Gone are the days of the plodding, pudding-filled defensive lineman. To wreak havoc in the opponent’s backfield, you must be quick, agile, explosive and, most important, well conditioned. Here, Joe Juraszek, Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning coach, answers our questions to keep you a trim QB terror during the season.
STACK: What is your philosophy for conditioning d-linemen during the season?
Joe Juraszek: Outside of practice, we try to maintain the athleticism and level of conditioning they develop in the off-season for the rigors of at least a 16-game season. Defensive linemen have to come off the ball, shed blockers and use their hands to get up field aggressively, which requires a unique conditioning program. Nowadays, d-linemen need to be on the field for all three downs and be as athletic as cornerbacks so they can go sideline to sideline, play after play each game.
STACK: Can you tell us about some in-season conditioning drills d-linemen perform?
JJ: One form of conditioning is through Olympic lifts in the weight room. We also incorporate big tire flips, because these require the players to get their hips down and extend their hands, like they have to do on the field. We also emphasize explosive movements, such as quick jumps over hurdles and boxes. Regarding running, a big staple is a 300-yard sprint, which can be done by doing six 50s across the field.
STACK: Outside of practice, how many times per week should a DT or DE condition?
JJ: We are cautious of not depleting their energy or strength levels for on-field practice. Our conditioning occurs post-game on Monday. Then on Tuesday, several of my players come in and perform personalized drills for about 20 minutes. It’s as simple as a good dynamic warm-up that wakes up the legs, hips and low back. Friday is when we do “fourth quarter” work. This pushes the cardiovascular system and conditions the hamstrings.