15 Cutting Edge Exercises From the Best Players in the NFL

October 9, 2013

Today’s NFL players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever before, but you may be surprised by how the game’s biggest stars spend their time in the weight room.

Players are no longer intent on packing on pounds of muscle in the off-season. Instead, the focus has shifted to football exercises that enhance explosiveness and athleticism.

Most important, though, is a player’s ability to report to camp 100 percent healthy and remain injury-free for the full 16-game season.

That’s not to say that players are going soft in the off-season. The reality is that players have wised up in regard to their training programs. Players are training smarter, not harder.

Get up to speed and experience the new era of NFL training in the photos below.

Uphill Speed Ladder

Patrick Peterson Uphill Speed Ladder


Who’s doing it: All-Pro return man and shutdown CB Patrick Peterson

Why he does it: Peterson says, ”Going uphill makes your muscles work harder than they would if you were just on a flat surface; you’ll get more out of it.”

How to do it:

Start directly in front of the ladder at the bottom of the hill. Starting with your left foot, rapidly tap both feet in each rung of the ladder until you reach the top.


Resisted High Knees

Chris Johnson Resisted High Knees


Who’s doing it: All-Pro RB Chris Johnson

Why he does it: Resisted speed drills help to improve CJ’s sprint technique and stride length. To drive through the resistance, he must open up his hips to rapidly strike the ground with each stride.

How to do it: Rapidly drive your knees up in an opposite-arm, opposite leg, pattern while a partner applies band resistance from behind.

Sets/Distance: 4×15-20 yards



DeSean Bounding

Who’s doing it: All-Pro return man and playmaking WR DeSean Jackson

Why he does it: Bounding helps to reinforce muscle synchronization; in other words, it ensures that his speed muscles are firing explosively and in the correct sequence. Simply put, bounding is an easy-to-perform exercise that produces sophisticated results.

How to do it:

  • In continuous fashion, bound from one leg to the other
  • Cover as much ground as possible with each rep, working on driving your feet into the ground underneath your body

Sets/Reps: 2×5 each leg


Dumbbell Bench Press

Patrick Willis Dumbbell Bench


Who’s doing it: All-Pro LB Patrick Willis

Why he does it: Willis says, “When I was growing up, it was all about the Barbell Bench Press. Now, I want to make sure one arm is just as strong as the other, so I use dumbbells.”

How to do it:

  • Assume position on bench holding dumbbells near chest.
  • Without arching your back, drive dumbbells toward the ceiling until your arms are fully extended.
  • Lower the dumbbells with control to start position; repeat for specified reps.
  • Superset the exercise with Dumbbell Rows to get full upper-body workout.

Sets/Reps: 3×6-8


Landmine Row

Ndamukong Suh Workout

Who’s doing it: All-Pro DT and 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh

Why he does it: Pulling exercises that strengthen the back are every bit as important as the Bench Press and other upper-body pushing lifts. The Landmine Row allows Suh to load up on the resistance without putting as much pressure on his lower back as he would by performing a heavy Barbell Row.

How to do it:

  • Straddle the bar and assume athletic position with your back flat and chest up.
  • Grab the rope attachment wrapped around the bar near plates; assume a 45-degree forward bend at your waist.
  • Drive your elbows back until your hands reach the outside of your chest.
  • Lower weight with control until your arms are straight; repeat for specified reps.

Sets/Reps: 3×8-12


Chain Push-Up

Push-Up with Chain

Who’s doing it: Pro Bowl QB and 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton

Why he does it: The chain not only adds more weight to the movement, it also forces Newton to engage his core muscles throughout the set. As he pushes up, more of the chain lifts off the ground, increasing the resistance at a point where Newton is strongest.

How to do it:

  • Assume push-up position with heavy chains positioned across your lower back.
  • Perform controlled push-ups for as many reps as possible.

Sets/Reps: 4x max reps


Dumbbell Push-Up-to-Row

Reggie Bush Dumbbell Push-Up-to-Row


Who’s doing it: All-Pro and Super Bowl champion Reggie Bush

Why he does it: The Dumbbell Push-Up-to-Row trains Bush to stabilize his core and control his body in space, which improves his ability to stop on a dime and make defenders miss in the open field.

How to do it:

  • Assume push-up position on the floor with your hands gripping light dumbbells.
  • Perform Push-Up and then row with your right arm.
  • Perform Push-Up and then row with your left arm.
  • Repeat sequence for specified reps.

Sets/Reps: 4×16 [16 Push-Ups with 8 Rows per arm]


Tricep Press

NaVorro Bowman Offseason Workout

Who’s doing it: All-Pro LB NaVorro Bowman

Why he does it: Bowman hits every muscle group during every one of his off-season workouts. Rather than isolating the triceps, he doubles up on the benefits by performing suspension training arm exercises, which force him to stabilize his core through the duration of the exercise.

