An athlete’s performance on the field starts long before they strap up their helmet. Every player, prior to racking up touchdowns, pancake blocks, or big plays has to start with the basics. We’ve outlined our top 4 lifts for football players to build a foundation in strength. Read more below.
The deadlift is one of the most versatile and effective lifts for the entire body. From a conditioning perspective, the deadlift builds strength and size in a number of muscle groups, including the lats, upper back, lower back, glutes, hamstrings, biceps, and forearms. The deadlift’s hip-hinge movement pattern increases hip explosiveness. Greater explosion through the hips benefits any athlete on the field when they block, tackle, or engage, providing power through contact. A great example of this is an offensive or defensive lineman coming up out of their three-point stance to engage the player in front of them.
Like the deadlift, a strong argument can be made that the squat transfers most effectively into the game of football. Squats build strength and power in your legs, core, and even upper back & lats. Those strength gains increase power and frequency of leg drive which improves an athlete’s speed and ability to run through contact whether they are a running back breaking a tackle, or linebacker making one. Lastly, squats prevent injury in the knees, which are one of the most susceptible areas for injury in football. Your knee joints and ligaments will acclimate to the stressors of heavy squatting and be able to withstand more pounding on the field.
The bench press is the gold standard for quantifying upper body strength. The hype is driven by the NFL Combine with the sentiment trickling down to every other “combine” style event (NCAA Pro Days, High school football combines). The bench press builds strength in your chest, shoulders, triceps, and secondarily in the lats and upper back which act as stabilizers when you move the weight. The bench press will improve power in any blocking or hand punching scenario; an offensive lineman engaging a defender on a block, or a cornerback pressing a wide receiver. Also, you’re going to want a solid answer when you get the inevitable, “How much do you bench?” question.
The pull-up is the most accurate measure of relative strength for any athlete. Activating the lats, back, arms, and forearms, the pull-up will keep the shoulders healthy and ready to deliver a big hit. The strength gained from the pull-up is used at all positions on the field as athletes push, pull and fight their way to the next big play. Every position, at some point, will have to throw an opposing player by, and having a strong, powerful back is a huge advantage.
Although football players come in all shapes and sizes, a foundation in strength is crucial to top performance for players at all levels. Using these top four lifts in your training will keep athletes injury free, build power and explosiveness in all facets of the game of football, and help improve overall performance on the field.