State champions are well aware the offseason makes or breaks them. And their approach to training can be summed up in one word – intense.
Here are five of the most unique offseason workout regimens you’ll find in high school football.
5. Lake Travis (Austin, Texas) – 5-time state champs
Lake Travis players work out twice a day, five days a week year-round. The first training session starts at 8:45 a.m., and the second players-only practice is held after school.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday the Cavaliers develop full-body strength with Olympic lifts — power and hang clean, bench, squat and incline.
Tuesday and Thursday are dedicated to speed and agility. Players start with an active warm-up of 11 drills: high knee jog, high knee butt kicks, lunges with twist, solider kicks, line touches, a-skips, b-skips, prances, backward runs, crunches and pushups.
Three minutes later, players are ready to roll through their speed workout, which varies weekly. The team is divided into six groups, and each rotates through one of six speed stations, including cone drills, plyometrics and ladders. Then there are mat drills, which involve a lot of bear crawling.
“It’s about mental toughness,” says offensive line coach Jarrett Lambert, who plans all offseason training. “We’re trying to break the athletes down and make them do the drills right when they’re tired."
4. Carmel (Carmel, Ind.) – 7-time state champs
Offseason workouts, masterminded by coach Kevin Wright, are set up-tempo.
“We’re on the clock in the weight room,” he says. “I like (Oregon coach) Chip Kelly’s philosophy. A lot of what the team does is outside the box in their approach to football.”
For Carmel, workouts are segmented into five eight-minute stations. Three consist of core lifts — squat, bench and power clean — and each work multiple muscles simultaneously.
Athletes then transition to two other stations, where they superset a trio of exercises that complement the core lifts. For instance, a straight-leg deadlift followed by the glute-ham machine and then ending with the dumbbell bench. The last station includes lunges, upright rows and finishes with a manual neck exercise.
3. Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) – 2011 state champs
Whether Valor players are trying to trim body fat or gain weight, you likely won’t find these guys eating chips or drinking soda. At least, not recorded in their individual food logs, which players maintain throughout the week.
“They’re very consistent and do a good job with their diet,” says coach Brent Vieselmeyer.
The Eagles also stand apart with their high-tech workouts. Each athlete records his performance on a card during a training session. He then enters the information into a computer located outside the weight room. Programmed software generates the next workout, right down to a player’s one-rep max.
“They almost have their own personal trainer,” Vieselmeyer says.
Workouts consist of explosive weight training, which the Eagles do four days a week. One day is dedicated to heavy and power-packed lifts like hang clean and deadlift. Another is reserved as a traditional strength day of squat and bench. Two other days feature light explosive and light strength lifts.
2. Valley (Des Moines, Iowa) – 2011 state champs
At 6 a.m., the team gathers for agility sessions twice a week for six weeks each spring.
“They hate it,” says coach Gary Swenson. “But, they understand.”
The team also strength trains four days a week after school. Lifts vary — twice a week, players target legs and back, and the other two days focus on upper body.
Of all sessions, Monday typically brings the most intensity with the incorporation of hang or power clean and back squat. “It’s the workout that involves the most multi-muscle groups,” Swenson says.
Training focuses on improving muscle endurance and muscle strength. Athletes might start with a pause squat (3 sets of 12 reps), and continue with bodyweight lunges (3×10), and three sets of 8 reps of lawn mowers, lat pulldowns, and pullups. Finishers are done on the field, where players flip tires for sets of 8 reps.
1. Carroll (Southlake, Texas) – 8-time state champs
For Carroll football players, workouts don’t get more intense than the “Dragon Maker,” a boot camp-style training session performed everyday for up to a month.
“We do not leave boot camp until we feel like every player understands the culture we’re trying to create,” says coach Hal Wasson.
The workout starts with 20 minutes of mental work followed by 15 minutes of speed weights (high reps performed at low weight). Each athlete is assigned to one of 75 stations in the weight room.
When the whistle blows, players shout “Dragon Pride” and quickly lift for 10 seconds. They then urgently move to the next station to avoid ups-downs (players run in place then drop to the floor and pop back up as fast as possible), which are performed for up to 30 reps if athletes aren’t in sync.
The workout transitions to the Thunderdome, a facility near the weight room where players perform pushups, sit ups and up-downs for 15 minutes straight. Exercises must be performed together or everyone starts over.
The last part of the training session ends with speed and agility for 15 minutes. Players are broken up into eight groups for high-intense mat drills, sled pulls, med ball work, foot fire and pro-agility drills.
“It’s as energized, action-packed and intense as you can imagine,” Wasson says.