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Pre-season team conditioning

Cabbagedad asked the following question in the Power360 thread. Rather than hijack the thread, I thought I would respond and start a separate conversation here.

cabbagedad posted:

So, Matt, maybe you can provide some additional advice.  Apologies to others for diversion of OP but I didn't want to PM and prevent others from any shared information.  Our HS field is not at the HS campus and the campus fitness facility is too small and lacks proper equipment anyway.  We try to put together a plan each winter for pre-season conditioning.  We have very little equipment and the workouts are at the field.  We have cones, agility ladders, med balls, j-bands, a few tires and a few nice hills.  With these circumstances, what would you recommend as a basic 6-8 week program?  We typically get 20-25 kids (not playing winter sports) that span a wide array of physical condition.  This is combined V and JV.

I could tell you what we typically do but I would prefer to get a fresh perspective.  You mention the pyramid... please also identify those activities that are more essential than others.


With the equipment you have and a field to work out on, I think you have the capability to accomplish a beneficial strength/conditioning program this winter even without stepping in to a fully outfitted weight room.  It will just take some creativity, which I hope my suggestions below will help on that front.  I’d be curious to how it compares to what you typically do.

I would use the time in the pre-season to focus on 3 things: General Physical Preparedness (running, jumping, proprioception, overall athleticism), General Strength, and Conditioning.  If you pick a couple of movements from each of the below categories for each workout, you’ll address those 3 priorities:

Warmup Movements

Agility ladder (any movement is fine – the idea is to get the feet/legs/hips/body moving)

Dot drill (from Bigger Faster Stronger)


Side shuffles

Back pedals

High knees (including bounding high knees)

Butt kicks


Strength Movements

Partner squats (squat with partner on shoulders like fireman carry or piggy-back)

Lunges, bodyweight or weighted with a partner

Box jumps (1-leg and 2-leg)

Pistols (1-leg squats)

Lateral jumps (1-leg) for max distance

Broad jumps for max distance

Pushup variations (regular, diamond grip, inclined with a partner holding feet similar to wheelbarrow)

Pullups, if available

Tire flips

Med ball scoop toss

Med ball shot put

Team Competitions/Relays

“Animal” walks – bear crawls, crab walks, inch worms (all can be done forward and backward for variation, bear crawls and crab walks can also be done to each side)

Shuttle run relays

Broad jump relay

Tire flip relay

Partner carry relay

“Football routes” – run wide receiver routes, preferably with quick direction changes, but throw a baseball instead of a football

Wheelbarrow races

Hill Sprints

For all of the warmup and strength movements, you can select different execution methods to meet your desired training intent:

For a conditioning slant: Select a number of exercises to perform in a circuit, and perform each station for 1 minute before moving to the next.  Or, do the exercises “tabata”-style: perform for 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds, repeat for 8 rounds (4 minutes total for each exercise).

For a strength slant: Perform 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 8 reps of an exercise – this is particularly good for the partner squats, box jumps, broad jumps and med ball exercises.

Two examples to help you see how it could be pieced together:

1 – If you only have the last 20 minutes of practice, and you’d like to focus on strength, you might put together the following:

  1. J-bands
  2. Partner squats – 3 sets of 8 reps
  3. Broad jumps for distance – 3 sets of 5 reps
  4. Team relays – wheelbarrow races, bear crawls, inch worms, partner carries

2 – If you plan on spending the entire practice on strength/conditioning, with more of a focus on conditioning:

  1. Agility ladder variations
  2. Side shuffles, bounding high knees, and butt kicks
  3. 3 rounds of the following circuit, performing each for 1 minute before immediately moving to the next exercise. Rest 1 minute between rounds:
    1. Bodyweight lunges
    2. Tire flips
    3. Pushups
    4. Box jumps
  4. Med ball scoop toss – 3 sets of 6 reps
  5. Team relays – shuttle runs, football routes, hill sprints, crab walks

As far as what activities are more essential that the others – I prioritize strength over some of the more trendy speed and agility training.  If you can apply a greater force to the ground, you will move faster.  That’s why I have the agility ladders as a way to get moving and warm-up the body, but not using it as a tool for increasing speed or strength.  Also, over the course of the 6-8 week pre-season period, I would transition from a conditioning focus at the beginning to a strength focus towards the end.

With combined Varsity and JV, and in various levels of physical shape, break the team into groups of like condition.  The groups will be able to perform their workouts at different paces, helping a little to individualize an otherwise one-size-fits-all team workout.

One additional thought - given a 6-8 week preseason period, I would condition the arm with long toss.  I would do long toss before any other strength & conditioning – you don’t want to be doing long toss with fatigued legs, overcompensating with the arm and possibly causing injury.

Lots of info, but all very general.  These are my initial thoughts, I’m happy to answer any questions if more detail is needed.  I'm interested to hear how other coaches/teams have addressed a similar situation to cabbagedad's.

Power Alley Strength & Conditioning

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