Today, professional football players who play in the NFL are training harder (and smarter) than ever before. Remember the old-fashioned days when said players would work extremely hard to pack on the pounds in muscle mass in the offseason? Well, those days have come to an end, and the league has shifted the primary focus to cutting-edge exercises that can help improve the athleticism and explosiveness of players.
With that being said, this would be the main reason why the players are better, faster and stronger as opposed to their older counterparts who worked out in other ways.
But let's not forget about the health of all players on a team's 53-man roster (and a five-player practice squad). Why's that? It's very crucial for any given player to be able to report to training camp as 100 percent healthy and remain injury-free for the entire 16-game season. Of course, that doesn't mean that all the players are going to stay healthy for the rest of their lives. Nobody's a perfect person.
To tell you the truth, more players are training in a wide variety of intelligent ways and that's the main reason why they're able to stay healthy for longer periods of time compared to former and retired players who grew accustomed to different workout rules back in the day.
So you should get up to speed and come across a new era of exercises by checking out these 15 exercises performed by NFL players.
15 Russell Wilson: Box Jumps
Sure, a lot of NFL players do box jumps. After all, this straightforward yet common exercise helps them build up their explosive powers and trains their fast twitches, which is a good thing. But did you know that this exercise is especially helpful to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson?
Standing at 5-foot-11, Wilson is most, if not all, of the time considered to be on the short side when it comes to NFL quarterbacks and players in general.
But he continues to look jacked because of box jumps and some other exercises like kettle-bell lunges, triceps extensions and dumbbell step-ups.
Wilson once told Men's Fitness: “I’ve really focused on my leg strength in recent years...When you’re growing up, you always think that your upper body strength and everybody is testing your best thing, your bench max and all that kind of stuff. As a quarterback, it’s really more so leg strength, core strength, shoulder stability, and core stability. The thing that I really pride myself on is mobility—my mobility and flexibility. I’m constantly working out those areas.”
14 David Johnson: 500 Lb Squats
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson missed most of the 2017-18 NFL season due to a left wrist injury that was sustained during the Cardinals' season opener against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2017. Turns out, his injured wrist was dislocated and required surgery, which turned out to justify the fact that he wouldn't return to the field from the IR (injured reserve) that season.
Well, in happier times, Johnson arguably emerged as the best dual-threat player in the NFL when he led the league with 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 total touchdowns in 2016-17.
Let's not forget when he showed off his physical prowess with a 500 lb squat in the weight room.
So he might also have the strongest legs in the league, but we'll let you debate on that particular statement because everyone has their own opinions when it comes to football.
13 Odell Beckham Jr.: Reverse Lunge Split-Jumps
New York Giants wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., is hands down one of the hardest-working players in the NFL. Sure, he garners a lot of attention for his questionable actions on and off the field, but he's constantly training in the gym to be the very best he can be. His workouts range from the dumbbell workouts to resistance band drills, but let's focus on the reverse lunge split-jumps, where he takes a large step backward with one leg, bends his front knee until it's almost at 90 degrees, grazes the floor using the knee of his rear leg and presses through both feet to jump off the ground.
Jamar Liggin, a Los Angeles-based NFL trainer, had some uplifting things to say about Beckham: "Odell is ready to work, no matter what the situation is...One time, he landed in Los Angeles at midnight and called me up to do a workout. We ended up doing an intense session from 2 a.m to 4 a.m. That’s the kind of guy Odell is and how dedicated he is.”
12 Khalil Mack: Plyometric Moves
Oakland Raiders defensive Khalil Mack has definitely been enjoying tons of success in recent years. He was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. He was also named to three back-to-back Pro Bowls from 2015 to 2017.
However, Mack's success wouldn't have been possible if he didn't spends lots of time working out in the seasons and offseasons. He may not work as hard as Odell Beckham Jr., but he works out as hard as anyone else in the weight room. He performs kettlebell workouts, powerlifting, sled training, and plyometric workouts in order to keep himself strong at all times.
In case you didn't know, plyometric workouts assist with one's strength and speed and can range from squat thrusters and judo rolls with jumps.
Mack once told Men's Fitness: "My workouts start with a really good stretching session. After that, I fire up some of my smaller muscles to get them ready for the next part of my workout. I love kettlebell workouts and pushing the sled—I’ve been doing a lot of that this offseason—along with heavy sets of pushups and situps.”
