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How rookies can train for the big leagues

Steve Shoup


If one day you hope to make the NFL draft then you need to start training as early as possible. Long before rookie camp, high school football players need to get in shape and stay that way, steadily improving their speed, strength and stamina if they hope to stand a chance when it comes to the big leagues. It’s all about finding your focus and not letting anything get in the way of your goal. Ultimately, readying yourself for the NFL is about building character as well as your body. And even if you never reach the Super Bowl, that’s got to be worthwhile.




For an effective workout program, it’s important to train smart as well as hard. This means having at least a basic understanding of biomechanics: the way your body moves and is connected together. That means your body, not somebody else’s, because everyone is different.


Your first priority is to identify any biomechanical malfunctions or imbalances, such as a limited range of motion in a particular joint or muscle. Also look at whether you aren’t using certain muscles correctly, or even at all, due to lack of proper exercise techniques. With weight training for instance it’s not always about the amount of weight you’re lifting, but rather about how you’re lifting it.


When bench pressing weights, narrow your grip and limit the arching of your lower back. You may not be able to lift as much as if you had a wider grip and a greater arch, but you’ll more effectively strengthen the muscles you’ll need on the football field.


Protect your muscles


Don’t try to do too much too soon, or put too much pressure on certain parts of your body while neglecting others. Establishing a progressive program and steadily increasing your load is the best way to keep pushing yourself while reducing the risk of injury. Lifting helps you develop a solid strength base and activate the glutes to take some of the pressure off your hamstrings, making one of the commonest football injuries less likely.


It’s also a good idea to protect your muscles by wearing a men’s compression shirt. Tommie Copper has a wide-ranging shirt collection of items that not only look great but will help to reduce sprains and chafing in the upper body areas.


Basic exercises


Get in shape with high intensity interval training. Thirty seconds of fast running followed by two minutes of steady jogging, repeated for half an hour, is a great way to increase your oxygen capacity while building up your muscle strength and responsiveness.


An old school favorite is to jump rope. It’s no wonder this simple exercise has been a permanent part of NFL players’ training regimes since day one. Jumping rope builds strength in your legs, especially the knees and ankles, improves balance and develops those fast twitch muscle fibers that are so essential when firing off the ball.


Upright rows give your arms a full workout, but warm up with some light weight lifting first. Squat jumps will build up your back muscles, glutes and quads while increasing your jumping ability and building all-round muscle stamina. Don’t forget a full program of stretches before and after each session. 


Eat well


Diet is just as important as training. Make sure you eat at least three meals a day, plus snacks in between. Aim for eating every four hours, taking in 20-25 calories for every pound of body weight. Don’t be tempted to skip breakfast before an early morning training session; a yogurt or a milkshake is better than nothing if you really can’t force down a plate of ham and eggs.


In a meal, aim for a balance of protein, starch (rice, pasta, potatoes) and vegetables or fruit. Drink plenty of water before, during and after training, but don’t overdo it: the aim is to replace fluids lost through sweat, not to drown. You’ll also need plenty of carbs to keep your muscles and mind active.


A healthy mind


Being the best is about attitude as much as it is about physical fitness. In particular, it’s about self-control and taking on board the NFL system of values. A trip to the Hall of Fame to soak up the history of the game will give you a sense of the giants who went before you, and the sacrifices they made.


Finally, don’t neglect your academic studies. These will be crucial if you hope to obtain a scholarship that will let you play college football. If you’ve got the discipline to play in the big leagues then you should have the discipline to do your history and chemistry homework as well as making it to practice. Stay sharp and stay on top of your game.



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