How to do it:

  • Hold handles of straps with your palms facing out and arms fully extended while leaning forward at a 45-degree angle.
  • Bend your elbows until your hands are behind your head.
  • Drive your hands forward until your arms are straight to return to start position.
  • Repeat for specified reps.

Sets/Reps: 2×12


Kettlebell Lateral Lunge

Trent Lateral Lunge

Who’s doing it: Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson

Why he does it: The Kettlebell Lateral Lunge strengthens the muscles that are activated when Richardson is forced to change direction or execute a move such as a Jump Cut. It also enhances core and back strength and increases hip and groin flexibility.

How to do it:

  • Stand with your knees bent slightly and feet shoulder-width apart while holding kettlebell with both hands in front of you.
  • Step to the right with your right foot and lower your hips into a lateral lunge.
  • Drive through the hip to return to starting position.
  • Finish all reps on the right, and then switch to your left.

Sets/Reps: 3×5 each leg


Kettlebell Bulgarian Squat

AJ Hawk Kettlebell Bulgarian Squat

Who’s doing it: Pro Bowl LB A.J. Hawk

Why he does it: The Kettlebell Bulgarian Squat increases quad and glute strength, improves balance and stability, and helps to eliminate  lower-body strength imbalances. Think of it as a three-pronged approach to injury prevention.

How to do it:

  • Assume split stance with your rear foot on a bench behind you.
  • Hold kettlebell in the hand opposite your front leg.
  • Lower your hips until your front thigh is parallel to the ground.
  • Drive up to start position; lower and repeat for specified reps.
  • Repeat set on your opposite leg.

Sets/Reps: 3×10 each leg


Glute Ham Raise

Steven Jackson Workout

Who’s doing it: All-Pro RB Steven Jackson

Why he does it: The Glute Ham Raise is good for helping to prevent hamstring pulls, which often occur when the quads are overcompensating because the hamstrings are weak. Strong hamstrings are also a must for speed development.

How to do it:

  • Assume position on the Glute Ham Raise machine.
  • Lower your upper body until your waist is bent 90 degrees.
  • Fire your glutes and rise up until your upper body is parallel to the ground.
  • Drive your knees into the pad until your knees are bent 90 degrees and your body is upright.
  • Lower with control; repeat for specified reps.

Sets/Reps: 3×6


TRX Hip Press

TRX Hip Press

Who’s doing it: Pro Bowl KR Antonio Brown

Why he does it: The Hip Press is an exercise that activates the glute muscles and helps Brown unleash his blazing speed on the field.

How to do it:

  • Hold handles of straps with your palms facing in and your arms fully extended.
  • Keeping your back straight and parallel to the floor, squeeze your glutes and extend your hips toward the ceiling.
  • Lower to the starting position; repeat for specified reps.

Sets/Reps: 2×15-20


Cable-Resisted Physioball Crunch

DeMarcus Ware Sit-Up

Who’s doing it: All-Pro LB DeMarcus Ware

Why he does it: Ware says, ”Everything I do starts with the core. The majority of the moves I do on the field, I’m going to have an offensive lineman grabbing and tugging on me, so I have to use my core to make an explosive movement” to beat the block and get to the quarterback.

How to do it:

  • Lie with your upper back on a physioball with a cable machine behind you.
  • Hold abdominal crunch straps in each hand just above your chest.
  • Perform crunch, keeping your core tight.
  • Slowly return to start position; repeat for specified reps.

Sets/Reps: 3×10-12


Side Plank

Brees Side Plank

Who’s doing it: All-Pro QB and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees

Why he does it: This exercise targets the obliques, which protects the lower back. For a quarterback like Brees, the obliques play a critical role in his ability to pull through a throw and drive the football downfield.

How to do it:

  • Lie on your side with your right elbow underneath your body.
  • Keeping your body straight, rise onto your elbow and the outside edge of your right foot; hold for specified time.
  • Perform on opposite side.

Sets/Duration: 2×45 seconds each side


Russian Twist

Peyton Manning Core WorkoutWho’s doing it: All-Pro QB and Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning

Why he does it: A strong core is key for increasing throwing velocity and also helps Manning better absorb those bone-crunching hits he takes in the pocket.

How to do it:

  • Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels just off the floor.
  • Holding a med ball at chest level, rotate left and touch the ball to the floor.
  • Rotate right and touch the ball to the floor.
  • Repeat in a controlled manner for specified reps.

Sets/Reps: 2×10 each side

Zac Clark
- Zac Clark is STACK Media's Custom Content Manager. Prior to joining STACK in September 2008, he served as an editorial assistant for USA Hockey Magazine...
Zac Clark
- Zac Clark is STACK Media's Custom Content Manager. Prior to joining STACK in September 2008, he served as an editorial assistant for USA Hockey Magazine...
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