Good Weight Training Habits
© Ronald J. Parise 2006

Weight training in the off-season should be a part of every athlete’s physical training program to improve performance during the season. The goal is to increase overall body strength, speed, endurance, muscle mass and bone density, which will also help reduce the risk of injury. Weight training can also be done during the season, but care must be taken on game days. Getting into a training schedule in the off-season is a first step; training during the season can be considered later on.

Outlined here are the main concepts of starting and maintaining a good weight training program. There is a general mix of rules and work habits, but lifting weights is a training routine that requires extreme discipline. And when performed properly, the psychological concentration and discipline required to be successful are as rigorous as any martial arts regimen needed to get the body ready for exercise and training. Therefore getting “psyched” to weight train or lift each workout day should be part of your routine.

  • Always stretch to warm up so you do not pull muscles while weight training.
  • Always maintain good posture while lifting: back straight, shoulders straight, feet shoulder width apart for particular exercises, etc.
  • Muscle Listing
  • Lift every other day to allow muscles to recover on off days: Monday, Wednesday, Friday is the best cycle, with two days on the weekend to allow muscles to rest from lifting. If you choose to work out every day, use different muscle groups: upper body one day, lower body the next. Remember, during off days muscle tissue rebuilds and repairs, so muscle mass and strength are developed then.
  • Running can be done every day, taking off one or two days per week.
  • Use only the amount of weight that you can control. Do not swing the weights; exercises should be at a speed where you have full control of weights at all times. Slamming the weights is dangerous and ruins the equipment and does little benefit for your body.
  • Explosiveness is important during competition and can be part of your lifting routine. Learn when explosiveness can be added to your lifting program. Beware of equipment and other lifters.
  • Proper breathing is very important. Inhale as the weights are set in place for resistance motion. Exhale as you strain to move against weight resistance. Never hold your breath as you strain against the resistance of the weights; you can seriously injure yourself (hernia, stroke, heart attack, etc.).
  • When doing exercise, be sure to isolate muscle groups to improve results. For example, when doing biceps exercise (curls), use ONLY biceps to move the weights. Be sure your arm pivots at elbow joint; do not swing the weights using your back or legs – isolate the biceps for best result. Use less weight if necessary. You should always have the weights under control.
  • Exercising and isolating muscle groups goes hand-in-hand with proper exercise form. Whether using free weights or a particular exercise machine, good form is critical. In fact, exercise form is more important than the amount of weight used. When the exercise becomes too easy and you have complete control of the weights with good form, then more weight can be added.
  • Increase the amount of weight used as the weeks go by to build muscle mass. If 2-1/2 pound (1kg) increments are available, this is the best way to improve your strength. This also allows the number of reps to change so that your progress does not stall.
  • Do exercises in pairs to optimize workout time, trying to use different muscle groups. For example, between curl reps (biceps), do lats pull down reps (Latissimus dorsi).
  • Amount of time between reps is your choice. Too much time increases your workout time, and you can actually become stiff to the point that you need to stretch again. Too little time only makes you work harder to the point of having a cardiovascular workout, which is okay. But building muscle mass and body strength will take longer.
  • Minimize socializing so that your exercise routine can be more focused and partly cardiovascular. This will also reduce your overall time in the gym and reduce complaints about “too much else to do”.
  • To maintain flexibility and muscle coordination while lifting weights, do some type of muscle coordination activity after lifting at least twice a week (basketball, tennis, baseball, football, etc.)
  • Typically Mondays will be a better lifting day after two days rest than Fridays after a long week.
  • Refrain from resting on machines between reps; allow others to use the machine when you are between reps.
  • Stretch to cool down. This will help to maintain muscle flexibility and prevent injuries.

Lower back exercises are not specifically described here because most exercises use the lower back in some form, and typically the main concern with the lower back is keeping it stretched out and loose. Plus, part of the lower back includes the Gluteus maximus (butt) and the hamstrings, which are already being worked. That is why it is very important to include stretching of the lower back as part of your warm-up routine because it includes so many different muscle groups that must be kept loose while working out.

Those athletes wishing to include lower back lifting can add the Dead Lift as part of their routine. Also Bent-over Rowing and/or Stiff-Leg Bend Over can be done. The Stiff-Leg Bend Over is done with the barbell resting on shoulders, then you lean forward as far as you can, or parallel with the ground, bending at the waist to work the lower back. The knees can be locked or slightly bent; I prefer slightly bent.

Psych yourself each day you go into the weight room, especially on days when you do not feel like weight training. Almost always you will feel better as you get into the workout and you get a natural endorphin high from the workout regimen. To put yourself into a proper competitive state of mind, remember, the athlete across from you next season won’t have skipped the day you decided to be lazy, perhaps having the competitive edge. Don't give him that edge!

There are certainly many different exercises that can be done in the weight room; therefore consider strengthening groups of muscles, depending on your sport. For football all muscle groups should be strengthened to improve performance and reduce injuries. The three groups are: upper body (neck, traps, shoulder, chest and arms; mid body (abs and back); and lower body (quads, hamstrings and calves).

The absolute minimum workout routine should include the following: Stretch, bench press, dips, standing flies, front upright rowing, behind neck pull downs, curls, triceps extension, quadriceps extension, leg curls, leg press, calf raises, and necks. This would include those athletes participating in other sports in the football off-season.

Those athletes not participating in any off-season sport should adopt a running routine. The following minimum running program should be used: Stretch, jog ˝ mile to warm up, run two 100m sprints, four 60m sprints, eight 40m sprints, two 100m sprints, and jog 1 mile to cool down. Running can be done every day, or Monday, Wednesday, Friday after weight training, or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. Again, your commitment in the off-season will determine how well you do during the season.

Remember, you are only a student once in high school and get the chance at playing sports. Make the most of it. Get yourself in top physical condition to improve your performance on the field, reduce your chance of injury and have the most fun possible.


On the World Wide Web  •  Connecticut  •  U.S.A.  •  Earth  •  Beyond
To Contact Bloggin' Ron  •   •   •
Site Design: