Football Workouts for Power and Strength

4 Workouts for Football Players to Increase Power & Strength

I’ve been working as a collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach for 20 years at some of the top colleges in the country. When someone finds this out, usually the first thing I get asked is, “Can you give me some workouts?”

So, in this article that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you 4 football workouts, two power days and two strength days. I’ll also explain who the workouts are best for and why I picked some of the exercises I did.

Workouts vs Training Program

Before we get started, I want to be clear about the difference between a “workout” and a “program”.

A workout is an individual session. A collection of exercises that may last anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour.

On the other hand, a training program is a collection of workouts over the course of weeks or months that are designed to work in harmony with one another to maximize athletic performance.

Yes, you can get stronger and in better shape by doing random workouts day to day. But, to truly optimize performance, what you really need is a properly planned training program.

The four workouts I’m about to share with you come from Week 1 of my Football Strength and Conditioning Program that is available in the Horton Barbell Shop.

Coach’s Note: These are just the football strength training workouts done in the gym. Not included are warm-ups, speed and agility work and any conditioning that is planned for each day.

Football Power Workout 1

Football Player Doing a Power Clean
Snatch Complex5, 5, 55, 5, 5
Hang Power Snatch3 x 603 x 653 x 703 x 703 x 70
Power Clean4 x 553 x 653 x 702 x 752 x 75
Clean Pull3 x 753 x 803 x 802 x 85
Pull-Upsx 10x 10x 10x 10
One Arm Rowx 8ex 8ex 8e
DB Curlsx 10x 10x 10
Plankx 45 secx 45 secx 45 sec

How To Read the Workout

First, let’s go over how to read the workout sheet above and then we’ll discuss the exercise choices along with the sets and reps chosen.

Each exercise is listed, in order, down the left-hand side of the workout sheet. Then, each box going left to right represents a set of that particular exercise.

Some exercises use a percentage of the athlete’s max.

For example, the first set of Hang Power Snatch is ‘3 x 60’. This means this set consists of 3 reps done at 60% of that athlete’s Snatch max. (I don’t have athletes actually max-out on snatches – instead, I use 80% of their Clean max)

Other exercises, like One Arm Rows for example, only come with the reps required for each set – 8 reps each arm.

Exercise Selection

The workout begins with a Snatch Complex that consists of 5 reps each of a Hang Muscle Snatch, Behind the Neck Press and Overhead Squat. This is essentially a barbell warm-up that helps prep the body for the work ahead.

Next are three Olympic lift variations – Hang Power Snatch, Power Clean and Clean Pull.

I am a big believer in the Olympic lifts, and their variations, for developing power. These Olympic lift variations will build power through the triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles – the same triple extension seen in sprinting, jumping and diving.

Olympic lifts bring a ton of extra benefits as well – coordination, how to brace the core and the ability to absorb force are just some of the benefits that will carry over to the football field.

After the Olympic lift variations are some back, bicep and core supplemental work.

Pull-ups and One Arm Rows are incredibly effective compound movements that will develop upper-body strength. Finally, Planks are a great core exercise that teaches athletes how to brace their core and develop core stability.

Sets and Reps

Prescribing volume (sets and reps) and intensity (the percentages used) is an entire article all to itself, but I want to highlight a few points.

The majority of work sets should fall in the 70% to 80% range. Working in this intensity range will prove the most beneficial for a football player developing both power and strength.

The total volume for each exercise will fall somewhere between 12 and roughly 24 reps. The exact number will ultimately depend on the exercise and the week and day of the training cycle.

Football Strength Workout 1

Back Squatting With a Squat Stand
3 x 32 sets
Back Squat4 x 553 x 654 x 703 x 752 x (2 x 80)
Floor Slider Leg Curlx 5x 4x 4
Dumbbell Step-Upsx 5ex 5ex 5e
Incline Bench5 x 555 x 655 x 683 x 733 x (3 x 75)
Push-Upsx 20x 20x 20
Band Pushdownsx 20x 20x 20
DB Lateral Raisex 10x 10x 10

How To Read the Workout

All of the same concepts for the first workout apply to this one.

The only difference you’ll notice is on Back Squat and Incline Bench, there are some repeat sets at the end. So, for Back Squat, the player would finish with 2 sets of 2 reps each at 80%.

Exercise Selection

For our strength day, the emphasis is on big compound movements like Back Squat and Incline Bench Press. Exercises that get many muscle groups involved and help to develop overall strength.

Another point of emphasis is the inclusion of single-leg exercises like Dumbbell Step-Ups. Much of sports is done on one leg at a time (sprinting, cutting, jumping, etc) so making sure you’re improving your single-leg strength (and balance) is critical.

3 x 3 is another barbell warm-up sequence that involves 3 Behind the Neck Presses and 3 Overhead Squats.

Finally, the end of the workout includes some chest, shoulder and triceps (we did back and biceps in the first workout) exercises.

Sets and Reps

Like with our power exercises, the majority of our strength exercises should fall in the 70% to 80% range. (Keep in mind that this is Week 1 and intensities will gradually increase in the following weeks)

There is a difference in volume with strength movements though. Total volume can go as high as 35 reps for strength movements – considerably more than the power-focused movements.

