Football Drills and Exercises for Defensive Backs

Football Workouts for Defense Backs

Before we begin with our list of football workouts, let’s review what defensive backs need to focus on that other workouts are not always covering.

The oft-neglected but vital muscle groups include the hips, glutes, and legs. We’ll also focus on agility and the ability to quickly coordinate direction changes.

Why these 3 muscle groups? A defense backs ability to sprint, jump, break and push is based largely in the lower body. While you want to round out your workout with some focus upper body and core training, the hips, glutes and legs will have you 90% of the way to your performance goals.

Hip In, Out and Hold

In this exercise, you’ll focus on loosening up the hip flexors to provide greater flexibility for the other exercises. An essential part of quickness that cornerbacks need is the ability to swivel the hips in a full range of motion.

Be sure to start with some moderate cardio to get your blood pumping. This will get your muscles warm and loose to prevent injury during this stretching and holding motion.

Start by leaning against a wall for support with your feet about 18 inches from the wall. Raise your right leg to the outside to be parallel with the ground and hold for 5 seconds. Then swing your right leg until your right foot crosses in front of your left foot. Swing to the left as far as you can go. Hold for 5 seconds and then lower. Repeat with 3 reps for each leg.

You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by adding resistance, either through a cable attached to standard workout equipment or through a resistance band.

Back Pedal

This move works on the hips, quadriceps and glutes. The goal is to run backwards, which is great for mixing up the muscle usage as well as improving agility and balance.
Start with your knees bent. Keep your head up and your chest leaned slightly over your toes to help maintain your balance. Take short steps backward, aiming for rapid foot movement and correct form. You do not need to go long distances at a time, but rather focus on the reps of continuous, quick movement.

Here is a short example video of how the back pedal should look.

Hip Twists

In order to quickly change direction, you have to lead with your hips. If you try to change direction by simply placing a foot in the opposite direction, you’ll lose your balanced center of gravity. This makes you easier to down.

Instead, work on twisting your hips toward the new direction first. The hip twist exercise will work your hip flexors, spinal flexors and rotators and your core muscles.

Sit on a mat and extend your legs straight in front of you. Put your arms behind you, pointing your fingers away toward the sides. Lift your legs up to form a “V” shape with your body. Make sure to keep your back straight, even if it means rolling your weight farther back onto your pelvis.

Then slowly rotate your hips in a circle. Bring your legs to the right as far as you can, lower and swing back to the left and then raise them up, circling back to the top center. Repeat in the other direction for a total of 6 reps with 3 reps in each direction.

Reverse Lunges

This exercise will mix up your normal lunging routine by transferring the power to the back leg. This change will also help work on balance. The added weight of dumbbells in each hand can add some difficulty to the move, if necessary.

Start by standing with your feet together. Reach your right leg back as far as you can and lower into a lunge until the knees are at a right (90-degree) angle. Then bring your back foot forward again. Repeat for at least 5 reps on each leg, alternating legs as you go.

One-Legged Squat

Much of your ability to sprint and change directions as a defensive back will come from the power in legs. This squat variation ups the ante for the lower body and core muscle groups. You’ll also be working on balance.

You’ll start this squat by standing on your left leg. Bring your right leg in front of you and lower down as far as you can go. Don’t let your right leg or foot touch the ground, and be sure to keep your left leg completely flat on the ground. Fight the urge to rise up on your left toes. You’ll have to lean your torso forward slightly to maintain your balance. This may mean your knee is touching your chest as your right leg is extended straight in front of you.

You may find it easier to begin learning this exercise in a doorway. Extend your right leg alongside the wall and hold onto the door frame for balance.
Make sure to do at least 3 reps on both legs.

For a series of pictures that shows you the proper form of this move, look at BeastSkills.

Straight Legged Deadlifts

To really work the hamstrings for maximum flexibility, try lifting weights without bending at the knees. Start by standing straight and holding two dumbbells, one in each hand. Slowly lower the weights by bending at the waist. Go as low as you can. This exercise should be performed slowly to prevent injury. By gradually increasing how far you go down, you will strengthen your hamstrings while extending their range of motion.
Lateral Shuffle (also known as “The Crab Shuffle”)

Work on your lateral agility with this move that targets your obliques, thighs and glutes.

Begin by lowering into a squat, with your knees over your ankles and your spine straight. Try to simulate your starting position on the field. From this position, take a step to the side. Then use the opposite leg to return to your starting position. Repeat this motion, increasing the steps in either direction. Your second set would include 2 side steps to the right and 2 back to the left and so on. Repeat until you reach 10 steps right and 10 steps left.

You can also try shuffling around cones to increase your agility by working on your forward, backward, and diagonal movements.

Looking for a Full Defensive Back Workout Plan?

If you’re looking for something a little more structured to get started, check out these two workout plans from Stack. They focus primarily on strength and use barbells, sleds, and other gym equipment to complete power cleans, deadlifts, weighted pull-ups, shoulder presses, rope slams, and resistance sprints.

Here is another series of 2 workouts that focus on push and pull routines. This plan from LiveStrong encourages opposing muscle workouts. This is important to prevent one set of muscles from becoming stronger than the opposing set, which can throw off your center of balance. With the Push/Pull plan, you’ll be working on push presses, barbell lunges, jump shrugs, chin-ups, leg curls, and more. The good thing about the Push/Pull routine is that it requires far less equipment than the Stack workout plan while still being incredibly effective for a defensive back’s needs.



Hi, I'm Zayn. I am a personal trainer and blogger living in Miami, Florida. Welcome to my blog! Zaynez follows my life and my interests in sports, fitness and healthy living.

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