How to Build Muscle for Football

Football requires considerable strength as you reach higher levels of play, due to the increased size of opponents you are likely to face. With linemen making contact almost immediately after a snap, speed, agility and quickness take a back set to brute strength. Even running backs and receivers need significant strength to break tackles or move opponents backward after contact and catches. Strength training is key to building the muscle you need to succeed in football.

Create a Weekly Schedule

Create a workout schedule that has you training three or more times per week, giving the muscles you exercise one day of rest between workouts. If your schedule includes enough days, plan for upper- and lower-body workouts on alternating days. This will allow you to work out every day, resting muscles you used the day before.

 Target the Right Muscles

Create workout routines that include exercises targeting specific muscles, such as leg presses for the quadriceps, or chest presses for the pectorals.

 Plan Your Loads, Reps & Sets

Plan specific numbers of repetitions for each exercise, the number of sets per workout, and specific weights lifted for each workout. This will help you track progress and improvement.

 Use All Three Muscle Contractions

Include concentric, eccentric and isometric reps for all exercises. Concentric contractions are when you contract your muscles, as with the uplift on a biceps curl. In eccentric contractions, you lengthen the muscle, as when you lower the weight on a curl. Isometric contractions occur when you don’t move a muscle that’s facing resistance, such as holding a weight out in one hand without moving it while you perform curls with the opposite arm.

 Warm Up Properly Before Lifting

Warm up before you lift. A proper warmup helps coordinate your body’s circulation and flexibility, leading to better muscle contractions for exercise, notes sports performance coach Brian Mac.

Concentric Muscle Contractions are Key

Perform concentric muscle contractions properly. Concentric contractions provide the most muscle-building benefit, but are often performed poorly, according to fitness expert and author Dr. Gabe Mirkin. Examples of concentric muscle contractions often done incorrectly include lowering a biceps curl, your body during a sit-up or your body during a chin-up or pull-up. Due to fatigue, you may let your arm or drop with the weight or gravity, instead of lowering with your muscle. Stop lowering before you finish the down lift all the way, forcing yourself to use your muscle to lower the weight as you brake into the finish.

Finish Workouts Properly

Cool down and stretch after each workout. Performing cooldown exercises and stretching increases flexibility, helps prevent muscle soreness and stiffness, and can keep blood from pooling in the muscles after a workout, according to Mac.

Additional Resources

Sports Fitness Advisor: The 12-Month Football Training Program

Dr. Mirkin: Negative Lifting for Strength

Brian Mac: Warm Up and Cool Down

Muscle & Strength: Reg Park Beginner Workout