Youth Football Conditioning & Agility Program

YOUTH FOOTBALL CONDITIONING & AGILITY PROGRAM
All training should be performed on a dry field or baseball diamond. The outline of the
program is as follows and must be kept in this precise order to prevent fatigue from
interfering with “explosiveness”
  • Warm-up (Form work & dynamic stretching)
  •  Plyometrics
  •  Ladder drills (Quickness/Acceleration)
  • Strength Training
  • Sprints (Speed)
Warm-Up
These exercises comprise dynamic flexibility drills, meaning they move the limbs through a
full range of motion and it also provides a progressive warm-up. Athletes should start out
lightly in circuit 1 and increase the intensity of each movement with each successive
circuit. The number of sets that you will perform is listed on your chart.
  • High-knee (10 yards)
  • High-heels/Butt-kicks (10 yards)
  • Skipping (10 yards)
  • Side-shuffle (10 yards each way)
  • Side-step & pull (10 yards each way)
  • Diagonal lunge walk (10 yards)
  • Hurdle-walk Rotate-In (10 yards)
  • Hurdle-walk Rotate-Out (10 yards)
Flexibility
Stretching and flexibility is a very controversial issue. Check out this previous newsletter
for more information and guidelines for static stretching should you choose to incorporate
it: http://www.cbathletics.com/issues/60.htm .
Plyometrics (“Jump Training”)
Plyometric exercises vary in intensity levels from low to very high. To assess your level,
the following tests are recommended:
  • Check your balance by standing on one leg for a minimum of 30 seconds – low to
    medium intensity.
  • This time stand on one leg for a minimum of 30 seconds in a semi-squat position –
    medium to high intensity.
  • You should be strong enough to squat at least 1.5 times your weight before you
    attempt plyometrics.
You should aim to complete 2-4 sessions per week maximum. Allow for a recovery time of
about 48-72 hours between sessions. Ideally you should not schedule plyometrics the day
after a strength session since your muscles will still be sore and recovering. This might
pose a planning problem. Below is a suggestion for you to follow or adapt. Note that you
do not exercise each part of the body more than twice with weights and twice with
plyometrics. This is the maximum recommended. Never over train.
In plyometrics, the term volume is used for the number of repetitions per session. For the
lower body, each ground contact counts as one repetition. Your aim is to minimize the
contact time. Note the word immediately, which appears in each exercise. However, you
need to rest between each set and the recommended work to rest ratio is 1:10. So if you
did 20 seconds of Squat Jumps you would need to rest 200 seconds before moving on to
the next exercise. Below is a suggestion of Plyometric Exercises Volume per Session.

Squat Jumps

  • Stand with your feet about a shoulder length apart, keep your back straight and
    bend your torso slightly forward. Keep your arms at your sides with elbows at about
    90 degrees.
  • Lower your body to the floor (semi-squat position) and immediately jump up as high
    as you can, throwing your arms up.
  • Do 10 and then rest trying to get as high as you can.

Box Jumping

  • Stand facing a suitably elevated box (you could start with a step). Keep you feet a
    little wider then the other plyometric exercises.
  • Lower your body to a squat position and jump onto the box.
  • Step off and repeat, getting as much explosive power as you can.

Lateral Box Jumping

  • Stand to the side of the box and keep feet a similar distance apart.
  • Lower your body to a squat position and jump onto the box.
  • Step off and rest as before.

Split Squat Jumps

  • Stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart. Step back about 2 feet with your
    left foot on the ball of your foot.
  • Lower your body by bending your right knee until your quad is horizontal to the
    ground.
  • Switch your feet while jumping so that your left foot comes down in front.
  • Rest as before and repeat, switching sides.

Tuck Jumps

  • Stand with your feet apart, keep your knees bent and your arms at your sides as for
    the Squat Jumps. Bring your knees to your chest.
  • Land on the balls of your feet and repeat doing 10 reps.

Bounding

  • Start the exercises jogging a few steps.
  • Then using one leg jump slightly at a 45 degree angle exploding with the leg getting
    as far as you can.
  • Repeat immediately with other side.

Zig-Zag Hops

  • Stand about 1-2 feet away to the side of a short long object.
  • Jump straight up, using both your leg muscles and plant on the opposite
    side. Repeat back and forth right after another.
  • Move in a zig-zag up the length of the ladder.

One Leg Tuck Jump

Similar to the plyometric exercise above, the Tuck Jump, but this time on only one leg.
Rest and repeat on the other leg.

Drop Jumps

  • Stand on a box, feet shoulder-width apart and with your toes near the edge.
  • Step off box and bend your knees, then jump throwing your arms up. Keep the jump
    vertical.
  • Rest for 5-10 seconds and repeat.

Plyometric training can be very intense and you should make sure your healthy before
starting. Proper form is the most important part of plyometric exercises.

