It’s easy to feel lazy during these coldest months.
The idea of going outside to exercise becomes a fleeting one behind closed doors and under warm blankets.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options to build core strength and flexibility while not leaving the house – two areas young football players can develop without heavy weights and expensive equipment, according to Aaron Ruth, a sports performance specialist at St.Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis.
Ruth, a former college defensive back, said start with simple, traditional exercises such as push-ups, planks (side push-ups using the forearm), squats and lunges to work on the abdominal muscles.
“These have been around forever because they work and are simple to do,” Ruth said. “It doesn’t build the muscle that weights do, but they help you get stronger. Especially for players who haven’t gotten to high school yet, it’s more important – and most times safer for their bodies – to work on strength than bulk muscle.”
Variations on push-ups include elevating your feet, clapping at the peak and slowing down the pace.
Front planks, side planks and glute bridges (raising the hips off the floor from a sit-up position) build strength in the lower body, which can lead to increased power in the future, vital for a football player, Ruth said. Lunges can go forward or laterally to work out the hips.
“Most people think the quads are the strength of the lower body,” Ruth said. “It’s your butt – the glutes – where the drive really comes from.”
As athletes get more comfortable with the exercises, they can speed up or slow down the tempo to increase intensity. It’s important though that young bodies not try to do too much, too early.”
“Don’t have kids do anything that they aren’t physically ready to do,” Ruth said. “A lot of parents of kids that age push them to keep going through pain and irritation. That wears on a young body. Like with weights, if you don’t execute the proper technique, it can be bad for your body.”
Here are other example of around-the-house exercises. Ruth recommends three sets of 10 to begin.
- Sit back against a wall in a squat position with knees over ankles and a 90-degree bend from knees to hips. Then stand up from this position.
- Step one foot onto a chair or bench then push through the heel of the elevated leg. Go forward for a set, then laterally.
- Jump in a single hop to a stable elevated surface. Don’t use a chair or box as those can slide out from under you.
“At younger ages, you want to work on everything from the arm pits to the hips to build the core, develop the glutes and work the abs,” Ruth said.
Once the weather starts to warm, players can add an outside portion to their routine.
Skill players should work on backpedaling and breaking in different directions without losing balance or momentum. Keep increasing the speed and direction to gain range of motion in the hips.
For linemen, work on getting into a stance and firing out into a sprint. Change the direction out of the stance to simulate a play going left or right.
Receivers and backs can work on hand-eye coordination by simply playing catch. Work on catching the ball with the hands, not the body, and purposely throw off-target to extend the catching zone.
“You can switch out a football for a tennis ball to increase skill as well,” Ruth said. “If a player can catch a tennis ball with one hand, he can catch a football with two.”
All of these exercises are designed to develop football-related skills in quick bursts of energy, Ruth said. An average football play lasts six to seven seconds so keep the reps short but with high intensity.
“You can get a good workout with just your body and things around the house,” Ruth said. “The key is don’t overdo it. If you get tired or you see your kid is getting tired, take a rest.”
It beats going outside into the cold.