Division 1 football players are elite athletes. Even the most marginal major college football player on the worst team in the country is still a great athlete. To prepare for a season that can last 14 games over six months in some cases, D1 players must train year-round. The weight-lifting program that D1 football players follow is designed by a certified strength and conditioning expert, which all D1 schools have on staff, along with several assistants.
Players lift during the season at least twice a week. The focus of the workouts are maintenance and recovery. If the game is on Saturday, players will lift on Monday and Wednesday. If the game is on a week day, players will lift Monday, Tuesday and the day after the game. Light weight is always used, typically no more than 60 percent of the player's max. Three sets of 10 reps is the norm, though some programs will do more sets and fewer reps. Typically, each workout is a total body workout, featuring squats on both days, bench press or incline press, a shoulder press or raise, triceps work and an abdominal workout. Some programs will spend extra time on strengthening the hamstrings and shoulders to prevent common injuries in these areas.
With the season behind them, sometimes as late as early January, D1 programs give players a few weeks off before going into their off-season program. Beginning typically on February 1, the off-season lifting program begins with four workouts a week, alternating between upper- and lower-body focus. These workouts are personalized for each athlete and are recorded on a workout card that is waiting for each athlete when they come into the weight room. While the auxiliary lifts will vary, each lower-body day will include the squat and either the power clean or snatch. One upper-body day will focus on the bench press and push-press, while the other includes the incline and military presses. This phase lasts until spring football practices start, and the sets, reps and weight will vary as the program progresses.
During spring ball, players are going through full football practices, so typically they only lift three days a week. Typically, one workout will be light weight, one will be heavy weight and one will be somewhere in the middle. Each workout is total body, with a focus on cleans and snatches, bench and incline, squats, and shoulder and hamstring work. The heavy weight day will be Friday, when most schools do not hold a full-contact practice. Many strength coaches use this time as a break to prevent a plateau during training.
Whether they stay on campus or go home for the summer, all players have a summer workout notebook, with the workouts for each day, all summer, included. This book also includes the running workout and nutrition advice. The summer lasts three months, but because of time off immediately after finals, before the start of the season, and a small break during the middle of the summer, most summer weight programs last nine weeks, with each phase lasting three weeks. Players move back to lifting weights four days per week; the workouts are similar to or the same as the off-season workouts.
- "Complete Conditioning for Football"; Michael Arthur, Bryan Bailey, Tom Osborne; 1998
- "A Chance to Win: A Complete Guide to Physical Training for Football"; Mike Gentry; 2005.