Cornerback Strength Training
On this page is what is scientifically recommended as the best ways to build muscle and maximum strength.
The Difference Between Size and Strength
One common misconception about weight training is that muscle building is the same thing as training for strength.
How your body responds when you lift to build muscle mass is a bit different than when you lift to build maximum strength.
Yes there is some overlap: the process by which you gain muscle does also increase your strength, and when you lift for strength you can also get increases in size...
...But not nearly as much as when you train specifically for size or strength.
Let me elaborate:
Building Muscle Mass
When training for size, you use moderate to moderately heavy weights, and 7-12RM (repetition maximum), using a slow tempo. This causes small (microscopic) tears in your muscles.
Basically, your body responds by healing and adding more muscle in order to be better prepared to handle any future damage you may cause it. As you keep training, your body keeps healing itself and overtime you get larger muscles.
When you train for maximum strength, you use heavy, maximum, and supermaximum loads, at 1-6RM, lifting as fast as you can.
Basically, your body responds by "telling" your neuromuscular system to recruit, or engage, more muscle fibers that it wasn't recruiting before. It "senses" a need to be stronger because of the heavy weight you're lifting.
(Trained athletes have been shown to have higher recruitment of muscle fibers than people who don't train for strength.)
Building muscle mass serves two purposes: one is to prepare your body for the rigors of strength and power training; the other is to increase your capacity for strength once your neural adaptations have reached their plateau.
(The latter would happen if you decided to add in another mesocycle (2-6 weeks) of hypertrophy after a strength mesocycle.)
And, lets face it. You can't have strong muscles if they aren't there.
Here's a list of cornerback strength training exercises you can use to build size and sport-specific strength. They have been categorized by the prime movers they work. Some of these you may have seen before, some are more uncommon and target prime movers of the position.
*Supine is just a fancy way of describing someone lying on his or her back.
**Dips, push-ups, and pull-ups use body-weight and may require adding weight in order to be classified as maximum strength exercises.
Structuring Your Weight Training Session
Just walking into the gym, slapping on some plates, and pumping iron isn't a great way to begin a strength training regiment or get Great Cornerback results.
In order to maximize your weight training gains, you need to organize your training sessions accordingly.
The first thing you need to do in structuring your cornerback strength training session is to select your exercises. This will vary depending on your training phase (see periodization), but your exercises should be specific to the position.
That means go easy on exercise like bicep curls. They're cool in the early Adaptation and Hypertrophy phases, but should be minimized (or scratched entirely) during the Strength and Power phases.
The order of your exercises is important for getting the most out of your cornerback strength training sessions. Making sure you give priority to the most important exercises will ensure that fatigue won't screw up the quality of your workouts.
So, for starters, exercises fall into two categories: core and assistance.
Your core exercises are not exercises that work your core. They represent multi-joint exercises (i.e. squats and lunges) that are the most important in working your prime movers.
Power exercises like jump squats and power cleans also fall into this category and take precedence even over strength exercises. Because they work larger muscle groups, and cause a faster onset of fatigue, they should be done first.
Assistance exercises are single joint exercises (i.e. calf raises, ham curls) that also work the prime movers, but are less specific to movements. Because they mostly involve only one muscle group, they are less affected by fatigue and should be performed after core exercises.
Abdominals also fall into this category.
After establishing your exercises and their order you need to test yourself to find your repetition maximums. These will determine your loads, or the weight, you'll use, which also vary depending on your training goal: the loads you use to gain size are different than what you use for strength and power.
So, how do you gain size and strength? Below I've given the recommended guidelines for loads, tempo, rest, and volume for each of these goals.
Also, since every strength session is only as good as the recovery that follows it, I will give you timeframes for recovering from your strength training workouts.
Size gains are best attained when you perform moderate to moderately heavy loads (75-85% 1RM), or about a 7-12RM range.
When lifting for size your muscles should be under tension for from 4-6 seconds per rep. This provides more stimulus to the muscle which reacts by synthesizing more protein, remodeling itself to be larger.
So, using this tempo during your training session can make a difference in how fast you realize your size gains. The recommended lifting tempo is 3-2-1, which means if your performing a bench press,
- the eccentric (lowering the barbell to your chest) portion of your lift is 3 seconds,
- the concentric (pushing the barbell off your chest) is 2 seconds,
- and then you hold and squeeze the muscle isometrically for 1 second.
For Great Cornerbacks, though, it should actually be 3-0-1 because the concentric part of your lift should be performed as fast as possible.
