No Barbell Bench Presses, Squats, Power Cleans? Not even a basic Push-Up? What’s a football player to do?
Welcome to the weight room routine of Terrence Wheatley of the Jacksonville Jaguars [formerly of the New England Patriots]. But before you jump to conclusions, consider the physical limitations affecting the Jaguars cornerback.
Wheatley has no joints in his right wrist, the result of a complete wrist fusion procedure he underwent in college. “I dislocated one of my bones, which caused the rest of the bones in my wrist to die,” Wheatley says. “[They were] replaced with some cadaver bones and bone grafts from both of my hips.”
The wrist fusion involved “shaving the bones down in your arm and wrist and connecting them,” according to Wheatley. “I have a foot-long metal plate and eight screws that go from the top of my knuckles all the way to about the middle of my forearm. I can’t move my wrist up or down at all. I have no flexion [and] no extension; I’m locked at 25 degrees.”
It took six surgeries, including the complete fusion, to rebuild Wheatley’s wrist. More than six years after the final procedure, he is still limited, particularly in the weight room. As a result, linchpin football lifts such as the Squat, Bench Press and Power Clean have been replaced by modified variations of the exercises.
Says Wheatley: “I have to find a way to maintain my strength and my ability in different ways…I keep my strength work pretty basic, but I always want to understand why I’m doing a particular lift: which muscle is being worked and how it’s helping me on the field. When I started doing that, I got better results, I felt better, and I was more confident.”
Below, the Jags cornerback shares some of his key off-season exercises.
Terrence Wheatley’s Workout
Heavy Bag Warm-Up
Wheatley says, “First thing I do is box in the morning for about an hour straight. I start off nice and easy, basic combinations—jabs, three-punch, four-punch combinations. Once I start to get tired, I try to maintain my heart rate at a certain point.
“The whole point of throwing the punches for a defensive back is learning how to throw my hands efficiently when I’m tired. I can’t let my hands drop, because when I’m going against a wide receiver and I put my hands down, I’m beat. That’s why at the end, I just let it rip for as long as I can maintain.”
Single-Leg Pistol Squat
“This is the purest form of a Single-Leg Squat you can do. You’re on the Smith Machine with your right leg extended in front of you. There is no brace; you can’t put your foot down to stabilize yourself. Go down to parallel, pause for a second, and then explode back up.”
Sets/Reps: 4×6-8 each leg
Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press
Wheatley uses a 5-1-5 count when performing this exercise. “Going up for a five-count, nice and slow, [holding for a count] and then going down for a five-count. You’re forced to use all of the stabilizer muscles when you go slow, because when your arm is locked out, you have to use your shoulders, arms and everything you’ve got to make sure you’re stable. I get more of a burn with that as opposed to picking up 120-pound dumbbells and knocking out reps.”
Sets/Reps: 4×10 each arm
“I’ll do plyos at the end of the workout when my body is tired, to help me with my deep speed. For the cornerback position, everyone knows where they’re going on the field but you. You’re reacting to the wideout. You have to make a decision, put your foot into the ground and explode and get up to top-speed in two steps.
“When my body is tired, I have to learn to get up in the air. I’ll start at the bottom notch of the hurdle and try to work myself up all the way to the top. I’m not just trying to clear it; I’m trying to clear it without having to pick up my legs.”