When you're an NFL player, rushing hundreds of yards while trying to block or tackle 300-pound guys is just part of the routine. To be a pro, you've got to be in top shape.
"They have to be strong and powerful," Barry Rubin, head strength and conditioning coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, says. "They have to be quick and fast. And they have to have great conditioning."
Because no two positions are the same, each player on a team has different training goals.
Cincinnati Bengals safety Chris Crocker is focused on staying fast and light on his feet. "A combination of speed and agility is most important," he says in an email. That's because "as a safety, you have to be able to change directions at a rapid speed while covering wide receivers and tackling people who are bigger than you, such as running backs and tight ends."
As a former defensive tackle for the Tennessee Titans, Torrie Griffin, a certified personal trainer and owner of TTrain Fitness Bootcamp in Atlanta, had to be flexible to stay low on the field. "Having a wide base and low center of gravity is real important when you're playing defensive line," he says, "because you have to hold ground and attack with great leverage."
NFL players like Crocker and Griffin stay in top condition by spending hours each week working out in the gym and doing drills on the field. "During the off-season," Crocker says, "I work out at least five days a week." During the football season, he trains six days a week followed by a one-day rest.
Crocker's typical workout includes a mix of stretching, agility exercises, sprints, and weight training. "My workout during the season," he says, "is modified because of the strenuous practice schedule. So I focus on maintaining my strength rather than building."
Your NFL Workout
You don't need to be an NFL pro to train like one. All you need is to incorporate the right elements of NFL training into your routine.
To train like an NFL pro, “You’ve got to do plyometrics training, you’ve got to do strength training, and you’ve got to work on energy system development,” Rob Livingstone, a strength and conditioning professional who has trained many pro athletes, says.
The goal of plyometrics training is to decrease the ground contact time as much as possible, Livingstone says. That’s why plyometrics involves doing lots of jumping and ‘explosive’ moves. “Energy system development involves training the body to become better conditioned to allow for quick recovery from different training activities of varying durations,” he adds. When creating the ideal fitness program, whether you’re a weekend warrior or an NFL pro, the goal is for each training element to complement the others, Livingstone says.
Here are a few tips from NFL players and pro trainers to keep you at the top of your game, both on and off the field.