals we have of placing the best conditioned and strongest team possible on the field. Most adolescents have limited time if they are properly approaching their school work, and if they do, in fact, have any after school or weekend job, it usually isn't physically taxing. In the reality of today’s economy, the necessity of seeking out some type of work, especially for those from single parent homes, is an increasing occurrence. Most teenagers have an extremely short attention span. For these reasons (and also the many reasons directly related to the physiology of the body) a program that includes primarily –but not necessarily exclusively– multi-joint exercises that work the major muscle groups, in my opinion, must form the core of one’s program. It is important to choose a limited number of those exercises and teach and supervise them well. If your pressing movements include no more than those selected from the barbell (overhead) press, push press, bench press, or dumbbell press, do you truly need any other pressing related movements? If you deadlift or pull from the floor, include a row, pulldown, or chin movement adjunctively to that, do you need to have the young men do other pulling type of movements? If you squat or front squat and perhaps leg press for those who cannot squat safely or efficiently due to injury or leverage related factors, do you need a plethora of lower extremity movements? If you insure that your players shrug and do direct work for the musculature of the cervical spine, how much of the “fancy,” modern, made-up type of “stuff” must you have them do?

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