Football training, over-training, increased speed, toning, washboard abs

Q&A

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Q: Dear Michael Furci:
I have been reading a lot of your articles, and I love the advice you've given. Anyway, I'm a junior in High School and I play football. Since I've started researching and reading about good conditioning habits, I've noticed more and more problems with the football weightlifting and training program.

Our trainer is as tough as they come; however, he's really, really stubborn. We get rewarded for how often we are in the weight room -- even if it's detrimental. The top "Iron Men" as we call them usually come in the weight room five or six times a week and work alternating routines (one for arms & chest, one for legs & core). While this did work very well for me my first summer, I came in two times a day, five days a week, two to three hours each visit. I made good progress, but when I moved to a "Furci-ur-ized" like routine, coming in three times per week total, I made the same progress. We have the same "minimalistic recovery time" for all of our other types of conditioning too.

It's very hard to change the trainer's mind on anything, but I think it's unfair to the team and anyone else he trains to be pushed to a point where it's actually detrimental to muscle gain or simply a plateau. No offense, but I doubt he'd even take the time to listen to someone writing articles on the Internet. Are there any good books, articles, or anything really that you can recommend to abolish some bad conditioning myths in sports?

Adam

A: Adam,
Thanks for the compliments. I'm glad my articles have helped you. Unfortunately, for athletes such as yourself, the vast majority of strength coaches haven't a clue. Most of them prescribe training sessions that last too long and are performed too frequently. You say you made gains your first summer. Beginners will make gains on just about any workout prescribed no matter how off the wall it is. But, being perceptive, you saw what happened to your training after a few months. And despite the lack of success throughout the country on all levels, strength coaches continue to prescribe less effective techniques and programs, sighting useless studies from training journals.

The problems with most studies designed to determine the effectiveness of different training styles and exercises is the subjects are usually inexperienced lifters and the length of the studies are almost always too short. Another and possibly more important variable lost in studying training efficacy is assuring the intensity of the exercises and proper execution is equal across the board.

The goals for athletes in most sports are increased speed and power output. It is a fact, in simple terms, that strength equals speed. The stronger you are compared to your weight (relative strength), the faster and more explosive you will be. So how is this accomplished? Use the following when developing a training program to improve your playing ability:

1. First and foremost - KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

2. Make sure to get enough protein. Eat a minimum of 1 gram per pound of body weight.

3. Never, ever train your body parts more than once a week each.

4. Train three to four days per week. No more. When football two- and three-a-days start, this should be reduced to as low as two sessions per week.

5. Revolve your routines around basic exercises like the squat and deadlift. Forget Olympic lifts. Not only are they highly overrated and too complex for most to learn correctly, they are less effective than squats and deadlifts. Most strength coaches I’ve met have only seen Olympic lifts demonstrated at conferences and can’t perform the lifts correctly. Olympic lifts have no place in strength training.

6. Sufficiently warm-up and perform only two working sets per exercise. If progress is not made within six weeks, reduce to 1 working set.

A word of caution, Adam: You mention that you doubt your coach would even take the time to listen to someone writing articles on the Internet. Just because somebody is writing articles or has a column on the Internet doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about. I appreciate that you read my articles and feel that I can help you. It has taken years of training, education, and trail and error to get to the point I am now. Far too many have little or no real knowledge about what they’re writing about. Read with discretion.

Mike

Q: Mike,
I am 29, 6 feet and 190 lbs, and I’m looking for some advice on reaching my goals. First of all, my chest is still "pointed" even though one day of my workout is concentrated on chest. Second, I still have a "tube" around my waist and "baby" fat left in my face. Looking for a way to get rid of all that. My workouts are concentrated on burning fat and toning right now. Chiseled and cut is what I am looking for. Any help would be appreciated.

Kevin

A: There’s that “T” word again. Damn it, Kevin! You do not want to tone. Thirty something women at Curves want to tone. They’re ignorant of what the term actually means. Over the last 15 years, “tone” has been used as an adjective describing appearance thanks to TV, magazines and sub-par trainers. Tone has nothing to do with appearance. Tone is the amount of tension a muscle exerts at rest, for the 1000th time this year.

You say your workouts are concentrated on burning fat and _ _ _ _ _ _ right now. What does that mean? Don’t tell me you’re doing moderate weight and high reps? I’m also not quite sure what you mean by pointed chest. I’m assuming you mean it’s not muscular. And by the way, there is no such thing as “baby fat” at 29 years old. It’s just fat.

