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The Combine Workout

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For more than a decade, EXOS has trained top NFL hopefuls prior to the scouting Combine in February. Hundreds of players have improved their speed, power, and strength to excel at the Combine and boost their draft stock, landing in the top three rounds of the NFL Draft in April.

Chances are, you’ll never be tested on how many times you can bench press 225 pounds or how fast you can run 40 yards or complete a shuttle run. But you can employ the same techniques NFL prospects learn at EXOS to improve your strength, power, and speed, which will help in any endeavor. Here’s how.

Improve Your Bench

Benching 225 pounds might not seem as accurate a barometer of strength as, say, benching your weight or finding your one-rep max. Unlike most NFL players, most people weigh much less than 225 pounds. That’s why EXOS founder Mark Verstegen recommends taking the same six-week Combine timeframe for improving the number of times you can bench press your body weight. If your body weight and bench press goal is 185 pounds, it’s not going to do much good to work exclusively at 135 pounds, even if your reps are going up.

“If you’re doing a lot of 135, but you can still only do 185 once, you’ve created endurance but haven’t become stronger,” Verstegen says. The key, Verstegen says, is “you have to increase the ceiling—your maximal strength, so that 185 feels lighter.”

If you’re doing a circuit that includes two sets of bench presses, make it a point to have weight that challenges you for eight repetitions. If you’re doing three sets consecutively, superset them with a lower-body exercise and go for 10 reps in the first set, eight in the second, and six in the third, adjusting the weight so it challenges your muscles but still allows you to complete your sets with solid technique.


Some of the fastest men in college football often are surprised to discover at EXOS that they’ve been running inefficiently. So they learn the importance of linear movement, the ability to transfer force at a high rate of speed. It's broken into four components: the start, acceleration, the transition, and absolute speed. Though this is designed in pre-Combine training for the 40-yard dash, it really applies to all sports. At the start, establish a balanced position where your center of gravity is as high as possible and in front of the base of support.

“Picture top sprinters,” Verstegen writes in his new book Every Day Is Game Day: The Proven System of Elite Performance to Win All Day, Every Day. “They’re not hunched over; they’re standing tall, but leaning slightly forward. This enables them to maximize force into the ground from head to heel in a controlled manner with the greatest possible velocity.”

The lower body should be in a triple flexed position. The feet are hip-width apart in a staggered position. The ankle should be dorsiflexed (toes up) as much as possible, producing an angle of about 45 degrees to the shin. You should be looking 10 yards ahead. The elbows should be flexed at 90 degrees, working in a motion from hand to hip, and from hand to head. Acceleration has to do with your start, whether it’s a fixed-position track start, a two-point stance, or accelerating from a position common to your sport. Acceleration lasts from zero to 15 yards. After that, we transition into absolute speed, which is where your body is much more upright and your leg action is more cyclical.

“Between your arm and leg action, you’re feeling like you’re running from the center of your body in a fluid motion,” Verstegen writes. “This allows you to hit your peak or top-end speed and sustain this rate. This can last from yard 15 to 20 through the rest of your race, whether that’s a 50-yard sprint or hundreds of yards.”

"The benefit of acceleration is that as you’re forced into longer distances, the same mechanics make your running more efficient, boosting speed while decreasing the effort needed.”

Recover and Fuel

NFL Draft hopefuls, just out of college, tend to eat like college kids. So do many adults. A six-week Combine training program is a perfect time to fine-tune your nutrition, says Bob Calvin, a performance nutritionist at EXOS.

“The key, as always, is to relate food to performance,” Calvin says. “Think in terms of how food impacts our bodies by referring to proteins as building blocks, carbohydrates as fuel, and colorful vegetables as preventative foods.”

During your own six-week Combine program, it’s important to follow proper fueling strategies. But they need not be any stricter than usual—assuming you have a strong program in place normally. Calvin urges athletes to follow the familiar 80/20 rule, eating clean 80 percent of the time and using downtimes in the training schedule to enjoy favorite foods that might not be the healthiest.

“You can eat foods as a reward,” Calvin says. “Just try and match it up to off days and make sure that it’s only 20 percent of the time.”

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Football