An NFL Trainer Shares a Combine-Ready Warmup for Football

Must Read

IF YOU ARE watching the NFL Combine, you’ll likely marvel at the incredible mix of speed, size, and agility displayed by the prospective pro football players.

Drills like the 20-yard shuttle (otherwise known as the 5-10-5 or Pro Agility drill) are an NFL Combine staple. These exercises showcase players’ ability to change directions quickly. Though it’s often overlooked by flashier metrics like the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and bench press, the shuffle allows prospects to flash the agility potential that is key to many positions. Think about how a running back moves to avoid defensive linemen, or a wide receiver runs a route. Even defensive backs need to be able to turn on a dime to stick to their coverage.

These quick change-of-direction movements put a lot of pressure on our ligaments, tendons, and require a ton of muscle recruitment to be explosive. If you’re not properly warmed up, you could be putting your body in a bad position for peak performance.

Brian Harrington, C.S.C.S. is a pro strength and performance coach who serves as an off-season trainer of many NFL athletes. Here, he takes us through an agility warm up that will fire up the muscles required for quick and effective stop-and-go movement.

What Muscles Are Involved in Agility Movements?

In short: many.

Tons of lower body muscles are involved in running, starting, and stopping. The groin, or adductor muscles, tighten up upon hard stops to save your leg from sliding out from underneath you. Your glutes and hamstrings help to move you forward as you drive off the turf.

The hips are the main mover when it comes to changing direction quickly. Prepping for this is very different than training for linear movement, says Harrington. With linear training, the focus is on training only flexion and extension of the hip. But the hip allows you to move in more than forward and backwards; since you’ll be moving multi-directionally, abduction, adduction, and rotation are all important for switching directions.

To utilize all of these movement patterns safely, we need to warm up mobility and stability in the hip. Here are Harrington’s go-to exercises to get the body ready for agility training.

4 Exercises to Warm Up Agility

90/90 Liftoff with Rotation

Gain some mobility to prepare for more lateral movements with this exercise. This will help stretch the deep inner capsules of the hips.

How to Do It:

  • Start with both knees and hips in a 90 degree bend— one in front and one in back. Place both hands on the ground around the leg out in front.
  • Lift the back leg up off the ground, rotating the knee and foot forward.
  • Rotate back to the original position.
  • Aim for three sets of three to five reps per side.

Standing Hip CARs

CARs stands for controlled articular rotations. These will move through every motion of the hip, preparing it for load in agility movements.

You will need something to hold onto for balance with this exercise, so have a door frame, hand-railing, or PVC pipe ready.

How To Do It:

  • Hold onto your anchor point with one hand. Lift up the other arm to create a T with your body.
  • Flex the leg opposite to the hand holding the anchor point, to where there in a 90 degree bend in your hip, knee, and ankle.
  • Open up the knee laterally, ensuring that the hip stays facing forward.
  • Once you feel like you can’t laterally open up any further, rotate your thigh down and back under the hip, to where your knees meet.
  • Reverse the above to get back to the original position.
  • Slow this down. It should take about 10 to 15 seconds to get through a single rep.
  • Aim for three sets of three to five reps per side.

Banded Monster Walks

The first two exercises focused on mobility and stability. Now the warm up shifts to add in some strength work. This movement will activate the glutes and deep hip muscles so they’re ready for action.

You’ll need a resistance band for this one. Don’t have one handy? Here’s our favorites.

How To Do It:

  • Place the activation band just above your knees.
  • Start in a squat hold position— feet shoulder width apart, hips dropped down and back, back straight and chest up.
  • Stay in the position, and start taking small lateral steps. Keep your knees over your toes as you go.
  • Do this for a few yards, and return in the other direction.
  • Aim for 3 sets of 10 to 15 yards.

Crossover to Shuffle Drill

This last exercise is a bit more dynamic, mimicking some of the directional changes you may see on the field. This move alternates some rotation of the hip with some lateral movement to warm up in all directions.

How To Do It:

  • Start in an athletic stance, with feet shoulder width apart, slight bend in the hips and knees, back straight.
  • Take some crossover steps, with the trailing leg crossing up and over the forward leg with every step. Go for 10 to 15 yards.
  • On the way back, ditch the crossover and take normal lateral shuffles.
  • Do 2 to 3 reps per side of 10 to 15 yards.

Cori Ritchey, NASM-CPT is an Associate Health & Fitness Editor at Men’s Health and a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. You can find more of her work in HealthCentral, Livestrong, Self, and others.

Latest News

Nobody’s safe after an upset-filled weekend in men’s basketball

Now up on the No. 1 chopping lock — Arizona. How long will the Wildcats stay safe there? If...

More Articles Like This