Started Playing Football, Weight Room Advice

Hi all, hoping to get some advice on how best I can programme!

I’m 27, recently started playing American football in the UK. Playing Corner & WR, 6ft @ 180lbs.

I have probably been training in the gym for 6/7 years so not a newbie but always just been bodybuilding style splits.

Stats: (approx 1rm)
Squat: 330lb
Bench: 180lb

At the moment my schedule looks like:

Monday: Upper body strength

Tuesday: lower body strength

Wednesday: OFF

Thursday AM: upper body hypertrophy
Thursday PM: 1.5hr practise

Friday: lower body strength

Saturday: OFF

Sunday: GAME DAY of 3hr practise

Lower body workout:
Warm up with sled push (not intense)
Back squats
Split squats
Hamstring bridge (raised with knee bent)
Calf press
Core work

Upper body workout:
Flat bench
T bar row
Rear flies
Side raises
Tricep extension
Bicep curl

Wish I had started playing football sooner, it’s a hell of a sport to play!

5/3/1 is probably a great choice, but who better than Chad Waterbury to have football-related training?

Either of these would likely be a great choice.

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Thank you, I’m going to check these out now. Would you say these are both good to run during the season?

This is difficult to answer. If your team has practices, and depending how often or what the practices are like would change the answer to your question significantly. During my high school football days, we had practice 3x per week and then game day; we also trained 3x per week on the days we didn’t have practice, and definitely not before the game.

As for how to work this into your schedule… practice would be more important than trying to get stronger - at least during the season. If your team’s schedule aligns with how mine was, hitting the gym 2-3x per week (if possible in addition to practices) would be my recommendation. I think any of the 5/3/1 variants would work very well for you if that is how you would like to proceed.

I should note that playing wide receiver - you need to stay fast… Explosive work and sprints ought to be your bread and butter.

@TrainForPain used to play football I believe, he may have some good advice for you.

P.S All this advice is geared specifically towards your football performance, so if you have other goals that may be conflicting with this goal, then a different path may suit you better.

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WR and corner - so you’re fast. Keep an eye on weight. Getting strong can mean getting heavier. If you need to keep your acceleration, top end speed and agility then adding 20kg is not going to help. Even if you add 50kg to your squat.

With this in mind - my advice:
Be mind full of why you are doing stuff. I play rugby and one thing I learnt is to ask “why” you do certain exercise or rep range.
Take the squat - you might say I want to add 50kg to my squat. Alright - why? Because you want to be stronger. Strong is better right? The question is why?
The answer is: stronger squat, stronger legs, quicker acceleration, better side step and more powerful in contact. But what if to get stronger you need to add 20kg to your frame? Suddenly your bigger squat has hindered your top end speed, your acceleration and agility. Sure you are better in contact but you’re never going to get a chance to show it as you are always being covered and your never close to making a tackle. Where as if you’d have trained differently and just added 20kg to your squat, but you’d still be about the same weight. Better option right.

So I’d take a look at what attributes I wanted to improve on in the game and THEN ask for help in achieving them.
For instance - if you want to improve your acceleration, you want more power (F=MA). Along with some maximal strength work, add in some dynamic effort stuff. 50-60% of max for 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps. Ideally 12-15 reps total. For front squats, back squats and dead lifts.


Thanks for the tag @Andrewgen_Receptors! I was never great, and had no delusions of a pro ball future, but I enjoyed the game.

@N0FLYZ0N3 as noted above, what are your goals? How serious is this football? Based on your age and the amount of practice, I’d imagine it’s a rec league and you’re not necessarily looking at selling your soul to improve at just this one aspect of your life?

I think goals and level of dedication to this (I don’t mean that as a bad thing) would color my advice. Like when we have high school kids talking about they want a scholarship but they’re really on this site because they want biceps and abs for the beach this summer, that needs a little reality check. But if you are just looking to outrun another relatively new player on the weekends while also looking jacked, that’s different.

