Saturday, December 11, 2021

Some Lessons from the Wisdom of Dan Riley's Experience





From Athletic Conditioning Quarterly. 



Riley's program works, and three Super Bowl rings are just one indication of that fact . . . we all stand to learn from what he has learned over the years.

The program's primary objective is to build general overall strength. 
How is this done? 

"The key to any strength program for a football player is balance. Develop each muscle group to its maximum," says Riley. He also states, "Many young players don't have the correct balance in their workouts. Consequently, they aren't spending enough time developing their neck and shoulder capsule." 

Riley tells his players, "Your program lacks balance and the proper priorities if you spend 25 minutes on bench pressing each workout, and just a few minutes on your neck and shoulders."

The Redskins conditioning program is divided into 5 major areas: 

Neck, Hips and Legs, Midsection, Torso, and Arms.

And the emphasis is on giving each area of the body equal attention. Riley's 7 key ingredients to overall fitness are: 

Muscular fitness, Cardio-respiratory fitness, Flexibility, Specificity of exercise (not to be confused with) Specificity of skill, Nutrition, and Rest. 

Q & A with Dan Riley and Ray Wright

Q: Most of the routines seem to be split into upper and lower body. During the off-season are the players training their 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. 

A: Several years ago the Player's Union negotiated an off-season workout policy as part of the collective 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
2) Chest
3) Upper Back
4) Shoulders
5) Arms

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

1) Hips & Legs
2) 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 Mon/Wed/Fri or Tues/Thurs/Sat. 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 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. Here are some guidlines: 

1) Keep accurate records of each exercise performed.

2) Eliminate non-productive exercise.

3) Eliminate momentum and any sudden, jerky, cheating movement duringthe raising phase of every exercise. Force the muscles to do all of the work.

4) Pause momentarily in the muscle's contracted position. The greatest number of muscle fibers are recruited in a muscle's contracted position. There can be no bounce in this position if full range exercise and maximum benefits are a priority.

5) 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.

6) The degree of muscular benefits is directly linked to the QUALITY AND INTENSITY of exercise. Simply put, the harder [this does not mean "longer" necessarily] you are willing to work, the better the results. 

7) 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. 

8) Do not sacrifice good form in an attempt to lift more weight or execute additional reps. The key to generating maximum gains is not how much weight you can lift. The key to generating maximum gains is how you lift the weight. 

9) 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 is rep speed and technique changes. 

10) Perform 8 to 12 reps. 


Q: I have leveled off and have taken a couple of 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? 

A: Players perform the exercises in the exact order listed in our 10 - 8 routines. Our players perform 2 sets of the bench press, the incline press, and the overhead press. All other exercises are a single set. The only thing that changes between the routines is the equipment used. Below is the skeleton format we use to organize our 10- 8 routines: 

1) Bench Press - 10 reps (rest 90 seconds)
2) Bench Press - 8 reps (rest 90 seconds)
3) Pullover - 10 reps
4) Lat Pulldown - 10 reps performed immediately after the pullover
5) Incline Press - 10 reps (rest 90 seconds)
6) Incline Press - 8 reps (rest 90 seconds)
7) Rear Delt - 12 reps
8) Seated Row - 10 reps performed immediately after the rear delt (rest 90)
9) Rotator Cuff (external rotation) - 12 reps (rest 90 seconds)
10) Lateral Raise - 12 reps (rest 90 seconds)
11) Seated Press - 10 reps (rest 90 seconds)
12) Seated Press - 8 reps.

The template used to organize our 10 - 8 routines isthe same. To create variety we simply substitute different equipment. 

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. 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. 


Q: What is the length of time one should stick with 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.

A: I don't know if there is a right or 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 x 12 of the same exercises.

Weeks 4 - 6
4 x 8 of the same exercises.

Weeks 7 - 9
4 x 6 of the same. 

Weeks 10 - 12
4 x 4 of the same.

This cycle can start all over again with 4 x 12 at the end of the 12-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 exercises, 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 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 compete 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 players already have. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

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