How NFL Players Manage Their Strength and Conditioning

The National Football League, abbreviated as ‘NFL’ and often referred to as ‘gridiron’, is a professional American Football League. For an athlete to be successful in the NFL, physical fitness alone will not cut it. In addition to being physically strong, the players must also be agile, determined, and be able to recover quickly – not just from injuries, which are quite common in a contact sport like American Football, but also from the taxing time spent on the field. To survive in a competitive environment like the NFL, the players must be in top shape, both during the season and in the off-season as well. For NFL players, maintaining their strength and stamina requires more than just lifting weights. Read on to find out what it takes to compete in the NFL.

Physical Training 

NFL players have to be physically fit. Period. An average NFL player stands 6 ft 2 in tall and weighs 98 kgs, significantly taller and bulkier than the average American. Natural ability and good genetics are clearly important. But genetics can only get you so far. For an NFL player, physical fitness entails various aspects. NFL players have a stringent physical training routine that covers different forms of training. The training regimens are designed separately for off-season and mid-season periods. The regular NFL season usually starts in early September and culminates with the Superbowl in February. The most important aspect of any training session is the most basic one: warming up and cooling down. Not warming up properly before a session and cooling down after, could potentially lead to injuries. Injuries that could affect the athlete’s performance or worse, could cause the athlete to miss an entire game altogether.

Speed Training

Speed and acceleration are extremely important for NFL players. In fact, time taken over a 40-yard dash is one of the criteria used by scouts for gauging potential athletes. For building up speed, exercise like a three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle runs, and bench presses are performed. The objective is to minimize the time of the 40-yard dash and this significantly depends on the starting speed and acceleration, for which developing explosive strength is important.

Agility Training 

Agility is all about how quickly you can change directions, so footwork is important. Good agility is important for dodging and tackling opponent athletes and as such, it is an important aspect of training. Most of the drills for improving agility are cones and ladder based workouts.

Strength Training 

Strength training mainly focuses on developing core strength. Weight training exercises like deadlifts, bench presses, and prowlers, along with bodyweight exercises like lunges, push-ups, and burpees are performed.

Endurance Training

NFL athletes have to maintain their performance throughout the game, which lasts 60 minutes. They have to build up their stamina to ensure that they perform at their best throughout the duration of the game. Endurance training involves both interval training and continuous training for improving anaerobic and aerobic endurance respectively.

The various training activities are spread across the week providing the athlete enough time to recover. Recovering from their workouts is just as important as sweating out during them. In addition to these, NFL athletes also have to work on their skills, teamwork, and strategies.

Getting the Right Nutrition

 To build muscle mass, athletes need to consume more calories than they burn. Proper nutrition plays an important role in recovery, and the correct diet plan is just as important as following the proper exercise regimen. Custom diet plans are designed in collaboration with coaches and physical therapists to ensure that the athletes are getting all the nutrients they need to build and maintain their strength. The diet plans aim to provide the athlete with the right amount of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. They are based on the unique requirements of every athlete, and their mid-season and off-season training regimens. To meet the recommended protein intake, athletes need to consume a lot of fish, further supplemented by chicken and turkey. The experts behind advise those who don’t consume enough protein to take dedicated pre-workout and post-workout supplements to boost recovery and get the best gains. Carbohydrates are consumed pre-workout to supply energy, while for fats, plant-based sources are prioritized over processed alternatives.

Staying Hydrated 

Proper hydration plays an important role in the performance of the athlete. Dehydration of a magnitude of just 2% of the body weight has been shown to significantly affect an athlete’s performance and can affect their health. During the game, an athlete is exposed to sustained bouts of high-intensity activities. This, combined with the heavy protective equipment used by them, exposes them to extreme conditions. As such, ample hydration before and after the game is crucial. Just like nutrition plans, the hydration regimens of the athletes are also personalized. They are designed by trainers, accredited by the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), based on the individual athlete’s rate of sweating and sweat composition to ensure that proper hydration is maintained both on and off the field.

Recovery and Rest 

NFL athletes push themselves to the limit, mentally and physically. Not getting ample rest would cause them to run ragged. With constant training throughout the year coupled with high-intensity games, it is important for athletes to get the right amount of sleep and to listen to their bodies. Every team has dedicated physiotherapists to help the athletes in their post-game recovery. The training regimens are further designed around the season calendar so that in the days prior to a match they are of lower intensity.

Keeping up with such a high-intensity sport puts tremendous pressure on the athletes, both physically and mentally. Not only do they have to remain highly motivated throughout the season, but they also have to deal with the media and public criticism. For them, maintaining their performance is not just about managing their physical fitness, and managing their strength and stamina is not just about hitting the gym. You cannot run a Ferrari on regular fuel. That is why NFL athletes have to follow specifically designed regimens that are backed by scientific proof, from training to nutrition.

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