Conditioning for Football with the Denver Broncos

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Denver Broncos Strength and Conditioning Coach Rich Tuten supplies the knowledge you need to be the best-conditioned football player on your team, in the county and throughout the state. Now it's up to you to apply it. Check your excuses at the door, because Tuten isn't hearing'em.

By Josh Staph

Conditioning is one aspect of the game you can control," Tuten says. "Each individual is in control of his conditioning level, because it simply comes down to putting forth the effort. It has nothing to do with God-given ability or talent. Losing a starting job to a teammate or a game because the other guy is better than you is one thing. But if you lose because the other guy outworked you and is in better shape than you, then shame on you."

Conditioning isn't easy; in fact, it will probably be the toughest part of your training. But in the end, you'll look back on it as a growing process, physically and mentally. Tuten says, "There is a mental aspect of being able to push yourself out of body. Everyone is their own worst enemy when they listen to themselves. The mind is saying no, but the body can do a whole lot more. When you tell yourself, 'Oh my God, I can't do it. I can't take another step. I'm going to fall down or throw up,' but you keep going, that is what I mean when I say 'out of body'."

According to Tuten, a well-conditioned player gains three game-time payoffs:


"Being able to stay on the move when you are tired helps you get out of the way of pileups and prevents someone from falling on your legs."


"A lot of missed assignments result from guys being so tired that they can't remember what they are supposed to do. When you aren't preoccupied with how tired you are, you can focus on your block, route and every other aspect of the game."


"Late in the game or during fourth quarter comebacks, conditioning helps you take advantage of opportunities when they come. If you happen to break a long run or make an interception return and have to go 70 or 80 yards to win it, you have to be in shape."

Wide receiver Rod Smith decided to take control of his conditioning and, as a result, transformed his game. During his 12 year career with the Broncos, Smith has never missed an off-season workout (April through July)—that's 56 workouts a year. The 35-year old specimen—an annual Pro Bowl selection who holds Bronco records for touchdowns, yards and catches—still makes younger guys look silly. Conditioning was once Smith's weakness, but now he uses it as a means to break records.

"Rod came from a small college and had to learn how to push himself to the max. He realized that he needed to push past the point where things start to hurt without backing off," Tuten says. "I have seen him go past that point so many times. I've seen him fall down and just lie there on the ground on his back—and he couldn't move for 10 minutes. That is how he learned what his body could do. The great ones can do that."


Going out and running a mile won't make you a better or faster football player. "All it's going to do is make you better at running a mile," Tuten says. "Football is anaerobic. A pro game averages 60 to 70 plays consisting of six second bursts. That's about six minutes of total work."

Tuten has constructed a training program to develop both linear and change-of-direction conditioning to match this tempo. The Broncos' progression begins with longer sprints to build speed endurance until Tuten decreases the distances as they get into better shape.

He allows a 3:1 recovery at the beginning, then shortens it to 2:1 between sprints, with 3- to 5-minute rests between sets. Do you have what it takes to be great? Test what your body is capable of achieving. Use Tuten's 10-week progression to condition yourself and your teammates for next season.


Let Tuten's test be the judge of your conditioning level. The number of turns decreases with each set to compensate for increased fatigue. What kind of shape are you in?

300-yard shuttle 25 yard line and back 6 times
(11 turns)
RBs, DBs, WRs 54 seconds or better
QBs, TEs, FBs, LBs 57 seconds or better
Linemen 60 seconds or better
Recovery 2:1 (about 1 minute, 55 seconds
[while other two groups run])
300-yard shuttle 50-back, 40-back, 30-back,
20-back, 10-back (9 turns)
RBs, DBs, WRs 54 seconds or better
QBs, TEs, FBs, LBs 57 seconds or better
Linemen 60 seconds or better
Recovery 2:1 (about 1 minute, 55 seconds
[while other two groups run])
300-yard shuttle 50 yard line and back 3 times
(5 turns)
RBs, DBs, WRs 54 seconds or better
QBs, TEs, FBs, LBs 57 seconds or better
Linemen 60 seconds or better


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock