As minicamps wrap up across the league, what’s the next step for NFL players as they begin their “summer vacations” before reporting to camp in late July?
Let’s discuss the focus of players over the next month while they train away from the team facility in preparation for the daily grind of training camp and the conditioning test that awaits their return.
Strength, Speed and Power
NFL strength and conditioning coaches will send players home with a detailed lifting and running program that covers the next four weeks along with a “rest and recovery” period before reporting for camp (stretching, light lifting and running).
These programs will include a four-day lifting routine, speed training (both linear and lateral drills) plus a conditioning program that increases lower-body strength (change of direction) and endurance (110-yard striders, shuttle runs, etc.).
However, there are plenty of guys who train at performance facilities (EXOS/Athletes' Performance, for example), head back to campus with their college strength coaches (I worked out at Iowa early in my career) or train on their own in the heat and humidity.
Here’s an example of a workout from Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb in the video below:
But regardless of where players train (or what type of lifting/running program they follow), this next month is crucial from a strength and conditioning perspective.
There is still time to make gains in the weight room (Olympic lifts, functional football movements), increase speed and condition your body to show up at camp in elite shape.
Every player will be given a weight requirement before leaving town (weigh-in on the first day of camp). And if you show up overweight, there will be a fine to pay—plus some questions from the coaching staff.
The true pros, the players who take advantage of the next month, will arrive at camp ready to compete and work through the heat in full gear.
However, the players who don’t train hard, or don't dedicate time to improving their conditioning levels, will be exposed on the field.
And that’s when jobs are lost.
Position-Specific Drills and Conditioning
The lifting and running programs we just talked about above are key factors for players as they train for camp over the next month.
However, the position-specific drills have to be addressed as players cater their workouts based on the functional movements they will use on the field.
This could range from resistance training for quarterbacks in their drops (resistance bands that increase lower-body/core strength) or defensive backs/wide receivers working on the speed ladder to improve their footwork and lateral quickness.
Here’s an example of Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson on the speed ladder:
Defensive backs should start every day on the field with the “W” drill (backpedal, plant/drive) and increase the change of direction movements in conditioning workouts to simulate the specific footwork they will use in the secondary during camp.
As I’ve said before, it’s tough to replicate the game of football without the hitting these players will see once camps start.
However, these position-specific movements allow players to limit the soreness (or fatigue) they will experience in that first week of camp when they put on full gear and compete.
Train like a football player. That’s the drill.
The Conditioning Test
The majority of teams will require their players to pass a conditioning test on the first day of camp after they report. In the NFL, the most common “test” is the 300-yard shuttle run (12x25 yards or 6x50 yards).
And it hurts.
Times are broken down by position and players are asked to sprint, touch the line and continue until they run the entire drill. It's a test that measures your endurance, lower body strength and change-of-direction ability.
However, this is a “take home test” that players are informed about back in April at the start of the offseason program.
And there is no excuse, really, to fail the test if you train for it throughout the offseason and during the month leading up to camp.
I would run the 300-yard shuttle test twice a week in the month before camp to work on my hips, flexibility and speed coming out of the turns (the key to the drill).
But even with the training, I would feel that bear jump on my back during the final sprint of the shuttle test while my hamstrings tightened up.
It’s a brutal test, an old school test that has been a part of football (at every level) for a long time. And there will be some guys throwing up when this thing is over.
Players have to make the test a part of their training program over the next month to mesh with the speed, power and position-specific drills to prep for camp.
And there is still work to be done during the players' “summer vacation” before it’s time to win a job when the pads go on next month.
Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
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