Running long distances is a strong cardiovascular workout and definitely can make your muscles start begging you to stop.
For football players, though, this isn't the type of lung and muscle burn that will make the fourth quarter easier. The way endurance athletes -- runners, cyclists, swimmers -- train for their sport is very different from the way football players should train to increase their endurance.
When a player has to explode off the line and uproot the opponent in front of him, his body quickly recruits the fast-twitch fibers in his muscle to do that work because the slow twitch ones just can't contract powerfully enough to cut it.
In contrast, during a 5-mile run, the body recruits the slow-twitch fibers in muscles because running doesn't demand powerful contractions -- it just asks for lots of them. A marathoner trains for aerobic endurance, but a football player trains for anaerobic endurance.
Put simply, long distance running really only makes you better at one thing - running long distances.
The following are examples of four endurance workouts to use with football players from youth football to the NFL. Do these two to three times a week and start steamrolling your opponents in the fourth quarter.
Place two cones 10 to 15 yards apart on a forgiving surface -- grass, sand, turf, etc.
Then put a barrier of some sort between the cones. A low hurdle, cardboard box or gym bag will do.
Starting at one cone, sprint to the other, jumping over the barrier in the process. Run back and forth until you've jumped the barrier eight times. Rest and repeat.
For variety, try backpedaling, shuffling or carioca, too. Jump the barrier multiple times with each pass to make this workout really brutal.
Quick Tip: When you switch directions at each cone, always touch the ground. By getting low on turns, you'll make yourself stronger and more powerful at a lower center of gravity. You'll be able to generate more force from your 3-point stance as a result.
JUMP ROPE SERIES
Jumping rope is one of the best endurance exercises for football players. The key is to add enough variety to make it both challenging and interesting. Try this series on for size, performing each variation for 30 seconds:
- Two-footed jumps;
- Cross-country skier jumps;
- Slalom skier jumps;
- Double-under jumps (moving the rope underneath you twice in one jump);
- Eyes-closed jumps (any kind) for 30 seconds;
- Two-footed jumps moving forward for 40 yards and backward for the same distance.
Rett Larson is the Director of Coaching at Velocity Sports Performance and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. Larson also serves as USA Football's expert in sports performance training.