Opinion: Great Combines, Like Great Athletes, Are Not Built Overnight

February 5, 2013 | Rick Scarpulla

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When it comes to combine training, the three big questions people ask are: (1) What can I do to get a faster 40? (2) How can I add more reps to my Bench? and (3) What is the secret to a higher vertical jump? Regardless of what any coach or fitness guru might be selling you, the answer is the same in each case. Speed, strength and leaping ability do not result from a six-week package for a certain dollar amount. They are achieved only through a long and arduous process.

Lots of people claim they can make you faster in six weeks. Frankly, it's only a sales pitch. It does not really work that way. Too many trainers and coaches tell people they can get where they need to be in a short period. If you're running a 5.2, they may be able to get you down a few tenths. But, do you really think you can drop your time to 4.3 in a six-week cycle? Not a chance. (Learn how to perfect your 40 technique.)

Great athletes are built over time, not overnight. Nothing makes me laugh harder than hearing some trainer, coach or athlete touting a six- or eight-week training program they claim will get you ready for an upcoming combine.

Do you think doing a half-baked training program in school followed by a one- or two-month stint at a "speed factory" will have you turning heads? Sorry, that's not happening. If you wait until the last few months to start training, you’d better hope the event gets rained out, because you will not perform well.

People think a combine or showcase is purely a test of overall athleticism. Not true. Athleticism is certainly important; but coaches are also looking at other factors—like dedication to training, work ethic, position skills and ability to fit into a team situation. Performing well in each of these areas will increase your chance of getting noticed by a scout or coach, who may then give you an opportunity to play on their team.

Coaches want proof that you busted your butt in all areas of the game over several years, and that you are likely to continue to do so. No coach wants a lazy player. Laziness can infect a weight room. Coaches want a fired-up weight room and practice facility. You are not going to fool them. They are not stupid. They know what they want, and they know what it looks like.

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In the areas of athleticism, coaches are looking for more than flat out speed and Bench numbers. They want to see:

  • Hip movement—how well you open up your hips in transition
  • How you move in a split-second turn
  • How well you cut, rip and swivel while sprinting around a corner, leaning as if you're rushing a passer from the outside of a blocker
  • Whether you can take your fingers out of the dirt and stand up in coverage
  • If you can turn, get around a cone and open up to see a ball coming—as if you were out in the flat on a pass route

They want all of these skills in addition to a 4.3 40-Yard Dash and 25 reps on the Bench. And that, my friends, does not happen in six weeks. (Watch Ndamukong Suh train for the 225-bench test.)

You need to work hard for years to even have a chance at a marquee performance on combine day. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The story of someone hardly doing anything and blowing up a combine is extremely rare. It's made for TV stuff.

If someone tells you, "Come to me. I can make you ace the 40, cut like Adrian Peterson and bench like Clay Matthews in 6 weeks," know that it’s a complete lie. To prepare for what should be one of the biggest days of your life, you have to work hard consistently for many years—not just in the gym, but in the right gym doing the right program. Otherwise, you will not achieve your goals. Top performers in the combine knock themselves out in the weight room, on the field and in the classroom.

In this multi-part series, I am going to tell you the truth about how to get the results you want. I will help you outline a plan you can follow to build your speed and strength. It's not easy. It's not fast. But it actually works. If you're looking for easy, I suggest you get a nice flat screen and a recliner, because that's as close to the field as you're going to get.

Next: The secrets of the Bench Press that no one tells you.

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