11 J.J. Watt: 1,000 Lb Tire Flips
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt didn't get a chance to finish the 2017-18 NFL season because he fractured the tibeau plateau in his left leg on the first drive in a Sunday Night Football game between the Texans and Kansas City Chiefs at NRG Stadium on October 8, 2017. It quickly became bad news as he suffered multiple injuries in his two seasons before his most recent injury.
But when Watt is healthy, he's a powerhouse on the field. He regularly kills it in the weight room.
He normally does exercises like box jumps, med ball slams, 1,000 lb tire flips, back squats, sprinting drills, explosive jumps, shoulder shrugs, and sled workouts.
You may not believe the 1,000 lb tire flips, but they're 100 percent true. We've included a YouTube video to prove the validity of this shocking exercise, just in case if you didn't believe us the first time.
10 Von Miller: Medicine Ball Russian Twist
Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller was named the 2015 Super Bowl MVP after his team defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl L. He's a perennial linebacker to say the least. In case you might've forgot, he received the Butkus Award for being the most outstanding linebacker in the nation at the time.
Miller's dedication to the game has helped him get to where he is today. In an exclusive interview with Men's Fitness, Miller shared a detailed routine that helped him generate explosive power in order to become one of the highest-paid defensive players in NFL history.
Miller told Men's Fitness: "Core and legs are always the priority for me...One of my favorites is pulling a tire,” Miller says. “I also enjoy the different explosive jumping movements with the acceleration and deceleration drills we do.”
So you don't need to be a freak athlete, but you can follow suit with some of Miller's favorite exercises like the Medicine Ball Russian Twist, where you'd use a medicine ball, weight plate, or a dumbbell, sit on the floor with your knees bent—your weight on your hips—lean back slightly so that your torso is at a 45-degree angle with the floor, keeping your back straight and not rounded and/or bent. Just hold the ball in front of you, twist your torso to the left and then twist back to the right for as far as you can.
9 Todd Gurley: Hex Bar Deadlifts
You've probably already heard of Todd Gurley, who currently plays for the Los Angeles Rams as a running back. But did you know that he does Hex Bar Deadlifts to stay in shape?
Gurley entered the NFL with a heavy load of expectations. After all, he earned back-to-back SEC Honors at the University of Georgia in 2012 and 2013. He was listed as the fifth best running back of his clasis is and was also deemed as a four-star recruit.
Gurley is arguably the Rams' biggest star and there shouldn't be any doubt whatsoever that the Hex Bar Deadlifts help him gain explosive strength for the upcoming football games. He's a force to be reckoned with.
Want a piece of evidence? Gurly told Men's Fitness: "We mix it up quite a bit—upper body, lower body, leg workouts...My favorite exercises are squats and my least favorite to do is upper-body stuff...I’m always squatting when I work out. I try and switch it up every week, but I do a lot of quad exercises, leg extensions, deadlifts, and hamstring curls to help build muscle, my core, and gain stamina. Lower body, always do lower body—never skip a leg day."
8 Rob Gronkowski: Battle Ropes
Here's a familiar face: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who's often referred to by his nickname "Gronk."
Well, you know, Gronk does Gronk things. He's a man who seemingly has it all. Like, he can work his tail off in the gym, but he can also chug tons of beer while chilling at late night parties.
Back to the point, Gronk is one of the best receivers in the NFL. He's also one of the most shredded players in the league. He has delved into intense workouts that feature a combination of battle ropes, chest moves, pull-ups, dumbbell moves and much more. He has also reportedly tried the Tom Brady diet of alkalizing and anti-inflammatory foods, but of course, he's carrying on his typical ritual of booze on a fairly regular basis.
How does Gronk cap off a powerful workout? He performs battle ropes to spike his heart rate and see a metabolic conditioning effect. Good stuff.
7 Patrick Peterson: Uphill Speed Ladder
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson is considered to be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He has been invited to the league's annual Pro Bowl in each of his first seven reasons. He played college football at LSU, where he won the Chuck Bednarik award as the best defensive player in the nation as well as the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the nation.
As an All-Pro return man and shutdown, Peterson has explained to STACK: "Going uphill makes your muscles work harder than they would if you were just on a flat surface; you'll get more out of it."
So what help keep Peterson up to speed? He does uphill speed ladders, where he'd directly stand in front of the ladder at the bottom of the hill and rapidly taps both his feet in each rung of the ladder until he reaches the top.
6 Cam Newton: Chain Push-Up
Carolina Panthers quarterback and three-time Pro Bowler Cam Newton is one of the most popular NFL players in the world of modern football.