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Football Power Workout 2

Russian Twist with Medicine Ball
Javorek Complex3, 3, 3, 3, 33, 3, 3, 3, 3
Push Press3 x 603 x 653 x (3 x 70)
Hang Clean4 x 554 x 604 x 653 x (3 x 70)
Trap Bar Pull4 x 704 x 753 x (3 x 80)
Inverted Rowsx 12x 12x 12x 12
Barbell Shrugsx 10x 10x 10
Band Curlsx 20x 20x 20
Seated Med Ball Twistx 20ex 20ex 20e

You should be familiar with how to read the workout sheet at this point so let’s jump right into exercise selection.

Exercise Selection

You’re going to notice a lot of similarities between the two power workouts.

The day starts with 2 sets of Javorek Complex – another barbell complex consisting of Upright Rows, Muscle Snatches, Squat to Press, RDL and Bent Over Rows.

Then there are 3 Olympic lift variations. This lift includes Push Presses, more of an upper-body focused power movement followed by Hang Clean and Trap Bar Pulls.

Each exercise is a slightly different variation than Day 1. This variety helps keep the body from accommodating and keeps the workouts fresh.

Also similar to Day 1, the workout finishes with back, bicep and core exercises.

Sets and Reps

Earlier I mentioned that the volume and intensity of each exercise can depend on the day of the week (or the week within a training cycle).

I want to point out an example of this concept.

Let’s compare Power Clean from Day 1 to Hang Clean on Day 3 (the second power day).

The total volume (sets and reps) of Power Clean on Day 1 is 14 reps. The total volume for Hang Clean on Day 3 is 21 reps. Day 3 is a volume day for cleans.

On the other hand, look at the intensities of each exercise. Power Clean works up to 2 sets at 75% while Hang Clean never goes above 70%. Day 1 is the intensity day for cleans.

This balance between volume and intensity is a critical component of a properly planned strength program – from day to day to week to week.

Trying to cram too much volume and intensity together can lead to overtraining and/or injury, but spreading it too thin can result in not maximizing progress.

A well-designed strength program will properly manage volume and intensity to optimize development and minimize the risk of injury.

Football Strength Workout 2

Bench Press
3 x 32 Sets
Front Squat5 x 555 x 655 x 683 x 733 x (3 x 75)
Pistol Squatx 5ex 5ex 5e
RDLx 7x 6x 6
Bench Press4 x 553 x 654 x 703 x 752 x (2 x 80)
Single Arm DB Incline Benchx 7ex 7ex 7e
Dipsx 15x 12x 10
Rear Delt Raisex 12x 12x 12

Exercise Selection

Like the first strength day, this workout is filled with big compound movements that are the most effective for developing strength.

And, just like the exercises are slightly varied on the power days, Front Squat replaces Back Squat and Bench Press replaces Incline Bench as the two main exercises for the day.

Single Arm DB Incline is an exercise that I really like for football players because of its anti-rotational qualities. So, in addition to building upper-body strength, Single Arm Bench is an excellent movement for improving core stability.

Sets and Reps

On the second power day, I explained a little about volume days vs intensities days and you can see that concept at play here on the second strength workout.

This is a volume day for Front Squat (vs an intensity day for Back Squat on Day 2) and an intensity day for Bench Press (vs a volume day for Incline Bench on Day 2).

Again, balancing the volume and intensity of the upper and lower body movements is another aspect that separates workouts without a rhyme and reason vs a sound training plan.

These Are Advanced Football Workouts

It’s important to note that these are advanced football workouts designed for collegiate or upper-level high school football players with experience in the weight room.

Workouts for beginners and/or younger high school football players would generally have simpler exercise selections. Exercises like Trap Bar Deadlifts, Goblet Squats and Dumbbell Bench Press are all exercises that can develop strength and can later progress into more complex movements like Olympic lifts and Front Squats.

Meanwhile, exercises like Box Jumps and Kettlebell Swings are beginner-friendly movements that can work on power and explosiveness.

Coach’s Note: You should never do exercises that you don’t know how to do correctly. There are always alternatives to any exercise (for example here are some Power Clean alternatives) and proper technique should always be the number one priority in the gym.

“Sport-Specific Exercises”

Football Players Playing In a Game

What you didn’t find in any of the exercises above are any exercises that involved putting a band around your legs and throwing a weighted football while balancing on a stability ball.

I believe that the training done in the weight room should emphasize power and strength development along with things like improved core stability, and knee and ankle stability.

In other words, developing a faster, more explosive, more injury-resilient football player.

Becoming better at football skills is something that should be done on the football field with football coaches.

The analogy that I often like to use is the weight room is the place where you put a bigger engine in the car along with improved shocks and tires. However, the field is where you should actually practice ‘driving the car’.

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Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article has served two purposes.

First, if you simply wanted to see what workouts for football players look like, you got to see a complete week’s worth of workouts for a collegiate football player.

But, even more importantly, I hope you have a little better understanding of what separates individual workouts from a comprehensive strength and conditioning program.

And, finally, if you want an already prepared football strength and conditioning program that you can start following today, make sure to check out the Horton Barbell Shop.

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