You know that speed kills, but Odell Beckham Jr. will be the first to tell you that one cannot win at football just by being fast. Through 59 career NFL games, Beckham has overpowered, outjumped, outmaneuvered, outwitted and (of course) outrun opponents to the tune of 5,476 receiving yards through a combination of speed, strength and explosive quickness. Beckham’s trainer, Jamal Liggin, says that’s by design.
“Everything we do in training complements something else that we do,” Liggin says. “Our foundation is speed, but the program isn’t just speed and strength. It’s also vision and awareness. Footwork and quickness. All of it works together.”
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We’ve already written plenty about how Liggin helps Beckham hone his already razor-sharp footwork and improves his vision and reaction time with a seemingly impossible tennis ball drill. But what you haven’t yet seen is how the Cleveland Browns’ superstar builds his body to withstand the punishment of the NFL season—and to do some punishing of his own when a defensive back tries to jam him at the line. When it’s time to pick up the weights and train upper-body strength, here are some of the moves Liggin puts in Beckham’s playbook.
Single-Leg RDL to Row
This exercise is a functional, full-body move within what is otherwise an upper-body workout. Hinge at the hips to lower into a single-leg RDL. Maintain tension on the band while keeping your arm fully extended at the elbow. Lower as far as your hamstring flexibility allows, then hinge back up. As you come up to standing position, pull on the band to row it toward your torso. Drive your opposite knee into the air until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Try to keep the hip, knee and ankle of your standing leg stable as you move. “This move is definitely important for your hamstrings, but the balance factor also plays a huge part, “ Liggin says.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Here’s a move that adds “umph” to your punch when you need to break free from a cornerback trying to jam you at the line. Lower the weights slowly and with control. When they make contact with your chest, push them up explosively. Keep your elbows beneath your wrists throughout. The move “builds your chest, arms, back—everything you need to fend off a defender,” Liggin says.
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Dumbbell Hammer Curl
Hold the dumbbells at your sides with a neutral grip. Your palms should be facing the sides of your torso. Bend at the elbows and curl the weights up until they make contact with your shoulders. Lower the dumbbells slowly and with control, then repeat.
Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Hold light dumbbells at your sides with a neutral grip, just as you did with the Hammer Curls. Keeping your shoulders down and engaged, raise the weights straight out to your sides. When your hands reach shoulder level, lower and repeat. Your elbows should be held straight throughout.
Seated Med Ball Rotational Throw
“Any athlete needs a solid core in order to perform,” Liggin says. “The core is the foundation of any athlete.” Here, Liggin helps Beckham improve his core’s rotational strength by throwing the med ball to him. OBJ twists, then tosses the ball back. Sit on the floor holding a medicine ball with two hands near your chest. Bend at the knees and keep your feet pressed flat against the floor. Lower the ball to the outside of one hip near the floor, then rotate your torso to throw the ball in the opposite direction, where your partner or coach stands ready to catch it.
Reverse Lunge Split-Jumps
“For a receiver at the line, the entire play is won or lost in their first three steps,” Liggin says. “They are the most crucial part of a receiver’s release.” That’s why Liggin’s athletes train to be strong on one leg, or coming out of a split-leg position. To perform the move, take a large step backward with one leg. Bend your front knee until it’s almost at 90 degrees. The knee of your rear leg should almost graze the floor. Press through both feet to jump off the ground. Switch the position of your legs in midair, so that your front leg becomes your rear leg, and vice versa.
Partner Seated Med Ball Rotational Toss
Just like the previous version, except you throw the ball to your partner or coach.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press
“When you watch Odell, he may be catching the ball with one hand and pushing off a defender with the other. Or he might have the ball in one hand but need to stiff-arm a guy with the other. So we do single-arm training to simulate what it’ll be like on the field,” Liggin says. Perform the single-arm version of the exercise like the traditional version, lowering with control and keeping your elbow beneath the wrist.
Single-Arm Med Ball Push-Up
Place one hand on top of a medicine ball and the other on the floor. Keep your torso engaged from head to heels, as if you were in a Plank. Lower yourself to the floor then back up. Switch sides and repeat.
Dumbbell Reverse Fly
This exercise strengthens the back and the rear deltoids, a part of the shoulders that most exercises miss. Hinge forward at the hips, keep your elbows slightly bent, and raise the dumbbells to your sides.
A classic exercise that’s good for full-body strength, but especially great at developing pulling strength, which of course critical when you need to pull down an impossible behind-the-head catch.
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Med Ball Slams
Football is an explosive sport, and this is an explosive exercise that teaches you to exert a lot of force in not a lot of time. Lift the ball overhead with both hands, then slam it to the floor near your feet. Catch the ball on the bounce and repeat.