When you think about professional football players and their strength training methods, I’m sure the first – maybe, even the only – thing that comes to your mind are countless hours of pumping iron at the gym, right?
But these days, a lot of NFL players are trading in their traditional weight lifting equipment for more unusual strength training methods. By unusual I mean, 300lbs athletes using ballet bars, doing pilates, and practicing yoga.
Method: Ballet Bars
Teams Who Use Them: Dallas Cowboys
Plagued with a long history of hamstring injuries, the Dallas Cowboys strength training team decided to do something different – they installed three ballet bars with varying heights outside their locker room.
According to Jason Garett, they are committed to keeping their players healthy and with less injuries by adding more stretching into their training. The players use the ballet bars to create get a larger range of stretches.
Aside from the use of ballet bars, they’ve also switched up their pre-practice stretching routine from the old team stretch type to a dynamic warm-up.
Teams Who Use Them: Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles
For the Lions’ Nate Burleson, his first encounter with yoga wasn’t such a good one. He was laughed at by the old ladies in his class for not being able to do the poses properly. “They’re looking at me like, ‘You call yourself an athlete?’” says Burleson.
Now, Burleson does yoga to help him with what he calls prehab. “What most guys are doing now, they’re using it as a preventative measure,” says Burleson “You’re able to get your body more flexible, and your ligaments and tendons, all that stuff can give a little bit more when you have it already stretched out and worked out.”
When you lift weights, you’re tearing your muscles. What yoga does is heal your muscles by stretching. It makes your body more flexible, loose, and nimble, reducing the risk of injuries in a high impact sports.
The Seahawks on the other hand, emphasize the importance of yoga for a player’s mind. During meditation sessions, the players undergo exercises that highlight positive thinking and imagery work.
“Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice,” says Russell Okung, who plays offensive tackle for the Seahawks “There are so many things telling you that you can’t do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them and change them.”
And with the Seahawks making it to the top tier picks of football analysts to take this year’s championship, then something must be working.
Other players who include yoga as part of their strength training are Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens), Vernon Davis (San Francisco 49ers), and Victor Cruz (New York Giants).
Teams Who Use Them: Washington Redskins
The training and conditioning staff of the Washington Redskins are so impressed with the results they were getting from the first batch of voluntary off-season workouts, that they made it a mandatory part of the team’s workout routine.
Since 2012, the Redskins have incorporated Pilates into their off-season strength training workouts. Like yoga, Pilates also places importance in proper stretching to avoid injuries. But unlike yoga, Pilates is specifically developed with rehabilitation of the muscles and joints in mind.
It repairs and strengthen muscles that could’ve been damaged when lifting heavy weights by elongating the muscles. The varied combinations of equipment or equipment-free workouts that target specific problem areas, make Pilates a fun and challenging workout.
Players who include Pilates as part of their strength training workout are Martellus Bennett (Chicago Bears), Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers), and Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints).