The Road to the NFL

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Stanford Pos: QBHeight: 6'4"Weight: 235

Some would argue that Andrew Luck is the most complete NFL prospect since Peyton Manning. But here's a little known fact about the former Stanford QB: he can move serious weight in the gym.

"Andrew is very flexible and he's an amazing Olympic lifter," says Travelle Gaines, director of elite athlete development at Athletes' Performance. "He came from a great strength and conditioning program at Stanford."


Andrew Luck

Height: 6'4"
Weight: 235

Some would argue that Andrew Luck is the most complete NFL prospect since Peyton Manning. But here's a little known fact about the former Stanford QB: he can move serious weight in the gym.

"Andrew is very flexible and he's an amazing Olympic lifter," says Travelle Gaines, director of elite athlete development at Athletes' Performance. "He came from a great strength and conditioning program at Stanford."

Before he decided to return to school, Luck was the toprated player eligible for last year's NFL Draft. Are you surprised that he possesses the power and dexterity to perform a perfectly executed Barbell Snatch?

Don't be. Luck is a serious athlete. Less than two weeks away from the NFL Combine, STACK watched him train in AP's LA location, located in the basement of the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

Working alongside former Pac-12 foe and fellow NFL hopeful LaMichael James (Oregon), the most surefire prospect in a decade performed AP's "World-Famous Dumbbell Warm-Up." One question begged an answer: what was left for Luck to prove at the Combine? What if his performance wasn't elite? What if he got injured?

For starters, "We wanted Andrew to look better than advertised," says Gaines. "He showed up at the Combine at 235 pounds and ripped. That was a huge goal, for him to pass the eyeball test."

And he did. At AP, Luck worked through an explosive upperbody lift that also incorporated stability based exercises such as Cable Wood Chops. The goals were to improve upper-body, shoulder and arm strength as well as core stability.

Says Gaines, "From a strength component, the improvements he made from the workouts were on display by the velocity he was able to put on the ball during his throwing session at his Pro Day."

Luck's Combine performance was actually as good as or better than last year's #1 overall pick, Cam Newton (see chart). Not only did Luck participate in every event, he registered elite scores, highlighted by his 36" Vertical Jump and a position-best 10'4" Broad Jump. Above all, Luck's goal was to run the 40-Yard Dash in the 4.7 range. His official time: 4.67.

Yes, Luck is a great quarterback prospect. But he's also a pure athlete.

Luck vs. Newton at the Combine

40 4.67 seconds 4.59 seconds
BROAD JUMP 10'.4" 10'.6"
3-CONE 6.80 seconds 6.92 seconds
5-10-5 4.28 seconds 4.18 seconds

Andrew Luck's Upper Body Training

  • "World-Famous Dumbbell Warm-Up": Upright Row, Hang Snatch, Overhead Shoulder Press, Bent-Over Row, Clean and Press, Lateral Raise: x6 each exercise with no rest
  • DB Bench: 1x10, 1x8, 1x6, 1x4
  • Bent-Over DB Single-Arm Row: 4x8 each arm
  • Standing Ts: 4x10
  • Keiser Machine Wood Chops (Low-to-High): 3x6 each side
  • Keiser Machine Half-Kneeling Pulldowns: 3x6

Michael Floyd

Notre Dame
Pos: WR
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220

No player at the 2012 NFL Combine stood more to gain—or lose—from his performance in the 40-Yard Dash than wide receiver Michael Floyd.

Widely regarded as the number-two wideout in the Draft, Floyd possesses the size and skills that teams are looking for in a potential number-one target. At the Combine, he measured 6'3" and weighed in at 220 pounds with a 32 7/8" arm length and 9-3/8" hands, all above-average measurables for an NFL wideout.

On the field, Floyd is a multi-dimensional receiver who excels in all aspects of the position. He runs solid routes, catches balls in traffic and makes big-time blocks to open holes in the running game.

"I'm a deep threat [who's] able to catch the ball, run with it, and make big plays," Floyd says.

His 28 career touchdown receptions set a school record at Notre Dame, and his total of thirteen 100 yard receiving games tied for second in school history.

