Dwight Freeney's NFL Off-Season Power & Strength Workout

Get stronger this football off-season with Dwight Freeney's workout.

An exclusive look at an intense off-season power and strength workout for football players. 

"Predominantly with training football, you really want to make sure to work the energy system that's going to be played in the game," states William Hicks, assistant athletic director at Syracuse University. Since football is more anaerobic than aerobic, Hicks trains his athletes that way. He explains, "A play in football lasts eight seconds, [and then there's] somewhere between 35 to 45 seconds getting in the huddle and going back. You want to train recovery time in order for 'all-out effort, recover, all-out effort, recover.'"

Former Syracuse sackmaster and current Indianapolis Colts D-end Dwight Freeney follows Hicks' football training philosophy. "My goal, really, from a training standpoint, is [to] build as much muscle and as much endurance to get the body as fine-tuned as possible," Freeney says.

To get his body conditioned for an arduous season, Freeney uses the following workout once per week during the off-season. This particular workout is designed to develop explosive power and strength for the gridiron (e.g., delivering a swift punch on a sloppy o-lineman or jamming a puny wideout at the line). For descriptions and Coaching Points for each exercise or drill, click on the link and watch videos of Freeney dominating in the weight room.

Dwight Freeney's Workout 

Rest (Seconds)
Toe Touches 1x20 35-45
Single-Leg Toe Touches 1x20 each leg 35-45
Single-Leg Reach Through 1x20 each leg 35-45
Full Sit-Up 1x10 35-45
V Crunch 1x20 35-45
Outside Thigh Reach 1x20 35-45
Butterfly Sit-Up 1x10 35-45
Spread Eagle Stability Hold 1x10 seconds 35-45
Overhead Reach Stability Hold 1x10 seconds 35-45
2-minute recovery
Dumbbell Power 1x6+6+6; 1x5+5+5; 1x4+4+4 35-45
Dumbbell Incline 1x10, 1x8, 1x6 35-45
Plyo Push-Up With Clap 1x8 35-45
Plyo Push-Up With Chest Slap 1x8 35-45
Plyo Push-Up Side to Side With Clap 1x8 (4 each way) 35-45
2-minute recovery
Rip and Press 3x6 35-45
Dumbbell Lateral Raises 2x8 0 Shoulder Circuit
Dumbbell Front Raises 2x8 0 Shoulder Circuit
Dumbbell Rear Delt Raises With Punch 2x8 0 Shoulder Circuit
Machine Hang Shrug 3x20-25 35-45
2-minute recovery
Tricep Pushdown 3x8-10 0 Tricep Circuit
Underhand Tricep Extension 3x8-10 0 Tricep Circuit
Overhead Tricep Extension 3x8-10 0 Tricep Circuit
Physioball Push-Up 2x8 35-45
Single-Arm Physioball Push-Up 2x8 each arm 35-45

Key Program Points:

  • Dwight Freeney's workout focuses on chest, shoulders and triceps, all pushing muscles that help Dwight manhandle o-linemen during games.
  • Start with the core movements to work on core stability and ab strength, and also to prepare the body for the rest of the workout. Hicks and Freeney believe it's important to train from the belly button, which is your source of power, out.
  • Dumbbell Power helps develop strength and speed. Besides chiseling the chest, it also helps to work the arms independently. As Freeney attests, seldom does a football player strike with both arms at the same time.
  • Dumbbell Incline hits a different part of the chest and gets the shoulders ready for more demanding lifts.
  • The reason for Plyo Push-Up adaptations is to gain upper body power output. Football players need to strike and get off the ground quickly with their lower and upper bodies. Freeney's secret weapon is delivering blows with his hands. Chest, shoulders and triceps are the ammo, but the hand is the bullet. In order to hit harder, the hands need to move faster.
  • Rip and Press is a total body movement to get the central nervous system firing properly. The body will be fatigued when Rip and Press sets come around, so it's a challenge to be explosive.
  • The shoulder circuit (which includes DB Lateral, Front and Rear Delt Raises With Punch) builds mass around the shoulder joint to keep it healthy and hopefully injury-free. Rear Delt Raises With Punch is a cool adaptation that generates a swift, powerful movement.
  • Machine Hang Shrug develops triple-extension explosion. Freeney fires through the ankle, through the knee, through the hip and the upper body to violently contract—which is the same movement used to deliver a slobberknocker on the gridiron.
  • The Tricep Circuit works the long, middle and inner head of the tricep. Hicks recommends the circuit to pre-fatigue the tricep muscle before performing the last exercise of the day.
  • Freeney finishes the strenuous workout with a Single-Arm Physioball Push-Up. It's a gut-check exercise that mimics the movements he performs on the field. When he gets an offensive tackle moving backward, locking out his tricep muscle is more important than pushing down.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock