Ben T. Cook
The basic purpose of this phase is to increase gradually, over a period of weeks, your level of nerve activity and excitability. Muscle mass will continue to increase, but less from a fatigue-related response than from the load increases planned during the exercises.
During this phase, the progression toward power is subtle; the decrease in the number of repetitions moves from eight to six to five to four, and finally to a single repetition near test time. Some may argue that this approach provides less of a shock to the neuromuscular unit, thus resulting in less power potential. My athletes, however, have gained the best results performing with this stair-step descent in repetitions. I feel that the success of the program depends on close supervision by the strength coach. The strength coach must persuade athletes to avoid working to momentary muscular failure after the phase 1 period. The stress must increase gradually toward all-out intensity at week 16. If you progress too rapidly, then you will not perform well when test time arrives.
Types of ExercisesThe exercises during this phase consist of core, supporting, and assisting exercises. The supporting exercises include more multijoint exercises (for example, flat dumbbell fly rather than flat dumbbell press) than in phase 1. This swings the emphasis from individual muscle fatigue desired in phase 1 to the promotion of intermuscular cooperation, in which several muscular groups work together to produce a powerful movement. You will use fewer cable and machine-resistance exercises. Also you make a progression toward using primarily free-weight resistance and more power-producing techniques. As is phase 1, you work the larger muscle groups first in the workout and the smaller muscle groups later. You will no longer do the supersets and decreasingresistance sets.
Rest, Volume, and Special SetsThe amount of rest between the sets of an exercise increases as the phase progresses. As phase 2 begins, rest between sets is 1:00 for supporting (s) exercises and 1:30 for basic (b) exercises. By week 16 rest is 2:30 for (b) exercises. The increased rest as the phase progresses is an adjustment that compensates for the ever increasing load of the resistance during the workout. This added recovery between sets ensures that with each repetition you will efficiently excite the nerve pathways that activate the muscle. The amount of rest between exercises remains at 1:30.
The number of sets and repetitions in phase 2 workouts begins to decrease gradually over the 10-week period. This lowered volume is another method of heightening the overall level of nerve activity and excitability, which will result in greater power output.
This phase includes no special sets. I used some transitional set schemes on weeks 10 and 11. For example, increases such as 6 X 70 percent, 6 X 75 percent, 4 X 80 percent, 4 X 85 percent assist you in making the transition from straight sets of 6 repetitions to straight sets of 4 repetitions.
Repetition Style and SpeedDuring this phase the style of repetition is less strict. Perform each repetition intelligently. Use good form to avoid injury. By incorporating more speed into the movement, you can use greater resistance. By week 16, you should be pushing with everything you have to move the resistance while retaining good exercise form.
Execute the repetitions in the phase with a pausing tempo. You can perform some repetitions without pause; however, as the resistance begins to cause fatigue, pause for an instant in a locked-out position to recover for a moment. This helps ensure that each repetition is a powerful one.
Running and ConditioningConditioning during this phase is highly diversified and addresses many of your physiological needs. At the same time you must remember the physical requirements of football; don’t try to put too much stuff in the workout. Time limitations may prevent you from doing so anyway. In the first weeks of this phase, weeks 7 through 10, the plan includes four running conditioning sessions per week with these emphases:
• Monday-Interval sprint work (chapter 9)
• Tuesday-Active recovery with short distance or longer intervals (chapter 9)
• Thursday-Speed work (practical strength for sprint form and starts; chapters 10 and 11)
• Friday-Combination work (shuttles, fartleks, Indian runs, and so on; chapter 9)
By week 10 the workouts incorporate more agility work, eventually replacing interval sprints entirely with agility drills. You can perform these drills at high speeds with little rest, thus producing good cardiorespiratory benefits. The workload is reduced from four days per week to three.
• Monday-Agility drills (chapter 11)
• Tuesday-Game simulation sprints (chapter 10)
• Thursday-Speed work (practical strength for sprint form and starts; chapter 10)
This reduction in days per week boosts recovery from workout to workout and helps to enhance power production that coincides with work performed in the weight room. You complete the conditioning phase by week 13. On week 14, Monday and Tuesday are void of conditioning to allow you to regain your legs before sprint testing on Thursday of that week.
Note that the academic spring break usually occurs during the second week in March. This break allows added recovery before testing.