more knowledge becomes available and as the field of science expands, we are
seeing greater progress in understanding the foundation and tenants of many
different professions especially in the sciences. This applies to almost all
professions but especially in the engineering, electronics and biomedical
fields. As a result, new ideas and practices are constantly being implemented
with great success.
appears that the sciences are the foundation for progress in almost all
professions. It leads the way to not only greater understanding but to more
innovations and improvements in practice. But science seems to be absent when
it comes to the training a football player. Instead of seeing new advances we
see the same concepts and methodologies being perpetuated.
if this is what it can be called, is seen in variations of old exercises and in
new equipment for basically the same strength exercises. We do see progress in
new and different strategies but these are indirectly related to the physical
and technical development of the player.
seems to be implied when coaches talk about and advertise their new training
facilities. The bigger the facility and the more equipment it has, the more
impressive it appears. These facilities are used as a recruiting device to
impress young players.
I have not been able to find a team or university extolling their training
philosophy and methodologies. I've been unable to find teams that boast of
their ability to improve running speed, speed of movement, force or distance of
throwing, and the ability to execute quicker cuts with actual results. In other
words, teams don't boast of the specific results that they are capable of
producing except in very general terms.
of this and other reasons that follow, I maintain that the training of football
players does not have a scientific base. I see examples of it constantly in
just about every sports or football related magazine and in various sports and
football related websites and forums.
If you look into the archives of
the literature in the 1970s and 80s, you will see that the training knowledge
at that time was the same or superior to the knowledge that is being displayed
today. In other words, there has not been any progress in expanding and
understanding the information that we had available 30 to 40 years ago on how
to best train an athlete to produce the best performance on the field.
This is the key element! How well
the player executes on the field is the key to any player’s success. How well
he executes the skills involved determines not only how well he plays but also
the success of the team. Keep in mind that the best offensive or defensive
strategy in the world will not be successful if the players cannot carry it out.
The foundation for all strategy
should be based on the athlete’s ability to execute the required skills. But
this strategy fails when the athlete is not capable of displaying effective technique
and does not have the physical abilities that are specific to his technique.
This is an often overlooked aspect of training, but yet, it is the crux of any
success that a team may achieve.
Today it appears that success
revolves around how well the athlete performs in the weight room. How much you
can bench, dead lift, squat, snatch, press etc. seem to be the gold standards
for a successful athlete. Overlooked is the fact that regardless of how
impressive the gains in strength may be in these or other lifts, the players
are not necessarily better performers on the field. In many cases they actually
become worse players!
For example, in football combines,
one popular test is to see how many repetitions the player can post in the
bench press with a 225 pound bar. As good as this test may be, some top
performers in this event have failed as players in the pros. Related examples
can be given with some of the other tests which do not duplicate what the
athlete does on the field. But coaches use these results as gold standards for
selection of players even when done in conjunction with other criteria.
Another example of why I say that
progress is not being made in football, can be found in the area of plyometrics,
a critical training means to improve speed, quickness and explosiveness. Rather
than adhering to the original definition and practice of plyometrics as
exemplified by its originator Yuri Verkhoshansky, plyometrics has now taken on
the same meaning as any type of jump exercise.
When I first introduced
plyometrics to the United States, after working with Dr. Verkhoshansky, the
creator of plyometrics in the former Soviet Union, I brought out how it was
used to elicit a strong and powerful muscular contraction in the shortest
amount of time. But today most coaches think of plyometrics as jumping without
any true impact or quickness.
This is opposite of what
plyometrics should be. In evaluating many football training programs I have
found some examples of correct but mostly incorrect, execution of plyometric
exercises. For substantiation simply look at execution of many plyometric
exercises on YouTube. You can see many jump exercises being executed over a
long range of motion or without the necessary fast switch between the eccentric
and concentric contractions.
Even the concept of specialized
training or specialized strength exercises is still not fully understood in
football and is constantly debated. Most football strength and conditioning
coaches, rather than doing mainly specialized strength exercises, spend most,
if not all of their time, on execution of general strength exercises.
By this I mean they do exercises
that are good for strengthening the major muscles of the body but that do not
duplicate what the athlete does in execution of his skills on the field. Some
of the exercises may however, entail involvement of the same muscles as used by
players in execution of different skills.
But yet, general strength,
explosive training and the role of specialized strength and explosive exercises
was well-established back in the 1980s. I wrote many articles on this topic
that appeared in various sports training and conditioning magazines such as the
National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal. Understand that in specialized
strength training the player gains strength in the same neuromuscular pathway
as seen in execution of a specific skill. In addition, strength is developed
over the same range of motion as it is displayed in execution of the game skill.
By skill I mean the ability to run,
jump, cut, hit, throw, kick, etc. and to execute these skills well. In this
case the specialized strength exercise couples the skill technique with
strength in the execution of the exercise. Few strength exercises fulfill these
Specialized strength exercises
are very specific to a single joint action or multiple joint actions as seen in
execution of the skill. General exercises are a far cry from specialized
strength exercises. The specialized strength exercises transfer directly to
performance on the field but general strength exercises do not. This is why
specialized strength exercises are so indispensable.
Specificity of execution of general
strength exercises is also critical but yet it appears to be lacking in most
football training programs. By this I mean the exercise is executed in a
specific manner in order to bring about the results for which is being used.