 

Speed/Agility Ladder
The speed ladder is an excellent training tool for helping an athlete
increase foot speed, quickness, and agility. You can be creative and
create many drills to improve your speed, agility, and balance.
Remember to stay on your toes throughout the drills, keep your knees
bent, and pop up every time you land.
In various fields of sports competition, the body is constantly asked to perform movements
from unfamiliar joint angles. The main objective for agility ladder programs is to promote a
wide range of different foot and movement patterns. These skilled movements become
second nature and the body is able to respond quickly to various angles that are required
in sporting events.
Agility- is the ability to change the direction of the body at speed in an efficient and
effective manner. Agility is a measure of acceleration, deceleration, and change of
direction. These are demands placed on almost all athletes, regardless of the surface they
play on. Agility drills can be done on any playing surface as well (ice, grass, court). Agility
drills should last about 5 seconds with an emphasis on moving as fast and as correctly as
possible. Choose 2-5 variations and do 1-5 sets of each, depending on your training
experience and fitness level. Rest as necessary between sets. Agility is an essential
component of most sports particularly games and contact sports such as football, tennis,
rugby and hockey to name a few.
We can improve our agility by practicing the movements in training and an agility ladder is
an essential tool in a complete agility program. The standard ladder is 10 yards long with
18 inch squares but you can simply draw out the squares on a baseball diamond, or
construct your own using rope or sticks and tape. To purchase a ladder do a Google
Search for “Speed & Agility Ladder”.
When beginning an agility ladder program start with 2 to 4 drills and once you master
these then introduce new drills.
Exercises
Detailed below are some ladder drills you could use.
EXCERCISE 1
  • Run through the ladder placing one foot in the middle of each square
  • Emphasize arm swing, powerful high knee drive with the toes dorsiflexed (on the balls of your feet) and quick ground contact
EXCERCISE 2
  • Run through the ladder touching both feet in each square.
  • Emphasize arm swing, powerful high knee drive with the toes dorsiflexed (on the balls of your feet) and quick ground contact.
EXCERCISE 3

  1. Perform the drill in a sideways position to the ladder (Fig 4a)
  2. Moving to the right, place the right foot into the first square (Fig 4b)
  3. Next, step across the ladder with the left foot (Fig 4c)
  4. Remove the right foot from the ladder placing it next to your left foot (Fig 4d)
  5. Now, step forward into the second square with the left foot
  6. Next, step across the ladder with the right foot
  7. Remove the left foot from the ladder placing it next to your right foot
  8. Repeat the sequence from 2 to 7 all the way along the ladder
EXCERCISE 4

 

  1. Perform the drill in a sideways position to the ladder (Fig 4a)
  2. Moving to the right, place the right foot into the first square (Fig 4b)
  3. Next, step across the ladder with the left foot (Fig 4c)
  4. Remove the right foot from the ladder placing it next to your left foot (Fig 4d)
  5. Now, step forward into the second square with the left foot
  6. Next, step across the ladder with the right foot
  7. Remove the left foot from the ladder placing it next to your right foot
  8. Repeat the sequence from 2 to 7 all the way along the ladder
EXCERCISE 5

 

  1. Start straddling one side of the ladder – right foot in the first square and your left foot outside of the ladder (Fig 5a)
  2. Do a jump to your right so your right foot stays in the ladder square and your left foot lands in the next ladder square (Fig 5b)
  3. Do a jump to your left so your left foot stays in the ladder square and your right foot lands outside the ladder (Fig 5c)
  4. Do a jump to your left so your left foot stays in the ladder square and your right foot lands in the next ladder square (Fig 5d)
  5. Do a jump to your right so your right foot stays in the ladder square and your left foot lands outside the ladder (Fig 5e)
EXCERCISE 6

 

  1. Begin standing sideways to the ladder (Fig 6a)
  2. Step into the first square with the right foot (Fig 6b)
  3. Next, step over the ladder to the other side with the left foot (Fig 6c)
  4. Step with the right foot laterally to the next square (Fig 6d)
  5. Next, step over the ladder to the other side with the left foot (Fig 6e)
  6. Step with the right foot laterally to the next square (Fig 6f
  7. Repeat the sequence from 3 to 6 all the way along the ladder
EXCERCISE 7
As Exercise 6 but moving laterally with the left foot.
Lateral Agility
  • Box Run– (shuffle; forward; backward; crossovers)
  • Star Run– (from kneeling position; from push-up position)
Box runs (Set up a 5yd. x 5yd. box)
Start at the back left corner and sprint forward to the top left corner. Touch the ground and then shuffle to the right, touching the ground and then backpedal to the back right corner. Touch the ground and shuffle left to the starting position.Star runs (Set up a 3yd. x 3yd. box)
Start in middle of the box and sprint to each corner in a specific order using a pre-set movement pattern. Return to the center position after you touch each corner. Try to incorporate lateral movements such as shuffling and crossovers as much as possible. For variety, you can perform a very quick and simple sport-specific drill at each corner (i.e. vertical jump, shot, throw, etc.). You can also add another dimension of difficulty by having the athlete start from the kneeling or push-up position.
Strength Training
The foundation of any effective football conditioning program is strength training
Absolute or maximal strength in and of itself is not enough though – not if football players want to reach their full potential.
To gain the greatest advantage, gains in maximal strength should be converted into explosive power. Don’t confuse the two – there is a crucial difference…
Power is a combination of strength and speed. A player who can bench press 300lbs is not necessarily more powerful than a player who can bench press 250lbs for example.   And in football, with all other factors equal, the player with the greater power will come out on top.
Of course, maximal strength training still plays a key role in a football training program.
What other football-specific elements of fitness are important in becoming the best player you can?
  • Maximum speed, acceleration and agility
  • Muscular endurance
  • Flexibility and mobility
Notice aerobic endurance doesn’t appear in the list above? While endurance IS important, long distance running to build an aerobic base can be detrimental to the football player. Football-specific interval training is much more beneficial.

