How to train like an NFL athlete
Have you ever wondered just how much dedication it takes for an NFL footballer to train professionally? The sheer power and intensity of American football dictates that NFL footballers are out-and-out athletes. They require endurance to be able to make the difference deep in the final quarter. It can take some athletes months, even years, to work on changing their body to that of an American football player.
For any NFL team to stand a chance of winning the Super Bowl LIV, they must have a balance of players with size and strength as well as agility and raw pace. Oddschecker’s latest Super Bowl LIV winner prices suggest that most sportsbooks feel the New England Patriots have all these attributes in abundance as the pre-season favorites. According to former NFL wide receiver, Dale Moss, it’s not just the physical aspect of being an NFL footballer. It’s about “being mindful and smart” about nutrition too.
But if you’d like to try and push yourself to the limits at home or in the gym, just like an NFL prospect, here are some of the workouts and exercises you’ll have to master within your training regime:
Upper body strength and training for sprinting and acceleration
The start of the week for most NFL footballers is focused largely on training for acceleration and strengthening upper body muscles. Acceleration is key given that set plays in an American football game can take some minutes to prepare for and only a matter of seconds to execute. Most NFL footballers will combine the need for speed and acceleration with exercises for their upper body strength.
A typical kind of drill you could expect to complete is sprints of up to 10-20 yards flat out. Try doing sets of three of these, before moving on to five-by-five flat barbell bench presses to really work the shoulders and arms. If you were given a training regime by your NFL team’s head coach or physio team, you would typically be asked to complete sets of three sprints and five barbell bench presses at least six or seven times.
To make things even tougher for you, they may also suggest extending the distance of your sprints with every set, whilst changing the type of upper body exercises to work all aspects of the chest, arms and shoulders. If you’re looking for inspiration to switch up those upper body exercises at home, consider incorporating basic push ups, tricep extensions, decline chest presses, as well as front and side raises. If you’re unfamiliar with any of these, a quick Google should suffice.
Quick feet and agility
Of course, if you have the build of an NFL player that would make you better-suited to be part of a team’s offense rather than defense, you might want to try some of the exercises that their front-runners would be undergoing throughout their normal week. Offensive players require nimble feet, agility and speed of mind to be able to evade defense, so neat footwork is essential.
The most effective exercises you could do to work on your fleet-of-foot include high knees, hopping, speed skaters and utilizing steps on the agility ladder. It goes without saying that before each of these agility workouts it’s vital that you warm up your body and muscles correctly. At least a ten-minute warm up is recommended to get those muscles warm and avoid sustaining any nasty strains or tears when moving in different directions.
One of the simplest drills you can do requires only three cones. Set them apart by about five or six yards in a straight line. Start the shuttle drill from the middle cone. Begin by accelerating to the cone to your right-hand side. Touch it and change direction and sprint all the way to the cone on the left. Touch that cone and sprint back to the center cone where the shuttle drill began.
Another easy drill for acceleration and agility requires only one additional cone. Set your four cones in a square, with each cone roughly five or six yards apart. Start from one of the cones at the top of the square and sprint backwards to the cone behind you. Touch that cone and then sprint diagonally to the next cone. Then sprint backwards again toward the cone behind you, before finishing with another diagonal sprint to the next cone.
Lower body strength
Don’t skip leg day. We repeat – don’t skip leg day. Lower body strength is just as important as upper body strength as an NFL athlete. Squats tend to be the most popular form of leg workout for a footballer. They’ll do squats a little differently to the average person. Most athletes will have to do them with a bar stopper just above parallel. They’ll then have to keep moving down until the bar reaches the stopper, hold their position, before powering upwards to simulate a scrum move.
Kettlebells can also be your best friend when it comes to lower body exercises. Kettlebell swings help to strengthen the glutes, hamstrings and the lower back. If you can do several of these in a rhythm, so much the better. Box jumps are also good, providing you have enough space to create a landing area. Place a sturdy box that’s no taller than 36 inches in front of you. Stand with your feet a hip-width apart, before moving into a quarter squat position and jumping up through your hips and knees onto the top of the box.
Don’t forget nutrition
As we’ve already touched upon, several of these exercises require sufficient nutrition to give elite athletes the energy and recovery they need. Some people say that nutrition actually makes up 70 to 80 per cent of an athlete’s fitness program. Developing and maintaining those healthy eating habits are a vital part of an NFL athlete’s education. Being self-aware of a poor diet and its possible impact on sporting careers can give some budding NFL prospects the wake-up call they need to dedicate themselves to their fitness regime. It certainly pays dividends in the long run!