Could You Survive an NFL Workout?

Every summer, the news starts trickling in about NFL Training Camp, in advance of the upcoming preseason games and subsequent football season. Exciting, right? You’re immediately transported to your favorite local bar, a giant domestic draft sloshing around in one hand, a greasy chicken wing in the other, and a big, dumb grin on your sauce-stained face. Life is good.

Then reality sets in. You’ve been hitting the junk food a little too hard lately, and you’re starting to feel your age. Your leg cramps for no reason in the middle of the night. A little kid even has the gall to call you “fatso” in the bus line. Then you remember that NFL Training Camp report from the news that morning; and all of those fully padded, 300-pound man-giants running around in the mid-summer heat and wonder, ‘Can I do that?’

The answer is probably no, because the average Joe just isn’t wired to be a professional athlete — just like he isn’t a talented writer or musician.

But what if you can at least try? What does a typical NFL workout regimen entail? We’ve dug deep and come up with a list of 10 exercises that NFL players do during the preseason and during training camp and rated them in terms of survivability. Hint: The survival rate is pretty low.

1. Exercising with a Weight Vest On

Weight vests sort of look like flak-jackets, so if you want to pretend you’re in Bad Boys II, be our guest. But once you start running around, pretend-shooting your gats, you’ll realize something: You’re getting awful tired, awful fast. That’s because many NFL athletes who want to work on speed, agility, quickness, and any other exercise accomplished at the gym — with more resistance than that which gravity provides — will often add on make-believe pounds via a weight vest, while working out.

Survivability Scale: 3 out of 10

Conclusion: Weight vests strike us as something that would literally slow you down, because getting to the gym is your sole concern at the moment. Add the weight vest later on, once you’ve become comfortable running around in front of all the beautiful people first — instead of looking like a fat dude on the verge of passing out.

2. Jumping Over a Hurdle and Sprint (Again and Again and Again)

Remember this play by the Detroit Lions’ Reggie Bush? Sort of reminds you the Olympics, doesn’t it? Many NFL players actually use hurdle-jumping as a way to stay flexible — and fast. Not to mention they might have to actually jump over a much larger player on the field.

Survivability Scale: 1 out of 10

Conclusion: If you are able to do one hurdle without rocking a major faceplant, congratulations. Try doing 10 more, and you might be making a trip to the plastic surgeon.

3. Executing Proper Hang Cleans

A “hang clean” basically works your entire trapezius muscle — and is also a great full-body workout. The problem is it’s sort of difficult to do if you don’t have the proper guidance, and you could really injure your back if you don’t do it correctly. Add three or more 45-pound plates to each side, and we gather you’ll probably not be able to even lift the bar off the floor. Watch this NFL player do a few with 265 lbs. stacked on. Good luck.

Survivability Scale: 0 out of 10

Conclusion: Does this even need a conclusion?

4. Doing One-Arm Pushups

Remember when Jack Palance did those one-arm pushups at the Oscars? He was, like, 100 years old when he did them back in 1991. Some NFL workouts make use of them to strengthen and condition players, because why use both hands, when you can do it with just one, right? You’re practically setting yourself up to do another faceplant with this one, so we’d suggest just watching while the pretty girl next to you does them perfectly and calling it a day.

Survivability Scale: 0 out of 10

Conclusion: One-arm pushup? One-arm faceplant.

5. Doing Dumbbell Curtsy Lunges

Nope, this has nothing to do with seeing the Royal Family. A dumbbell curtsy lunge (a.k.a. weighted curtsy lunge) has quite a bit to do with pain — mostly in your leg region (specifically, those thunder thighs). You basically need all the leg-strength you can get if you’re going to play with the big-boys in the NFL. And some NFL workout plans have been known to work these in. See if you can walk down the stairs the next day.

Survivability Scale: 5 out of 10

Conclusion: Despite this hurting, it’s not an impossible exercise to accomplish. If you use low-weight dumbbells — maybe 10 pounders — and follow the form in the YouTube clip, you’ll probably be able to do at least one set of 10. Try doing, like, five sets of 10, though, and you might lose your lunch.

6. Can You Do a Toe Touch? How About 100?

In the video we’ve provided, our demo assistant shows two types of toe touches: the beginner- and advance-level TT. Our guess is that you’d be able to do several of these before starting to get a decent hurt going in your abdominal area. Now try doing 100 like some NFLers have done in the past to get in shape for the season. You’ll feel like that guy did in Alien.

Survivability Scale: 1 out of 10

Conclusion: While it’s possible to do a few of these — at either training level — doing 100 is pretty much not going to happen.

7. Core Strengthening with a Medicine Ball

There’s nothing like a strong core. (You don’t even know what a core is, do you?) It’s the area of your body around your abdominals (i.e. the “middle” or the “core”). Here are some pretty pictures of core-strengthening workouts that one can do to tone it up. One of the better ways to strengthen your midsection is with a medicine (or weighted) ball. Watch as Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning does stuff you probably can’t.

Survivability Scale: 7 out of 10

Conclusion: Core training is not really that difficult; it’s all about the amount of reps you can do, and likely, once you do, say, 20, you’ll feel like you’ve been stabbed.

8. Planking with Abduction

This move, used by Minnesota Vikings superstar running back Adrian Peterson, has nothing to do with a kidnapping a piece of wood. It’s actually an extremely difficult way to add strength and flexibility to your entire body. Apparently, if you’re a premier running back in the NFL, this is one of the ways to get it done. And by “it,” we mean scoring loads of TDs.

Survivability Scale: 1 out of 10

Conclusion: Watch the video below. You’ll likely have no problem getting into the right position. The problem will be doing the required motion multiple times.

9. Can You Do ‘The Travolta’?

There’s a new dance craze coming to an NFL town near you — and it’s not the “Macarena.” In a recent SI.com article, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees noted that he does a type of training workout called “The Travolta” — which includes elastic bands, twisting, and strengthening the back shoulder. Perfect, even for people named “Adele Dazeem.”

Survivability Scale: 7 out of 10

Conclusion: This is a fairly easy workout to do, if you have access to elastic bands, but will it magically make you into an NFL quarterback? Heck no.

10. Can You Run About 1 Mile?

Even though it was sort of fun watching those football-player meatheads in high school have to do laps around the field after school, while you smoked cigarettes in the bushes, it turns out that NFL players actually don’t run all that much during a game. On average, a player will do about 1.25 miles on any given Sunday. But add nasty weather to that, and you’ve quickly turned it into “worst day ever.”

Survivability Scale: 3 out 10

Conclusion: It’s not beyond reason to get yourself up to running a mile and a quarter — even if you’re a rotund individual. But doing it when it’s cold or while it’s sleeting, snowing, or raining outside makes it a challenge even for the conditioned athletes on the field.

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By Will Levith for the ScoreBlog

Feature image credit: William Moore

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Will Levith

Will Levith is a Brooklyn-based freelance journalist, whose work has recently been published in print and online by Men's Health, Men's Fitness, AskMen, Made Man, Beckett, and the Food Network. Follow him on Twitter @Mediawill.