IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN; THE START OF OFFSEASON TRAINING FOR FOOTBALL
Two of the area's top professionals offer advice for young student-athletes and their parents who are just starting their sports journey. Every spring the ritual begins once again. Like most fall team sports, football players start the training grind about this time of year to get ready for the forthcoming season.
And every year, there are new ideas on how to get better and safer. Some aspects of getting in shape never change because the methods are just too reliable.
But every year a new group of young players enter the arena. In most cases, both players and parents are wide-eyed and enthusiastic. But some parents don’t know the ropes and fall victim to short cuts and bad advice. Many high schools have great training programs, like Neshaminy head coach Steve Wilmot, who runs a great offseason program that includes his terrific weight room regimen. Other offseason programs that have gotten good reviews in and around Southeastern PA and South Jersey include Oxford (The Pit), Pennsbury, Haddonfield, Cherokee, Camden, West Deptford, Archbishop Carroll, Burlington Township, Roman Catholic, Bonner-Prendie, Strath Haven, St. Augustine, Williamstown, Lenape, Shawnee, Springfield (DE) and Radnor. Of course Delaware programs such as Middletown, Salesianum, Hodgson Vo-Tech, Smyrna, Sussex Central and William Penn also come to mind for excellence. There are many more, great offseason high school programs out there in the Tri-State area for sure, but these were what came to mind for this article. I know some good ones were left out.
ADVICE FROM THE BEST Let’s hear from some area training experts who have offered some sound advice. Chad Hallett of Adrenaline Sports Performance & Personal Training in Cherry Hill gave some general advice to young athletes and their parents.
www.adrenalinespt.com “First, I think they need to find a skilled professional,” Hallett said at his very busy Old Cuthbert Road facility. “Parents need to do their homework as there are a lot of guys out there that are not really qualified at training. “Parents are sometimes seeking out who is the cheapest and they go with that,” Hallett continued. “That’s how kids end up getting injured.” Hallett’s facility has offered training and advise to some of the top pro athletes in the area including Eagles All Pro offensive tackle Lane Johnson, former Eagles running Corey Clement, former Eagles CB Curtis Marsh, Current Carolina Panthers DB Sean Chandler, Minnesota Vikings CB Harrison Hand, Eagles special teams ace Sean Bradley and edge rusher Haason Reddick, who recently signed a $45 million contract with the Eagles. Hallett started training Reddick when he was in seventh grade. Those are just a handful of the successful athletes who trained with Hallett at one time or another. One thing Hallett warned parents about is if their son or daughter are just getting started with high school sports and want to weight train. “Don’t rush too heavy to get into heavy weights,’ Hallett said. “I see it a lot in high schools right now. Kids are maxing out and using heavy weights and improper form. They’re young now, but that’s going to catch up to them in the long run if they keep lifting with bad form.” Hallett was asked if making weight room training a competition to see how much weight young athletes can lift can be the wrong approach.
Absolutely,” Hallett said. “I’ve got kids coming in here all the time and trying to say, ‘I did 600 (pounds) on the deadlift in high school.’ Then when I max them out, it’s more like 225. Yeah, you did a deadlift at school and they let you use bad form and get it up. But what are we really doing here?” What about Cardio? “It depends on body type,” Hallett said. “Linemen might be looking to lose some weight, so you might want to do some distance. But football is an anaerobic sport…not using so much oxygen. The longest play is from three to five seconds. So I tell my guys to focus on sprints, especially for skill guys. It’s repeated sprints, 10-second bursts, with a thirty-second recovery or something like that.” Does long distance running have a place in offseason training? “Long distance is more for the guys trying to drop weight,” Hallett said. “But if you are a skill player in good shape, it’s the repeated sprints; work those type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibers.” A DOCTOR’S APPROACH Dr. Sean McMillan, who is the Chief of Orthopedics and Director of Orthopedic Sports Medicine at Virtua Medical Center of Burlington County and Camden County, agreed with many, if not all of the points Hallett made, in some way. He is a volunteer physician for South Jersey high schools such as Holy Cross in Delran Township, NJ, Florence, Pemberton and Bordentown. “When we talk to the (high school) athletes, we see them now,” Dr. McMillan said. “They’re coming in for other injuries. Whether they’re playing track or trying to get ready for the football season. “It’s a lot about dexterity. So we talk a lot about stretching, not trying to lift too heavy. Although if you are going to lift for bulk; it’s usually in the offseason. We’re talking more about trying to keep them really limber, because the kids that bulk up real quick don’t keep their dexterity. Those are the ones that start to incur pull injuries with hamstrings, quadriceps, Achilles…we’re trying to keep those guys from having those injuries.” Dr. McMillan also talked about the importance of form. “A lot of times when I see young athletes, I ask them what exercises they’re doing. I have them show me,” he said. “Pretend there’s a mirror here. Show me how you are doing the exercise. Because it’s one thing for them to say I’m doing squats or I’m doing box jumps…I want to see it. I want to see their form. A lot of times it’s good, and a lot of times it’s not good. “Just being able to correct that, sort of in a couple of minutes, just in conversation and mirroring each other, it’s huge. I think it’s important that we take the time to not just ask but actually have them show us what they’re doing. So we make sure they’re doing it right.” Dr. McMillan, who has worked in the Boston Red Sox organization, said you can’t stop talking about form enough. He agreed with Hallett the emphasis needs to be taken away from how much the student-athlete is lifting and focus on how he or she is lifting. “We talked about form,” Dr. McMillan said. “When it comes to bench pressing, I’ll ask an athlete, ‘when you are doing a bar for bench, where are you stopping? Are you bringing the bar all the way down to let it bounce off your chest? Or are you stopping when your arms are parallel with your body so the bar doesn’t quite get to your chest? It’s a little bit harder to do that, right? You’re not getting any rebound from your chest.”’
Dr. McMillan continued his thought.
I’ll ask things like that. Same with biceps curls. They come in there and everyone’s strong. I’ll say how are you lifting and show me how you’re lifting. You’ll see they are doing the whole body swing to get that 35-pound dumbbell up, right? Whereas if you used a 15-pound dumbbell, which doesn’t look as macho, you’ll get a better form and get a better rep out of it. The muscle will be a lot happier with the lighter weight and better form than anything else.” What about cardio? “This time of the year thinking about the season, we’re probably four or five months out from camps and things of that nature,” Dr. McMillan said. “We’re looking more at the long range. We’re looking to get the body to develop some cardio length. What I mean by that is we’re trying to run 8-10 laps (around a football field) as opposed to 30- and 40-yard dashes. Those are things that are important, but you do want to mix it up. “So if you are going to do a couple days of cardio, say four days out of a week, you have to pick a day where you are doing some faster twitch activities…running 20’s, running 40’s (dashes) and even 60’s. “But when you think about the overall view, you’re going to try and add some bulk to your stamina and be ready to go. Then as the season draws nears, particularly for those skill athletes, you start adding in the speed a little more.” That is sound and simple advice from professionals.* Email Al Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org
For info on Adrenaline Sports and Fitness and Chad Hallett go to www.adrenalinespt.com