Two-a-days are not easy. Your coaches push you to the brink of failure to get you in shape for your first game of the season. You had better come prepared, or your lack of conditioning will stick out like a sore thumb when you consistently cross the finish line in last place.
Improving your conditioning in the last two weeks leading up to two-a-days is different from what you might expect. According to Ryan Flaherty, owner of Prolific Athletes (Carlsbad, California) and strength coach to NFL quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Marcus Mariota and Carson Palmer, you should spend these last few weeks not on traditional cardio workouts but working on your speed.
"Think about the fastest person you know. When is the last time you saw them struggle in a conditioning workout?" Flaherty asks. "Being fast helps you be in better shape."
Fast athletes have the anaerobic threshold to perform repeated explosive movements and the aerobic capacity to recover between reps of high-intensity work and to sustain their performance over the course of a full practice or game.
"I think most football programs at the high school level focus a lot more on aerobic conditioning. They might think they're doing speed work, but they're not, because they are not allowing for enough recovery," explains Flaherty. "So this will probably be the last opportunity to get some speed work in before camp starts."
How you approach your speed work depends on how you spent your summer—i.e., whether you trained hard or slacked off.
(Check out STACK's SPEED KILLS workout program, which can give you game-breaking speed in just 60 minutes per day.)
You Trained Hard
You recently finished or are finishing a training plan, so you're performing at your peak. Now is the time to scale back your regular training and taper for two-a-days. But according to Flaherty, the biggest mistake you can make is to do nothing at all. He recommends performing speed workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. During the first week, you should focus on acceleration. Add top-end speed work in the second week. The key is to allow for adequate recovery. For non-max speed drills, recover three to five times longer than it took you to complete a set. For max speed drills, Flaherty advises resting for up to five minutes so your energy systems can fully recover.
Pair this speed work with conditioning drills on Tuesday and Thursday, and you will have a plan to develop all the energy systems you need to dominate two-a-days. Finally, rest for three or four days before camp starts to allow your body sufficient time to recover.
You Slacked Off
You should train similar to the athletes who worked hard all summer, but with a more cautious, scaled-back approach. Instead of three speed workouts per week, do two so you don't overwork your body.
Since you didn't train much, you're more susceptible to injury, so your workouts should look a bit different to protect your body. "I wouldn't do so much top-end speed work so you don't expose yourself to a hamstring injury," advises Flaherty. The first week should focus on acceleration work, and you should do drills no longer than 20 to 30 yards. During the second week, you can do Flying 30s and 40s if you're compelled to work on your top-end speed.
If you're still concerned about conditioning, fear not. This plan also calls for two conditioning workouts. Flaherty suggests starting with shorter conditioning routines, which goes against conventional wisdom but will provide the best overall results in the short amount of time you have.
We witnessed Marcus Mariota, QB for the Tennessee Titans, perform a speed workout under Flaherty's guidance. Follow this template for your speed workouts.
- Falling Starts – 2-3x30 yards
- Resisted Sprints – 4x25 yards
- Full Sprints – 2-3x25 yards
- Resisted Lateral Shuffle – 2-3x20 yards each direction
- Resisted Backpedal – 2-3x20 yards
Flaherty recommends performing the following drills in your conditioning workouts. Choose one or two per workout.
- Tempo Runs
- Half Gassers
- 100s With Abs – Run for 100 yards. Stop and do an ab exercise of your choice for 30 seconds. Repeat 18 times.
- Repeat Sprints – Run for 150 to 200 yards as fast as you can. Rest four minutes and repeat. Finish when you are unable to complete the drill in the same amount of time it took you on the first set.
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