Whether you’re wearing flags or full body armor, you can raise your game up a notch by training specifically for football. Never mind the usual advice for merely looking bigger, stronger, and faster. If you want to play better on the field, you need to train for it. So we fired off some questions to Ken Croner, of Athletes’ Performance, and he hit us back with these questions for you. Croner works with NFL veterans, helping them prepare for grueling seasons. His advice will get you ready for yours.
1. Are you fast when it counts?
“The game of football is predicated by stopping, starting, and moving,” says Croner. In other words, once you’re at full throttle, there’s little reason to work on maintaining that speed in your workouts. You’re better off switching gears. Croner suggests practicing drills that force you to change speed and direction, like the 4 Cone Random Agility Drill, so you’ll improve your ability to get in position to make plays.
2. Can you apply the brakes?
Speed kills, but if you can’t harness that speed, your performance will suffer. “The game is so fast,” says Croner. “You need to be able to decelerate, change direction, and control your body.” When was the last time you went for a run and practiced stopping? To keep up with the speed of the game and help protect your body from injury, work on your ability to both stop and start.
3. Is your back as strong as your chest?
You block your opponent just like you push a bar off your chest, right? Not exactly. For starters, you’re standing, not lying on a bench, and you’re using your entire body for leverage and strength. That’s why Croner says not to get so caught up in boosting your bench press, or singling out any muscle for that matter. For every pushing movement (bench press, be sure to include a pulling movement in your workout (pull-up, row). Same goes for your lower body. Always include some type of lunge or squat in your routine.
4. Are injuries on your radar?
“You can’t just do the things you like in the weight room,” Croner says. “You have to do all the things needed to create overall athletic development.” That includes strengthening smaller muscles that stabilize your joints and help protect you from injury. Perform “prehab” movements for your ankles, knees, and hips to handle the force of rapid acceleration and deceleration on the field. And don't forget Physioball Ys and Ts to protect your throwing shoulder.
5. Have you mastered the basics yet?
If you want to be the fastest guy on the field, slow down. “I wouldn’t do the same thing with high school athletes as I would with DeAngelo Hall,” says Croner. Don’t be afraid to dial back your training and work on the fundamentals. As Croner puts it: “No one teaches us how to run.” Isn’t it time you learned?