Report to the Gridiron Bigger, Stronger and Faster

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Report bigger, stronger and faster. STACK's 8-Week Workout, developed with NFL strength coach Ted Rath, will get you there.

What to do: Improve performance in each of the five key elements of football success.

1. Strength. HOW MUCH you can lift: Sometimes referred to as absolute strength, this is a simple measure of the amount of weight you can push on a single lift. Going for a maximum on the Bench and Squat is an indicator of strength levels. Chip Morton, Cincinnati Bengals' strength and conditioning coach, uses a program, "that emphasizes strength development with barbells, dumbbells and machines, but we also like to mix it up with some functional and explosive training."

2. Power. HOW MUCH and HOW FAST you can lift: Often referred to as "relative" or "usable strength," power measures strength relative to an athlete's body weight. Think of moving resistance as fast as possible with control, as you would in blocking. Power Clean and Medicine Ball Overhead Throw are examples of power exercises. Coach Morton does power training to complement strength training. "We do explosive training that involves rotation, a higher rate of force development and speed of movement, as well as explosive power in the form of slams, throws and jumps."

3. Speed. HOW FAST you can move from Point A to Point B: Experts call this "linear speed," which is necessary to blow by or run down an opponent. Timed runs in a 10- and 40-Yard Dash are good assessments to evaluate speed. Lance Walker, director of performance at the Michael Johnson Performance Center, is helping to blaze a trail for speed development. "You must be complete with your training," Walker cautions. "To maximize linear speed development, attack all three factors of speed: stride length and ground contact time, stride frequency and turnover, and efficient technique. By following a great speed program that addresses all three areas, you will realize your fullest linear speed potential."

4. Agility & Quickness. HOW QUICKLY you can START, STOP and CHANGE DIRECTION: Often referred to as "lateral speed," agility and quickness is the ability to move in all directions as fast as possible, get to a position, slow down and change direction as quickly as possible—all while reacting to what is happening on the play. One of the country's top speed and agility coaches, Tom Shaw, who has worked with Peyton Manning and Deion Sanders, stresses variety in agility and quickness training: "We're going to do three drills [one day], and four different drills the next day and a different set the next," he explains. "This way the players can't get into a pattern. They actually have to move their feet quick."

5. Conditioning. WHAT KIND OF SHAPE ARE YOU IN?: For football, good conditioning means being able to have the same strength, power, speed and quickness at the end of the game that you had at the beginning—and after taking countless hits on the line. The man in charge of one of the top NFL Combine prep programs, Martin Rooney, director of Parisi Speed School, says that you must condition for what you're actually going to do when you play. He explains: "Run drills that are five to 20 yards long, complete them in five to six seconds and rest 30 seconds to recover between reps. Perform a max of eight to 10 reps, then take some time off before the next set to replicate the time between series."

What to Avoid:

1. Overtraining. More isn't always better. By following a structured program (like the sample program on page 32), you will see steady gains and improvement in performance levels. Research shows that athletes who follow a workout plan designed for progression made strength gains 50 percent greater than athletes who just jumped from one exercise to the next.

2. Getting in Shape the Last Week of Summer. Rome wasn't built in a day--and you can't get in shape in a day either. Following a conditioning program all summer, gradually increasing the volume and intensity, will make going into two-a-days a breeze.

3. Doing Only Weight Training. Too often, athletes with a busy summer schedule neglect all but resistance or weight training. Big mistake. A good training program improves all elements that help an athlete become a great athlete. Exclusively focusing on one aspect of training is like taking care of only one of the four tires on your car: It won't get you very far down the road, and likely will lead to a "breakdown" (injury).

Who's Coaching?

Ted Rath Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Detroit Lions Rath is in his third season with the Lions. He spent the previous two years at his alma mater, the University of Toledo, where he directed the strength regimens for all 15 of their Olympic Sports. He also assisted with all phases of football training, working with multiple draft picks.

How It Helps

Rath's Workout Philosophy

The No. 1 goal of this strength and conditioning program is injury prevention. Other goals include the enhancement of physical abilities, including strength, speed, explosiveness, power and quickness. This program is designed to train your muscular system in a manner that will make you a stronger football player who is resistant to injury.

The first area that a contactsport athlete should address in the weight room is the musculature that protects the head and neck, so the early weeks of this workout emphasizes training the neck and surrounding areas. The philosophical underpinnings of this program are the following:

Safety – Every athlete should partner with a coach or player, so that every rep can be coached and monitored.

Effectiveness – The eight weeks of the program follow a progression, which is key to making gains.

Efficiency – Get your mind into the workout and get to work. Attack every repetition with the same intensity and focus you bring on game day.

Balance – This workout will develop you from head to toe, with specifi c emphasis on muscles that play the greatest role in the sport of football.

The key component that makes any strength program successful is intensity. The amount and quality of work you invest in your training will determine your success. Challenge yourself and your teammates every day. Learn to push yourself beyond what you thought was possible.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock