You need to have the ball in your possession to win football games. The last thing you want to do is fumble during a critical play. Improving ball security should be at the top of your list.
Fumbles are preventable. Yes, some result from good defensive plays, but the majority of fumbles occur when players fall to the ground or are off balance. To improve your grip on the ball during these moments, you need to improve your technique, grip strength and overall upper-body strength so you can secure the football in a position that makes it difficult for defenders to attack.
We spoke with J.R. Niklos, owner of Acceleration Sports Performance (Columbus, Ohio) and a former professional football player, and Joseph Potts, director of sports performance training at TopSpeed Strength & Conditioning (Kansas City, Missourri), to learn what exercises and drills a football player can add to his routine to improve his ball security skills.
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According to Niklos, most fumbles occur during a fall to the ground. He says, “When you fall, you naturally put your arm up for balance, and then the defense can come in behind you and punch the ball out.” This drill puts you in an unbalanced position so you can learn to keep the ball tucked in as you fall.
- Set up three cones positioned 5 yards apart in a straight line.
- Holding the ball with your primary carrying arm, assume your starting stance 5 yards behind the first cone.
- Sprint to the first cone, slow down and plant your left hand on the ground next to the cone.
- Sprint counterclockwise around the cone, pivoting on your left arm.
- Keep the ball tucked in and don’t allow your elbow to flare up. After one full circle, sprint toward the next cone, and repeat at each cone.
Banded Resisted Tug Drill
“This drill teaches you to always be tense and keep the ball high and tight,” Niklos says. “If you keep the ball in front of you and maintain all points of contact with your forearm, wrist, hand, biceps and chest, then the ball isn’t going anywhere.”
- Choose an agility drill to perform, such as a Zigzag Sprint, and set up cones if necessary.
- Connect 4-5 resistance bands together, wrap one end around the football and have a partner hold the opposite end.
- Holding the ball with your primary carrying arm, move through the drill while your partner tugs at the football at random intervals.
- Keep a tight grasp on the ball to maintain control.
Niklos recommends Rice Grabs to strengthen your finger and hand muscles, which develops your grip strength, which helps you hold on to the football better and prevent your opponent from knocking it out of your grasp.
- Fill up a five-gallon bucket with rice.
- Submerge your hands into the rice. Squeeze your hands as tight as possible, and then open them as far as you can.
Sets/Duration: 2×30 sec.
Variation: Rice Wrist circles. Simply rotate your hand clockwise, then counterclockwise for the specified duration.
Sets/Duration: 2×30 sec. each direction.
Weighted Chin-Up With Isometric Hold
“Weighted Chin-Ups With Isometric Hold train your grip and the muscles in your back,” Potts says. “Plus, they mimic carrying the football high and tight.”
- Perform a Chin-Up and hold the top of each rep for 3-6 seconds.
This is Potts’ go-to exercise for developing grip strength. It also improves core stability, which helps you absorb tackles and maintain your balance.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand (preferably with thick handles or Fat Gripz).
- Keeping your chest up and abs tight to keep from swaying, walk forward for the specified duration.
Sets/Duration: 3-4×30-60 sec.
Potts says, “This is one of the few times the Bicep Curl is actually a functional movement. You want to keep your arm locked in. You don’t want guys to be able to pull it open.”
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
- Keeping your abs tight, curl the dumbbell to your shoulders.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell and repeat.
Potts recommends Landmine Rotations, which train your abs and obliques to resist movement, so your upper body remains stable during tackles and falls to the ground. Fewer rapid or jarring movements of your upper body increases your chance of holding onto the football.
- Set up a landmine station by placing one end of a barbell on the ground underneath a heavy dumbbell in a corner.
- With both hands, lift the opposite end of the barbell and hold it in front of you with your arms fully extended.
- With your knees slightly bent, rotate the bar to one side while maintaining straight arms. Rotate back to the starting position and repeat on the other side. That is one repetition.
Sets/Reps: 3-4×6-8 each direction
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