3 Exercise Swaps Every Football Player Should Make | STACK

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

3 Exercise Swaps Every Football Player Should Make

June 16, 2013 | Ryan Sprague

Must See Football Videos

When it comes to training for sports, not all exercises are created equal. This is especially true for a sport like football, which relies on an athlete's explosive power. Power is different from strength. Power is strength plus speed—how quickly you can move a mass. So to become a better football player, you can’t just work on exercises that get you stronger; you need to work on exercises that will make you stronger and faster.

Unfortunately, too many athletes fall in to using the machines at a gym instead of more simple (and more challenging) exercises that will ultimately make them better football players. Here are three moves you should ditch, and three other (better) football exercises you should do instead.

If you’re doing Leg Presses, do Squats instead

Regardless of your position, it is crucial to have strong and powerful legs. Linemen need lower-body strength and power to block; running backs need it to run through holes and over defenders; and defensive players need it to help drag runners to the ground. The Leg Press is not the best way to develop this strength and power. Think functionally here. When on the football field will a player ever be in a seated position pushing up against something with his legs? The answer is “never.” So he shouldn't be training his body this way.

Squats, in contrast, are among the most functional exercises any athlete (including football players) can do. Think about how well the movement translates to on-field action: the athlete must brace his core, keep his head up, sink down into the basic athletic position, and explode back into an extended position. Sounds a lot like delivering a block or a tackle, doesn’t it? (See  Athletes' Performance NFL Workout: Lower-Body Superset for Power and Speed.)

If you’re doing Hamstring Curls, do Cleans instead

Strengthening the posterior chain (i.e., the back, glutes, and hamstrings) is crucial for overall athletic development. This is where speed and explosive power originate. However, isolated movements, such as Hamstring Curls on a machine, don’t cut it. Here again, think: When will a player be lying down on the field curling his hamstrings in isolation? It won’t happen.

To train explosive power and develop speed in the posterior chain, there is no better exercise than the Clean. Whether performed from the ground or from a hang position, the Clean is incredibly beneficial for athletes looking to develop their explosive power. Every bit of the movement mimics the explosive nature of football, directly translating into speed and power on the field. Knowing how to perform a proper Clean is important for reaping the benefits, so be sure to seek out a professionally certified trainer before you attempt the exercise. (See 5 Reasons Why Football Players Should Power Clean.)

If you’re doing Leg Extensions, do Lunges instead

Everyone likes to train the muscles they can see, and the quadriceps are no exception. However, athletes with overly dominant quads are more likely to suffer a hamstring injury and experience tightness and restriction in the hips, both of which can hinder their performance.

Instead of working just the quads with Leg Extensions, target the upper legs and posterior chain with Walking Lunges. They recruit your glutes and hamstrings along with your quads, and they're great for speed development. Lunges promote quadriceps development without letting them overpower the hamstrings, creating a better balance of strength in your leg muscles. (See The Perfect Superset for Speed.)

Ryan Sprague
- Ryan Sprague is the owner of TRAIN Sports + Fitness (San Diego), where he specializes in sports performance and athlete development at all skill levels....
Ryan Sprague
- Ryan Sprague is the owner of TRAIN Sports + Fitness (San Diego), where he specializes in sports performance and athlete development at all skill levels....
Must See
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 8,045,527
Abby Wambach Will Do Whatever It Takes
Views: 2,950,406
Patrick Willis' Homegrown Off-Season Workout
Views: 1,222,480

Featured Videos

Dwight Howard Ab Workout Views: 62,672
John Wall Elbow-to-Elbow Shooting Drill Views: 186,618
Elite Performance with Mike Boyle: Build Explosive Power With Contrast Training Views: 17,880
Load More


STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Colby Lewis's Post-Game Band Splitter Routine
Views: 8,349,427
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 4,006,048
Allyson Felix Explains How To Choose a Coach
Views: 8,690,635
Charging Ground Balls With Skip Schumaker
Views: 29,529
Antonio Brown Juggles 3 Footballs
Views: 1,176,187

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Grab a Broom for This Fast-Paced, Full-Body Workout

Grab a Broom! All You Need for This Fast-Paced Full Body Workout Routine By Jim Carpentier, CSCS Stuck in neutral gear with off-season workouts for an...

How You Can Olympic Lift With an Injury

3 Tricks for a Stronger Front Squat

Build Wrestling Strength With the Gable Lock Isometric Hold

12 Strength Moves from NFL WR Harry Douglas's Full-Body Workout

Add Surprise Sets for a Great Workout Finisher

3 Keys to Better Softball Workouts

Train Like a Pro: Dustin Pedroia's Baseball Power Workout

6 Gym Machines That Are Actually Worth Your Time

Evan Longoria's Off-Season Strength and Resistance Workout

Use Eccentric Lifts to Increase Size and Strength

Jump Higher After a Month With These 3 Exercises

Train Like a Pro: Los Angeles Lakers Strength Training Program

Train Like a Pro: Henrik Zetterberg's Hockey Strength Workout

Train Like a Pro: Peyton Manning's Core Workout

Posterior Chain Fixes to Improve Your Game

3 Tips to Blast Through Training Plateaus

The Best Lower-Body Landmine Exercises

When Not to Try Unstable Hockey Training

Putting Together an Off-Season Workout for Point Guards

The Top 10 Mistakes Athletes Make in the Weight Room

Abby Wambach's Soccer Power Workout

Build Awesome Arms With This 15-Minute Workout

3 Simple Strategies for a Better Workout

Prevent Volleyball Shoulder Injuries With These Exercises

Train Like a Pro: MLS Soccer Strength Program

Todd Durkin

How to Improve Shoulder Strength and Flexibility

Todd Durkin's Complete Football Strength Training Program

How Strength Training Changed Rory McIlroy's Game

Build Bulletproof Chest Strength With This Unconventional Method

The 4 Best and Worst Cable Machine Exercises

5 Ways to Get a Higher Vertical Jump

Save Your Shoulders With These Barbell Landmine Exercises

Can You Survive This Insane 100-Rep Push-Up Challenge?

What Happens When You Do The Same Exercise Every Day?

4 Exercises From NFL Players to Build True Game Speed

The 3-Minute Total Arm Pump

Train Like a Pro: Damian Lillard's Basketball Core Workout

Deadlift Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

3 Keys to In-Season Baseball Training

Build Strong Legs with the Leg Press Lockdown Workout

3 Habits of Highly Successful Coaches

7 Farmer's Walk Variations for Improved Core Strength

5 Quick Workout Fixes for Faster Muscle Growth

Get a Full-Body Workout With Just 2 Exercises