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Training NFL Players During the Lockout – Jim Kielbaso

KVB Avril Muhl with JimBecause of the NFL lockout, I’ve been fortunate enough to be working with several players over the past couple of months. Several of the Detroit Lions have gotten together to train with me at Total Performance, and a lot of people have been asking me what they’ve been doing.At this point in their training year, the emphasis has been on slowly increasing their work capacity and improving strength so that they are prepared to re-join their team as soon as the lockout ends.The lockout is essentially extending their down-time, giving many guys the opportunity to get out of shape.Going into camp late and out of shape is a set up for disaster, so our goal is to keep them in shape so they are ready to go when they get the call.

Every NFL team has a great strength & conditioning staff, so I don’t have to re-invent the wheel.They players know how to do the exercises and they know how to work hard.But, they are not allowed to communicate with any of their coaches and neither am I, so we aren’t able to do exactly what they’d be doing with their team right now.To keep things interesting and somewhat sport-specific, I use a variety of agility/positional drills and mix up the strength work to include plenty of variety.

Several important, but often over-looked factors have influenced my programming decisions, including:

·Safety – Guys like this cannot afford to get hurt while training.It’s just not an option, so the risk factor always needs to stay relatively low.

·Wants of the Players – I always take the time to talk to athletes about they are looking for, and this situation is no different.The guys who are working with me decided that they want to run four days a week, so we include some sort of running/speed/agility work four days as week.This is similar to what most guys would be doing at this time of year with their teams, so they want some consistency.They’ve all told me that they don’t have a problem lifting on their own, but they would all rather run with other guys because they just won’t do it the same on their own.Makes sense.

·Individual Needs – Each guy has some specific needs, so I try to accommodate for that whenever possible.For example, we start agility drills from different stances and I do variations of each drill to make them more position-specific.In the strength training portion, I don’t have the QB do the same program as the defensive ends, and they’re all fine with that.Three guys flat out told me they don’t squat at all because of low back injuries, and one guy recently had major surgery that we need to account for.They’re all lifting, but not necessarily doing the same exact routines.

·Time of Year – The kind of training most NFL players are accustomed to at this time of year is fairly general in the grand scheme of things.This is not combine prep where we are trying to peak for an event.It’s not like training an Olympian for a single event either.These guys have to perform a lot of different movements and need broad-based strength, so we need to have relatively broad programming.

·Variety & Fun – I always have to remember that this is completely optional.In fact, these guys are paying to do this, so I have to keep the atmosphere somewhat enjoyable.Believe it or not, there are a lot of guys who don’t want to pay for any training, so I have to remember that they have to enjoy the training at some level.I’m not saying it’s fun and games by any means, but I have to keep things interesting.

Many NFL players view the lockout as an opportunity to do some different things, so I need to keep that in mind.Some guys are traveling a lot and trying out different facilities for a week or two just to do something different.Many have had several different strength coaches through the years and most like to do new stuff just to stay fresh.I don’t blame them, so I have to keep that in mind by balancing the stuff they are used to with some new variations.

·Intensity – At this point, most guys want to work hard and have the work ethic to get it done, but they don’t need to get completely smoked every day.That is not necessary at all.On the flip side, if it’s too easy, they don’t feel it’s worthwhile.I have to balance that every day.

Here is the basic weekly structure of what we’ve been doing:

Monday: 1 hour of conditioning & lower body lifting

Tuesday: 1 hour of agility work & upper body lifting

Wednesday: Off

Thursday:Light conditioning & total body lifting

Friday: Conditioning, agility and position-specific work

We go through a full warm-up and stretch at the beginning of each day, and we always stretch at the end of each session.We’ve been training the neck twice a week using manual resistance, and we do some core work at least three days a week.

The conditioning and agility work includes short sprints, sled sprints, cone drills, hurdle & bag drills, ladder work, plyometrics and shuttle-style conditioning.I’ve chosen a 120-yard shuttle run as our consistent conditioning piece.We do 4-8 reps of this twice a week, with 45-60 seconds recovery between reps.The number of reps have gradually increased and the rest time has gradually decreased.It’s not “fun” but as long as we don’t do too much, too often it works.

We’ve also been doing high-speed, incline treadmill sprints 2-3 days a week.We generally only do 6-10 total sprints, and most of them are 5-10 seconds long at 20-25% incline.We’ve also done band resisted sprints and sled pushing throughout the program.

Our lifting program is designed to be slightly heavier on Monday & Tuesday when they are only doing half of their body, and slightly lighter with higher rep ranges when we do the total body lift.That turns the total body lifting sessions into somewhat of a conditioning workout.

Like I alluded to before, this is not rocket science, but it’s very important that these guys are getting what they need so they’re ready to go whenever the lockout ends.These guys are professionals, and they know what it takes to play the game.Obviously, this is an overview of what we’ve been doing, but I’m more than happy to talk more about it below or on the message boards if you’d like to discuss it in more detail.

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