The offseason is a vital time in a football player’s development. And sadly, many waste this time and leave gains on the table.
This article is going to cover, in general, how I believe a football player should approach their first 4-6 weeks following the end of their season. This is assuming the athlete doesn’t play a winter sport (I’d recommend they go out for track & field in the spring, but I digress).
This also assumes the athlete is not in any major pain or suffering from a major injury. If so, please see your doctor or medical staff before returning to training or sports.
Now that the boring disclaimers are out of the way, let’s talk business.
There are three main phases to the early offseason at the high school level. Phase 1 is all about recovery. Phase 2 is all about capacity. Phase 3 is all about the future.
Each phase is key for maximizing this pivotal time in your offseason and getting a leg up on the competition.
Although many football programs let their players take 4-8 weeks completely off after the end of the season before they return to training, valuable gains can be made before the new year if you approach it the right way!
Phase 1: Recover From the Football Season
First and foremost, get yourself back to 100 percent. I can’t stress this enough.
At the end of the season, you may be banged up—strained this, sprained that, you name it. It’s going to be extremely advantageous for you to get yourself healthy before you start crushing it again.
Getting healthy does not mean resting and being lazy. Movement is medicine. Sitting around doing nothing but resting, icing, compressing and elevating will probably delay your recovery time, so make sure you do any kind of movement you can to stay active.
During this phase, you can focus on low-impact bodyweight movements, light conditioning work, technique enhancement and rehab protocols. And please, do not play football (not even 7-on-7) right now.
Something like the Isometric Circuit on Day 3 below might be great for you during the first three weeks of the offseason, as long-duration isometrics can help you get stronger and more resilient while putting little wear and tear on your body.
Phase 2: Offseason General Physical Preparedness
Once you’re feeling great, it’s time to prime your body for a long 6-8 months of training and development. It’s either November or December when your season ends, and the first game of next year is in August.
That’s so much time to get better.
Directly after Phase 1, I would recommend advancing to what’s called a GPP, or General Physical Preparedness, phase of training.
GPP is defined as a training period devoted to the general development of (but not limited to) conditioning, power, strength, skill, flexibility, endurance and structures. This phase lays the groundwork for more specific work that will soon be taken on.
There are four important aspects of a GPP phase, and checking all four boxes will set you so far ahead of the pack that it’s almost unfair.
Improve Work Capacity: Are you prepared to play or train for a sport?
Improve Movement Quality: Can you perform all needed training movements cleanly and pain-free?
Increase Muscle Mass & Strength: Do you look and lift like an athlete?
Neurological Training Adaptations: Are you truly progressing via training?
Here’s a sample GPP training program that can be performed three days a week for up to four weeks. If you put in this early work to build a foundation, you set yourself up to have a monster offseason.
Day 1: Push
A) Goblet Squat: 20, 15, 12 reps
B) Push-Ups: 20, 15, 12 reps (weighted, as needed)
C) Split Squat or Lateral Lunge: 3×10 reps per side
D) Half-Kneeling Landmine Press: 3×12 reps per side
D) YWT w/ Plate: 3×10 reps
E) Dead Bugs: 3×5 reps per side
F) Suitcase Carries: Accumulate 100 yards per side
Day 2: Pull
A) Barbell RDL: 12, 10, 8 reps
B) DB Row: 20, 15, 12 reps per side
C) Chin-Up or Lat Pulldown: 3×10-20 reps
D) Face Pull: 3×12 reps
E) Stability Ball Hamstring Curls: 3×12 reps
E) Copenhagen Plank: 3×30 seconds per side
F) Bear Crawls: Accumulate 100 yards
Day 3: Sled and Isometrics
A) Single-Leg Balance Iso Hold: Accumulate 2 minutes per leg
B) Split Squat Iso Hold: Accumulate 2 minutes per leg
C) Single-Leg RDL Iso Hold: Accumulate 2 minutes per leg
D) Calf Raise Iso Hold: 2 minutes
E) Push-Up Iso Hold: 1 minute
F) Chin-Up Iso Hold: 1 minute
G) Sled Drag or Sled Push EMOM: 20 yards every minute on the minute, for 20 minutes
Phase 3: Set Football OffSeason Training Goals
The third and final phase of the early offseason is to set yourself up for success for the remainder of the offseason.
At this point, you’re only 4-6 weeks in, and have 6-8 months left to prepare for the next year. This is the time to sit with your coaches, trainers and parents and truly map out what you want to get out of this off-season!
You’ve already taken the time to recover and build a strong foundation. Now, you’re in an excellent position to tackle bigger and better training goals. Many teams will resume regular training sessions in the new year, and if you enter that having completed these three phases, you’ll be positioned for massive success.