Where you hold isometrically can change depending on the exercise. If you're doing standing leg curls or bicep curls you should hold at the top because your muscle is still under tension.
But if your performing the bench press, holding at the top does nothing because you lock out and your muscles aren't under tension anymore. So, its better to hold at the bottom of the lift for exercises like the bench press and the squat.
As far as reps and sets, 7-12 reps of 3-5 sets is the optimal range for building muscle.
Performing three or more exercises per muscle group gets the job done best, but because you also have cornerback, and speed and agilty training to consider, one to two exercises per muscle group will work just fine.
You don't want to overtrain, and high volume hypertrophy training can be very taxing on the body.
Rest and Recovery
Optimal resting periods between sets range between 60 and 90 seconds.
Rest between exercises is about 2-3 minutes.
Your rest between cornerback strength training sessions should be at least 48 hours. So if you lift on Monday, your next strength training session should be Wednesday at the earliest.
If you split your cornerback strength training into upper and lower body sessions, then its okay to lift on two consecutive days, but make sure you rest on the third day.
This is because cornerback strength training not only fatigues your muscles, but it also fatigues your nervous system. So even if you do alternate strength training on certain areas of your body, you still have to give your nervous system time to recover.
Other ways to recover after cornerback strength training sessions include:
- Drinking a protein shake. Remember what I said about those small muscle tears? Well, ingesting protein and carbs after a workout tricks your body into healing those tears faster.
- Getting a good night's sleep. At rest, your body can repair itself faster. So make sure you get at least 8 hours a night.
- Cool Down. A nice cool-down jog and stretch after a workout will help to loosen tight muscles, increase flexibility, and remove waste products in the muscle caused by training.
- Get a massage. Massage is another great way to loosen muscles and remove waste products faster. A low cost way to get nice rub down is to either do it yourself or have a close "friend" do it for you :)
One or several of these variables can manipulated over the duration of your cornerback strength training program to increase the intensity of your workouts or to help facilitate recovery.
Before you can be powerful, you have to be strong. There are no shortcuts to being that dynamic explosive athlete you want to be.
The good news is that cornerback strength training burns a helluva lot less than hypertrophy work; you're reps are substantially less, and while the loads are heavier, the eccentric portion of Max Strength lifts have a faster tempo.
Gains in strength happen more quickly than gains in size (at least in my personal experience). Strength gains also add to gains in your speed and agility, even before you begin the power phase.
In fact, athletes with stronger squat-max-to-body-weight ratio on average have faster 40 yard dash times.
Strength is best gained through lifting heavy to supermaximum loads (90-105% 1RM) or 1RM to 6RM. In case your wondering how anyone could lift a supermaximum load, it would be done eccentrically, with maximum effort, and spotters to help get the weight back up.
Eccentric hamstring strength is actually an important factor when it comes to increasing speed. Just to be on the safe side, though, I would advise against supermaximum eccentric loads until you've completed at least 3 weeks of concentric training.
Note: assistance exercises should not be performed with loads heavier than 8RM. This means no supermax training with single-joint exercises.
The goal of cornerback strength training is to maximize your ability to produce force--very quickly--through a range of motion. Perform your reps as fast as possible during strength and power exercises.
Even so, the eccentric portion of your lift should be controlled when lifting heavy. You don't wanna bring the weight down too fast and injure yourself.
One caveat when it comes to tempo: performing isometric exercises has been shown to cause greater increases in strength than performing concentric reps.
But remember that you are training to be as strong and as fast as you can be through a range of motion. So, if you feel like you want to try some isometric training to help build strength faster, do it before concentric, specific cornerback strength training.
Resting periods for strength and hypertrophy are similar.
Recommended resting periods are between 2.5-5 minutes, with about 2-3 minutes between exercises, unless you're supersetting*. Resting periods between exercises can be lower if you are alternating muscle groups.
*(Supersets consist of one set of an exercise that works one muscle group, followed quickly by a set of that works that muscle group's antagonist. An example would be bench press followed by bent rows.)
Because loads are heavier in the strength phase than they are in the hypertrophy phase, volume should be reduced to compensate. During the strength and power phases, the number of exercises should be limited to between 5 and 8 exercises per training session.
A range of 3 to 6 sets is best for increasing strength. The lower end of the range is designated for single-joint (assistance) exercises (e.g. calf raises), and the higher end for multi-joint (core) exercises (e.g. squats).
Now you know the best ways to gain size and strength when weight training for football.
Some of this info was derived from Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning
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