Ask the Experts: How Can I Improve My Workout as a Defensive Lineman?

Rick Scarpulla recommends the best exercises for defensive linemen in this week's edition of Ask the Experts on

Defensive Lineman

Q: How can I improve my workout as a defensive lineman?

A: Defensive linemen have many talents. They must be able to bull rush massive offensive linemen, stuff the run, quickly get to the quarterback and defend against the short pass.

And they must be one of the biggest boys on the field.

Despite all the requirements of the position, your training shouldn't differ from that of other players. You need to get bigger, faster and stronger, like nearly every one of your teammates.

A training program should accomplish your primary goal of improving overall as an athlete. The majority of the exercises you perform will make any athlete better.

However, there are some exercises you should do as a defensive lineman, understanding that your success is largely based on your absolute strength, size and power, whereas a skill player may focus more on strength, power and speed.

We spoke to STACK Expert Rick Scarpulla to gain some insight into the types of exercises you need to do to take your training to the next level. Scarpulla is a guy who knows a thing or two about helping athletes get bull strong.

Absolute Strength

When battling in the trenches, you need to use your hips and legs to drive into the ground so you can move the mountain of men in front of you and make a play. This all starts with absolute strength.

Scarpulla explains that the best movement to achieve absolute strength is the Squat. However, he wants to see you really amp up the weight and do no more than three reps for five sets, and always shoot for personal records. "You can't get strong doing cutesy five sets of five reps," he adds. "It simply won't build the type of strength that you need."

This should be one of the first exercises you perform during your lower-body day, but only do it once per week.

Increase Power

You may be able to lift a semi truck, but if you can't lift fast, it will translate to slow movement on the field. So, you need to convert your strength to power.

Scarpulla recommends performing a second workout featuring Squats, but this time your goal is to focus on speed. "Do them at roughly 45 to 52 percent of your one-rep max for six to eight sets of two reps, and make sure to explode out of the bottom," he advisees.

This formula will give you the strength to drive off the ground and the power to overwhelm opponents with your explosive movements.

Tip: Use a wider stance than normal (i.e., slightly wider than shoulder-width) to better activate your glutes and hamstrings. Also, make sure you lower into your squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground, even if you have to use less weight.

Get Bigger

What kind of defensive lineman would you be if you were small? Probably one who's a pro at keeping the bench warm.

To get bigger, your immediate temptation may be to blast your muscles with a plethora of assistance exercises like Curls, DB Flies and Leg Extensions. However, you're not here to train your beach muscles.

The single best exercise you can do to build overall strength and size is the Deadlift. "Deadlifts simply make you thicker and stronger," says Scarpulla. "You'll build your back and improve your grip to rip past blockers and bring down ball carriers. You'll also increase your absolute strength."

Work in a rep range similar to the absolute strength Squat. Try both conventional and sumo stances, and even try heavy rack pulls.

This should be the primary exercise of a third workout during your week.

Tie It All Together

The last piece of the puzzle is combining a lower-body movement with an upper-body pressing movement to simulate bursting off the line and driving your arms into a lineman.

To do this, Scarpulla says you should perform the Hang Clean and Press. "You'll hit the other muscle groups in your chest and shoulders, the ones you need to bowl someone over," he says. Stick to moderate weight with four sets of six to 12 reps, and lock out each rep at the top for one count.


If you're feeling ambitious, add the Power Clean with Thruster to one of your workouts. Do this toward the end of one of your absolute strength workouts for six to 12 reps.

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