Fitness + Well-being

How to work out like an NFL football player

There’s fit. And then there’s football fit.

Professional football players require a very specific blend of strength, speed, and durability, explains Tony Horton, creator of Beachbody’s P90X series, who has trained top NFL-ers including Seahawks running back Eddie Lacy. And you only achieve that with targeted training.

Here, Horton shares six exercises designed to help you get you in the game. Integrate them into your existing routine or perform them back-to-back for total-body benefits.

1. Sun Salutation to Warrior 1 Flow

Yoga keeps the body’s joints mobile and flexible to help prevent injuries when you’re taking hits on the field or just trying to ward off day-to-day aches and pains.

Instructions: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, your shoulders down and back, with your palms together in front of your chest. Take a deep inhale as you move your arms in two big circles away from your body until your palms meet back together overhead. Angle your head up to face your hands. Exhale and then dive your torso and arms forward into a forward bend toward the floor. Inhale as you lift your torso just slightly so that your back is parallel with the floor. Exhale and step or jump back into plank pose with your hands directly below your shoulders, your feet hip-width apart, and your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Take a few slow breaths. Bend your arms to lower your chest and exhale into chaturanga, as if you are lowering into a pushup. Immediately inhale, extend your arms into the floor, and lift up your chest into upward-facing dog. Take a few slow breaths. Tuck your toes onto the floor and push your hips up and exhale into down-dog so that your body forms an upside-down V. Take a few breaths here. Inhale and lift one leg up into the air behind you, pause, then swing it forward so that your foot plants between your hands. As you exhale, lift your torso and reach your arms over head into Warrior 1. Take a few slow breaths. Lower your hands to the floor on an inhale, then place your foot back behind you to return to plank pose on an exhale. Repeat the leg lift into Warrior 1 with the opposite leg and then return to standing.

2. Front-to-Side Squat Jumps

These explosive plyometric moves build lower-body strength and power to keep you fast on your feet.

Instructions: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and lower into a quarter squat. Immediately drive through your heels to jump up and forward as high as possible. As you land with your knees and hips bent, spring back up and to one side. Repeat, jumping forward, to one side, and then to the opposite side.

3. Speed Punches

Football players and everyday athletes alike need to train not just their legs, but also their upper bodies, for fast, powerful movements. Boxing is a great way to do just that.

Instructions: Wearing boxing gloves, take a split, bent-knee stance in front of a punching bag and set a timer for 30 seconds. Keeping your core braced (like you’re about to get punched in the gut), alternate right and left punches as quickly as possible. Focus on not just making contact with the bag, but punching through it with each hit. At the end of 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds. Repeat for three to five rounds.

4. Pull-up to Push-up Supersets

Together, these two exercises strengthen the entire upper body.

Instructions: Grab a pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing away from your body. Hang with your arms fully extended, but not locked out, and entire body braced. From here, pull your shoulder blades back and together and draw your elbows down your sides to lift your body up toward the bar. As soon as the bar reaches your collarbones, pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start. (If you cannot perform a full bodyweight pull-up, you can use an assisted pull-up machine, place your knees on a resistance band that’s looped around the bar, or hold a dead hang.) Perform as many reps as you can, then get on the floor in a push-up position with your hands on the floor directly underneath your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from head to heels. From here, bend your elbows to slowly lower your chest as far toward the floor as you can while maintaining a flat back. Pause, then push through your hands, again keeping a flat back, to return to start. Perform as many reps as you can. Rest for 60 seconds, then repeat both exercises for a total of three rounds.

5. Stability Ball Plank Circles

Your core is at the center of your entire body’s strength and power. By working both your “six-pack” muscles as well as your deep-lying spinal stabilizers, this dynamic exercise helps score you a middle that’s as functional as it is chiseled.

Instructions: Get into a push-up position with your hands braced on a stability ball and your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Lower your torso so that your forearms rest on the ball, making sure to keep your entire body braced. From here, use your shoulders and elbows to roll the ball in clockwise circles. Complete as many circles as you can, then rest for 30 seconds and repeat, this time performing counterclockwise circles. Rest for 30 seconds, then repeat both exercises for a total of three rounds.

6. Slack-Line Walk

This balancing act is all about training the body’s proprioceptive powers—your nervous system’s ability to sense your body positioning and movement. The result: better sports technique and a lower risk of injury.

Instructions: Secure a slackline to two posts a couple of feet above the ground so that it is taut in the middle. With bare feet, step onto one end of the line. As soon as you are comfortable standing in place for 10 seconds, hold your arms out to both sides of your body for balance (you can also hold a stick or pole), and slowly walk from one end of the line to the other. Progress to walk back and forth three times.