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Physical tools mean so much to football scouts. In the case of the NFL Combine, some argue it matters too much.
But the importance of measurements never is more emphasized than in February, when hundreds of college standouts head to Indianapolis to participate in the NFL Combine. Here, players are paraded around to different stations, measured, weighed, tested, interviewed and, ultimately, criticized or praised for how they grade out. Millions of dollars are made at the NFL Combine. Millions can be lost, as well.
In recent years, the NFL Combine has seen increased exposure and hype, particularly around the core physical tests that all the players go through.
These tests aren’t just for NFL prospects. College coaches look at them, too, and high school coaches love players who can excel in these areas. Combines are set up for athletes as young as 13 to start getting used to the testing and gaining exposure.
So what can you do to get better in the core tests that have become so important to football evaluators? Active.com can help. Here is a breakdown of all the critical combine events, and a collection of links to help you improve in each of those areas.
At the NFL Combine, the bench press is a test of strength where athletes try to lift 225 pounds as many times as possible. Overall, the bench press is a respected measure of strength for football players and one of the most popular lifts out there. Many NFL-bound wide receivers can do about 20 reps, while the strongest linemen can exceed 35 reps.
Perhaps no event at the NFL Combine is more hyped. The 40-yard dash is the NFL standard for speed, and players at the combine are clocked at the 10-, 20- and 40-yard mark of their run to evaluate various strengths, from explosiveness off the starting line to acceleration in the final half. Big money often is made or lost based on an athlete’s 40 time.
The fastest wide receivers and defensive backs typically can run between 4.3 and 4.4 seconds, while NFL prospect linemen run closer to five seconds flat. Some of the fastest times ever recorded are around 4.2 seconds, from players like Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson and Raghib “Rocket” Ismail.
Three cones are set up five yards apart in an “L” shape. Athletes start in the three-point stance at the top cone, sprint five yards to the bottom cone, back to the top cone, then sprint back to the second cone, run around it and head over to the third cone. The athletes then run around the third cone, head back to the second cone, cut around it and go back to the beginning. Quickness and shiftiness are key to doing well in this drill.
Improve Quickness With the Dot Drill – An activity that focuses solely on quick feet, like the dot drill, will help cut down your three-cone drill time.
20- and 60-Yard Shuttle Runs
There are two variations of the shuttle run at the Combine–the 20-yard and the 60-yard. In the 20-yard shuttle, athletes run five yards, touch the line, go back 10 yards the other direction, touch the line, then sprint back to where they started. The 60-yard shuttle is similar but covers more ground. Acceleration, coordination and quickness are key.
Players stand under a pole that has flags sticking out the side. Standing flat-footed, they jump from the standing position and try to swat the highest flags on the pole. The vertical jump is a respected measure of explosiveness among football talent evaluators.
Wide receivers and defensive backs benefit greatly from having impressive vertical leaps, since a reception or interception sometimes depends on who jumps higher. Still, all players can wow the right person by showing strong athleticism in this area. Receivers and defensive backs heading to the NFL can flash verticals of more than 35 inches. Even the most athletic college offensive linemen can reach 30 inches.
The broad jump differs from the vertical in one distinct way. In the broad jump, players stand flat-footed, and try to jump as far as possible–not as high as possible like the vertical. The broad jump is more a test of power than it is explosiveness.
Neck and head injuries can result in dire implications. The topic has gained much interest recently due to the increased documentation of debilitating cervical spinal injuries and concussions, particularly in American football. When compared to ankle, knee, or shoulder injuries – although serious, but less life threatening – cervical spine and head trauma go to the top of the list of importance. And it’s not just American football as the focal point: soccer, MMA, rugby, auto racing, and other combative and cervical-spine/head compromising activities need to be scrutinized when it comes to these anatomical areas.
The aforementioned sports have been around for quite some time. Why all the attention to their potential dangers, now? I believe it’s pretty simple – improved training programs and lighter (or non-existent) protective equipment have resulted in a more risky physics equation. Greater speed and force production via enhanced conditioning programs coupled with lighter-weight protective equipment (with less restriction, allowing more freedom of movement) equates to a greater amount of forces and speed that need to be dissipated on either the giving or receiving end. Simply stated, a stronger and faster athlete who generates greater force and speed can either compromise himself or his opponent if either party is physically incapable of absorbing the generated forces.
