Resistance training is an important part of any football player's development. Getting stronger can make you faster, more powerful and increase your athleticism. While many football players use barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and machines in their lifting program, calisthenics, or body-weight exercises can be just as effective, provided you implement and program them correctly.
Pushups, Pullups and the Upper Body
Pushups and pullups should be part of your upper-body calisthenics routine. As a conditioned athlete, you may find regular pushups too easy, so strength coach Zach Even-Esh recommends trying one-arm pushups or handstand pushups. Alternatively, shoot for a higher number of reps -- Even-Esh suggests doing 100 consecutively. As for pullups, not only do they build your back and biceps and have a large carryover to total upper-body strength, they also help prevent injuries by developing these areas, notes trainer Adam Copeland on the Elite Fitness Systems website. Use different grips for your pullups to make them more challenging and to add variety to your routine.
Regular squats and lunges are fine for working your lower body, but they can get a little tedious and probably won't be too challenging after a while. Instead, try Bulgarian split squats, which you do with your back leg on a bench and front leg on the floor. These strengthen your glutes while improving hip flexibility, which will help you jump further, claims strength coach Joe DeFranco. Plyometric lower-body exercises are also vital for boosting strength and power, so add squat jumps, box jumps, jump lunges and lateral and broad jumps into your workouts.
Sample Off-Season Plan
The best time to make strength gains is during your off-season, when you don't have the demands of regular games. In "Complete Conditioning for Football," authors Pat Ivey and Josh Stoner prescribe three body weight calisthenic circuits. The first involves two sets of 20 reps for pushups, split squats and body weight squats. The second one consists of two sets of 20 split jumps, six 15-yard dashes while pushing a weight plate and 20 total pull-ups. The final circuit consists of pushups, squats and inverted rows, which are like a pull-up except you use a bar at chest height and your feet are positioned straight out in front of you on the floor. Do 20 reps of each exercise in two sets.
Raising Your Game
If these workouts become too easy, there are plenty of ways you can progress your calisthenic workouts. Try adding a sprint after each circuit, or jumping rope instead of taking a complete rest. You can add more exercises, increase your reps or try more advanced movement variations. This could involve holding the squats for three seconds in the bottom position, performing one-and-a-half reps on split squats by going all the way down, halfway up, all the way down again, then all the way up for one rep. Pushups can be made more challenging by using a narrow grip or raising your feet on a box. For chin-ups, take five seconds to lower yourself for each rep.