Football demands a range of physical attributes from those who set foot on the gridiron, including speed, agility and endurance. At the top of the list, however, is strength. Depending on the position, the level of strength necessary differs. For example, a guard or a tackle needs bulk strength, while a receiver or running back needs muscular endurance. The weight-training routine necessary for a competitive running back incorporates most major muscle groups, and the regimen spans the entire calendar.
Upper-body workouts for a running back should focus primarily on core muscle groups. This includes the abs, obliques and lower back, along with the chest, shoulders and arms. A strong core will help you maintain balance while shaking off tackles, while strong arms and shoulders will help you keep the ball pinned to your body, reducing the risk of fumbling. Useful exercises will include bench presses, biceps curls, triceps presses, military presses, lat pulldowns, weighted crunches and weighted back extensions.
The development of lower-body strength is crucial for a running back. The four major muscle groups that a running back needs to target with free weights are the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and gluteals. Strong quads, calves and hamstrings help you push off the line of scrimmage and fight for extra yardage. Along with the gluteals, a powerful lower body will help you push off defenders with a burst of strength. The most effective exercises include front and back squats, deadlifts, leg presses, leg extensions and leg curls.
The weight training you perform depends largely on what portion of the season you're in. If you’re considered “in-season,” your weight training will be performed in conjunction with intense practices and games. In general, running backs will go light on weight training, lifting around 70 percent of max capacity through three or four sets of 10 to 12 reps only a couple of days per week. In most cases, in-season weight training is not about developing strength, but maintaining it.
During the offseason, a running back’s weight-training regimen will ramp up to build strength. Hit the weight room three or four days each week, lifting heavily -- 80 to 100 percent of max capacity -- and perform progressive sets of all exercises. Pyramid sets and the 5x5 routine are especially effective for developing power that translates well to the running back position. Schedule enough rest and recovery time during your offseason training to ensure you allow your muscles to regenerate from the aggressive workout schedule. Allow 36 to 48 hours of recovery for a muscle group between workouts.
- Photo Credit Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images