NFL players are individuals by nature, and each position and scheme demands different physical and mental capabilities in order to maximize success. As such, offseason training that used to be a matter of running a few miles per day to stay in shape has become its own cottage industry. We’ll take a look at some different things players do to stay in shape and to get bigger, faster and stronger during the offseason.
Perhaps the oldest form of training in the NFL, every player needs to be able to keep his wind if he’s to play football. In recent years, however, innovations within this discipline have grown increasingly popular. Some players just run for long distances. Others run wind sprints ad nauseum. Many combine the two, and other legendary cardio routines include Jerry Rice and Walter Payton, who famously ran up and down their chosen hills near their offseason homes religiously.
This is a staple of nearly every player, and like cardio training, weight training has grown much more specialized in recent years. Gone are the days when players would do a few sets of bench presses, squats and arm curls and call it a day. Every player and every position now has a particular routine designed to maximize muscle development, strength and explosion that fits the needs of the individual player and position. Strength coaches are paid very well to put together and manage these programs. Without strength, balance and explosion, players will have no chance.
Martial arts in and of themselves offer several choices in regards to particular routines. Regardless of the chosen discipline, many players train with martial arts masters to improve balance, quickness, mental focus and the ability to use their hands as weapons. Many linemen use this form of training to learn to defeat the player in front of him, and the player with these skills has a distinct advantage over those that don’t.
During this offseason, Chargers LB Shawn Merriman is making a name for himself with his teammates by working with a boxing coach. He has replaced many pounds of fat with muscle, and everyone at the team facility noticed the difference immediately. Boxing works every muscle in the body, and the sport by design pushes its participants beyond the point of fatigue.
With the rise in the popularity in weight training came the simultaneous collective loss of flexibility in players all over the NFL. Flexibility is a crucial element in avoiding injury, and core strength, many feel, is the fundamental basis of all conditioning. Yoga is also a mental form of preparation, and it grows in popularity every offseason.
Although this form of training is generally not publicized by players, several prominent players have worked within this discipline to improve footwork. Former RB Herschel Walker famously touted his routine, and very few players in recent history could boast of better footwork than Walker. Quietly, ballet is part of many players’ routines.
Although there are many choices for players to train during the offseason, one common denominator is that all players need to do something, and do it diligently. Coaches and management teams expect every player to report for training camp bigger, stronger, faster and healthier every season, and many players’ contracts contain incentive clauses for staying in shape and meeting certain training requirements.
For the players, there is no more offseason in the NFL, and they all know this. That’s why you may see some familiar faces from time to time as you head to a yoga class or work out at the boxing gym.