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4 Exercises From NFL Players to Build True Game Speed

“If they’re running the ball, I’m making contact here and then I’m locking out.”

Cleveland Browns defensive end Billy Winn is mimicking his movement on the field on the jet black sled resting in front of him. The loaded sled is standing in for an offensive lineman, and Winn is leaning against it, his arms bent at the elbows, then pushing himself back, completely extending his arms.

Bill Winn- Sled Push
Billy Winn - Sled Push

During an off-season workout at ASAP Fitness in Cleveland, Winn and his trainers are tweaking the Sled Push drill to make it resemble the movements Winn will be making in the trenches this fall. Instead of simply pushing the sled 20 yards with his arms extended the whole way, Winn begins with his arms tucked in and his chest up against the horizontal bar of the sled for 5 yards before “locking out” with his arms extended the rest of the way.

Resisted sport-specific movements are important for any sport, but especially for football, a game that requires you to react and move in a split second. Performing resisted exercises that are similar to your movements on the field allows you to react quicker without thinking.

Chip Smith, founder of Chip Smith Performance, says, “You want to isolate the fundamental movements that are critical to making you be the best player you can be at your position and apply resistance, reaction and over-speed training techniques to that movement to make yourself more explosive for the season.”

Jared Allen – Push Plate
Jared Allen -  Push Plate

Jared Allen has used resisted movements specific to his position on the defensive line, and they have allowed him to be a sack master for most of his decade-long career. For instance, while sitting on a bench, Allen uses resistance bands around his waist and wrists while holding a weight plate with both hands and punching it into the air—similar to how he makes contact with an offensive lineman on his way to the quarterback. Allen also performs a Resisted Lateral Shuffle, which allows him to practice his footwork as he watches a running back decide what hole he wants to hit.

Cam Newton - Chain-Resisted Push-Up Cam Newton – Chain-Resisted Push-Up

Other prominent NFL players have implemented this sort of functional resistance training into their workouts. Case in point: Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton, whose rock solid core—which allows him to avoid sacks and break tackles when he speeds out of the pocket and scampers for a first down—can largely be attributed to his Chain-Resisted Push-Ups. As Newton pushes up, more of the chain comes off the ground, creating more resistance.

DeMarcus Ware – Resisted Box TapsDeMarcus Ware - Resisted Box Taps

Denver Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware performs Resisted Box Taps, along with lateral and horizontal instability movements, because they translate directly to the type of footwork he uses on the field to hunt quarterbacks and bring down ball carriers in the flat. He says, “I do a lot of instability work, lateral and horizontal movements, because on the field that’s what it converts to. You’re never just going to have to do a regular Squat, or a regular Bench. Everything you do, you’re going to be moving and you’ve got to be stable doing it.”

As you prepare for spring camp and summer workouts, keep these exercises in mind. Add resistance to the position-specific drills you’re already doing, and you’ll soon be flying around the field like never before. The 2015 football season will be yours.