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How long should your strength and conditioning program run?

This is an excerpt from Strength Training for Football by NSCA -National Strength & Conditioning Association,Darren Krein & Jerry Palmieri.

By Jeff Hurd and Nathaniel D.M. Jenkins

Length of the Program

How long the strength and conditioning professional has to train athletes in the off-season is usually determined by two factors: The football coach and the governing bodies setting the rules for the sport. Some college football coaches will start spring ball later in the semester to allow for the longest continuous training time during the off-season program. Others may want to break the off-season up with two short periods of training before and after spring ball. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) establishes certain weeks as “dead weeks” when no organized training can take place. The National Football League (NFL) designates only two weeks that are considered truly off-season training, with another three weeks when the coaches can take the athletes on the field for drills and learning. While training continues during this phase of the off-season, the strength and conditioning professional faces some limitations. After this period are three weeks of organized team activities, which involves full team organized practices. A mandatory minicamp makes up the final week of the off-season program.

The high school football coach probably has the greatest opportunity to organize the longest continuous off-season program; however, some difficulties may arise because high school football athletes may also participate in other sports. One solution for the high school coach is to have an 11-week training cycle followed by a testing week and a transition week. Thirteen weeks is probably about the length of a seasonal sport. The athletes who are not involved in another sport get a significant amount of time to train and then transition into their spring sport, or to begin a new 11-week cycle as stronger athletes. For the athletes who played a winter sport, they can now join their teammates as they all start a new 11-week cycle together.

The sample off-season programs in this chapter are based on an 11-week period. Table 9.1 shows how that sample program can be altered based on the time allotted at the high school, college, and professional levels.

Table 9.1