Ahman Green’s professional and collegiate accomplishments are flat out sick.
An NFC Pro Bowl selection for the past four seasons (2001-2004), Green totaled more yards from scrimmage and more rushing yards than any other player in the NFL since the 2000 season.
As a collegiate running back for Nebraska, Green led the Cornhuskers to two national titles in three years. Green decided to enter the NFL draft after his junior year. At his Pro Day, Green dazzled scouts with his 4.18 forty time and boasted a 38.5" vertical and 10′ 9" broad jump at the NFL combine.
Elite performance enhancement coach Chuck Williams of Chuck Williams Sports Performance helped Green sprint down this path to athletic stardom.
"When Ahman came to me, he was just a kid. He weighed maybe 165 at that time when I first met him as a sophomore going into his junior year of high school. He didn’t come to me as a 4.3 forty guy—he was a 4.48, 4.47 guy," Williams says.
Williams’ goal for Green was to decrease his forty time, which in turn heightened his vertical and lengthened his standing broad jump. "It takes explosion to do those. So one of the lifts we like to do for explosion is one of the two most dynamic movements in strength training—the clean. That puts you in a triple extension," Williams explains.
"Whether you’re doing a vert, which is a triple extension, or a standing broad jump, which is a triple extension, when you come out from the forty, it’s a triple extension—you pop your ankles, you pop your knees, you pop your hips. They’re all in the same relationship. So I use the clean more than anything else to get an athlete ready to explode. There’s not a more violent lift than the clean."
Williams uses cleans in conjunction with several other exercises in one day to strengthen Green’s body. "If I’m going to do a clean, then I’ll do some box jumps and some walking lunges as well. Anything that’s going to address the legs in a manner that’s going to put the muscle tissue to work and have to perform."
Beyond the lifts and exercises, Williams’ weight room philosophy is unique to football players. "Football is chaos for 15 to 20 seconds and then you have that 40 seconds or so to huddle up and get your act together, and that’s how we approach the gym," he says. "Once you walk into the gym, we approach it in a football mentality."
Williams instructs Green to perform cleans, box jumps and walking lunges twice a week for eight to 10 weeks. After that period, Williams reevaluates.
Williams has Green perform cleans with a tempo. "We do it at full speed. It’s a fast tempo, it’s an aggressive tempo and we go after the bar. We attack the bar," he explains.
Green starts with 4 to 5 sets of 10 reps. Throughout the training cycle, the reps decrease to 6 per set. Perform reps rapidly, one after the other during each set. Then, use the time to add additional weight to the bar between sets as your rest time—typically about 30 seconds.
"Some cultures believe full recovery is necessary to get after the bar in the way they want. My position is to get the athlete to a point where he’s fatigued—within form and within safety—that allows him to perform and explode at anytime," adds Williams.
As for weight selection, Williams suggests using a weight light enough that all 10 reps of the first set can be completed. For each successive set, add an additional 10 to 25 pounds to the bar. Complete all 10 reps for each set.
* Coaching point: Make sure the initial starting weight is light enough that you can complete the final set of 10 after additional weight has been added.
Williams adjusts the starting position for the lift depending on field position. Running backs perform the lift from the hang position, because they are in this position most frequently during a game. Linemen perform the lift from the power position (bar on the floor) because this is most similar to their game starting position.
Williams believes only the athlete should work to move the weight. "We don’t use wraps; we don’t use chalk. I don’t use any assistance at all," he says. "I believe to have a true transfer of strength, you have to hold on to the bar. Want to develop forearm strength and power in your clean? Hold onto the bar," he says.
"Once I’m done with cleans we’ll go out and do some box jumps—multiple box jumps to get them going again in an explosive manner without any weight, just a free body motion. Usually, it’s 3 boxes in a row," says Williams.
Use boxes of the same height, typically 2 feet. Jump over each box in succession. After the third jump, quickly turn your head, hips and shoulders so you land ready to jump back over the boxes for the next pass. Complete 4 passes over the boxes, one after the other, to complete 1 set. Perform 4 sets. When performing box jumps, Williams allows full recovery between each set, which is about 2 to 3 minutes
"I’ll have them do walking lunges after the jumps to strengthen the hips and stretch them out. It’s just a casual walk, probably in the neighborhood of 20 yards—maybe 30 depending on the day. And once they get to a point, we back them up. So they have to go forward lunges 20 to 30 yards, and then we backward lunge 20 to 30 yards."
At the start of the training cycle, hold a dumbbell in each hand when performing the lunges to increase difficulty. As the end of the cycle nears, discontinue use of the dumbbells to allow your body to recover and avoid overtraining.