Fitness Corner -- Lower Body

Texans strength and conditioning coach Dan Riley is back for another installment of his Fitness Corner column.

Riley and assistant strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright will continue to post selected answers to your questions throughout the year. Join in by shooting over an e-mail to fitness@houstontexans.com.

Here is an archive of past columns. Dan and Ray have also made the club's strength and conditioning manual available. Click here to download it. And here is an abridged one for the fitness enthusiast.

Here's Dan…

*Most of the routines posted seem to be split by the upper and lower body. During the off-season are the players training the entire body three times per week or are they alternating upper and lower body workouts? I'd also like to know how you would train older adults compared to football players? *

-- Tom Shaffer

Several years ago the Player's Union negotiated an off-season workout policy as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This agreement states during the off-season we cannot require a player to work out more than four days a week.

This four-day format is ideal for a split routine. Our players currently utilize the following protocol during the off-season. On Monday and Thursday players perform a sequence of exercises for the following:

  1. Neck & Traps
  1. Chest
  1. Upper Back
  1. Shoulders
  1. Arms

On Tuesday and Friday they perform a sequence of exercises for the following:

  1. Hips & Legs
  1. Midsection

a. Trunk Flexors

b. Trunk Rotators

c. Trunk Extensors

Many years ago our players trained total body three times per week. They had the option to work out on Monday-Wednesday-Friday, or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. Players could recover from three workouts a week back then because the number of exercises they performed in a workout was less than it is today.

You also asked about the differences between the routines for our athletes and the average adult. We incorporate the same philosophy and methodology when training adults as we do when training our players. The muscles of an adult perform the same functions, as do the muscles of an athlete. The exercises utilized to develop these muscles are also the same.

The only major difference in the strength program between an athlete and the average adult is the intensity of exercise. To generate the greatest gains in strength, the intensity of exercise must be near maximum.

Most adults are not willing to exert a maximum effort nor do they need to. Some adults want good results but are not willing to work hard enough to stimulate any changes. They become frustrated and quit exercising.

Most of the same rules apply to the average adult as we utilize when implementing a strength program for our athletes. Our goal is to organize a program that produces the best results, consumes the least amount of time, and is performed in the safest manner possible.

  1. Keep accurate records of each exercise performed.
  1. Eliminate non-productive exercise.
  1. Eliminate momentum and any sudden, jerky, cheating movement during the raising phase of every exercise. Force the muscles to do all of the work.
  1. Pause momentarily in the muscles contracted position. The greatest numbers of muscle fibers are recruited in a muscles contracted position. There can be no bounce in this position if full-range exercise and maximum benefits are a priority.
  1. Place an emphasis on the lowering of the weight. The same muscles raise and lower the weight. It is easier to lower a weight. More time must be taken if maximum benefits are a priority.
  1. The degree of muscular benefits is directly linked to the quality and intensity of exercise. Simply put, the harder you are willing to work, the better the results.
  1. The "Overload Principle" must be implemented if an increase in strength is the goal. To increase strength you must attempt to lift more weight and/or reps every workout until you level off.
  1. Do not sacrifice good form in an attempt to lift more weight or execute additional reps. The key to maximum gains is not how much weight you can lift. The key to generating maximum gains is how you lift the weight.
  1. Utilize the "Rep Reproduction Rule." Each rep should look identical. Once the weight is lifted it must be lowered at the same speed each and every repetition. It is impossible to monitor strength gains from one workout to the next if rep speed and technique changes.
  1. Perform eight to twelve reps.

*I have leveled off and have taken a couple weeks off. I am about to start a routine again but want to add some of your programs for variety. In your 10-8 routines listed on the website, do you do the exact exercises as listed? *

-- Ramon Rodriguez* *

Our players perform the exercises in the exact order listed in our 10 – 8 routines. The format for our 10 – 8 routines is the same. During our 10 – 8 routines our players perform two sets of the bench press, the incline press, and the overhead press. All other exercises are single set. The only thing that changes between routines is the equipment used.

Listed below is the skeleton format we use to organize our 10 – 8 routines:

  1. Bench press -10 reps

(Rest 1 minute 30 seconds)

  1. Bench press - 8 reps

(Rest 1 minute 30 seconds)

  1. Pullover – 10 reps
  1. Lat pulldown – 10 reps performed immediately after the Pullover

(Rest 1 minute 30 seconds)

5. Incline press – 10 reps

(Rest 1 minute 30 seconds)

  1. Incline Press – 8 reps

(Rest 1 minute 30 seconds)

  1. Rear Delt – 12 reps
  1. Seated Row – 10 reps performed immediately after the Rear Delt

(Rest 1 minute 30 seconds)

  1. Rotator Cuff (External Rotation) 12 reps

(Rest 1 minute 30 seconds)

  1. Lateral Raise – 12 reps

(Rest 1 minute 30 seconds)

  1. Seated Press – 10 reps

(Rest 1 minute 30 seconds)

  1. Seated Press – 8 reps

The template used to organize our 10 – 8 routines is the same. To create variety we simply substitute different equipment. Listed below is the "Dumbbell 10 – 8" routine and the "Smith Machine 10 – 8" routine. In the dumbbell routine our players use dumbbells to perform the bench press, incline press, and seated press. In the Smith Machine routine our Texans use a Smith Machine to perform the bench press, incline press, and seated press.

Dumbbell 10–8 Routine Smith Machine 10–8 Routine

Dumbbell bench 10 reps Smith Machine bench press 10 reps

Dumbbell bench 8 reps Smith Machine bench press 8 reps

Nautilus Nitro Pullover 10 reps Avenger Pullover 10 reps

Nautilus Lat Pulldown 10 reps Avenger Lat Pulldown 10 reps

Dumbbell Incline Press 10 reps Smith Machine Incline Press 10 reps

Dumbbell Incline Press 8 reps Smith Machine Incline Press 8 reps

Hammer Rear Delt Nautilus Nitro Rear Delt

Hammer Isolateral Seated Row Avenger Seated Row 10 reps 10 reps

Hammer Rotator Cuff 12 reps Hammer Rotator Cuff 12 reps

Hammer Lateral Raise 12 reps Avenger Lateral Raise

Dumbbell seated press 10 reps Smith seated press 10 reps

Dumbbell seated press 8 reps Smith seated press 8 reps

We have six different 10 – 8 routines for our players to choose from. We have five other routines organized with a single set format, and our barbell routine organized with a 3 x 6 format.

What is the length of time one should stick to the same routine before moving on to other exercise routines? At times I find myself doing the same routine for about a month. Eventually my mind or body tells me to move on. * *

-- Bill Mazukina

I don't know if there is a right and wrong answer. Some coaches advocate the same exercises over and over. The only variety obtained is by changing the number of reps performed over a period of time.

For example:

Weeks 1 – 3: Perform 4 sets x 12 reps of the same exercises.

Weeks 4 – 6: Perform 4 sets x 8 reps of the same exercises.

Weeks 7 – 9: Perform 4 sets x 6 reps of the same exercises.

Weeks 10 – 12: Perform 4 sets x 4 reps of the same exercises.

This cycle can start all over again with 4 sets x 12 reps at the end of this twelve-week period.

Some strength philosophies incorporate only a few basic "core exercises" into their program. If a player continues performing these same exercises over a period of time they level off and stop gaining. To prevent this the above protocol is often used to prevent staleness. I prefer creating variety with substituting different equipment, changing the order of exercise, and changing the manner in which an exercise is performed.

When a new player arrives we select one upper body routine and one lower body sequence for them. They continue with this same workout until they are familiar with the exercises and we have established weights necessary to generate strength gains.

At this point we incorporate a new routine. We continue this process until our players have been exposed to each of our routines. At this point I encourage our players to not perform the same routine back to back. There are structural differences (advantages/disadvantages) between and among each piece of equipment.

Rotating routines and equipment allows our players to capitalize on the benefits each piece of equipment has to offer. In addition they go into a workout not knowing how many reps they will complete on any given exercise because it has been at least a week or more since they completed that particular workout.

I'd recommend that you organize at least three different upper body and lower body workouts and rotate them every time you train. Remember, it is not the equipment you use, the exercises you perform that generates maximum gains. The key to maximum gains will always be how you perform each rep and complete each set.

Every now and then get crazy (not stupid). Do something different. We have several off-road workouts we use to add variety to the variety our Texans already have.

Go Texans!

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