An effective linebacker needs to be quick with explosive power and a strong core. These workouts are designed to work toward a solid core as well as strength in the legs, shoulders and neck. Although you want explosiveness, you should save that for cardio HIIT and for general field drills. These exercises should be performed at a slow to moderate pace in order to prevent injury.
Why the neck?
We begin with a simple neck workout, because it is so vital yet so often overlooked. Many linebackers have been put out of play for neck injuries, but not many think to train for neck muscle strength. The neck is not an area that is intuitively easy to exercise. The neck is also a sensitive area when it’s weak, so any exercises should be performed slowly and with extra awareness of the body’s limits.
Begin with some light to moderate cardio to get the muscles warmed up. Gently stretch your neck until your chin touches your chest. Then stretch gently and slowly to each side, being sure to stop just before you feel pain and holding for 20 seconds. Do not skip the stretching! You could risk serious and painful injury.
To workout the neck muscles, use a bench and a small, flat weight. (If you’re new to neck exercises, start without any weights at all.) Lie face down on the bench with the tops of your shoulders even with the end of the bench. Hold the weight behind your head and slowly lower and raise your head using your neck. When you raise your head back up, try to go as far backwards as you comfortably can and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat for 5 to 10 reps.
You can do a variation of this same exercise by lying on your back and placing the weight on your forehead. Start with your shoulders slightly above the end of the bench and perform the same slow up and down rep.
This exercise was compiled by BodyBuilding.com, where it has a 9.4/10 user rating.
Many linebackers mistakenly focus too much on their arm strength and not enough on the core. The drive and stability will come from the core. As discussed on LiveStrong, “Every time you make a movement where your hips aren’t perfectly in line with your shoulders, your core muscles keep you balanced.”
When it comes to core exercises, a set of various simple movements outdoes endless sit-ups. Perform planks, side planks, v-sits, and bicycle crunches. All of these exercises are quick and simple and work out all of the major muscles in the core area.
For an extra challenge, try a push up lat row using a dumbbell in each hand. Start in a normal push-up position and complete a full push-up. When you return to the starting position, raise one dumbbell to your shoulder and slowly lower. Repeat by swapping sides between full push-ups.
Squats will help with leg strength and also work the muscles that enable the player to stay in the proper low stance at all times. Variations of squats can target other muscles, including the hamstrings and glutes. Plyometric squats, which encourage explosive jumping, can also be helpful. Be careful to not do too many jumping squats, as they can contribute to knee pain.
A split squat is ideal for this muscle group. With one foot in front and one behind on a raised surface, perform a squat until the front knee is at a right angle, then slowly rise back up. The extra challenge comes from the height of the back platform (which can be increased) and from any additional weight in the form of a barbell.
Linebackers must use their shoulders in hitting and tackling. Although the power for these moves will still come from the core and lower body, the shoulders have to be strong enough to remain stable under pressure.
One of the easiest ways to work the muscle groups around the shoulders is the Hang Clean lift.
Stand with feet shoulder-length apart holding a barbell just above your knees. Keeping your back arched slightly backward, bring the bar up to your chest. Bring the elbows under and use the shoulders and upper back to “press” the bar up above your head. Lock your shoulders, arms, and glutes to hold for 10 seconds. Then slowly lower the bar down. You can repeat this move with 5 sets of 5 reps.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
This kind of workout is designed to improve explosiveness and reaction time. Essentially, HIIT calls for periods of 100% effort followed by quick periods of rest. You can work this into drills on the field, but for workout purposes, you’ll find the best results through simple sprints.
Begin by sprinting at top speed for 30 seconds, and then resting for 20 seconds. You can adjust the timing based on individual fitness, but the idea is to do at least 5 reps of high power. This works on cardiovascular training, as well as the ability to quickly recuperate and power off from a stop.
Consider adding cones in the sprint path to work on lateral agility and quick direction changes.
Medicine Ball Tossing
This is another workout to focus on explosiveness. There are a variety of ways you can toss the medicine ball, but for linebackers the squat throw seems to work best.
To do a squat throw, stand in a squatted position with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the medicine ball to your chest. Explode out of the squat by jumping straight in the air, extending the arms upwards to toss the ball up. Land on soft knees and catch the ball as you descend again into the squat position.
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