By Dr. Ken Leistner
If there is one question that becomes obvious after reading Bodybuilding Or “Just Building Muscle”, Part One, it could be “Are there exercises that are not ‘football exercises’ that should be avoided in the weight room?” To those of us who have been around for a very long period of time and have seen the founding and development of the Strength And Conditioning profession and the application of resistance training for athletes, it is a specious question that can lead to the type of antagonistic attitudes that plagued the profession for decades. Dependent upon one’s basic training philosophy, some exercises will be viewed as more important, more effective, or more applicable than others for the sport of football, but any exercise can be utilized to enhance muscular size and strength. However, there are certain ground rules that should be followed and with young athletes, must be followed to allow for the safest training environment possible. This in itself leads to debate but from a personal stance, allow me to state that there are but a few guidelines that should be followed.
“Safety first” is always the primary goal. If the most important purpose of resistance training for football or any sport is to prevent injury or reduce the extent and severity of injury and the duration of necessary recovery time, then the training environment obviously must be safe. The exercises chosen should be “more safely performed” than those not done in their place.
Time in the weight room should be devoted to becoming stronger, not performing exercises that require so much skill to perform that it detracts from time spent in actually becoming stronger.
Exercises should be time efficient and result producing relative to the time and effort put into them.
Exercises should be matched to the physical maturity level and abilities of the athletes performing them.
Exercises should have the capacity to be adequately supervised.
Others may have a shorter or longer list but the above are common sense guidelines that are less frequently adhered to than one would assume. I have seen high school coaches visit the summer training camp of their local professional team, take copious notes when exposed to the weight room, and return to their teenaged athletes having installed the exact program utilized by the area pro football team. Even if the specific exercises have merit, should younger athletes be exposed to the same forces, work volume, or difficult to perform movements seen at the pro facility? Remember the goal of weight training for football which is the development of enhanced strength and muscular size that presumably will counter factors related to possible injury and when applied to the specific sport’s skill, will improve play. Thus, literally any exercise can be incorporated into a successful program but common sense and the reality of most coaching situations indicates that basic, multi-joint, relatively easy to teach and supervise compared to other movements exercises should comprise the majority of one’s program. Upright rows for example, using a barbell, dumbbells, or a low pulley are not “bodybuilding movements” for those who can safely and effectively perform the exercise. They are but one more movement that provides work for the deltoids, biceps, and upper back musculature. Low cable rows are not a “bodybuilding movement” but instead, an exercise that provides work stimulating the scapulae retractors and biceps as primary movers. The point is made. Too many narrow-minded coaches have closed themselves off to effective training because they view or label certain exercises as “bodybuilding,” or “something not for athletes.”
The question to ponder is, “Does an exercise effectively stimulate a specific muscle group and if so, will the athlete benefit from doing it and benefit from doing it relative to a different exercise that your facility equipment, and the coach’s ability to teach and supervise would allow?”
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