27
Jul

How the Houston Texans Rookies Are Training for the 2016 NFL Season

Via STACK

2-14, 9-7 and 9-7

Those are the won-loss records of the Houston Texans over the past three NFL seasons. Anchored by a ferocious defense led by perennial Pro Bowler J.J. Watt, the Texans have rebounded into a contender under coach Bill O'Brien and his staff.

The defense is great. DeAndre Hopkins is a premier NFL receiver. They upgraded the quarterback position with the Brock Osweiler acquisition. Now, it's up to their rookie class—graded A+ by NFL.com— to complete the puzzle.

The expectations are high, no doubt. But even talented athletes like Will Fuller, Nick Martin and Braxton Miller have tall tasks ahead of them. Now they will be competing against the world's best athletes while adjusting to an entirely new way of life.

"I feel like I'm a freshman again," says Miller. "That's a big adjustment being the first year here, getting adjusted and trying to figure out everything about the Houston area, the Houston Texans and everything. It's a transition but you get over it."

[caption id="attachment_258051" align="aligncenter" width="654"]Houston Texans Ab Rollout Will Fuller and Braxton Miller perform Ab Rollouts.[/caption]

A major part of this transition is getting into shape to handle the speed and physicality of the NFL. Texans head strength coach Craig Fitzgerald explains: "It's just a pyramid game. When they are in high school, they are the best player on the team bar none. In college, they're one of the best players on the team if not the very best. When they get to the pros, they're at the very top of the pyramid and everybody is the very best in the world at their position. The level of competition is greater and the energy level you expect at practice . . . you can't just walk through a practice like you maybe could've at lesser levels. Now you have to be on your A game. It's a harder day every single day."

We had the opportunity to see first hand what the Texans rookies are doing to climb to the top of the pyramid.

WATCHHow the Texans Rookies are Adjusting to the NFL

We arrived at NRG Stadium in Houston on an impossibly humid morning. Luckily, the workout was taking place indoors.

Fitzgerald met us outside the stadium and led us through a labyrinth of halls to the team's weight room, which is located a short walk from the field—it was currently a soccer field due to the U.S. vs. Argentina soccer match that took place the night before.

Put simply, the Texans' weight room is awesome. It's equipped with 12 power racks, 40 yards of turf and just about every piece of equipment you could ever need.

Houston Texans Weight Room

The group of rookies filed in just before 8 a.m. Once Fitzgerald cranked the volume on the sound system to a level appropriate for a nightclub, the workout was on.

Each guy has a different set of goals. Some need to add strength and size. Others need to focus on conditioning. It depends on their position and their strengths and weakness prior to joining the Texans. But regardless of the individual performance goals, one thing is the same for each athlete: Injury prevention is the top priority.

"We are trying to get everybody a little stronger when they come in and get them feeling great to play," says Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald proceeded to put the guys through what he called a light day—there are also heavy and medium days. A light day includes exercise variations where you lift the least amount of weight for that type of movement. For example, they did the Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat, which allows for less weight than a Back Squat because you are balancing on one leg.

The workout consisted of five circuits that strengthened the entire body with a focus on explosive power. Core strength and mobility work were also emphasized throughout the workout. It concluded with a brutal finisher, which left the guys gassed but certainly more prepared for their NFL debut.

"Today was a lot of fun. We just had the rookies here so you can really push them hard," says Fitzgerald.

The Workout

Fitzgerald explained that while this workout was designed for NFL players, it can make anyone a better athlete.

He emphasizes focusing on technique rather than lifting heavy weight. "As an athlete, you really need to focus on the fundamentals. And that carries over to the weight room. You need to get the basics down right," he says. "Load is the biggest thing you can overestimate. Don't worry about the load. It's just a tool. And when you get to the NFL, it's still just a tool."

Instead of loading up the bar to try to impress your friends, take the time to learn fundamental lifts, such as the Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, Power Clean and their variations.

"Once you have that right, the load will come," he says.

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Dynamic Warm-Up

Fitzgerald has the Texan rookies begin their warm-up with ladder drills to increase their heart rate and gets their bodies moving. He follows with core work to activate core muscles before heavy lifts, to ensure they don't skip out on core work at the end of the workout. The warm-up finishes with mobility drills and upper-body activation to prepare their bodies for the intense lifts to come.

