The pre-season workout Drew Brees, Darren Sproles and Brandin Cooks performed consisted of five stations. The athletes spend eight minutes at each station, performing as many sets as they can of the exercises associated with the station. Durkin gives each station a name to remind players to dig deep. The routine is meant to challenge literally every muscle in the body. “Feet to fingertips,” Durkin says.
STATION I: “Passion”
“Station one is hips, core and shoulders,” Durkin says. “They’re either going horizontally, chopping, or lifting. That’s getting the core on both the front and backside, and all of the small stabilizing muscles in the back and shoulders.”
1. Lateral Band Walks / Upright Rows / Splitters — x 15
Walks: Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart, holding a resistance band that wraps around both feet. Keeping your hips low and level, step to your right with your right foot, then step with your left to return to the starting width. Repeat for all reps on one side, then switch directions.
Splitters: Take the band off your feet and hold it in both hands at shoulder level, maintaining tension on the band. Keeping your arms straight at shoulder level, pull your arms backward as far as possible. Return to the start and repeat.
2. Core Rotations: SuperBand Chops — x 15 each side
Kneel and grab the superband with both hands. Pull it down to your opposite hip, then return to the starting position, maintaining tension on the band.
3. Physioball Walkouts and Leg Lifts — 5/5 x 10
Walkouts: Place your hands on the ground and toes atop a physioball, keeping your hips elevated (don’t let them sag toward the floor). Walk your hands forward slowly for 5 “steps” (each hand placement is a “step”), then backward for 5. That’s one round trip. Do 10.
Leg Lifts: Starting from the same position, lift one leg and hold it about a foot above the ball for a one count. Lower it, then raise the opposite leg and hold. That’s one rep. Do 10.
4. Hyperextensions with Throw Motion — x 10
Secure your feet in the hyper machine and hold a light med ball in each hand, keeping your elbows and shoulders bent at 90 degrees (called the “Flex T” position). Lower your torso to perform the hyperextension, then lift back up and simulate a throwing motion while holding on to the ball. Alternate arms on each rep.
STATION II: “Sweat the Small Stuff”
“Now we’re getting a little more explosive,” Durkin says. “Rotational power comes into play with the Medicine Ball Throws. The TRX is one of my favorite tools, and the guys will mix it up between the low row, medium row and high row to make sure they don’t have any weak links in their back. The jump rope is for conditioning and footwork.”
1. Med Ball Rotational Throws — x10 each side
Stand perpendicular to a wall holding a med ball at your hip, away from the wall. Rotate your torso to throw the ball against the wall as hard as you can. Catch the ball on the rebound and repeat. You can also perform Throws from shoulder level.
2. Med Ball Overhead Taps — x 10s
You can perform this move with either one light med ball (which Sproles and Cooks did) or two very light balls (which Brees used). Standing close to the wall, quickly tap the ball back and forth against it, catching and re-releasing it as quickly as you can. If you opt for the two-ball version, lower your arms to the sides while keeping the tapping consistent.
3. Jump Rope — x30-40 reps
Alternate your feet, landing on your left, right, or both. Go as quickly as you can for the duration.
4. TRX U Call It: Low, Medium or High Rows — x 10-15
Durkin lets the athletes focus on the area they want to work. Usually, they switch the area of focus on each round, or if they’re moving quickly, hit several different strokes in a single set. In the Low Row, the motion is like what you do on a rowing machine, pulling the handles into your mid-torso. In Medium Rows, your hands go out to the sides. High rows are almost like Face Pulls.
STATION III: Dominate the Details
“Lower body emphasis,” Durkin says. “They could go with Deadlifts, Squats, or Lunges. You saw Drew mix it up with Walking Lunges performed ‘Flex T’ or Medicine Ball Lunge. Couple that with plyometric jumps and you have strength plus speed—that’s power. We also have some backside stability with the Wolverine Pulls. You can’t get enough of that when you’re an overhead athlete like a quarterback or pitcher.”
