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In-season High School Football Strength & Conditioning

Sports GPS in American Football

As the summer strength and conditioning program has come to an end and we turn our focus to the high school football season, most of the coaches’ attention will be on installing offensive and defensive schemes and plays and teaching and refining techniques. However, it is important not to forget about physical conditioning.

In this guest blog, Doug Gle shares his approach to in-season strength and conditioning at Traverse City Central High School where he is not only the head strength and conditioning coach but also the offensive line coach.


"In my opinion, many high school football coaches actually condition too much in the hopes of trying to make their athletes mentally tough. This approach is inefficient and can be counterproductive in that it turns kids off to training and conditioning, and can also lead to soft-tissue injuries and under-performance if training load is spiked instead of progressed and periodized during the week and across the season. And it is very important to note that this approach of ‘mental toughness conditioning’ can be potentially dangerous and even fatal, especially during pre-season camp and early in the season when it’s hot and humid."

"Our philosophy is that the most important conditioning is actually done in the off-season. Our approach is to progressively increase volume and intensity throughout the school year and over the summer leading up to pre-season camp. This includes a repeat sprint program using the analogy of four quarters of a game called the ‘Quarter System’. All sprints are done at maximal effort with active recovery of a slow jog back to the starting line. Sprint efforts range from 5 to 50 yards with 6-10 repetitions per set representing the number of plays per offensive or defensive series. Each set is separated by a 1.5-3 minute rest period. The number of sets increases by quarter as we gradually go from the 1st quarter to the 4th quarter. 

1st quarter: 24 sprints across 3 sets, 490 total yards

2nd quarter: 36 sprints across 4 sets, 680 total yards

3rd quarter: 48 sprints across 6 sets, 960 total yards

4th quarter: 58 sprints across 8 sets, 1080 total yards

It is rare that we conduct stand-alone conditioning during in-season practices because our football players train year-round, and the up-tempo, full speed practices provide enough sport and position-specific conditioning. In addition, most of the in-season conditioning occurs during the school day during the strength and conditioning classes and consists of max velocity speed work such as flying 10’s with full recovery. We will reduce intensity and volume 2 weeks before the playoffs start.

Strength Training

We lift the same number of days for in-season and off-season athletes because the majority of our athletes are in a strength and conditioning class that meets 5 days a week. Over the course the school week, we lift three days a week and then do speed/agility/plyometrics/Yoga/Pilates on the other 2 days of week. The football players that are not enrolled in the strength and conditioning class will lift 2-3 days a week after school.

Assuming the athletes were training throughout the summer, I believe high intensity/low volume strength training is best for in-season athletes.  We lift heavier (70-90% 1RM) early in the week and lighter (30-70% 1RM) with a focus on max intent and rate of force development as game day approaches

For more information on using SPT GPS in football, click here.

Doug Gle Twitter: @TrojanStrength
Image: Record Eagle