From the end of February to April, NFL coaches and scouts travel around the country to watch athletes work out at the NFL Combine and various Pro Day events that take place on college campuses. The athletes who participate in these events typically spend weeks, if not months, preparing for the opportunity.
The latest crop of athletes who trained for the NFL Combine at TopSpeed Strength & Conditioning include:
Cassius Sendish, DB, Kansas
- Pre-training—*Forty: 4.73-4.82, Vertical: 28", Broad: 9'2"
- Pro Day Results—Forty: 4.44-4.50, Vertical; 37", Broad: 9'10"
Dexter McDonald, CB, Kansas
- Pre-training—*Forty: 4.76-4.80, Vertical: 33", Broad: 9'7"
- Pro Day Results—Forty: 4.37-4.42, Vertical: 40.5", Broad: 11'2"
Devante Bausby, CB, Pitt State
- Pre-training—*Forty: 4.77-4.81, Vertical: 32", Broad: 9'9"
- Pro Day Results—Forty: 4.41-4.45 (He also ran a wind-assisted 4.22 40), Vertical: 37.5", Broad: 11'
Keon Stowers, DT, Kansas
- Pre-training—10-yd split: 1.99, Vertical: 24", Broad: 7'7"
- Pro Day Results—10-yd split: DNF, Vertical: 29.5", Broad: 8'6"
Unfortunately Keon injured his pec during the Bench Press test and was unable to continue, so scouts did not get his 10/40 times.
Tedarian Johnson, DL, Kansas
- Pre-training—10-yd split: 2.02, Vertical: 21", Broad: 7'5"
- Pro Day Results—10-yd split: 1.83-1.89, Vertical: 28", Broad: 8'2"
*Note: Pre-training 40-Yard Dash times are projections based on initial laser-tested 10-yard start times taken during baseline testing.
Since their Pro Days, these athletes have seen their stock rise significantly. Dexter was invited to visit and work out for the Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and Washington Redskins. Devante and Keon were both invited in for official visits by the Kansas City Chiefs, and Cassius was invited to work out for the Baltimore Ravens the week before the start of the NFL Draft.
A good combine is important for college football recruiting as well. It is not uncommon for an athlete to receive scholarship offers from schools after performing well at one of the big-time combine events or team camps that are held throughout the country during the spring and summer.
In fact, one college coach at a Top 25 BCS school recently told a high school recruit who trains with us at TopSpeed that he wanted to see him run a better 40-Yard Dash at an upcoming camp prior to making him an offer.
Just as you wouldn't take a test without studying ahead of time, don't take these camps and combines lightly. Be smart and train for them in advance. Your preparation could pay off in a big way.
The Combine Training Program
Because these athletes were still attending classes and had other responsibilities, our schedule was fluid, but our typical weekly template was similar to the following (I've included links to some of the less common exercises listed):
- Sunday - Linear Speed
- Monday - Max Effort Upper/Yoga
- Tuesday - Drill Practice/Change-of-Direction
- Wednesday - OFF or Yoga
- Thursday - Repetition Effort Upper/Agility
- Friday - Max Effort Lower
- Saturday - Yoga/Massage
Sunday: The linear speed workout was a combination of loaded and unloaded sprint training at various points along the speed-strength continuum. We were fortunate to have Olympic Sprinter Maurice Mitchell in as a consultant to provide another set of eyes when it came to technique and ground-force application. As the event date approached, our focus centered more on technical aspects and absolute speed instead of externally loaded movements.
- Technique work, 10-20 minutes
- Supermans, 2x4
- 10 10-yard starts
- Weighted Arm Swings, 3x30 seconds
- Sled Sprints, 6-10 reps
- Broad Jump variation, 3-4x3
- Manual Glute-Ham Raises, 4x6
- Core stabilization emphasis (e.g., Dynamic Planks).
Monday: The workout was focused on maximal upper-body strength. There is an old saying in the strength training industry than you "cannot fire a cannon from a canoe." The basic premise is that you need a strong base in order to produce maximal force. With that anecdote in mind, we began our max-effort upper-body workout with a pulling exercise versus a pressing movement. Following the lifting session, the athletes took part in a Yoga for Athletes class with instructor Lori Archer. (As of this writing Lori is the only certified Yoga-for-Athletes instructor in the Kansas & Missouri area.) The yoga class focused on improving balance, coordination, body control and joint mobility.
- Weighted Chin-Ups with Isomiometric Pause, 4-6x6
- Bench Press, 5x3
- Dumbbell One-Arm Row, 3x8
- Dumbbell Incline Press, 3x8
- Dumbbell External Rotation, 3x10
- Skullcrushers, 3x12
- Hammer Curls, 4x8
- Core strength emphasis (e.g., Landmine Twists)
Tuesday: The focus was on practicing combine-specific drills such as the Pro-Agility, L-Drill, and position-specific drills. The emphasis varied depending on the individual athletes' weak areas, but the overwhelming theme of the day was learning proper body control and movement efficiency. Drills were performed at half-speed to begin with, speed increasing as the athlete became proficient with each movement pattern. This workout typically lasted 60 to 75 minutes.
Wednesday: We had a planned recovery day to allow for muscle repair. Athletes had the option of taking a full rest day or attending a restorative yoga class.
Thursday: The repetition-effort upper-body lift was focused primarily on improvement in the 225-pound bench test. Depending on the athlete's strength level, a weight was selected ranging from 225 to 255 to begin the workout. As with the max-effort lifting day, after performing the main and accessory lifts, the athletes performed isolation exercises for their biceps and triceps. This was simply to help them pass the "eye test" scouts are fond of. Following the lifting session, the athletes performed a short (15-20 minute) agility workout consisting of reactive change-of-direction drills.
- Bench Press: 225 x max reps + 25 Push-Ups (4 minutes rest); 185 x max reps + 25 Push-Ups (4 minutes rest); 155 x max reps + 25 Push-Ups (4 minutes rest)
- Lat Pull-Downs, 3x10 supersetted with Band Pull Aparts x 15 reps
- Neutral Grip Shoulder Press, 3x8
- Inverted Rows, 4x15 supersetted with Shrugs x 10 reps
- Barbell Curls, 3x10
- Tricep Extensions, 4x8
- Core Training, strength emphasis
Friday: Friday's max-effort lower body workout focused maximal strength and range of motion. Exercise selection included both bilateral and unilateral variations to help improve the strength deficit ratio that exists between the limbs.
- 12-inch Box Squats, 5x5
- Lateral Lunges, 3x10 each direction
- Barbell Step-Ups, 4x8 each leg
- Back Extensions, 4x8-10 supersetted with Single-leg Hamstring Curls x 6-8 reps
- Core stabilization emphasis (e.g., Pallof Press)
Saturday: The emphasis was on restoration and recovery. Athletes attended one of Lori Archer's Yoga for Athletes classes followed by a massage. The goal was to increase mobility and balance and to help facilitate muscle repair.
Find out how this year's top NFL prospects are training for pros in STACK's Path to the Pros series.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock