In-Season Strength Program

In-Season Strength Program
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In-season strength training is something that is often neglected or misunderstood in high school football. Many coaches pull way back and stop lifting as soon as the season starts.  Other coaches feel like they should be able to keep going just as hard as they were over the summer.  Coaches need to find a balance during the season, as it’s very easy to over-train, especially on the lower body.  This is a program we are implementing this year with a high school football team we work with closely.

Keep in mind that an in-season program like this is only appropriate if the athlete has been lifting during the off- and pre-season.  This is important because this program uses percentages of a 1RM for a couple of exercises that must be determined prior to start of this program.

We typically lift on Mondays and Wednesdays for Varsity players who compete on Friday nights, and on Tuesdays and Fridays for Freshman and JV players who compete on Thursday nights.  The progression for Freshmen and JV players is slightly different than Varsity because many of these athletes are inexperienced lifters.  Their coaches are also more interested in development than maintenance, so keeping them fresh for games is not as big of a concern.

Here is the program:

Day 1

Squat 3 X 3-5 @ 80-85% 1RM (see progression below)
Bench Press 3 X 3-5 @ 80-85% 1RM (see progression below)
Chin Ups 2 X 8-12 to failure (or Row if they can’t do chin ups)
Curl & Press 1 X 8-12 to failure
Shrugs 1 X 10-15
Glute/Ham Raise 2 X 10
Manual Resistance Front & Back Neck
Manual Resistance Ankle
Calf Raise 1 X 15-20
Core Work – varies each workout

Day 2

Power Pull 2 X 5
Box Jumps 3 X 5
Walking Lunges
Nordic Hamstring 1 X 10
Incline Dumbbell Press 2 X 6-10 to failure
Dumbbell Row 2 X 6-10 to failure
Shrugs 1 X 10-15 to failure
Pick 2 from following and do 8-12 reps to failure

Incline Chest Press
Shoulder Press
Push Ups

Pick 2 from following and do 8-12 reps to failure

Inverted Row
Cable Row
Machine Row

Core Work – varies each workout
Game Day Guns – variety of arm exercises

The progression of the squat and bench press is based on predicted 1RM percentages.  We did a predicted max test late in the summer, and will use those numbers for the season.  Because the new coaching staff values strength quite highly, we wanted to make sure the athletes weren’t losing all of the strength they gained during a productive off- and pre-season.  For those two exercises, here is the progression we decided upon.

Weeks 1-2:  3 X 3 @ 75%
Weeks 3-4:  3 X 4 @ 75%
Weeks 5-6:  3 X 5 @ 75%
Weeks 7-8:  3 X 3 @ 80%
Weeks 9-10:  3 X 4 @ 80%
Weeks 11-12:  3 X 5 @ 80%

Bench Press

High school football in Michigan plays a 9-game regular season schedule.  We started this program two weeks prior to Game 1, giving us a total of 11 weeks to work with.  This also allows us to progress into the first week of playoffs, which we hope is necessary.

At the end of the season, if our athletes are able to perform three sets of five reps with 80% of their pre-season 1RM, we will be very happy with the results.  We will also tell the athletes to perform as many reps as possible on the last set for bench press, mainly because they enjoy working hard and because it’s not dangerous.  Pushing to failure on squats can be dangerous, so we coach them to stop before they get there.  The point of this workout is to use relatively heavy weights for the fewest number of reps possible and still maintain strength throughout an entire season.

The progression for most of the other exercises is not a major concern of ours as long as the athletes are working hard.  We know the athletes well enough to allow them to choose their own weights and reps on many exercises.  For these exercises, we are simply looking for good technique and hard work.  This also allows us the flexibility to quickly change exercises for injuries that occur throughout a football season.

Our Freshmen and JV teams will progress faster, and we encourage them to do as many reps as possible on the last set of bench press and squats.  The football coaches are more concerned with long-term strength development, so we simply train hard through the season.  These teams play a shorter season, so we only need to plan on nine weeks.

For most of these younger athletes, their predicted 1RM will improve quickly because they have not trained very long.  Many of them also begin with very poor technique, so good technique coaching will also help them progress quickly.  Their progression looks like this:

Weeks 1:  3 X 3 @ 75%
Weeks 2:  3 X 4 @ 75%
Weeks 3:  3 X 5 @ 75%
Weeks 4:  3 X 6 @ 75%
Weeks 5:  3 X 3 @ 80%
Weeks 6:  3 X 4 @ 80%
Weeks 7:  3 X 5 @ 80%
Weeks 8:  3 X 6 @ 80%
Weeks 9:  3 X 6 @ 80%

Feel free to implement any version of this program you see fit, and please comment below if you have any questions about it.

Jim Kielbaso


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For more information regarding football strength programming, check out Maximum Football Strength here


  1. Just wanted to say that we have an Awesome HS program, and the very best coaching staff! Thought this was a excellent article as I was reading it, so I wanted to share it with our HS coaches at Old Mill Senior High, Millersville, MD.

  2. I’ve trained athletes for years and I’m always looking for different ideas to change thins up.

  3. Coach, thanks for sharing this! I am the Strength Coach and O-Coordinator at a small Christian school. Thanks for sharing this! In-season lifting is always a challenge.
    We have a small weight room that feels overloaded when you get about 25 people in there. We also lift for 20-25 min prior to practice. We have 6 racks so I divide the guys up based on 1RM. We do the following:

    Warm-ups: DeFranco’s Agile 8 (w/ hip flexor rocks, not static) along with leg swings complex

    Day 1:
    Hexbar Deadlift or Squat (alternating weeks) – first 2 weeks of camp we do 2 x 8; Game week 1 we start 3×3-4 at 70% and work our way up to 80% (similar to your ladder) superset with bridge hip raises w/ a med ball squeeze between the knees
    Bench: Same as above, but we go 3 x 5-7 superset with explosive band rows (from Jim Wendler) for 25 reps and either walking lunges or lunge squats
    Pull-ups/Chin-ups superset with dips and band curls – 2 x 15 of each

    Day 2:
    Hang clean complex:
    Barbell deadlift to high hang clean to front squat to OH Press – 5 x 5 – we are deliberate with all movements to ensure good form and technique.
    2 x 10-12 DB Incline Bench Press

    We handle core as part of our on-field conditioning. For those who take early bird PE we stress core and flexibility. They usually do an arms/shoulders workout, too (Game day guns!). I would like to get some kettlebells some day and start doing kettlebell work.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with all of us!


    Coach Sammons


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