Offensive linemen are deceptively athletic. They're known for their size, but watch a lineman closely and you'll see that the great ones possess extraordinary quickness and mobility—essentials for catching and overpowering the speedy and strong defensive linemen and linebackers they face every Sunday.
That's why Craig Fitzgerald, head strength coach for the Houston Texans, focuses on building his linemen into complete athletes, not just big guys who can lift a lot of weight.
This doesn't require a complicated program. The "Tanks," as Fitzgerald calls the Texans' O-linemen, perform just three full-body workouts per week, each consisting of five strength exercises and one conditioning drill. It's simple but effective.
"If you don't have the basics, you will be behind the eight ball," Fitzgerald says. "And you don't have time to be behind when you're trying to make a team or get a starting position."
The workouts begin with an Olympic lift such as a Hang Clean. Next up is a Squat variation, then an upper-body Press. The strength work wraps up with a glute/hamstring and back superset, and the workouts finish with a conditioning drill like Hill Sprints.
It's a simple formula that will make you a better offensive lineman if you do the workouts correctly.
Anyone can perform Fitzgerald's workouts and get stronger. But mastering its details will improve the athletic skills you need to protect the quarterback and create holes for your running backs.
Here are Fitzgerald's key tips for training as an offensive lineman.
Work Multiple Muscle Groups at Once
"Your muscles need to work together on the football field. If you're working on one region or one body part per exercise, it's almost like a Frankenstein approach where you're putting your body together limb by limb. When you do something like a Squat, your core is engaged, your upper back has to stay tight, you're using your glutes and hamstrings, you're firing your chest. You're entire body is in action, and that's similar to when you block someone on the line."
Perform Lifts Explosively
"Make the weights rattle on Squats. If you're not moving the weights fast, it's not going to transfer to the field. It doesn't matter how much you can squat slowly, it matters how much weight you can move fast. The same holds true for the Bench Press. We lower the weight over 2 to 3 seconds and then explode up. When you put speed into the lift, it makes you a much more powerful player on the field. You will never punch someone's shoulder pads or chest on the field with slow arms. We have to replicate that in the weight room."
Build Balance and Stability
"Offensive linemen need to balance themselves against an exterior force [a defensive lineman] when they're trying to maintain a block. To do that you need a great base of support, along with balance from side-to-side and front-to-back. You get balance and stability by getting stronger, especially in difficult positions. For example, get low enough in your Squat, at least down to parallel, to put yourself in a leverage disadvantage and explode out of it. This is how you're going to move on the field."
Improve Your Mobility
"At combines in high school, line coaches are going to ask you to do an Overhead Squat with a PVC pipe. They want to see if you have good balance and good lower-body strength. If you fall forward or can't get into a low enough position, they'll deem you stiff and weak. Those are two labels you don't want. We add Overhead Squats with a PVC pipe into a superset any time we do our heavy Squat or other lower-body movements."
RELATED: Watch Todd Durkin explain how to perform the Overhead Squat.
Put these tips into practice as you work through the training plan for offensive linemen designed by Coach Fitzgerald during your off-season. When next season rolls around, you'll be as tough—and skilled—as a Texan Tank.
Houston Texans Offensive Line Workout
Perform grouped exercises as a superset.
Day 1 - Monday
1) Power Clean - 5x5
2) Back Squat - 5x8
3) Bench Press - 5x8
4a) RDL - 3x10
4b) Chin-Up - 3x10
5) Hill Sprints - 10x20 yards (1 rep per min.)
Day 2 - Wednesday
1) Hang Clean - 5x5
2) Dumbbell Step-Up - 5x8 each leg
3) Dumbbell Overhead Press - 5x8
4a) Glute Ham Raise - 3x10
4b) Rear Delt Raise - 3x10
5) Shuttle Run - 10x60 yards (5, 10 and 15 yards/1 rep per min.)
Day 3 - Friday
1) Power Shrug - 5x5
2) Pause Squat - 5x8 (Pause at bottom of Squat for 2-3 sec.)
3) Dumbbell Incline Press - 5x8
4a) Single-Leg RDL - 3x10 each leg
4b) Single-Arm Row - 3x10 each arm
5) Sled Push - 10x20 yards (1 rep per min.)
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