“In God we trust; Everything else we measure”
Introduction to Weight Management in the NFL and a Potential solution for an Off-Season Detraining Dilemma – Part 1
All across the nation Professional Football teams of the National Football League are gearing up for training programs otherwise known as off season programs. These off – season programs are designed in effort to provide elite football athletes the opportunity to prepare for the performance demands of a rigorous and highly competitive NFL season. Many may wonder what methods are used to ready this exclusive population of genetic talent and skill for success. While different teams may reflect various unique features as key components for garnering success, there are fundamental and similar components shared across all teams that help to promote success in performance to both the individual and team. In an article titled “Common Factors of High Performance Teams” published in the Journal of contemporary issues in Business and Government, authors highlight that advancing team performance means teams must systematically develop and assess new training methods to support changes in team effectiveness (Jackson & Madsen, 2005).
Their conclusions reflects the importance of evaluation and the practice of seeking new training methodology to produce high performance. Thus, in any high achieving system, one must establish a method of assessment, a metric that comprehensively and conclusively denotes the result of the assessment as well as a methodology that continually advances training for the assessment. This particular insight into the common factors of high performance in teams gives perspective to one of the many shared activities that our highly successful NFL teams will be embarking through these next few weeks – Assessment.
Assessment can come in many forms and provide a number of important information regarding the state of an athlete. Likewise, the approach in which teams use to improve their athletes based on assessment varies as well. It all depends on the teams perspective of a meaningful metric and the methodology used for high performance.
What’s your favorite M&M? – Metric and Methodology for high performance?
Among the multitude of assessments and/or metrics available to performance and football coaches, an athlete’s weight and body composition is considered of great importance. This is due to the strong relationship in which weight and/or body composition plays to a multitude of physical performance components such as strength, vertical jump, anaerobic power, speed and injury risk. Potteiger, Smith, Maier & Foster, 2010; Silvestre, West, Maresh & Kraemer, 2006; Rose, Emery & Meeuwisse, 2008; Vardar et al., 2007). In fact, the National Strength and Conditioning Association details this important relationship in the book NSCA’s Guide to Tests and Assessments.
“All fitness components depend on body composition to some extent. An increase in lean body mass contributes to strength and power development. Strength and power are related to muscle size. Thus, an increase in lean body mass enables the athlete to generate more force in a specific period of time. A sufficient level of lean body mass also contributes to speed, quickness, and agility performance (in the development of force applied to the ground for maximal acceleration and deceleration). Reduced nonessential body fat contributes to muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance, speed, and agility development. Additional weight (in the form of nonessential fat) provides greater resistance to athletic motion thereby forcing the athlete to increase the muscle force of contraction per given workload. The additional body fat can limit endurance, balance, coordination, and movement capacity. Joint range of motion can be negatively affected by excessive body mass and fat as well, and mass can form a physical barrier to joint movement in a complete range of motion. (Miller, 2012)”
In other words, a scale can be one the most effective assessment tool towards improving potential and performance. The value for which a scale presents to a performance coach when an steps on can be an important metric towards high performance. And it is likely that during this week, the 3000 athletes preparing for NFL training camps and a chance to compete this season are stepping on a scale and taking part in a corresponding evaluation of body composition. It is also likely that a few members of this group will be weighing in at a number that grossly surpasses the weight needed to perform their duties at an optimal level and/or compromises their physical performance factors such as speed, power, and their ability to stay healthy.
Before we scrutinize and denigrate the athlete it’s important to examine our role as performance coaches and the methodology we use to solve challenges in performance. We must remember (again) that high performing teams must systematically develop and assess methodology that supports team effectiveness. To solve the particular challenges associated with athletes returning from the off season above weight/body composition standards and to improve team effectiveness we must first evaluate and understand the current weight issues of today.
High performing teams must systematically develop and assess methodology that supports team effectiveness.
The next part of this three part article will allow readers to understand the relative difficulties athletes may face in preparation for off-season conditioning and offers a training resource aimed to improve speed, power while diminishing potential for injury. Through our understanding of the environmental and social hurdles and limitations we can identify a potential solution for the challenges associated with weight management in today’s performance landscape. This understanding establishes why weight/body composition should continue to be an important metric for high performance and lays the foundation for an effectively methodology to help deliver success to both the football athlete and the team of coaches responsible for the athlete.
Jackson, B., & Madsen, S. R. (2005). Common factors of high performance teams. Journal of Contemporary Issues in Business and Government, 11(2), 35–49.
Miller, T. (2012). NSCA’s guide to tests and assessments. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Potteiger, J., Smith, D., Maier,. M.L., Foster, T.S. (2010). Relationship Between Body Composition, Leg Strength, Anaerobic Power, and On-Ice Skating Performance in Division I Men’s Hockey Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24. 1755-1762
Rose, M.S., Emery C.A., Meeuwisse, W.H. (2008). Sociodemographic predictors of sport
injury in adolescents. Journal of Medicine Science Sports Exercise, 40(3):444–450.
Silvestre, R.,West, C., Maresh, C., Kraemer, W. (2006). Body Composition and Physical Performance in Men’s Soccer: A Study of a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Team. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 20. 177-183.
Vardar, S. A., Tezel, S., Öztürk, L., & Kaya, O. (2007). The Relationship Between Body Composition and Anaerobic Performance of Elite Young Wrestlers. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 6(CSSI-2), 34–38.
Dan Liburd has over a decade of experience working with professional Athletes and as a NFL Strength and Conditioning Coach. Liburd has experience in designing, implementing and supervising strength and conditioning programs for various athletic populations. Liburd also has experience in designing and overseeing team nutrition and dietary programs. Liburd is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who earned his Bachelor degree in Exercise Science from Boston University. He has a Master of Science degree from Canisius College in Health and Human Performance and is currently working towards his Ph.D. in Health and Human Performance at Concordia University Chicago. Liburd holds a variety of certifications in Health and Sport Nutrition, Olympic Weight Lifting and Movement Assessment. These certifications include Precision Nutrition Level I and Level II as well as USA Weightlifting and Functional Movement Systems. Liburd also has a great deal of experience in Health, Fitness and Sport Strength and Conditioning. Liburd has worked with several professional teams such as the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Liburd has also held various positions in Collegiate Strength and Conditioning programs. He has worked with the Boston University Terriers, Springfield College Pride, American College Yellow Jackets and held positions at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning as well as Peak Performance Physical Therapy.