A case in point is the
glute-ham-gastroc raise (most often called the glute-ham exercise) that I
constantly see being executed ineffectively. This exercise, when done most
effectively, not only helps improve running performance but helps to prevent
hamstring injury especially when the player also has correct running technique.
By ineffective exercise execution
I mean the manner in which the exercise is done does not strengthen the
hamstring muscle from both the hip and knee joint ends. When done correctly the
athlete will feel a distinct change in muscle intensity when he also executes
the knee band after the first half (hip extension) of the exercise. The way
most players do the exercise today they, in essence, do a reverse knee curl
rather than a glute-ham-gastroc raise.
Part of the reason why most
athletes do not do this exercise most effectively is due to the fact that most
of the Glute Ham machines do not have the necessary adjustments and positioning
in order to do the exercise correctly. I created this exercise and the Glute Ham
machine so I know how it should be done for the results that I mentioned. Only
with my machine (the Yessis Glute Ham Back machine) is it possible to execute
this effective technique. If you have a machine that copied my designs then you
too may be able to do it correctly.
It should also be noted that with
the Yessis Glute ham back machine it is possible to do up to twelve additional
exercises for complete hip and core strengthening. Some of the exercises,
especially for the abdominals and lower back, duplicate what the athlete must
do in execution of many skills. In addition, it is possible to isolate upper and lower abdominal strength,
abdominal rotational strength, lower back strength and lower back rotational
The glute ham gastroc raise is
not the only exercise that is often done ineffectively. For example, when doing
a squat backfield players typically do the sumo squat rather than using the
narrow stance in which the feet are under the hips for some of the sets. The
reason for this is that this positioning more closely duplicates the strength
of the quadriceps, hamstring and glute muscles as they are involved in running.
More examples can be given but
the key point here is that some general exercises can be made into specialized
exercises when they duplicate what the athlete does in execution of his skills.
Even the concept of explosive or
power training appears to be not fully understood. Many coaches still believe
that explosive power (explosiveness) comes from the lifting of heavy weights or
doing Olympic lifts. Other coaches believe that explosiveness is developed from
lifting light weights very quickly. Even more definitions can be found that
only confuse the issue.
Yet, I wrote about this back in
the 1980s, in a series of articles that appeared in the National Strength and
Conditioning Association Journal. I
debated this with Arthur Jones through one of his spokespersons until he could
no longer argue to substantiate his erroneous belief that development of
strength with slow intense movements developed explosive power as needed for
football and other sports.
Periodization is still another
concept that also appears to be misinterpreted and misused even though it was
spelled out in detail by the Russians back in the 1960s and 70s. Its tenants
are very simple and easy to understand but over the years the information has
been so misused that it is now difficult to understand exactly what is meant
and how it is applied. But yet, periodization is very important in football
when considering preparation for spring training and associated playing, in
addition to preparation for the season which follows a few months later.
Periodization is often also used for training physical
qualities such as strength for which it was never intended. All periodization
schemes for development of a physical quality cannot be substantiated.
As a result, this has only lead
to more confusion rather than elucidation of the problem. Understand that there
is no progression in the development of strength except for intensity and
volume. When training is specific, the physical quality is developed with a
specific training program.
For example, specific programs
already exist for developing concentric, eccentric or isometric strength. Programs
already exist for development of absolute strength, speed-strength, explosive
strength, strength endurance and combinations of them. Well known programs
already exist for the development of muscle mass, or strength with muscle mass,
or strength without muscle mass. There are even guidelines for how strength
training programs should be structured for beginners as well as high-level
This also includes training
programs that are differentiated for the novice athlete and for the high-level
athlete. Even the training of quarterbacks and other position players is
different from other players. But
yet we see little of this in football training programs. Examination of most
programs indicates that all or most of the players do basically the same work
This lack of progress in
developing more effective players is seen not only in the basic knowledge and
concepts that underlie the training of football players, but can also be seen
in sports magazine and journal articles. For example, there have not been any
new or different innovations in the training of an athlete presented in
American literature for many years. Most articles and training concepts are
merely a variant or takeoff on something that has already been well-established
in the former Soviet literature.
Suffice it to say that In essence,
almost all training philosophies and methodology presently in use, have come from Soviet theory and practices dating back to
the 1970s-80s. For those who are interested, much of this information can be
found in the Fitness and Sports Review International, previously known as the
Soviet Sports Review, and in the book, Secrets of Russian Sports Fitness and
Isn't it about time that football
embraced the tenants of sports science? This lack of progress in using science
or scientific principles in the training of football players is seen in
expanding the basic knowledge and concepts that underlie the training of an
It sometimes appears that we have
forgotten what has already been discovered and proven to be beneficial and are
substituting more popular but unproductive training practices. Because of this,
very few coaches are looking at the results that they get in relation to player
performance on the field.
It appears that more coaches are concerned
with the results that they get from doing particular exercises in the weight
room and with particular pieces of equipment. But how you play on the field
should be the bottom line. Does the exercise or training program improve the
player's ability to perform better on the field?
This is what we should not only
be asking for but demanding from all exercise programs and exercises. This can
lead to not only more football fit players but also players with better skill
technique and fuller development of the physical qualities specific to their
technique. This in turn will lead to more successful teams, fewer injuries and
more spectacular play.
DC Sports Training - Sports Performance Training in Pittsburgh, PA