Pushups– Place hands shoulder width apart on the ground, feet together, on your toes.  Keep your back straight with your head and neck aligned.  Bend your elbows and bring your chest to the floor.  Push back up and repeat.  Attempt as many perfectly as you can but push 8-10 more after that.  You should be able to do more correctly each week.  At an absolute minimum, everyone should be able to perform 10-15 perfect pushups before the first day of practice.  The number of sets that you perform is listed on your chart each week.

 

Dumbbell Squats– Stand and place feet shoulder width apart.  As you bend your knees to sit, keep your chest up, back arched and proud, head up.  Squat until upper legs are parallel to floor.  Keep your feet flat on the ground.  Do as many correctly as you can.   As you get stronger, hold dumbbells, increase weight as frequently as you can but maintain proper form.

 

 

 

 

Three Point Dumbbell Row–  Place one hand  on the bench.  Opposite hand holds dumbbell and both feet are on the floor.  Keep your back strait and arched.  Pull the dumbbell up to your side like you were starting up a lawn mower.  Increase weight and reps as often as you can without sacrificing form.

 

Burpees– Hands to the ground in front of you, kick both legs back into a pushup position, pull legs up to the chest together, stand back up and jump as high as you can.  Repeat.

 

Dumbbell Shoulder Press– Hold dumbbells over the shoulders, press over head, straighten arms, then bring back to starting position.  Repeat.  Increase weight and reps as often as you can without sacrificing form.

 

 

Speed Training

Football is not just about strength.  In fact speed training for football might be just as important as traditional weight lifting…

The highest ranked players are more likely to outperform their peers in tests like the 10 yard and 40 yards sprints than they are in the squat or bench press.  You could say that speed separates the outstanding from the very good.  But you certainly don’t have to be the fastest to perform at your best…

Which do you think is more important? Acceleration or top speed?

Consider this for a moment…

The average distance a football player covers in most plays is 15-20 yards (maybe less for a lineman and more for a receiver). Unlike an Olympic sprinter, football players will rarely, if ever, reach their top speed.   On the whole, the quickest player over 15-20 yards will be the one who can accelerate the most rapidly.

Straight away then, that should tell you something about speed training for football – running lots of 100m sprints is NOT an effective method of training.   Instead, spend your time on drills that increase acceleration and speed off the mark.

How to Increase Your Speed & Acceleration

It’s true – genetics do play a part in how fast you can run. But don’t let that discourage you…  Everyone can get faster. And anyone can improve their speed off the mark.

And just a small improvement with training relates to a significant improvement on the field.   With that said, what does it take to increase your sprinting speed?

  1. Increase Your Strength

The more powerful your leg muscles are, the more force they can apply to each ground contact.   Power is a product of both strength and speed of contraction. If you make improvements in either of these components you WILL become a faster athlete.  Improve both and you double the effects – and this it what speed training for football is essentially all about.  Assuming strength training already contributes a significant amount to your schedule, let’s look at the other side of the equation…

  1. Improve Your Speed of Contractions

Any increase in strength will only translate into gains in speed IF you can still contract your muscles as quickly – ideally even quicker.   Sprint training over short distances will help you do that. So will some light plyometrics exercises.

  1. Improve Your Running Mechanics

Most football players, in fact most sports men and women have never been taught correct sprinting form.  All other things being equal, the more efficiently you can run, the faster you can run.  There are basically two phases to sprinting – the acceleration phase and top speed phase. Remember acceleration is probably more important in speed training for football than top speed. Here are some pointers for good acceleration form…

  • Drive off the balls of your feet never the toes or heels.
  • The whole body should be leaning forward, not just from the waist.
  • Strides are short and powerful, pushing off the ground.
  • Pump the arms vigorously throwing the elbow back hard rather than forward
  • Keep the head still and square to the shoulders.

After the first 10-15 yards, running mechanics change noticeably as you gain speed…

  • Foot strikes should still be from the balls of the feet.
  • There is still a slight forward lean from the ground but much less.
  • Strides are longer and more relaxed. Don’t try to push away from the ground.
  • Arm action is still exaggerated but more relaxed.
  • Head remains still.

As part of a season long plan, speed training for football features heavily in late pre-season preparation and gradually increases over the whole of pre-season. It should also follow a period of base strength training for maximum results.

  • 10 Yard Sprints–  Mark off approximately 10 yards.  In your normal football position, sprint 10 yards and then repeat.  The number of sprints that you perform each week will be on your chart.  Have a parent time you as the weeks progress to see your improvements.
  • 10 Yard Sprints–  Same as above but with a 20 yard distance.

 

 

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