All that said, if it were me (and I know @carlbm hit it too), I’d run. You likely actually have a ton and responsibilities, so your time will be limited. The majority of my running would be my routes; really focus on getting in and out of your breaks hard. That’s going to be the difference maker. A good route runner with a 4.6 can beat a sloppy speedster with a 4.4. It will help you on both sides of the ball, but put a little time into defense: mostly backpedal drills with breaks. Last, but not least, the most important part of playing receiver is obviously jacked arms so you can look good in really short sleeves.

In your schedule, I’d squat less, run my route tree frequently, and maybe 1/3 of my running work would be backpedal drills. You’ve got to kill a couple birds with your time.

Good on you for jumping in! I can’t imagine trying to learn a route tree at 27 in a land that didn’t grow up with the sport. I barely understood what was going on watching my kids’ soccer games!

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You hit the nail on the head really, I’m not trying to go pro or anything like that, realistically I get 1 hour in the day time for training and then can do evening work if I don’t have commitments.

I’d just like to use my time in the gym to see what I can do, my first season and Looking at the stats I’m a cert for ROTY so if I can get a bit more powerful, a bit stronger, a bit quicker and look the part for the cameraman then I will be over the moon!

Thanks for the input! Yes this is exactly one of the reasons I came to this forum.

I was thinking to move towards a strength programme but for the above reasons I was cautious of how it would effect my performance: would I gain size that wasn’t lean size, add some strength but loose explosiveness?

Yes that makes perfect sense. In regards to goals, when I step on the field I know I am probably one of, if not the fastest out there without sounding cocky. I have played soccer since I was 6 and have built a good level of speed & endurance.

For my training it’s mainly the following goals (in order):

A) keep my speed and improve where possible - I don’t have access to technique coaching etc so power is important

B) get stronger. My bench sucks, a lot of my other lifts aren’t where they should be really for my gym age.

C) look the part. We all want to look like we train right? As the title of the forum says ‘bigger, stronger, leaner’ I know it’s easier said than done

To give you that sort of advice someone needs a pretty good idea of your over all capabilities and the requirements of the sport.

As your coach. Tell him you’re going to spend some time in the gym. Ask him what he thinks you need.
Hell he could even say - lean up a bit.

Once you know you’ll get a much better return on your performance investment.

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I didn’t have blazing speed, but I was faster than most everyone on the rugby field that I played a few years.

One thing I did notice is that when my back started to grow, I lost a bit of speed. I believe I got most of it back in a year or so.

So, my thoughts are to do a good bit of wind sprints of short distances.

At 27 years old I finally gave up trying to bodybuild and play rugby. I put rugby aside.

Check out 531. Especially the various Krypteia programs. These are the programs Jim Wendler uses to coach his football teams with great success.

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Sorry for the late reply and thanks everyone for the advice & programme suggestions, going to have a good look through and select one.

I spoke to coaches, both O & D. Both agreed I don’t need to get faster but if I can then why the hell not?! But they were both in agreement that a weakness in my game is physicality and they suggested strength & power.

In my head I’m thinking a good power based training programme run along side additional sprint and route running as well as mobility and rehab.

Also thinking back to what I would like my goals to be, I’m thinking to try and cut a couple lb’s but very slowly. I don’t want to ‘go on a cut’ and effect my training

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Cleaning up your diet and training hard will probably take care of “a couple” pounds without actually having to try to lose weight.

Even this tiny bit of info is so helpful.

As power is a function of strength (power = strength working quickly) and you need both - I’d work on top end strength first. As this will improve power. Then work on power there after. Pick your lifts you want to get power full in. Most people go for:

To be fair I’d run 531 - but I’d keep a few things in mind.
Make sure you keep the throws in there. These are not only integral to the programme but to your goal.
Don’t worry about losing weight. Tidy up the diet and add some lbs. The extra weight will be off set by extra strength. Thus meaning you’ll not lose any speed.
Keep the conditioning up. What is on there there is minimum I’d say. Aim for more.
Do single leg work. And some sort of loaded carry. Does not have to be heavy.

Once you get “strong” you can focus on power. The 531 books talk about how to make this work. But alternatively you could just add more power work into your current plan. I’d be tempted to do 5 pro’s for the main exercises and then reduce the bar weight and do 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps at about 70% of my TM. Keeping the movement as fast as possible.
I’d also look to add power movements into this phase of training.
Cleans, jerks and push press.