There is no question that overall strength is important in the game of football. Frequently you will hear talk of Bench Press and Squat records of football players. Without doubt Bench Press is a great measure of pushing power and Squats are a great way to build lower body strength; however, much more goes into strength and conditioning for the game of football. You can bench, squat and dead lift all day and still lack the ability to apply that strength to the field. You have probably seen it before, the biggest and strongest guy in the weight room that is worthless on the field. Okay that’s not nice... not “worthless” great at taking up space on the bench or bus in transit to an away game. What’s the deal? He is unable to apply his weight room strength to his game o the field. Now some people are not overly athletic; however, with the proper training they can become more so. What’s more is that those whom are athletic such as you are can increase your athleticism through improving your athletic strength.

Are you competitive? Do you want to be the best ball player you can? If you are like me there is only one answer... HELL YEAH! I played from grade school through College and the Semi-Pro ranks and know what it takes to become your absolute best. I also know that burning desire to win on every snap. As I look back on fifteen years of Football playing experience and years of training athletes I see now more ways to improve your chances of achieving your best game possible. Setting records in the weight room in college was something I really enjoyed striving towards and was proud when I achieved; however, once the cleats hit the 50 yard line the Bench Press and Power Clean Records does not necessarily equal success on the field. Not that being strong and powerful isn’t important...but applying that strength and power to the game is what matters.

As you are getting stronger for your sport build your standard strength with the traditional exercises and then improve your ability to apply that strength is true sport situations. The question you are probably asking yourself is, “How do I apply that strength?” If you have read any of my other articles you may know that I have challenged the term “functional strength” in the past. The reason is, the majority of what I read out there pertaining to “functional training” is not functional at is instead CIRCUS TRAINING!” What I want to discuss with you is true functional training. True “Functional Training” keeps in mind the function you are trying to improve and develops strength building exercises around those functions/movements. In other words...functional strength training should look like or mimic on one way or another the true movement you wish to improve.

As you look to develop and perform exercises pertaining to football or your sport you will notice that traditional weights don’t always offer the flexibility needed to move in sport-like fashion with resistance. What this is to say is that if you’re to be on your feet and your hands are driving downward and across your body (like avoiding a chop block) you want resistance working against the movement. This means you need a pulley system to place the resistance where you need it. The resistance must push against the direction of your movement. If you were just to hold dumbbells the weight would be assisting the movement because we can’t change the direction of gravity. However, with training ingenuity and pulley/cable placement you can replicate the movement in which we wish to increase strength and perform the movement against resistance. You will get stronger through a variety of movements. Keep in mind though that there are more factors to consider in your strength and conditioning program.

Training pace is vital to keep in mind when working on your strength and conditioning for your sport. The pace of your game will determine the pace of your training. Let’s use Football, American Football that is, for example. In the game of football you will notice that play a play usually last for 5-10 seconds. You might think that means a set should last for 5-10 seconds...though that would be okay, I prefer to train to be conditioned beyond the length of the play however still training within the same energy system. Basically what this means is that football and many other sports are anaerobic activities. This means your body runs on fuel within your muscles and is not as dependent on aerobic capacity. You must recover quickly between plays/sets and be able to operate a full anaerobic capacity for the next play/set.

To reach peak anaerobic ability you should push the threshold during your training. Apply the idea of interval training to make this work for you. This means working hard for 10-20 seconds per set and taking a break of 15-25 seconds between sets. This is approximately what you would encounter on the field when it comes to rest between sets and longer than expected work duration. What will this do for you? You will increase your work output while you condition your body to recover quickly between sets. On the field this will result in quicker recovery and ability to perform at each snap at your peak level. When using the right equipment, you will notice the ease at which you can transition from one exercise to the next. This quick transition time is vital to keeping you working at the necessary pace to mimic on field performance versus rest rate. This feature allows you to have multiple exercise and truly step up to interval training. One set you’re doing a double hand chop block avoidance drill driving the hands downward... then drop the pulleys low and after the 15 second break you are doing a squat with overhead press developing your total body pushing power. Does that make sense? Move through a variety of exercises that improve your on-field performance at a pace that mimics the on field timing. This is the essence of Sport Specific Strength AND Conditioning. If you apply this training method you will notice a dramatic increase in your Muscular Endurance.

Power through range of motion(ROM) is also of the utmost importance for Sport Specific Training. You may Bench Press a large amount of weight from the supine (on your back) position...what does that do for you on the field? If you are on your back during the play it means NOTHING. You need the bench press strength; but, you must be able to use it while upright. I can’t stress enough the need to be agile and mobile. To be strong in a variety of positions is essential. Learning to press and pull while standing will improve your game. The benefit is that it also gives you the flexibility to work through each movement from an athletic position rather than a static or non-athletic position. This will improve your athletic strength and help keep you on your feet during the game. A sample exercise would be a stepping chest press. Here you would step forward with the movement and press the weight forward...this mimics stepping into a blocker and driving him away with a press. Can you see the “functionality” of this movement?

Now you’re moving with power which is a huge improvement over just moving or having power. How do you create even more power? Do what many don’t take the time to do...strengthen the hips. Sure squats and Leg Press strengthen the area; but, they do so in only one plane of movement. Get a leg (or hip) up on your competition. Train all the muscles of the hip complex. Continue with your Squats, Lunges, Leg Press etc...but add Hip Flexion, Hip Extension, Hip Adduction and Hip Abduction exercises. Though these exercises may look simple they will vastly improve your hip strength and I can’t stress enough how important hip strength is in increasing your overall field performance.

You can also work through the “First Step” movement. This will increase your agility and explosiveness off the snap of the ball. This same movement style training can be applied to change of direction training as well, improving your reactionary strength. If you are a defensive back covering a receiver wouldn’t it be a great benefit to be stronger in your change of direction movements? Hopefully you get the idea here. Being stronger in your movements will result in a more powerful performance on the field and an increase in agility.

To recap: Increases in the areas of strength, agility and mobility will increase your speed. As you know, on the field speed is key. When you couple speed with strength you get POWER. On the field POWER will help you succeed on any given play. If you are conditioned, as previously discussed, you will be ready and recovered for each and every snap. When you are ready to win each play and have the power to do so you win the game. It’s really that simple... out prep and out play your opponent!

Author's Bio: 

Ian Lauer is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. His background in personal training made him an expert in providing countless of valuable advice and a proud member of Team Powertec. Powertec is the pioneer and leader in the area of strength equipment. Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, Powertec produces a full line of strength equipment for home and light commercial purposes. Our brand is highly sought after by the educated buyer looking for weight capacity maximization without sacrificing safety, customization of their Workbench home gyms through extensive accessory modularization, and commercial gym quality at home gym prices. Visit our website at or at for more fitness advice.