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									feature                                                                                                                             football


                               Applying Suspension
                               Training to Football
                               Fraser Quelch, CSCS and Eric Lichter, CSCS



about the
                               O     f all the major sports, football demands some of
                                     the most intense strength and conditioning train-
                               ing. Accordingly, football players are among the best
                                                                                          an ideal technique to support lifts that encompass the
                                                                                          sport of weightlifting and other ground-based training
                                                                                          that modern football teams must utilize to be as func-
   AUTHOR                      conditioned athletes on the planet—strong, agile, and      tionally strong and powerful as possible.
Fraser Quelch is the
                               powerful. But at the same time, football players must
Director of Training &         maintain the durability to withstand car-wreck force
                                                                                          Building Upper Body Strength
Development for Fitness        impacts play after play, game after game, season after
                                                                                           Upper body strength and stability play central roles in
Anywhere                       season.
                                                                                           winning at football. Players must be able to ward off
Eric Lichter is the Director
                               Traditionally football players have relied on basic, heavy defenders, battle for position or take down opponents.
of Football Performance
                               lifts like hang cleans, squats, dead lifts and bench press- Therefore, the ability to functionally train the upper
for Ohio State University
                               es to build strength. Today almost all programs have body with high loads in a way that integrates the entire
                               some form of traditional training in place. To separate body as a complete unit in the movement has tremen-
                               themselves from the pack, some NCAA and NFL pro- dous transferability to the demands of the game.
                               grams have added suspension training techniques to
                                                                                           Exercises like the deep single arm row (figure 5) require
                               their program to help enable their players to reach their
                                                                                           extremely high relative strength coupled with full body
                               peak potential.
                                                                                           muscular integration. Clearly, then, these movements
                                                                                           offer considerable advantages in training that map di-
                               Enhancing Basic Lifts                                       rectly to certain demands of football (such as tackling
                               Suspension training can be used as an incredibly effec- or stripping the ball).
                               tive technique to help with neuromuscular activation
                               prior to heavy lifts. This can be integrated as a com-
                                                                                           Single-leg (unilateral)
                               ponent of a general warm-up routine or as a series of
                               warm-up sets for a range of heavy lifts.
                                                                                           Strength, Power and
                                                                                          Reactivity
                               Using suspension training for this purpose is highly ef-
                                                                                        The development of single-leg strength and power is
                               fective for a number of reasons. The ability to adjust
                                                                                        key to athletic success in football. Sudden decelerations,
                               resistance simply by adapting body position allows for
                                                                                        hard cuts and explosive accelerations are the tools nec-
                               a fast and efficient method to prepare a number of play-
                                                                                        essary to create game-making plays. An athlete’s single-
                               ers simultaneously with individually appropriate resis-
                                                                                        leg strength and power determines the intensity at
                               tances.
                                                                                        which these movements can be successfully performed.
                               Suspension training uses functional, integrated move- A direct comparison of the movements below shows
                               ments that task balance, attack subtle instabilities, just how closely a number of suspension based exercises
                               heightens neuromuscular activation, and prepares the resemble some of the key movements in football rooted
                               appropriate motor pattern for the exercise, without in single-leg strength and power.
                               causing any lasting local muscular fatigue. This ap-
                               proach can significantly increase performance of the
                                                                                        Explosive Accelerations:
                               key heavy lifts and help athletes to break through pla-
                                                                                        Exploding off the line of scrimmage or “getting off the
                               teaus and achieve new levels of strength. Many exercises
                                                                                        ball” is one of the key determinants of the outcome of
                               can be used to achieve this effect. Figures 1 – 4 are
                                                                                        each play. A faster or more powerful reaction to the
                               a few of the primary movements that can be used for
                                                                                        snap can create a split second advantage that is often
                               enhancing key lifts. In this way suspension training is
                                                                                        the difference between a play succeeding or failing. The


                                    nsca’s performance training journal • www.nsca-lift.org • volume 7 issue 4                              15
                                                                                  Applying Suspension Training to Football




 Figure 1. Single Leg Squat:                        Figure 2. Suspended Lunge                          Figure 3. Postural Squat
 Activates single leg squat motor                   Functional movement that                           Reinforces the squat pattern while
 pattern, teaches movement                          neuromuscularly activates the entire               activating the posterior chain to
 mechanics and is excellent for the                 lower body using single leg stance                 prepare for overhead lifts like clean
 entire hip complex                                 and a highly athletic motion                       and press

