Football Strength Training The Hypertrophy Phase

This is a sample football strength training program to build size and bulk...

Why is substantial muscle mass important to footballers?

Firstly, larger muscles have a greater capacity for maximal strength. Size is not the only indicator of strength but it helps.

Secondly, as long as you can maintain your speed, the heavier you are the greater force and momentum you have - a must in contact sports like football and rugby.

Unfortunately, most football players never see past hypertrophy training (similar to bodybuilding). But it's only one of four crucial football strength training phases...

If you haven't already, read the Strength Training for Football article.

It covers the big picture - how all the different types of football strength training unite into one complete program...


Hypertrophy Training Guidelines

Use this football strength training routine as a guideline only. Although this type of football strength training is fairly safe you should still prepare by following a phase of functional strength training. And that applies as to much experienced lifter as beginners...

Football, like any sports places your body under uneven stresses and strains. A functional phase helps to rebalance the musculature avoiding injury further down the line.

Here are a few guidelines for hypertrophy training:

  • Duration of Phase: 4-6 weeks

  • Sessions per week: 2-4

  • Load: 70-80% 1-RM

  • No. Exercises: 6-9

  • No. Reps per Set: 6-12

  • No. Sets per Exercise: 3-6

  • Rest between Sets: 2-4 minutes

  • Rest between sessions: 48 hours

  • Speed of Lifts: Moderate

The volume of work in a hypertrophy phase tends to be higher than in any other phase of football strength training. Keep other activities light during this time. Reduce the volume and intensity of interval training and speed and agility drills.


Football Strength Training Program

Day 1 and Day 4 (Mon and Thu)

Overhead Squats

  1. Grasp bar with overhand grip (palms forward) and slightly wider than hip width apart. Step under bar and hold the barbell in a shoulder press position.
  2. Start position: Stand with feet slighter wider than hip width apart. Back should be straight in a neutral position.
  3. Lower body by flexing at the hips and knees. Upper body can flex forward at the hips slightly (~5) during movement. Be sure to "sit back" so that knees stay over the feet. 4. Once thighs are parallel to floor, return to start position. 
  4. Remember to keep head and back straight in a neutral position - hyperextension or flexion may cause injury. Keep weight over the middle of foot and heel, not the toes.
  5. DO NOT allow knees to go past the big toe or deviate medially or laterally throughout movement.

Keep abdominals tight throughout exercise

by drawing stomach in toward spine. 

Football strength training - squats

Dead Lifts

  1. Start Position: Assume a shoulder width stance, knees inside arms and feet flat on floor.
  2. Position shoulders slightly over bar and grab bar. Begin pull by extending the knees. 
  3. Keep angle of your back constant and lift bar straight up. Keep bar close to the body and keep shoulders directly over the bar.
  4. Return to starting position.
Dead Lifts

Leg Curls

  1. Lie face down on bench with pad adjusted to fit behind ankles. If machine does not angle upper torso downward, it is recommended that a pillow be placed underneath stomach.
  2. Start position: Position knees below bottom edge of bench or pad. Legs should be straight with knees aligned to the lever arm axis of motion and hands grasping handles or side of bench (if applicable). 
  3. Raise lever arm by flexing at the knees past 90. Return to start position.
  4. Remember to keep hips in contact with bench at all times. Do not hyperextend the low back during movement.

Lat Pull Downs

  1. Adjust seat or knee pad height so that knees are secured while seated.
  2. Grasp bar with a overhand grip wider than shoulder width apart and sit with knees secured in pads.
  3. Start position: Fully extend arms with elbows facing out with back straight (you may lean back at hips approximately 5-10).
  4. Pull bar down to upper chest area and squeeze shoulder blades together at end of movement. Return to start position.
  5. Remember to keep torso stationary throughout movement.

Seated Rows

  1. Sit in upright position with knees slightly bent and feet planted on foot rests (if applicable).
  2. Start position: Grasp bar with overhand grip (palms facing down) with arms fully extended and shoulder width apart. Back should be straight in a neutral position.
  3. Keep elbows close to body and pull bar towards abdominal region. Squeeze shoulder blades together as bar touches abdominal region. Return to start position.

Standing Calf Raise

  1. Step into provided shoulder pads. Adjust lever arm so that plates do not touch when lowering the weight. 
  2. Stand with feet hip width apart or stand on the edge of a step on the balls of feet with heels hanging over edge. Toes should be pointing forward.
  3. Contract calves by pushing off balls of feet to raise heels up in air (standing on toes)
  4. Lower heels and repeat. 
  5. Remember to keep knees slightly bent throughout movement to prevent any knee strain. Adjust weight load accordingly. 