If you took a road trip without Google Maps, you’d get lost. Your career is a road trip. Your training is Google Maps.
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If you live in an area where winter forces baseball practice inside, you need quality indoor drills to improve as a player and infielder.
When I coached two of the top junior college programs in the country—one in Illinois and the other in Kentucky—we had only a very small indoor practice area. We played our first game in February, so we had to find creative ways to get our players ready.
Here are some of the drills I found to work well for our players.
Kids love this game. It’s fun, but also quite effective. Players throw the ball against a wall from about 10 to 15 feet away. If someone touches the ball but does not field it cleanly, he must sprint to the wall and touch it before someone else throws the ball and hits the wall.
If the player who bobbled the ball cannot touch the wall before the next throw hits the wall, he has an out. After three outs, a player must sit. If you want more action, don’t worry about outs and let players stay in the game.
This game is very fast if played correctly. It works on quick reactions, soft hands, throwing and athletic ability.
This game works well with three to five players. If you have more than five, create a different game. Use a tennis ball and bare hands, not a glove.
We ran these drills every day, and they had an immediate impact. They only take five to seven minutes. These drills improve focus on fundamentals and teach muscle memory.
Knee drills. Without a glove, sit up straight on both knees about 5 to 7 feet away from a partner. Roll the ball directly to the middle of your partner’s body. The fielders work on having their fingers down, their wrists loose and bringing the ball up quickly to the throwing area of the shoulder.
Progress to rolling the ball to the forehand side and then the backhand side. Keep the focus on loose hands and being athletic.
Standing drills.Do the same as the Knee Drills, but while standing. Back up to about 15 feet away from each other. Focus on footwork, staying low, holding your glove out, and keeping your head down on the ball while fielding. The focus should be on footwork and quickly getting into a good position to throw.
Quick Exchange Throwing. If you have enough room to throw, work on quick exchanges. Get the ball out of your glove as quickly as possible and get into a good throwing position, with your shoulders squared toward the target. Relax and set up for a normal throw. Focus on getting the ball out of your glove quickly and squaring your body to the target, not throwing back quickly. This helps with relays and turning double plays.
4-Corner Flips.Have four infielders stand in a square about 5 to 7 feet away from each other. Roll a ground ball to the fielder directly across from you. He fields it and flips the ball underhand to the player to his left.
Good footwork is integral to performing these drills. It will allow your players to field the ball consistently and make quality throws.
For many baseball players, fall marks the end of a very long season. College players have been playing since February. High school and youth players, since March. Some players will not play competitively again until next spring, while others have three or four weeks off before fall teams or college fall practices start-up.
During this break, there are two things you can do to improve your recovery and set the stage for better performance and lower injury risk.
1. Take time away from baseball
As much as you love playing baseball, time away is essential, both mentally and physically. Physically, baseball is a frontal (side-to-side) and transverse (rotational) plane-dominated game. Throwing and hitting, the two most common activities in the game, are examples of frontal and transverse movements. In addition, almost every movement in baseball is an explosive, powerful movement. Over the course of a six- to the seven-month season, countless throws, swings and sprints can take a toll on the body and lead to injury.
Give the body time to recover from this volume of work.
Avoid frontal plane movement such as Side Lunges, Heidens, Shuffles, etc.
Avoid rotational work, such as Medicine Ball Throws, and limit hitting.
Limit plyometrics and sprint work.
Put the bat down and take a break from hitting.
Take time away from throwing, especially pitchers.
Baseball pitching, especially, puts a tremendous amount of stress on the entire body, especially the shoulder and elbow.
The number one risk factor in a throwing-related injury is pitching too much. Among many other statistics, they state that pitching more than 8 months a year can lead to an increased risk of serious elbow or shoulder injury.
2. Restore your body
Given the repetitive nature of baseball, you risk overusing many areas of the body and losing mobility and stability over the course of the season. This is especially true of throwing.
In the pitching motion, the humerus internally rotates at over 6,000 degrees per second, and certain muscle groups work hard on every throw to slow the arm down. So by the end of the season, some parts of the body are pretty beat up, including the posterior (back), shoulder, biceps, and medial (inside) elbow.
In addition to the muscles that help slow down the arm, the muscles that help accelerate or internally rotate the arm—the lats and pecs—can show a loss of mobility over the course of the season. Restoring proper tissue quality in these areas can decrease injury risk in the throwing arm.
Finally, the lower body can take a beating during the season. Spend some time foam rolling the adductors (inner thighs) and quads to allow for proper lower-body function.
Use this foam-rolling circuit to restore normal tissue quality in these areas.