We've written before on the importance of a full off-season program, utilizing the time away from the field to improve physically. But, when you reach the waning months of the off-season, what is it that you need to be doing? Let's start by examining what should already have been done:
1) You should have gotten healthy. A bit of time off right after the season is a good start; doing proper developmental exercises or rehab for any in-season injuries continues that direction. If you had surgery, you are probably starting to round back into health right about now.
2) You should have done your major strength and hypertrophy workout phases. If you're just trying now to get big and strong for football season, it's too late. Not that you shouldn't try (better late than never) but that needed to take place back in January and February. If you're just starting to pick up a weight, you won't see much significant progress, if any, in terms of gaining bulk before the season starts.
3) Particularly in quarterbacks, you should have improved your mechanics and fundamentals. It takes thousands of reps to truly learn and re-learn skills. If there were fundamentals you needed to improve from last season, whether for reasons of health or performance, it should have already been done. Again, better late than never, but at this point it will be difficult to get the reps you need to truly change a motor program.
With that in mind, here's what you should be doing now to get ready for the start of football season:
1) You should be in a speed, power endurance and conditioning heavy workout program. This doesn't mean that there should be no strength work, it just means the volume of strength exercises should be a bit lower than usual to allow for extra speed, power endurance, and conditioning. Speed work should include drills done at full speed with enough rest to allow full speed and effort on the next rep as well. Power endurance should include exercises with continuous rest, like doing three straight broad jumps or most medicine ball work. Conditioning should include 3 days or so of quick bursts and relevant intervals, like a 30 yard sprint, followed by about 20 seconds rest before the next sprint. Do NOT do long distance running thinking it will get you in shape for football - long distance trains your body to run slowly for a long time; in football, we run quickly for short times.
2) You should be perfecting your skills, not changing them (assuming you did improve them earlier in the off-season). Like we mentioned before, it takes a lot of quality reps to truly learn to do something right. If you've now learned to do something right, then it's time to get reps. However, if you're still doing something wrong, for instance a quarterback whose elbow drops to low on the throw, you still have to work on getting it right; getting tons of reps doing things wrong leads to poor motor programs and potential injuries.
3) You should be burying your head in your playbook and film. Knowledge is power; the more natural and instinctual your understanding of the game becomes, the quicker you can make decisions and the more conviction you can play with. You can't always control how big or fast you are relative to your opponents, but you can always control your football IQ. Get to studying.
4) You should be with your teammates. Football is the ultimate team sport. Hopefully during the off-season you've been able to spend time in the weight room or elsewhere with most of them, but as the season gets closer it's more likely that more of them are going to be around and in football mediums. Developing both personal and football chemistry with teammates is important. Study film and the plays together, go throw the football around, have fun, and be excited that the season is right around the corner.
Hard work, directed to the right actions, is a surefire formula for improvement and eventually success. Keep putting in the work and make 2015 a great year.
SPU's Alex Drayson writes the SPU Football Performance Blog.