Getting in Shape for Northville Football, Part 1

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Football is tough. But I don’t need to tell you that – you either play the game yourself or know someone who does. Chances are you may be wearing an ice pack (or just got done preparing one for your star player) while you read this. Not only can the game itself beat you up physically, but Northville Football is competitive. You want your team to win but you also want to stand out for your individual performance, and this means that you need to be at your best on and off the field. I once attended a seminar from a strength coach who met legendary receiver Jerry Rice. Rice explained that if he wasn’t on the football field then he was in the weight room. Sounds like the guy slept with a football cradled in his arms. But Jerry was on to something; it was his way of saying that evenly matched players can be separated based on their training program.

So the weight room is a great place to enhance your game and most people know this. This isn’t the problem, as most who play football have no issue with lifting weights. Problems arise though with the how, what, and how much of what to do. So before you close out your browser and sprint to the gym, you’re going to want to read the rest of this article so you know the best way to train to excel in football. I’ll give you the issues up front – you need to be strength training year round. You also want to make sure that you can balance your training with recovery during a grueling season. In an interesting study, researchers analyzed the effects of a football game with Division I football players. They found that 20 hours after the game, players had elevated levels of waste products and muscle damage in their blood, and it took a full two days to fully recover (1). Here’s the kicker though – the team had some players who didn’t play, so they ended up working out the same day as the game. Those who worked out had similar levels of muscle damage as the players who actually played full contact football!

That’s the biggest issue players face – you just can’t jump into the weight room and start working out. Gym teachers, athletic trainers, and even football coaches mean well, but most don’t understand how and when to train, so they end up doing more harm than good.

With that being said, you’re training to play Northville High School Football. Here’s how.

Decide on the Goal

The first priority is to decide on a goal and organize a training plan. A fancy word for a training plan is to follow a periodized approach, which is just science talk for saying that your program is going to increase in the amount of work you do over time so you can reach a goal. Periodized plans work. When researchers compared those who followed a plan of increasing weights and decreasing reps (versus those who just randomly did 3 sets of 10), those who followed a sensible plan increased their strength by 44% (2). The other group didn’t fare so well – showing no increase in strength after 12 weeks of training. You’re trying to get ready for your season, so 12 weeks with no results doesn’t do you much good – especially if the team across town is following a plan.

We know the importance of following a training plan. The next step is to decide on the goal. Here’s a general plan to follow through your four year career in high school and beyond.


Point During Season Goal/Training Plan
After season ends Changes in body composition (add muscle, drop bodyfat)
Towards the start of the season Increase strength and explosiveness, sport and position-specific conditioning
During Season/Playoffs Maintain power, mobility and recovery


That’s about as easy as it can get. However, players may need some individual fine tuning. For example, one athlete may not need to bulk up and simply needs to spend their Spring dropping body fat. Researchers grabbed a sample of 70 collegiate football players and found that half of them are at risk for metabolic syndrome – i.e., heart disease, diabetes, and high body fat (3). Any coach that tries to get you to eat anything in sight isn’t doing you any favors.

Off Season Training – Adding Muscle Mass

The off-season is the time to change your body. Trying to build muscle right before, or even during the season, is a big mistake. You only have so much time to do this too – a study with Division III football players found that those who took too long of a break after the season ended had compromised strength and power gains (4). That gives you around 6 – 10 weeks to add muscle mass before transitioning into strength and power training.

Avoid the mistake though of dividing the body into “parts.” Arm day, “lateral shoulder day”……”tibialis anterior day”…. those work well for a bodybuilder but not for a high school athlete needing to add 20 pounds. Here are a few variations of hypertrophy training (the scientific term for building muscle mass) that you can use:

  • High rep back squats (10, 20, 30, or even 50 reps)
  • 10 sets of 10 (aka German Volume Training)
  • Barbell complexes (6-8 moves, 3-8 reps per move)

Anything will work as long as the load is modest and you’re not focusing too much time on your biceps. You’re training for football, not beach season. But before we end Part 1 of our Northville Football piece, just a word of caution: this is the time to avoid extreme forms of conditioning, or even running altogether. Long distance running may help you drop some weight, but it will do little for your performance on the field. If your weight is a concern, there are far better ways to do it then running up and down 10 Mile road. Every year I get asked this question:

“Hey coach Marc. I want to gain 10 pounds of muscle for football. I also like to run, and often run 3-5 miles per day. Oh, and I go to a two week football conditioning camp. What’s the best program to follow to get jacked?”

I scratch my head about it every time I get this question. With your training, remember this: one goal at a time. When your season is done, take a week to relax, and then be ready to pack on some muscle. In between workouts, get ready to do a lot of sitting – there will be plenty of time to get in shape in the next Part.

Ready for Part 2? You can read it here. If you’re interested in training for football, be sure to check out our performance training page for more information.



1. Kraemer, W.J., et al. “Recovery From a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Football Game: Muscle Damage and Hormonal Status” (2009) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23;1, 2-10

2. Monteiro, A.G. et al. “Nonlinear Periodization Maximizes Strength Gains in Split Resistance Training Routines.” (2009) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23;4, 1321-1326

3. Lawrence, J. Stone, M.H. Craig, B. “Reconditioning the Postcompetitive Football Lineman: Recognizing the Problem.” (2010) Strength and Conditioning Journal 32.5, 28-32

4. Hoffman, J.R., Ratamess, N.A., et al. “Comparison Between Different Off-Season Resistance Training Programs in Division III American College Football Players.” (2009) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23.1, 11-9

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