Dave Kempfert

5 Tips to Effective Preseason Training from a Former NFL Player

Originally published in the Williamson Herald

Summer is in full swing, but football season is just around the corner. According to Dave Kempfert, PT, director of rehabilitation services at Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee, now’s the time for Middle Tennessee’s high school football players to start prepping for the fall season.  

“In fact, if you’re just starting now, you may be a little behind,” Kempfert warned. 

Kempfert, who spent three seasons in the NFL, offered a few tips to help you get game day ready. 

1. Ease In and Acclimate

Rather than going zero to 60 in six seconds, Kempfert recommended easing into your training program. 

“Nothing prevents all injuries, but gradually ramping up activity cuts down on overuse injuries,” he said.  

Since most preseason training and practices take place outdoors, Kempfert also stressed the importance of acclimating to the warmer temperatures.  

“Acclimating to heat during the summer is really important,” Kempfert said. “You don’t need to do all of your outdoor workouts in the midday heat, but you do need to start building up your time and activity level before heading to camp or intense outdoor practices.” 

Hydration is key, Kempfert added, because it helps protect against heat exhaustion as well as injuries like muscles strains and cramping. 

2. Prioritize Form and Technique

Strength training is a vital part of training for the fall football season, but how you lift is just as important as the amount you lift, Kempfert said.  

“Some athletes, especially football players, focus solely on strength,” Kempfert said. “They think, ‘I’ve got to get in the weight room, because I want to get as big as I can this summer,’ but really, you should put control and form before the amount of weight you’re lifting.”  

Learn the correct form for all of your lifting with weight that you can control. Then, focus on adding more weight while maintaining proper form and technique. It may mean a slower progression in the amount you lift but can help prevent strains, sprains and other injuries.  

3. Change Things Up

“Independent training over the summer is really important to get ready for the fall season, but it doesn’t have to all be just your sport,” Kempfert said.  

Kempfert suggested adding in other activities that work your body in different ways than your usual training, such as hiking or swimming.  

“There’s so much benefit in in cross training,” he said. “Cross-training helps to make sure you’re not overworking certain muscle groups that you’re going to rely on heavily for your sport. It also encourages movement in different planes and other aspects of balance and conditioning. Plus, it decreases burnout, which is very important.”  

4. Build a Strong Core

“People think of the core only as abs, but the core involves the entire trunk,” Kempfert said. “It’s your glutes, your abdominals, your back muscles, your upper back, your chest — all those things.”  

The core connects the upper and lower body, meaning core strength plays a vital role in power and stability during dynamic movement needed to play football. So, rather than focusing only on abs, Kempfert suggested adding in exercises that increase hip mobility and flexibility as well as building strength throughout the entire core. 

5. Consult Sports Medicine Experts

If you do get injured during your preseason training, Kempfert recommends working with medical providers who understand you and your sport.  

“At Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee, we really understand sports and athletes, which is really important when you have an injury,” he said. “We specialize in this, so we understand the timelines for recovery, what you need to know about your injury and how to get you back on the field as soon as possible.”  

Situated just off Interstate 65 in Franklin, Bone and Joint Institute offers state-of-the-art technology and a superior patient experience close to home. For more information, visit www.BoneandJointTN.org.  

Dave Kempfert, PT serves as the director of rehabilitation services for Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee. He is a former collegiate All-American and NFL offensive lineman with over 10 years as a clinical director and 16 years of experience specializing in outpatient orthopaedics and sports medicine physical therapy. In his spare time, enjoys hiking in the great outdoors and spending time with his wife of 19 years and their two children.