Newton is also one of the most hard-working players in the league. What's one of his workout secrets? He performs a chain push-up, which might sound a bit bizarre, but trust us, it can help strengthen the core muscles due to the additional weight added to the exercise. That's the main reason why he chooses to do this particular exercise.
For those of you at home, you can try chain push-ups for yourself and let us know how they help you and your body. All you have to do is get into a standard push-up position and have someone place a heavy chain on your lower back. From there, just try to do as many reps as possible so you can gain the same strength as Newton does.
5 A.J. Hawk: Kettlebell Bulgarian Squat
A.J. Hawk (linebacker) is no longer in the NFL, but when he was a Super Bowl XLV champion with the Green Bay Packers, he was one of the stars on that Green and Gold team.
Hawk can thank the Kettlebell Bulgarian Squat because it serves as a three-pronged approach to preventing injuries in the future.
Though, it primarily increases quad and glute strength, improves balance and stability, and helps to eliminate those lower-body strength imbalances.
You can do the Kettlebell Bulgarian Squat at home, thanks to these crystal clear instructions from STACK. So you'd get into a split stance with your rear foot on a bench behind you, hold the kettlebell in the hand opposite of your front leg, lower your hips until your front thigh is parallel to the ground, drive up to start the position and repeat set on your opposite leg. Do three sets with 10 reps each.
4 Antonio Brown: TRX Hip Press
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is known for his antics on and off the football field. This includes his touchdown dances, which can be pretty funny, like the one where he acted like a dancing robot at the Steelers-Titans game in November 2017.
Want to know how Brown unleashes his blazing fast speed on the field? Look no further.
He obviously does a plethora of exercises, but the TRX hip press is one that stands out from the rest.
In case you didn't know, the TRX hip press can help activate the glute muscles. You can do the TRX hip press by holding the handles of the straps with your palms facing in and your arms fully extended, squeezing your glutes and extending your hips towards the ceiling while keeping your back straight (and parallel) to the floor and then lowering yourself to the starting position to start a new set of reps.
3 DeMarcus Ware: Cable-Resisted Physioball Crunch
Former outside linebacker and defensive end DeMarcus Ware ended his career with the Dallas Cowboys after signing a one-day contract in 2017 just to retire in the Lone Star State (Texas) instead of the Mile High State (Colorado).
When it comes to exercise, Ware is a man of routine. Ware told Stack.com: "'Everything I do starts with the core. The majority of the moves I do on the field, I'm going to have an offensive lineman grabbing and tugging on me, so I have to use my core to make an explosive movement' to beat the block and get to the quarterback."
That being said, Ware likes to include a cable-resisted physioball crunch in his fitness routine to help improve his overall athletic performance in physical aspects such as strength, speed, conditioning and flexibility. After all, performing a crunch against resistance is much more challenging than a typical crunch or sit-up.
2 Ndamukong Suh: Landmine Row
You may not be a fan of the newest Los Angeles Ram, Ndamukong Suh, who tends to play an aggressive style of football, but you have to admit that you're going to become a fan of the exercises that he does on a regular basis.
Suh trains like an All-Pro defensive tackle and 2010 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
He performs a lot of pulling exercises that can help strengthen his back.
For example, the landmine row, a rather different type of exercise that helps him load up on his resistance without all the excess pressure on his lower back like he experiences when he performs a heavy barbell row. All he has to do is straddle a bar, grab a rope attachment, drive his elbows back until his hands reach the outside of his chest and lower his weight with control until his arms are completely straight. Now, that isn't too hard, isn't it?
1 Tom Brady: Reverse Squats
New England Patriots quarterback and five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady did not come out victorious in this year's Super Bowl championship game, but it's all good because the world champion Philadelphia Eagles were long overdue for a Super Bowl victory.
Anyway, Brady is in better shape than ever at age 40. Let's not forget that he led the AFC in passer rating, yards per attempt and passing yards per game at age 39. He continues to evolve instead of age, which is a wonderful thing because not everyone can stay forever young like he does. He's not only a great leader, but also a hard worker and a vegan. He still maintains lean mass on his body without any unexpected weight changes.
Brady trains with his personal trainer six times a week and makes sure to include reverse squats. Yes, reverse squats. It's a rather simple exercise, but it'll definitely make you feel the burn as it's like a regular squat but you'd have to keep your knees behind your toes the entire time.