Enter many high school or college weight rooms and take an inventory of the equipment: a plethora of benches, squat racks, platforms, dumbbells, barbells, and weight plates abound. How many neck machines do you see? Usually none or maybe one. Ask the strength and conditioning coach, head sport coach, or athletic trainer what the neck and head training protocol is above and beyond their limited or non-existent equipment. Often the answer is nothing, or possibly something posted on a wall or dry-erase board. Whatever the case, it’s either not performed, done sporadically, or executed in a perfunctory manner because it’s not a priority.
In today’s day and age of more knowledge and a greater propensity for filing a lawsuit, it’s sad that one of the most vulnerable areas of the human body is either totally neglected or given only a cursory sniff of attention. If you sprain your ankle or shoulder, you miss a few weeks of competition. If you injure your cervical spine, you could find yourself confined to a wheelchair for the remainder of your life.
The previous grim information aside, how should coaches, trainers, and administrators address the importance of neck and head training? Simply give attention to these two areas:
- Make it workable. Head and neck training should be easy to understand and perform for all involved. The approach does not need to be overwhelming and time-consuming. Gie your athletes basic exercises, set/rep prescriptions, and a set schedule.
- Require compliance. If it’s important (which it is), then make it mandatory. Everyone does it, on schedule, and with proper effort. If it’s not done, punitive steps should be taken. Athlete’s should be made aware they are neglecting to take measures to protect an important part of the body. And for you, as a coach in today’s litigious society where lawsuits are generated from such things drinking overly hot coffee or negligence in workout supervision, don’t leave it to chance.
And remind your athletes (and yourself, perhaps) that head and neck training should not just be a “guy’ thing. Females also run the risk of neck and head injuries. Fortify that cylinder the head sits atop of regardless of gender.
There is a certain mindset that all successful athletes share. They have a need to become better and better, and this urge does not die away until they’ve become the very best at what they do. The following are the top habits of athletes who have achieved great success in their careers.
For an athlete, it is very important to stay aware and be mentally present in the game. This requires sharp focus during all crunch times of the game. A professional athlete has the ability to effectively block out all distractions from his /her mind. They develop the habit of ignoring bothersome noise, whether internal or external, and the rejecting the fear of failure in order to stay focused on their goals.
We know it is easier said than done, and most of us have a tough time maintaining that laser sharp focus, but it is something that’s common in famous athletes. When you are competing at a professional level, you need to have great focus.
It is crucial for an athlete to keep a positive attitude before and throughout the competition. Recruiters and coaches prefer athletes who give off positive vibes and carry positive energy within them, which also gets transferred to their team members. They smile in the toughest of moments during the competition and this is what keeps them strong and motivated throughout.
It is tough to stay positive in every situation, especially if you are struggling with an injury or have had a bad season. However, as an athlete you cannot allow negative thoughts to rule over you. To develop the habit of positive thinking, you can start keeping a gratitude journal where you list your blessings and write about things that you are thankful for.
Successful athletes foresee their success before the game. They sit down to meditate, close their eyes, and imagine themselves scoring that touchdown or performing that slamdunk as the opposition watches in awe and the crowd goes wild. They see themselves achieving their goals with their mind’s eye, so when they are out there for real, it is nothing new for them and they end up doing it easily.
Great athletes perform cool-down exercises to compose themselves and loosen up. Unwanted stress will definitely affect your performance. Performing breathing exercises and listening to soothing music helps your mind and body to calm down and become prepared for the fierce competition ahead.
We are not kidding about this! You will always need to go the extra mile if you want to become a proficient athlete. You also need to perform a few stretching exercises that are crucial to gear your muscles up for the game. Warming up is always essential and can comprise of jogging, lightweight lifting and some stretching exercises that will prepare your body for the real deal. Brad Walker, author of Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility has also emphasized the importance of stretching and warm up exercises in his book. Stretching has many benefits for athletes and non-athletes alike including increased power, increase energy (less fatigue), increased coordination and increased blood flow. This 144-page book is the bible of stretching; provides 135 unique stretching exercises with pictures complete with step-by-step instructions on specific techniques.
Applying a few of these effective strategies in your everyday life and adopting the top habits of athletes will set you on the right track to becoming invincible.