Effective High School Football Pre-Season Strength and Conditioning

Football as we know it has been around for over a hundred years, but as game play and game speed continues to evolve, so must strength and conditioning routines—even at the high school level. For student athletes about to commence “hell week” before school starts, here are some strength and conditioning drills that are sure to up their game under those Friday night lights.

Strength Training

It might be tempting for student athletes looking for autumn glory to use every weight machine in the gym over the summer, but discipline is key in pre-season strength training. The following is an example of a five-part routine used by high school coaches across the country:

Part 1: Stability

To build a foundation for heavy lifting, focus first on bodyweight and core stability exercise that improve flexibility, core strength and balance. At this stage, aim for low intensity and high reps.

Part 2: Endurance

Prepare for more advanced workouts by structuring this phase into supersets, with a strength movement followed by a stabilization exercise. Keep weights, sets and reps moderate but challenging enough to boost muscular endurance.

Part 3: Building mass

In order to tackle harder and block better, athletes need to build as much muscle as possible and cut body fat. Three full-body strength routines with two exercises per major body part does the trick, achieving a high volume of reps with each muscle group. Sets and intensity will increase as reps decrease.

Part 4: Maximum strength

After building muscle, it’s time to develop muscular strength with another full-body routine—this time with heavier weights. Perform two to three exercises for each major body part at nearly your max (90 to 100 percent), with increased set intensity but fewer reps.

Part 5: Power training

Now it’s time to transform strength into speed and power with “complexes”—exercises involving high intensity strength exercises followed immediately by low-intensity power exercises that work the same muscles, with a focus on explosive movements.




Long gone are the days of 100-yard sprints and long-distance running to prep for football season. Newer conditioning training is tailored toward anaerobics—drills that train the cardiovascular system aerobically. Check out these drills that are known to produce athletes who can keep up with the demands of a modern high school football game.

Sprint Ladders

Sprint ladders encourage all the qualities each player must possess, regardless of position: speed, agility, coordination and leg muscle strength. Try pairs of 10-, 20-, 30-, 40, 50-, 40-, 30-, 20- and 10-yard sprints with 30 seconds between each sprint.

Sprint/Stride Intervals

With a little fine-tuning, that obsolete 100-yard dash can be modified into an effective workout. Instead of sprinting the whole way, players can perform interval sets of 20-yard sprints and 20-yard strides across the length of the field. Striding is key in football, allowing players to cover more ground in less time.

Tempo Runs

Another way to modify the standard 100-yard dash is starting at one corner of the end zone and striding for 100 yards, focusing on long steps with a speed that falls between a sprint and a jog. Afterward, jog to the opposite side of the end zone again and repeat the stride back across. Repeat again, this time walking instead of jogging back, and repeat four to 10 more times.

Four Quarters

This progressive sprint drill builds endurance specific to football games, broken up into four quarters made of four drills. For the first drill, do four 10-yard sprints with 10 seconds of rest in between. Next, do four 20-yard sprints with 20 seconds of rest in between. Then, progress up to four 30-yard sprints with 30 seconds of rest in between. Finally, alternate 20-yard sprints and 20-yard strides across the whole full field with 30 seconds between each segment. And now that the first quarter is complete, repeat three more times.

Go, Fight, Win!

Starting a strength and conditioning routine long before the football season officially starts is crucial to making the most out of every practice.

Feature photo: Missouri National Guard (cc license 2.0)