Patrick Willis’ "homegrown workout" featured the unconventional training methods he employed as a youngster seeking an extra edge on the gridiron. Back then, Willis pressed bricks and concrete blocks, and pushed and pulled his body through Push-Ups, Sit-Ups and Leg Raises. He says, "I would take two concrete blocks and put them on the end of the bar and press that. Sometimes the blocks would slide off the bar. But that’s what I had, so I used that and made the best of it."
Many of the exercises Willis devised as a youngster are still part of the current version of his "homegrown workout," only now he uses modern training equipment. For example, what separate Willis’ Dumbbell Bench Press and Shoulder Shrugs from those of other athletes are the minor variations he incorporates—some to meet certain training goals (like generating more force into the barbell), and others to sharpen specific skills for the upcoming season.
Skill development is the motivation for Willis’ shoulder-strengthening work, particularly his adapted Dumbbell Front Raise, where his modification replicates the movement of driving toward, wrapping up and tackling a ball carrier.
Instead of the standard Front Raise up-and-down arm movement, Willis starts with the dumbbells at his sides, then drives his arms up and together in front. He says, “It’s more work to come out the sides and bring them up than it is just to go straight up and down—[that's one of] the little secrets I have."
Patrick Willis explains how his variation of the Dumbbell Front Raise helps him generate more power to wrap up and tackle ball carriers.
Willis' “little secrets” have helped him produce monster numbers in the tackles department. The NFL’s premier linebacker is averaging a hair under 150 tackles a season—148.75 to be exact—leading the league twice in four seasons.
More tackles and fewer shoulder stingers: that’s what you’ll get by performing Willis’ Dumbbell Front Raise/Dumbbell Shoulder Shrug superset.
Read more about Patrick Willis' "Homegrown" Inspired Workout.
Photo: German Alegria