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Five Tips for Increasing Strength and Power

This is an excerpt from Complete Running Back by Tim Horton.

Football is one of the most physical sports in all of athletics. The complete running back must have the strength to take the physical contact that happens every play. Strength helps a running back prevent injury and play physically. Complete running backs must pass-protect and carry the football; to be effective in both skills, he must possess strength and power. Power running backs are players who inflict as much or more punishment on defensive players as they receive. Often the more powerful or stronger player will win the individual battles that happen on each play. To win these battles, complete running backs must develop power and strength.

This chapter explains 20 of the best exercises to develop power and strength that we use at Auburn University. As a general rule, we do 3 sets of 6 repetitions at 75 percent of the lifter's maximum weight. Early in a training cycle, we may do more repetitions at 60 to 65 percent.

Five Tips for Improving Strength and Power

  1. Focus on quality over quantity. Quality repetitions, not a lot of average or sloppy repetitions, improve strength and power. Less is more. To develop strength, limit each set to 8 repetitions. For power training, limit each set to 5 repetitions.
  2. Don't train for strength and power when fatigued. Fully recover before the start of each set.
  3. Execute deliberate practice. Every set should focus on what you want to achieve.
  4. Eat properly. Proper nutrition fuels workouts.
  5. Focus on recovery.

Back Squat


Increase overall strength and power and improve rate of force development.


  1. Center the barbell on the upper back in the middle of the trapezius muscles. Using an overhand grip, place the hands evenly on each side between the shoulders and weight plates.
  2. Lift the bar off the rack and walk away from the rack.
  3. Stand with the feet under the shoulders or slightly wider, with the toes pointed forward or slightly turned out to 1 and 11 o' clock (figure 6.1a).
  4. Once away from the rack, begin the squat by hinging at the hips and pushing them back as you lower into the squat position (figure 6.1b).
  5. As you lower the weight, drive the knees out and descend until the hips are slightly below the knee joints.
  6. Maintain a neutral back and head and an upright torso as you return to the starting position.

Coaching Points

  • Take a deep breath in before tightening the core before initiating the movement.
  • Grip the bar tightly, pull the elbows down, keep the chest up, and keep the head neutral with the eyes focused forward.
  • Push the hips back to load the muscles of the posterior chain (the muscles on the back of your body). Keep the shins vertical to prevent shearing forces on the knees.
  • Plant the feet on the ground. Think of spreading the floor by driving the knees out to create great body tension and torque.
  • Maintain full foot contact and keep the shins vertical.
  • Explode upward. The bar travels in a straight line vertically back to the standing starting position.

Figure 6.1 Back squat: starting position; squat.

Figure 6.1 Back squat: starting position; squat.
Back squat: (a) starting position; (b) squat.



Learn more about Complete Running Back.

More Excerpts From Complete Running Back