Preachers curls

  1. Adjust seat or arm support height so that, while seated, top of arm support pad is at chest level. 
  2. Position arms shoulder width apart with elbows and upper arm supported on pad.
  3. Start position: Grasp bar with underhand grip (palms facing up) with elbows slightly bent.
  4. Flex at elbows and curl bar up until forearms are perpendicular to floor. Contract biceps at top of movement. Return to start position.
  5. Remember to keep shoulders stabilized - do not shrug shoulders forward on downward (eccentric) phase of movement. Do not fully extend elbows at bottom of movement.


Preachers curls



Day 2 and Day 5 (Tue and Fri)

Bench Presses 

  1. Lie on back with head underneath bar, eyes aligned with bar, and feet flat on floor.
  2. Position hands on bar wider than shoulder width or lower the unloaded bar to chest and position grip to where forearms are perpendicular to the floor.
  3. Start position: Lift bar off rack with bar directly over head.
  4. Lower bar to chest at the nipple-line. Press bar up to starting position. 

Military Presses 

  1. Sit in upright position or stand with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent.
  2. Start position: Position barbell to ear level with an overhand grip (palms facing forward). 
  3. Press hands up above head keeping wrists over the elbows and arms moving parallel to body at all times. Return to start position.
  4. Remember to keep back and head straight in a neutral position - hyperextension or excessive flexion may cause injury.
Football strength training - military press

Shoulder Shrugs

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Start position: Grasp barbell with an overhand grip (palms down). Arms should hang down to front with elbows slightly bent.
  3. Raise barbell by shrugging shoulders towards the ceiling. Return to start position.
  4. Remember to keep back and head straight in a neutral position - hyperextension or flexion may cause injury. Keep shoulders stabilized by squeezing shoulder blades together throughout movement.

Lateral Raises

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart or sit on bench in upright position.
  2. Start position: Grasp DB's with an underhand grip (palms facing forward). Arms should hang down at sides with elbows slightly bent.
  3. Raise DB's to side of body at shoulder height. Keep elbows only slightly bent with thumbs pointing up throughout movement. Return to start position.
  4. Remember to keep back and head straight in a neutral position - hyperextension or flexion may cause injury. Keep shoulders stabilized by squeezing shoulder blades together throughout movement.

Triceps Extensions

  1. Stand approximately 2-3 feet away from overhead pulley with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. You may use a staggered stance for increased stability.
  2. With an overhand grip, lower bar to chest level so that elbows are bent at 90.
  3. Keeping shoulders stabilized and elbows close to sides, extend arm and lower bar to hip level. Return to start position.
  4. Remember to keep back and head erect and in a neutral position. Stabilize shoulders by squeezing shoulder blades together slightly.

Twisted Crunches

  1. Start position: Lie back onto floor or bench with knees bent and hands behind head. Keep elbows back and out of sight. Head should be in a neutral position with a space between chin and chest.
  2. Leading with the chin and chest towards the ceiling, contract the abdominal and raise shoulders off floor or bench. As you come up twist one shoulder towards the opposite knee.
  3. Return to start position and repeat with the other shoulder.
  4. Remember to keep head and back in a neutral position. Hyperextension or flexion of either may cause injury. 

Double Crunch

  1. Lie back onto floor or bench with knees bent and hands behind head. Keep elbows back and out of sight. Head should be in a neutral position with a space between chin and chest.
  2. Start position: Hands behind head and knees bent at 90 degrees.
  3. Leading with the chin and chest towards the ceiling, contract the abdominals and raise shoulders off floor or bench. During the crunch, also bring knees towards chest.
  4. Return to start position.
  5. Remember to keep head and back in a neutral position. Hyperextension or flexion of either may cause injury.
Football strength training - double crunch

Neck Machine

If it's available use the neck machine at the end of your routine. Focus on flexion, extension and lateral flexion exercises but be careful no to overdo it. 

Here's how the loading pattern might change over a 6-week cycle of football strength training...

Football strength training - loading phase

Don't forget, this is just one phase of a football strength training program...

Check the other articles for programs that fit into the other phases of the plan. And be sure to read the 12-month football strength training article which combines it all into a complete plan.