Fitness in Football Athletes: High Yield NFL Exercises

These fitness moves from the NFL are great for players, or anyone looking to get in shape.

football fitness exercises

There is a newer philosophy in the National Football League, shifting from packing on pounds of muscle to enhancing explosiveness and athleticism. Players need to report to training camp 100% healthy and stay injury-free for the full 16 game season. Players are training smarter not harder and sometimes the squat rack is thrown to the wayside and replaced by a speed ladder.

NFL Combine performance levels were compared between 1999-2001 to 2008-2010 and concluded that explosiveness and first-step quickness was an increasingly important factor. There was improvement in straight sprinting, 3-cone drill and the horizontal jump; from a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. NFL draft decision makers were focusing on acceleration as a key physical characteristic.

READ MORE: Five Common Running Injuries To Avoid

Certain exercises can emphasize explosiveness, acceleration and first-step quickness.

  1. Bounding: reinforces muscle synchronization, engages fast-twitch muscle fibers. Start by exaggerating your running and push off hard from the ground with each step, gliding as you move to the next foot (gazelle style). Engage your arms to enhance power.
  2. Dumbbell Push-Up-to Row: stabilizes the core and allows the body to stop and pivot instantaneously, avoiding defenders in the open field. Place dumbbells slightly wider than shoulder width apart, set yourself in a push-up position, lower your body to the floor, push-up to the start position and two the dumbbell in your right hand to the side of your torso; repeat the entire movement then using your left hand.
  3. Concentric Box Jump: creates a large amount of force from a static isometric position and increases your lower-body power. Stand with a box 12 inches in front of you; bring your body to a squat position and power-up, jumping up onto the box. Step down from the box and repeat. It is very important to STEP DOWN as jumping down puts the Achilles tendon at risk for rupturing.
  4. Agility Ladder Drills: improves foot speed, agility, coordination and overall quickness. Perform at the start of a session after the warm up with fresh muscles. Multiple different ladder drills exist: Ickey shuffle, carioca, in-out drill, tango drill; but, the keys are to push-off from the balls of your feet, pump your hands, maintain elbows at a 90 degree angle, keep your upper body relaxed and your head still.
  5. Bulgarian Split Squats: increases quad and gluten strength, improves balance and stability and eliminates lower-body strength imbalances. Stand in front of a bench; hold a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length at your sides. Place your left foot in front of your right and put your right foot instep on a bench 2-3 feet behind you. Keep your front knee slightly bent and engage your core. Bend at the knee to lower yourself until the rear knee lightly contacts t he floor, stand again pushing through the front heel and complete your reps then switch to the other leg.
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