Word out of the Tennessee Titans' camp is that running back Chris Johnson has packed on eight pounds of muscle this off-season to help “make him sturdier in the trenches,” according to Titans beat reporter Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.
Johnson is coming off a 2011 campaign marred by career-low numbers in several major offensive categories, including touchdowns (4), rushing yards (1,047), yards per attempt (4.0) and yards per game (65.4).
Despite his down year and smaller stature (he was listed last season at 5’11”, 190 pounds), Johnson still ranks among the most durable running backs in the NFL. He has played 63 out of a possible 64 regular season games in his career, most among running back since he entered the league in 2008. Johnson also ranks second in rushing attempts since 2008, with 1,187 carries, just two short of Atlanta Falcons RB Michael Turner’s 1,189.
Details of Johnson’s off-season workout were not disclosed, but it’s fair to speculate that the 2009 rushing champion packed on much of his new muscle in the upper body.
A larger frame will indeed help protect Johnson and reduce his risk of injury. However, his ability to break tackles and change direction to elude defenders was based on his lower-body strength, which he established through stabilizing exercises in off-season workouts leading up to his record-setting 2009 season.
Two such exercises are the Dumbbell Reverse Lunge with Knee Drive and the Dumbbell Split Squat, each of which incorporates an element of instability by way of an Airex pad. These single-leg exercises develop ankle stability, hip flexibility and overall balance, which, for Johnson, translate into longer, stronger strides.
Longer and stronger strides—not a massive upper-body—are what will return CJ2K to his All-Pro form.
Watch the video above to see Johnson perform the Dumbbell Reverse Lunge with Knee Drive, and check out the Airex Pad Dumbbell Split Squat.