sprinter’s start (figure 6a and 6b) is an excellent shows a suspended lunge with a lateral medicine of stress on a quarterback’s shoulder. Improper
movement to help effectively transfer the explo- ball throw.                                           technique, overuse or an inability to deceler-
sive power developed in a traditional bilateral The ability for a player to make a hard cut re- ate external rotation can all cause shoulder in-
lift to a single-leg, body weight environment quires an inordinate level of eccentric single- juries. When you factor in defender impact on
that more closely resembles the actual move- leg strength and power. The suspended lunge the quarterback’s arm while he is in a throwing
ment and speed in which it occurs on the field. variation in figure 8 is an excellent way to train motion, it is clear that the quarterback must be
Another alternative that suspension training of- the ability to suddenly decelerate a tremendous provided with the best functional strength and
fers is the ability to train the movement in quick amount of momentum in one direction and ex- conditioning possible for his position.
succession, either in sets or as a reaction drill to plode in another.                                Figures 9 – 10 demonstrate effective techniques
help develop the endurance players must pos-                                                          for addressing these demands. Exercises like bi-
sess to maintain this explosiveness during long
drives.                                              Position Specific Training: lateral internal rotations (figures 9a & 9b) al-
                                                                                                      low for isolated strengthening of the rotator cuff
                                                     Every player and position has unique training
                                                                                                      while the suspended scorpion (figure 10) devel-
                                                     requirements. Individualization of training is a
Single Leg Reactivity                                cornerstone of successful football strength and
                                                                                                      ops core strength and loading while creating the
Often a play must be made from a less than op- conditioning programs. Suspension training of- hip dissociation necessary for an effective throw-
timal body position. Typically, an opponent has fers unique solutions for designing the truly in- ing motion.
knocked a player out of an ideal body position dividualized, dynamic strength and conditioning The fixed point loading concept is a very unique
or the player must instantaneously respond to programs that today’s game requires. Suspension and highly effective suspension training tech-
a poor pass or change in direction. A player’s training allows players to directly address faulty nique that mimics the forces and mechanics of
ability to decelerate unusual forces from a poor motor patterns, muscle weakness or imbalances, the loading phase of the throwing motion. This
body position can make the difference between a or specific training requirements for a particular exercise (figure 11) does a tremendous job of
game-making catch and a failed pass. These out position. These characteristics also make suspen- training the body to withstand the forces that
of position plays usually involve a single leg.      sion training ideal for quarterback conditioning the shoulder is subjected to during the throw-
Suspension training techniques provide a unique and shoulder injury prevention.                       ing motion. It also helps to train the mechanics
means to train single-leg neuromuscular abil- Hurling a 14 – 15 ounce football around the field of effective throwing and ensures that the entire
ity coupled with strength and power. Figure 7 as hard as possible places a tremendous amount body is contributing to the throw in order to



                           nsca’s performance training journal • www.nsca-lift.org • volume 7 issue 4                                           16
                                                                                       Applying Suspension Training to Football




 Figure 4. Chest Press                                  Figure 5. Deep Single Arm Row                       Figure 6 A. Sprinter’s Start (Begin)
 Tremendous upper body activation
 due to the subtle instability
 associated with suspension training


maximize performance and reduce related inju-          One of the unique properties of all of these
ries. Further, it provides the ability to train dif-   movements is their scalability—they become
ferent versions of this throwing motion. These         increasingly challenging with heavier body
variations map directly to the demands of com-         weight. Suspension training provides commen-
mon game situations where the environment              surate challenges and training benefits for bigger,
dictates the throwing motion.                          stronger players and lighter players alike.
                                                       At the end of the day, the work that is done in
Unprecedented                                          the gym must transfer to performance on the
Core Strength                                          field. Athletes with the best strength/power-to-
Finally, suspension training can lead to a quan-       weight ratios will likely be more explosive, more
tum leap in functional core strength. Demand-          agile and better prepared to play the game. Vic-
ing exercises like the suspended body saw (fig-         tory is judged by wins and losses, not by the
ure 12) and the suspended pendulum (figure              team weight room stats. In order to achieve vic-
13) develop exceptional core stability, strength       tory, it is clearly paramount to utilize training
and rotational control. Standing movements             techniques that enhance these ratios and map
like the standing rotation (figure 14) and hip          directly to football movements.
drop (figure 15) provide more functional rota-                                                               Figure 6 B. Sprint’s Start (End)
tional strength and power along with side pillar
strength and reactivity from a standing position.
These characteristics directly apply to the bat-
tling and impact resistance necessary for success-
ful football.




                             nsca’s performance training journal • www.nsca-lift.org • volume 7 issue 4                                        17
                                                                 Applying Suspension Training to Football




Figure 7. Suspended Lunge with            Figure 8. Suspended Lunge Variation    Figure 9 A. Bilateral Internal Rotation
Lateral Medicine Ball Throw                                                      (Start)




Figure 9 B. Bilateral Internal Rotation   Figure 10. Suspended Scorpion          Figure 11. Fixed Point Loading
(End)




                      nsca’s performance training journal • www.nsca-lift.org • volume 7 issue 4                   18
                                                               Applying Suspension Training to Football




Figure 12. Suspended Body Saw                                                   Figure 13. Suspended Pendulum




Figure 14. Standing Rotation            Figure 15. Hip Drop




                     nsca’s performance training journal • www.nsca-lift.org • volume 7 issue 4                 19

								
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