Still, questions persisted about Floyd's top-end speed and ability to separate from faster cornerbacks downfield. By running the Combine 40-Yard Dash in 4.47seconds, Floyd seemed to answer those questions, pushing his name into consideration as the Draft's top receiver.

To achieve his 4.47 time, Floyd needed to improve his acceleration and transition phases over the first 20 yards of the 40, according to Ken Vick, high performance director of Velocity Sports' Combine training program in Irvine, Calif.

He also needed to develop strength and stability in his core and hips, Vick says, "because a strong, stable core doesn't waste his power on every stride."

To refine technical aspects of his 40, Floyd performed exercises designed to build explosiveness and acquire proper drive mechanics, including correct body position, knee drive and arm action. Hill Runs, a Combine-training favorite at Velocity, also provided power benefits for the Vertical and Broad Jump events.

The core-strengthening workouts Vick prescribed for Floyd featured single-arm exercises that required him to stabilize his core while pushing and pulling a dumbbell or kettlebell, along with core-strengthening exercises such as Hanging Knee Raises.

Beyond preparing for the Combine, the workouts have value that will carry onto the football field for Floyd. "Developing strength and stability in the core and hips also helps him get into his breaks faster," Vick says.

"You've got to put a lot of effort into the workouts," says Floyd. "But I think what separates me is hard work. No one can take that from me, and I keep grinding and working hard until I accomplish my goals."

40-Yard Dash Tech Workout

  • Hill Bounding 1x4-5
  • Hill Starts 1x4-5
  • Acceleration Bounding 3x20 yards

How LaMichael James Got Bigger and Faster

Oregon Ducks speedster LaMichael James reported to Athletes' Performance at 179 pounds. His training goals were to pack on lean weight and maintain his world-class speed.

At the Combine, James weighed in at 194 pounds, a gain of 13 pounds in just over a month—and ran a blazing 4.45 40-Yard Dash.

To build muscle and look shredded for the scouts, James performed metabolic conditioning exercises, such the Keiser Incline Cable Fly, at the end of his upper-body workouts, ripping off as many reps as possible in a 60-second timeframe.

To replicate this drill, select lightweight resistance and perform Incline Cable Flys for as many reps as possible, until failure. Decrease the weight of the stack and repeat, performing as many reps as possible.

Melvin Ingram

South Carolina
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 264

Two words that best describe Melvin Ingram's game: explosiveness and versatility. As he went through the NFL Draft evaluation process, the only question was, where would he fit best as a pro?

At the University of South Carolina, Ingram wore several hats in the Gamecocks' defensive front seven. As a freshman, he played all 12 games at linebacker. After missing his sophomore year due to a medical redshirt, as a junior he was moved to the defensive line, where he was used as an inside rusher on passing downs in the team's nickel and dime defensive schemes—until, for the last few games, he was moved to defensive end, a position he took over full time during his senior year. In his final collegiate season as a DE, Ingram was as productive as any defensive player in the country, recording 10 sacks and 15 tackles for losses.

The concern about Ingram is whether, or how much, his physical limitations will hinder his ability to make an impact at the next level. Standing 6'1" with a 31-½" arm length, he is quite a bit shorter than the ideal height for an NFL D-lineman.

"Melvin is a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker, so teams look at him based on their schemes," says Ken Vick, high performance director of Velocity Sports' Combine training program in Irvine, Calif., where Ingram prepped for the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. "He's an athlete, so our goals were to make sure he was ready to show his versatility with great speed and movement skills, while displaying hip mobility to be fluid when dropping into coverage."

Most important, according to Vick, was to reduce Ingram's body fat in order to rev up his motor on the field. Enhancing his conditioning enabled Ingram to maintain his elite explosiveness through a full of week of Senior Bowl practices, during Combine testing and at his Pro Day workout. He says, "I feel like Ken Vick put me in a position to go out there and make things happen."

After checking in at the Combine at 264 pounds, down roughly 12 pounds from his playing weight at South Carolina, Ingram displayed his explosive short-area power and body control in the Three-Cone Drill and the 20-Yard Shuttle.

At Velocity, Ingram did exercises designed to improve his explosiveness when changing directions, like the Hang Clean, along with lowerbody strengthening exercises like the Barbell Hip Thrust. He also performed energy system development circuits (see left) to train his body to work as efficiently as possible, enhance his energy levels and build strength and stamina.