1. U Call It: Squats, Deadlifts or Lunges into a Jump Complex — 5-10 reps
Do Squats, Deadlifts or Lunges, then perform an equal number of Box Jumps. Brees opted for Walking Lunges in which he held a med ball in each hand with his shoulders and elbows bent 90 degrees.
2. Double or Single Leg RDLs — x 15
To perform the single leg version, balance on one leg and hold a kettlebell in your opposite hand at your hip. With your balancing leg slightly bent, fold forward at the waist and lower the kettlebell as far as your flexibility allows, keeping your elevated leg straight behind you. Contract the glute of your standing leg to return to the starting position.
For the double-leg version, stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart holding a kettlebell with your palms toward you. Maintaining a microbend in the knees, lower the weight as close to the ground as your flexibility will allow. Flex your hamstrings to return to standing.
3. Wolverines (Keiser) (High/low; low/high) — x 8-12
From an athletic stance or a split stance, grab a handle in each hand so that the cables cross one another. Pull the cables downward and to the sides. For the low-to-high version, pull the cables up and to the sides, then lower with control.
STATION IV: Impact
“Upper body here. They could choose to do Medicine Ball Push-Ups if they didn’t want to press heavy weights, otherwise it’s flat or incline bench,” Durkin says. “The Lat Pulldown is a vertical pull, while the horizontal row with softballs hits the back differently. So again, we have the 2-to-1 pull-to-push ratio. Adding those softballs to the row challenges their grip strength, which a QB like Drew needs.”
1. Bench Press, Incline DB Bench or Med Ball Push-ups — x 5-10 (QBs 12-15) à 5-10
Lower the dumbbells slowly and with control to the chest, then press up. If going heavy, be sure to use a spotter.
2. Lat Pulldowns — x 6-12
Secure yourself in the seat and grip the handles in each hand. Pull down on the bar, lowering it to your sternum. Pause, then control the bar on the way back up to the start position.
3. Single-Arm Softball Seated Rows — x 6-10
Grip the softball (or a handle if a softball is not available) with one hand and hold a light med ball in your opposite hand with a 90-degree bend at your elbow and shoulder. Rotate your hand with the med ball backward, as if you were going to throw it like a football, then follow through on the motion by pushing the ball forward through the air as you pull the softball toward your body. Finish all reps with one arm, then switch sides.
STATION V. Hard work!
“The treadmill here is set to a fast speed—14 or 15 miles an hour for the fast-twitch guys like Sproles and Cooks,” Durkin says. “That extra conditioning is good for the guys, especially a guy like Sproles, who’s going to be in the Eagles’ up-tempo offense. The Ab Wheel hits the core, obviously, and doing shoulder work on the air bench works in an element of balance training.”
1. Curve Treadmill — 2x 10 secs
This is an all-out sprint for 10 seconds on the treadmill. Alternate with a partner to give yourself a rest between the two 10-second bursts.
2. AB Wheel Rollouts — x 12-20 total
Kneel and hold the handles of the Ab wheel. Roll forward slowly and deliberately, then engage your core to roll the wheel back toward your body. Mix it up by changing the direction in which you push the wheel—that will challenge your core from different angles.
3. 3-Way Shoulder Raise on Air Bench — x10-12
The pros stood on top of a bench filled with air that challenges their balance. You can achieve something similar by trying this on a BOSU ball. Using very light dumbbells (Brees and Co. opted for 5-pounders), alternate between three shoulder raises:
Lateral Raise: Starting with the weights held at your sides, keep your arms straight as you raise the weights out and to shoulder height.
Crossover Raise: Again with the weights at your sides, lift one hand up and diagonally across your body. Lower and repeat with the opposite arm.
Scarecrow Raise: Get into that “Flex T” position by bending your elbows and shoulders at 90 degrees. The dumbbells should be at the sides of your head. Rotating at the shoulder only, lower the weight in your right hand until it is about level with your upper chest, then lift it back up to the starting position. Do the same with the weight in your left hand. That’s one rep.