Preparing for football tryouts- Improving conditioning and strength


How are you doing? If you can take the time to help me out, I’d appreciate it.

– We’ve talked a few times and as you know I tried out for a D-1 university for football but didn’t make it. I am planning on going on again this spring for a different school..deciding between a few ranging from D3 to D1 again. So I am trying to get into a top tier shape.

-I realize it will take years and thus far I feel I’m taking the right baby steps towards that. I am 6 ft, 220lb currently at roughy 17-19% BF.(Really guessing on that with previous experience on caliber testing.) I am on Westside and loving it so far. I plan on staying at this weight and slowly gain as time goes on. (Up tp 250, even.) My biggest concern is my GPP/cardio/whatever you want to label it. This is why I am messaging you. I know you have great experience with running, weightlifting, and most importantly the brutal combination of the too while retaining muscle.

-Being a past Linemen, I dont have the best conditioning skills in my blood yet. I want and need to get it better shape. I just dont know the most efficient way to go about it, hence why Im sending you this. I know sled drills and football related drills would be optimal, but my supplies are limited here at this college. Im more or less looking for some long term ideas to get my GPP/whatever up. I know their is no magic, fast, one program to set me up. I just need some insight and knowledge I can apply for the next few years. I’d rather start learning more now than later.

-As far as long term goals go… I want to increase my strength,size,etc. (No surprise there!) I need to lower my BF also. By the next 3 or so years I would ideally like to be 235lb and at 10% or so BF with lifts above my current ones here: (335 bench, 435 squat, 500 dead, 250 power clean)


Hey J,

So my general thoughts on the matter:  First, I didn’t note if you mentioned what position in particular you’d want to play- I think this is great.  As I’m sure you know, when trying out for a team, they’re going to put you where they want you, so not having any preconceived notions there is a good thing.

You’ve got solid enough starting stats, but I’d definitely agree more strength is needed, and better conditioning can only be a good thing.  If you’re trying out this spring, that gives you a few solid months to improve your general condition, but I’d of course assume you’re working on the football fundamentals as well.  First thing- forget about GPP.  GPP, or general physical preparedness, is the nemesis of any serious athlete (except in the offseason).  Your body has limited recovery capabilities and your goals are high, so there is quite honestly no room for any “general” activity.  Everything you do out there should be making you a better football player.  Burpees, pullups, kettlebells, forget them all.  (Kettlebells have a great place in many athlete’s routines, but your needs right now are specific conditioning and brute strength).  For the in-season or pre-season athlete, you need SPP- Specialized Physical Preparation.

Westside is really my framework of choice for the multi-needs athlete- the design itself can be heavily modified to incorporate SPP/specific conditioning. Nearly every player can benefit from are two kinds of training- general aerobic capacity, which is VITAL for making it through long practices and long games, and what I refer to as power-endurance.  Being able to hit hard or accelerate quickly means nothing if you can’t do it repeatedly- one of the places a lot of guys fall apart in their conditioning is taking too long between their sprints and sled work- teams with more limited resources may find their guys taking several minutes between sled drives.  No game will give you that kind of break.

I would continue the basic Westside ME/DE split, but with the following changes:  At least 75% of your DE work should be SPP work rather than squat/deadlift/bench work.

For your upper body, this would mean replacing speed bench with jammer extensions, push presses, and plyometric bench (I use the smith machine for bench tosses- 30% of max, objective is to actually throw the bar for height.  There is nothing better for upper body explosion. When incorporating this work, I would indeed put it into a circuit, rotating plyometric/skill exercises and anaerobic endurance exercises.  (i.e. 5 sets of push presses alternating with pushups). I would NOT put high skill exercises (like power cleans or true Olympic lifts) into a circuit.  Ever.  Period full stop.  This is a great way to perform a technical lift badly and injure yourself, which would be a really asinine reason to miss tryouts in the spring.

For your lower body DE, you get into the fun drills.  The single best drill I’ve found for prospective football, hockey, or rugby players who don’t have a sled is the car push and sprint.  It’s just what it sounds like- you need a single individual to help.  Set your car in neutral, set up in your four point or three point behind the bumper.  Explode into the car, drive for two to three yards, do a quick side break and sprint ten yards.  Jog back and repeat.  Repeat again, and repeat again.  If you can drive the car 100 yards, next time out drive it 105.  Then 110.  The person in the car is there to hit the brakes (when you’re done pushing) and encourage/mock you, depending on what motivation you need.  The second drill is your basic agility ladder- Quick steps forward, quick lateral crossovers, then 180 degree rotational jumps.  If you want a more full list of different routines, I’d be happy to recommend a few more.  The objective, though, is to use the DE/speed work to bolster both your basic lifts AND improve your specific conditioning.  A higher bench press and squat is great, but I’d rather your squat be 85% of what it could be and your ability to get low and drive be hugely improved.

This leaves you with three days a week.  On at least one of these days, you need to be focusing on pure aerobic endurance- I recommend slow runs of 3-4 miles.  This may seem counterintuitive for a lot of football players- these runs don’t make you faster, and they don’t make you stronger.  But they DO build your ability to breathe deep and keep pushing, you’ll improve heart and lung capacity, capillarization, and overall fitness, but most importantly these runs won’t hinder your recovery by taxing your muscles significantly.  I’ve found these sorts of runs the day after a lift actually IMPROVES my recovery- you’re loosening up the muscles, getting the blood flowing…  and increasing your appetite.

This leaves you two empty days a week- one should be recovery, the other would be a good day for a track workout- for you, I’d make sure this came the day AFTER my ME lower day, since you want maximum recovery in the week before you squat or pull heavy next.  Track workouts can be simple- 2000 meters of total running, plus a short warm up.  Sprint the straights, jog the curves, do 8×50’s.  Plenty of track workout templates out there- again, if you want a few more ideas, I’d be happy to toss them over.

Keep me posted once you’ve put together a framework, I’d be happy to make recommendations and put in a few specifics if you have questions.  Good luck!


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