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Preparing for Football Season Part 1: Strength Training Alone Isn’t Enough

About the Author: He started at fullback for Penn State University football teams that won the Fiesta Bowl, Outback Bowl and Alamo Bowl. He won state championships as a member of the Allentown Central Catholic Vikings. And he played NFL football for the Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now, Mike Cerimele shares his expertise with area amateur, college and pro athletes as an LVHN senior sports performance specialist.

In the first of this two-part series, former Penn State and NFL fullback Mike Cerimele explores how you can combine strength training and conditioning to be at your best this football season.

If you’re a football player at any level, the heat of August means one thing – it’s almost game time. But are you – or your student athlete – really ready for the new season?

In my own playing career, I survived the intensity of two-a-day workouts and the grind of numerous seasons. These quick tips from my vast experience will help you (or your student athlete) survive and thrive the grueling double-days grind.

1. Develop a weekly strength-training regimen – A goal-oriented, scientifically designed strength training program brings many benefits. It will help you withstand the physically demanding football season. It also will help you prevent on-field injuries, improve your strength and power, and build lean muscle mass. Most importantly, it will give you self-confidence, which I feel plays a major role in on-field success.To get started, do your research and find a certified strength and conditioning specialist. His or her help is invaluable. I’ve seen far too many young athletes – and their parents – come to me with pre-existing injuries from improper strength-training routines. Younger athletes sometimes lift weights that are too heavy and negatively impact their growth plates. I’ve also seen young athletes hampered with overuse injuries because they’re not using the proper mechanics. A proper strength-training regimen should never cause pain or injury.

2. Make movement training and sport-specific conditioning a priority – This is one of the most overlooked aspects of off-season training. While weight room time will greatly increase your overall strength and may potentially add 20 pounds of total body weight, movement training and conditioning will keep your muscles flexible and conditioned.Here’s why proper conditioning matters. If you show up on the first day of doubles without operating at full speed for repeated repetitions – plus you’re carrying 20 extra pounds of equipment on a 90-degree day – you’re at risk for a hamstring tear or full-body cramp because you’re unconditioned. That could lead to six missed weeks of football.It happened to a former college teammate of mine who thought he had all the answers. I guess he figured he knew more than our world-renowned head strength coach. The moral of the story: condition early during the off-season, and do it often. Learn how to properly and efficiently move your new body mass.

3. Condition for your sport – You’re playing football, not running a marathon. In the last 15 years of sports medicine innovation, we’ve found excessive distance running can actually de-train fast-twitch muscle fibers, making them less explosive in the short bursts common to football.Think of the framework of a 100-yard football field, where the average play lasts six seconds. Then train to simulate those short, sports-specific movement patterns, using maximal efforts in linear and multiple directions according to the demands of your position. Perform these patterns as you are building body mass so your body can adjust as you progress.

Next week, I’ll share my tips for proper hydration, diet, and for having fun.