Clearing a spot in your schedule specifically for workouts makes them become as routine as brushing your teeth. Instead of stressing over when you can possibly find time to squeeze in some exercise, you’ll have already penciled it into your day. While this regularity is good for scheduling purposes, your workouts could suffer from the same mentality.
If you’re always following the same program, your results will level off pretty quickly. When you want to start seeing improvement, you can either increase the load or switch the moves you’re performing. Increasing weight is the easiest route, yet you can only add so many pounds without risking an injury or letting your form slide.
Switching to some different moves is probably the better choice. The only problem is figuring out which lifts can help you achieve your goals. After all, no one wants to try something new only to find themselves performing worse than before. We’re here to help. We’ve looked to some of the fittest NFL players for inspiration and found some of the moves that help them stay on top of their fitness. Try these five exercises to start getting stronger and looking great.
1. What: Dumbbell push-up to row, Who: Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush has long been considered one of the fittest men in the NFL, which is saying a lot when you consider all of the players devote most their time to hitting the weights, working on explosive drills, and building their endurance. Somehow, though, Bush always manages to push his workouts a little harder. This two-in-one exercise is a great example. Whereas many lifts target one specific muscle group, the dumbbell push-up to row targets your shoulders, arms, and your core at the same time.
To perform this move, get into a push-up position with your hands clasped around two moderately light dumbbells. Make sure you have good stability, then lower yourself until your chest is just above the ground. Push yourself back up, then row your left arm up, keeping your elbow tucked close to your body. Return the left dumbbell to the floor, perform another push-up, then repeat the move with your right arm. According to STACK, you should aim for four sets of 16 repetitions. Head over to the website to see Bush doing the move himself.
As you execute this exercise, form is especially critical. Keep the weight manageable and try to move in a controlled, deliberate motion. Avoid letting your back arch so you get the full benefit of engaging your core muscles and avoid straining your back.
2. What: Power clean, Who: Vernon Davis
San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis is one of those overachieving players who didn’t even need to complete his senior year of college to guarantee his future success as a professional athlete. With one of the most impressive NFL Combine performances ever, he showed he doesn’t mess around when it comes to working out. Muscle & Fitness managed to snag a copy of the 49ers training program, which features the power clean. This all-star move challenges your glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, back, and shoulders. It’s also a great way to build explosive power needed for reaching maximum speed on the field in the minimum amount of time.
To do this exercise, stand with your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart with a barbell placed in front of you. Squat down and grasp the bar with an overhand grip, your hands spaced just wider than shoulder-width apart. Your arms should be fully extended. Forcefully lift the bar by extending through your legs, keeping your back as straight as possible. As the bar rises above your knees, push your hips forward and slightly bend your knees as you jump and shrug your shoulders to pull the bar all the way to your shoulders. Catch the bar at shoulder level with your arms underneath and your legs fully extended. Check out Bodybuilding.com for a more detailed tutorial as well as a video.
Once again, manageable weight is hugely important with the power clean. Anything too heavy will almost guarantee and injury.
3. What: Single-leg squat, Who: Russel Wilson
If it seems like NFL players devote a lot of their time to leg exercises, it’s because they do. Arm strength is important as well, but the ability break into a dead sprint at any moment is probably the most important skill. Though a lot of muscles come into play here, it all starts with your butt. Glutes generate a lot of the force needed for striding, so keeping them strong isn’t optional for football players.
If you’ve been doing basic squats for some time and find you need to keep adding weight to get any sort of burn, it’s time to switch to one leg. The reason for this is twofold. Using a single leg means those muscles will have to do double the work. This move also makes it more difficult to balance, meaning your stabilizing muscles will get a bigger challenge. If it works for Russell Wilson, it’ll work for you.
To do this move, you may want to start without any additional weight. For the best balance, hold your arms out in front of you. Lift one leg straight out in front of you and lower yourself into a squat. Go as low as you can while still maintaining good form, then push yourself back up. You may find you need to go a bit slower with one leg than you would with two, so take your time. Men’s Fitness recommended three sets of five repetitions on each leg.
4. What: Decline crunch, Who: Steve Weatherford
You don’t have to be a medical expert to see Steve Weatherford is in impeccable shape. While he, like all players, should probably thank genetics for some of his physical prowess, he clearly devotes a lot of time to his fitness routine. One of his go-tos is this variation on a basic crunch. Rather than lying flat on the floor, this move uses a bench that elevates your lower body while keeping your shoulders close to the ground. Since you have to work against gravity, it’s significantly more challenging than the basic exercise.
Get yourself into position on a decline bench with your knees bent. Keep your hands lightly placed on either side of your head. Use your abdominals to pull yourself toward your feet. Once your shoulders are about 4 inches above the bench, pause briefly, then lower yourself back down. Head to Bodybuilding.com if you need more guidance.
5. What: Reverse lunges, Who: Colin Kaepernick
Sometimes a minor tweak is all it takes to transform a lift into something even better. The reverse lunge is a great example of this. According to STACK, stepping backwards rather than forwards yields a superior move since you can lunge deeper without screwing up your form. The article also said this move ensures the pressure stays on your heel rather than rolling toward the ball of your foot. Men’s Health reported San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kapaernick can knock these out with 100-pound weights, but you’ll want to start with much less.
Using either dumbbells or a barbell rested across your shoulders, stand with your feet together and your legs fully extended. Step back with your right leg and lower yourself into a lunge so that both knees are at about 90-degree angles. Push through your left leg and step your right leg back into position as you stand, then repeat. Runner’s World recommended aiming for four sets of six repetitions on each leg. The article also suggested completing all repetitions with one leg before proceeding to the next.