The NFL's most extraordinary physique was not built with ordinary exercises alone. Although Adrian Peterson loves old standbys like the Bench, Squat and Pull-Up, his workouts also include complex movements that ramp up the level of difficulty. "Through the years, I've found ways to make my workout more and more challenging," he says with a smile.
Take Peterson's adaptation of the Push-Up, in which he balances each hand atop a stability ball. This enhances his core strength, shoulder stability and mental toughness as he battles against unstable surfaces beneath his palms. Peterson begins each training session with rapid-fire footwork drills that warm up his muscles, wake up his central nervous system, and help him work on the quick feet and cutting ability that allow him to dodge defenders.
"For being agile and quick as a cat, these drills come in handy," Peterson says. Then it's on to the heart of his movement work—power and speed training with a combination of plyometric exercises, acceleration work and cutting drills. "Being explosive, being off-balance, being able to push through—these drills will help you with that," he says.
Here's the workout that powered Peterson's 2012 season. Can you handle it?
Footwork and Reaction
1. Speed Ladder
Perform foot patterns down the length of the ladder as quickly as possible with perfect form. Try to look straight ahead as you move.
Patterns: Two feet in, two out; backpedal, side shuffle
Sets: 2x each pattern
2. Reactive Step
Place cones in a 3-yard square. Rapidly chop your feet in the center of the square while a partner calls out cones. On cue, take a step toward the cone, then back to center. Your partner can also say "hit it," which signals you to do an Up-Down. Keep your feet chopping throughout.
Sets/Duration: 3x15 seconds
Speed + Agility
1. Push-Up to Plyo Jump and Sprint
Lie on your stomach facing a wall of stacked bags. Quickly do a Push-Up while bringing your feet to your hands to reach a standing position, then jump over the bags. Land with bent knees and immediately explode into a 20-yard sprint.
2. Prone Starts
Lie on your stomach with your palms flat on the ground at chest level and your toes tucked underneath. On your partner's cue, push your chest off the ground and explode into a sprint. Alternate your lead foot on each rep.
Reps/Distance: 4x20 yards
3. Five-Bag Zig-Zag Sprint
Line up five bags in row, separated by a few yards each. Keeping your hips low, sprint forward to a bag, then shuffle sideways across it, moving through the entire ladder. Use your outside foot to cut around each bag.
Strength and Power
1. Med Ball Squat and Throw
Stand in an athletic position holding a med ball at your chest. Squat down until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the ground, then explode up, throwing the ball up as high as you can. Retrieve the ball after it hits the ground, and repeat.
2. BOSU Push-Up With Leg Drive
Place your hands on the hard plastic side of a BOSU. Perform a Push-Up and drive one knee forward and over to your opposite elbow. Hold for one count, then repeat using the other leg. Continue alternating legs throughout the set.
3. Double Swiss Ball Push-Up
Perform Push-Ups with each hand on top of a Swiss ball. Move slowly, keeping wobble to a minimum. Too tough? Try the move with just one Swiss ball, gripping it with both hands and lowering until your chest touches the ball.
4. Lying Med Ball Chest Toss
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and hold a heavy med ball at your chest. Extend your arms explosively to throw the ball straight up for max height. Catch the ball and immediately perform the next rep.
5. Bent-Over DB Row
Bend at the waist until your chest is almost parallel to the floor. Hold two dumbbells with your arms extended toward the ground, then drive your elbows back to row the dumbbells to your chest. Lower the weights slowly and repeat.
7. Dumbbell RDL
Assume a hip-width stance with your knees slightly bent, holding dumbbells in front of your thighs. Keeping your back flat, drive your hips back and lower the dumbbells down in front of your legs. Drive up to the start position and repeat.
8. Single-Leg BOSU Rope Slams
Balance in a quarter-squat position with one leg on top of a BOSU. Hold one end of a battle rope in each hand. Rapidly lift the rope and slam it down, alternating hands, counting reps every time your right hand slams the rope.
Sets/Reps: 3x10 on each leg
9. Swiss Ball Leg Drops
Lie on your back with your legs straight up, holding a Swiss ball between your ankles. Keeping your back flat against the floor, rotate your hips to the left until the ball nearly touches the floor, then lift your legs and repeat to the right.
Sets/Reps: 3x10 each direction
10. Double Swiss Ball Rollout
Start in a Plank with each forearm on a Swiss ball. Keeping your back flat and core tight, slowly roll the balls away until your back begins to arch, then bring them back to the start. For an extra challenge, try rolling a loaded barbell.
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