Perform the following exercises during your dynamic warm-up

  • Ladder Drills x 5 min.
  • Hanging Leg Raise x 25
  • Band Rotation x 25 each direction
  • Med Ball Rotational Throws x 25 each direction
  • Hurdle Mobility x 5
  • Power Plate Goblet Squat Hold x 30 sec.
  • Band Walks x 10 forward and backward
  • Board Shoulder Slides x 10
  • Band Pullaparts x 10

Explosive Circuit

The explosive circuit starts with a Jammer Snatch, which is performed on a specialized piece of equipment that offers benefits similar to those of Olympic Lifts. "It's a great exercise for us," Fitzgerald says. "Works on really fast triple extension . . . getting your hips through. It's hard not to get your hips through on that exercise."

They move on to a Hip Bridge to activate the glutes and Rope Slams to strengthen the shoulders and core.

RELATED: 3 Safe Alternatives to Olympic Lifts

Jammer Snatch

  • Explosively extend your hips, knees and ankles.
  • Drive the weight overhead.
  • Keep your core tight and back flat.

Sets/Reps: 5x3-5

Hip Bridge

  • Place your feet on a Power Plate or BOSU Ball.
  • Squeeze your glutes.

Sets/Duration: 5x30 sec

Rope Slams

  • Keep your core tight and back flat.
  • Slam the ropes on the ground as hard as you can.

Sets/Reps: 5x8

Single-Leg Strength Circuit

"For a single-leg movement, it's really hard to beat the Rear-Foot-Elevated Pitcher Lunge [also referred to as a Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat]," says Fitzgerald. "Single-leg strength in football is critical and in any sport is critical . . . You are really driving off each legs individually. Our speed guys—receivers, DBs and running backs—they have to be powerful on each leg at different times."

Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat

  • Place your rear leg on a bench.
  • Lower until your front thigh is parallel to the ground.
  • Keep your chest up and core tight.

Sets/Reps: 5x5

Leg Swings

  • Swing from front to back and side to side.
  • Swing each leg through a full range of motion.

Sets/Reps: 6x5 each direction

Shoulder Strength Circuit

Fitzgerald emphasizes explosiveness in these exercises, because that's how the game of football is played. "We try to teach them to move the bar fast. In the game of football, it's really critical to use force and power," he adds. "It's not just brute strength—it's how fast you can move heavy weight." Follow with a back exercise, such as a Band-Resisted Row or Band-Resisted T.

DB Military Press

  • Adjust your grip to a comfortable position.
  • Drive the dumbbells overhead.
  • Avoid arching your back.

Sets/Reps: 5x5

Band Resisted T

  • Keep your core tight and back flat.
  • Pull your shoulders back to initiate the movement.

Sets/Reps: 5x5

Glute Strength Circuit

As you might be able to tell, strengthening the glutes is a priority in this workout. "For football, posterior chain is critical," Fitzgerald says. "Doing that exercise [RDLs] once a week, maybe with a single-leg or leg curl later on in the week, really takes care of the hamstrings better than anything else." He includes a core exercise in this circuit, such as the Ab Rollout or a Landmine Twist.

RDL

  • Push your hips back.
  • Keep the bar close to your body.
  • Drive your hips forward to stand up.

Sets/Reps: 5x8

Ab Rollout

  • Take a deep breath in and tighten your abs before each rep.
  • Roll out as far as you can without causing your lower back to arch.

Sets/Reps: 5x5

Accessory Strength Circuit

"With football, we want to make sure we are as bulletproof as possible," Fitzgerald says. "So we work on the lower leg and come back with some type of delt raise to make their shoulders as strong as possible, because they are gonna have contact."

Calf Raises

  • Use a heavy weight.
  • Drive up onto your toes.
  • Slowly lower through a full range of motion.

Sets/Reps: 3x30

Shoulder Raises

  • Perform either a Lateral Raise, Front Raise or Rear Delt Raise.
  • Use a light weight
  • Do not rock your body to generate momentum.

Sets/Reps: 3x15

Conditioning Finisher

"We like to throw conditioning in at the end of every lift or run of the day when we are in the summertime," Fitzgerald sayss. "We are getting ready to play football. Absolute speed isn't as important as repeatable speed so we need to make sure our guys are in great shape."

Sled Push Intervals

For linemen, linebackers, tight ends and fullbacks

  • Use a medium to heavy weight.
  • Take long and powerful strides.
  • Keep your core tight and back flat.

Sets/Distance: 10x30 yards, sprint back to the start

Treadmill Intervals

For receivers, defensive backs and running backs

  • Set the treadmill to a 15-percent incline and 10-12 mph.

Sets/Duration: 10x30 seconds with 30 seconds of rest

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