At six-feet tall and 190lbs with a tube around your waste, you need to not only lose some body fat but, more importantly, add some muscle. Muscle drives the metabolism. The more you have, the more calories you burn. In order to build muscle, you’re going to need to stop these pussy workouts and start busting your ass. How do I know you're not busting your ass? Because, as you say, your workouts are concentrated on burning fat and toning.

Getting lean and muscular for the vast majority of people is not an easy task. There are a few principles you’re going to have to follow not being a genetic freak. Keep your workouts brief, 60 minutes or less. But most importantly, your workouts should be intense. By intense, I mean performing your working sets to absolute temporary failure. Only perform two working sets per exercise after warming up thoroughly. If after six weeks your gains are minimal, decrease your working sets to one per exercise. Utilize a three- or four-day split routine, hitting each body part once a week.

For more information on working your abs, read parts one and two of “Washboard Abs, A comprehensive strategy.”

Q: Dear Mike,
I am a football player and I have pretty good leg strength. I am 5'10" 210 pounds and play fullback and sometimes linebacker. I have been trying to get more explosion in my legs but whatever I do doesn’t seem to work.

I need the first couple steps to be powerful ones and to be almost at full speed. I have done a lot of speed training but I still cannot seem to find a way to give me that early explosion in my legs. I was hoping you could help me out and maybe even give me a plan to try.

Thank you.

George

A: George,
Sports involving sprinting, jumping, swimming, throwing, kicking or punching are affected by the ratio of the strength of the muscles involved in the movement to the mass of those muscles. To put it simply, a football player who trains properly and increases his strength over a period of time and his mass remains relatively the same, his ability to accelerate is increased. This is referred to as an athlete’s relative strength.

The greater the relative strength an athlete has, the faster and more explosive he becomes. To help you accomplish this, use a three- to four-day split routine. The following is a three-day split:

Use basic movements for each body part. Squats, deadlifts and training your core should be the foundation of your training. No other exercises will help improve your explosiveness off the line more than squats and deads. Make sure you're thoroughly warmed up for each exercise, performing between six and 12 reps to failure on your working sets. Do not do more than two working sets per exercise.

Day 1: Legs: squats are the base of leg day

Day 2: OFF

Day 3: Back and biceps: perform deadlifts every other week

Day 4: OFF

Day 5: Chest, shoulders and triceps

Days 6 & 7: OFF

Core movements: Crunches on stability ball, Russian twists on stability ball, 1/2 superman’s on stability ball (once per week).

Q: I’ve been working out with my friend for almost two months now, and I'm tired of our routine:

Monday - chest and triceps
Tuesday - biceps and back
Wednesday - legs and shoulders
Thursday - chest and triceps
Friday - biceps and back
now he’s seen lots of results and I haven’t, I was just wondering if that
routine is really bad?

Mike

A: Mike,
The routine isn't bad; it's obvious, however, that it's not for you. There is no such thing as a “one routine fits all.” Although we are basically the same physiologically, we react differently to different training stimulus. Some of us recover very quickly and can use a high volume of training. Most of us recover slowly and need to use a low volume approach. It is our inherent differences that make designing programs such a challenge. If you’re not making gains, you're doing too much. This is assuming you’re training correctly. By correctly, I mean performing the exercises properly with good form and 100 percent intensity. Try the following:

Monday - chest and triceps
Tuesday - back and traps
Wednesday - OFF
Thursday - shoulders and biceps
Friday - OFF
Saturday - legs

First 3 weeks:
After you have properly warmed up, perform two working sets per exercise
Perform between 10 - 12 reps

Second 3 weeks:
After you have properly warmed up, perform one working set per exercise
Perform between 8 - 10 reps

Final 3 weeks:
After you have properly warmed up, perform one working set per exercise
Perform between 5 - 7 reps

Your friend will eventually stop making gains with the type of workout he's using. I can guarantee it. Even people who are blessed with the best genetics and use performance enhancing drugs over-train with this type of workout. If you listen to your body, keep a detailed journal of your workouts, make alterations when necessary, eat adequate protein (one gm per lb of body weight), and tell everyone you know to read my articles, you'll make great gains.

Got a question for Mike? Send it to mike@bullz-eye.com. 

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