The result: a more finely-conditioned player who is ready to play in the NFL, regardless of position. "I play football from the heart," says Ingram. "This is what I love to do, this is all I know how to do, and this is what I was made to do. I want to show these teams that I give 110 percent to everything I do as a football player."

Energy System Development Circuit

Perform three rounds of exercises in circuit fashion, working for 20 seconds and resting for 10 seconds:

  • Heavy Ropes With Shuffle
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Med Ball Punch

Key Lifts

  • Hang Clean 8x2 @ 80 percent max
  • Barbell Hip Thrust 5x3 @ 85 percent max
  • DB Shrug 3x10
  • Lateral Raise 3x10

Dontari Poe

Height: 6'4"
Weight: 346

One prospect became an overnight sensation at the 2012 NFL Combine—Dontari Poe. A defensive tackle from the University of Memphis, Poe ran a 4.98 40-Yard Dash; performed well in the Three-Cone Drill (7.90 seconds) and 20-Yard Shuttle (4.56 seconds); and demonstrated his explosiveness with a 29.5-inch Vertical Jump and a 8'9" Broad Jump. And the 6'4" Poe put those numbers up at a bodyweight of 346 pounds.

"We didn't necessarily go into it thinking he's going to set a land speed record, but when we started to see how athletic he is, we realized he may be able to do extremely special things," says Nick Winkelman, director of training systems at Athletes' Performance. Poe is projected to anchor the middle of a 3-4 defense. However, after observing him complete a movement prep routine during a morning workout at AP—including a variety of skipping, balancing and fast feet drills designed to prepare his body to perform more explosive movements—it was abundantly clear that Poe is not your typical space-eating DT.

"They want to see how fast and explosive you are coming off the line of scrimmage," says Poe. "The next level has some of the fastest athletes in the world, and you've got to match that speed and intensity."

Following a linear movement session keyed on refining technique in the 40 start, it was clear that Poe is a big man that can move. Winkelman says, "For a 340-plus pound guy, he's running average times for a player who weighs 60 pounds lighter."

The goal for Poe's training was to teach him how to properly fire his powerful engine. Winkelman: "It was key for him to learn how to direct his force into the ground perfectly so that he could move his big body as fast as he possibly could." Poe accomplished this through Sled Pulling exercises, which taught him how to maximize the forward projection of his body.

Preparing for the agility events at the Combine involved plenty of mobility work, designed to help Poe sink his hips and efficiently get down to touch the line for the Three-Cone Drill and 20-Yard Shuttle. "He's already so strong and powerful that when he puts his foot into the ground, he's not going to have any problems stopping his body and re-projecting his center of mass. But the better he can get down into his hips, the better he can apply that direction," adds Winkelman.

According to his trainer, Poe was one of the most dedicated, hard-working and coachable athletes he's ever worked with in his career. "I believe the guys that go to the Combine and extremely exceed expectations are those that have perfect attendance and attentiveness," says Winkelman. "When I say this—and I'm not lying—Dontari made every single session for the eight weeks. He was here, twice a day, six days a week."

And that made all the difference.

Speed and Power Training

  • Sled Drives: 4x40 yards
  • Acceleration Wall Drill With Bungee Resistance: 4x6 each side
  • Keiser Power Squat: 4-6x2
  • Half-Kneeling Quad Hip Flexor
  • Stretch: 3x10 two-second holds

How Luke Kuechly Trained For the Next Level

Luke Kuechly was the most productive linebacker in years at the college level, and he wowed scouts at the NFL Combine with a 4.58 40-Yard Dash and 38" Vertical Jump.

The Boston College product and Butkus Award Winner as the nation's top linebacker has all the tools to start from day one in the NFL. Kuechly arrived at the Combine weighing 242 pounds and showing impressive burst and explosiveness, helping to solidify his standing as an early first-round pick.

Scott Gadeken, head of physical conditioning at IMG, offers the lower-body workout Kuechly performed in the early phase of his Combine training program.

  • Hang Snatch: 4x3
  • Bulgarian Split Squat: 4x5
  • Bulgarian Split Jumps: 4x3
  • Glute Ham Raise: 4x5
  • Single-Leg RDL: 4x5

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock