Football strength training programs-how pro athletes get jacked

Have you ever wondered what type of conditioning program a pro football player follows to get into the shape they do for a rigorous game and all the punishment they go through and still get back up, brush it of and get back in the game? Well you would probably think that they follow a pretty strict aerobic program, but that is actually not accurate.

Actually the truth of the matter is, aerobic activity will put a limit on the ability of a player to develop the strength and power a player needs to kick, jump, Sprint and tackle. The type of muscle fibers used in these rigorous activities are developed by strength and power training. That takes us to today’s subject, football strength training programs and how so many pro athletes get jacked in the football arena.

The ability to generate power

Alright so all football players aren’t jacked, a good share of them are quite the opposite, but then not every position on the football field requires a player to have to have a physique that will generate enough power to plow through others that is developed by strength training.

A top midfielder can total over nine miles in ninety minutes, but that nine miles isn’t in one shot, it’s covered in short bursts. Football players need to be able to jump as high as possible in order to head the ball, if a football player is aerobicly trained, his ability to do a vertical jump will decrease, so as a rule football players will limit their aerobic activity, too much of this activity will actually limit the body’s ability to generate power.

Clay Matthews

Clay Matthews, a linebacker for the Green bay packers, 6′ 3″ 225 lbs, follows a upper body, lower body split type of workout. Clay Matthews focuses on upper body parts like shoulders, arm’s and abdominals for three days and lower body parts like hips and legs for three days.

For his upper body work, Clay puts emphasis on the bench press for chest, military presses, side laterals and rear lateral raises for shoulders, various curls for biceps, rope push downs for triceps, chins and machine rows for back.

For leg day Clay works legs and hips, one of the more uncommon exercises Clay does that caught my attention was the farmers walk.

Jon Beason

Jon Beason, a linebacker for the NY Giant’s 6′ 232 lbs, alternates upper and lower body days throughout the week. On Wednesday Jon does active movements in the pool to take some stress of his joints.

Friday is an extended cardio day where he runs 200s but he calls them play drives, he goes from long sustained runs to a short 30-40 where it’s quick.

For the lifting aspect of Jon’s training, for power Jon will start with cleans, snatches and jerks and he keeps the reps low from 1-5 reps but keeps intensity high.

For strength Jon performs complex movements, squats, bench, incline or military presses and he also includes auxiliary lifts that aid in adding muscle, performing these for 10-12 reps.

James Ihedigbo

James Ihedigbo Detroit Lions 6′ 1″ 217 lbs, spends up to three hours a day working out, mostly in the off season, then lowers down to one and a half hours when practicing for the game. During the season James will just work on his core and overall strength.

James will usually spend five days training and ten hours of that is spent in the weight room per week. James Ihedigbo will do a circuit of weighted high pulls, alt dumbbell benches, body weight pull-ups and a 90 degree pull-up hold for thirty seconds, this works his core strength his upper body and his lower body as well, James is a firm believer in a total body workout.


James doesn’t spend much time loading the bar up too heavy, he says the days of squatting with 315 lbs have passed, it’s more fundamental as a safety on the football field.

James Ihedigbo constantly pushes himself to make sure that he’s in his best shape. James likes to run all day, he never wants to be in a position where he could get exhausted on the field and not go anymore, so James says he likes to push himself to a new level every day.

LaRon Landry

LaRon Landry Indianapolis Colts 6′ 226 lbs, works out twice a day, even late at night. LaRon says the weight room is his sanctuary. NFL players are always serious about their training but LaRon takes it a bit further with his rough schedule and team training.

LaRon’s workout program he does legs on Monday, chest and back on Tuesday, straight core training on Wednesday, LaRon covers legs again on Thursday, shoulders on Friday, arm’s and anything else he likes on Saturday, then it’s game day on Sunday.

LaRon Landry’s arm routine

Heavy quad set: 5 sets

Straight bar curls-8 reps

Skull crushers-8 reps

Alternating dumbbell curls (standing)-8 reps

Heavy straight bar pull-downs-12 reps

Volume quad set: 5 reps

Straight bar preacher curls-20 reps

Bench dips-20 reps

Reverse curls-20 reps

Take LaRon’s arm routine for a spin and see if you can pack on some muscle.


As you can see, there training programs don’t all follow the same path, the guys that are jacked all train with weights, but they follow their own system. Whether it be training heavy using lower reps or lighter weight for higher repetitions, some of the guys use unorthodox moves that someone in the bodybuilding arena typically doesn’t fit into their training agenda.

Usually you will find football players work some kind of cardio into their program but not always, and the ones that do, don’t go that heavy on their cardio and tend to shy away for the most part, too much aerobic activity can actually be self defeating in limiting their ability to generate power out on the field.

James Ihedigbo goes for a lot more cardio but it all depends on what their goals are, it all depends on what their position is, some football players rely on endurance and stamina. That’s how you should design your training program is based on what your needs and goals are. I hope this article was some help for anyone who is interested in getting into the football scene or maybe even pro football, it gives you an idea how the pro football players train to prepare themselves for one of the world’s most cherished sports. 

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below in the box.

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4 thoughts on “Football strength training programs-how pro athletes get jacked”

  1. hello Neil ;), This was an amazing write up on how to get jacked. I personally do prefer to do a lot of cardio. Iwould bookmark this page just so i can come look at the different training routine and see the ones i can incorporate into my workouts. would also share it with friends. thanks a lot.

  2. Hi ,Green bay packer is a popular team. Clay Matthews one of the famous player of Green bay packer team. He is famous for his body sheap. jon beason player of NY Giant, James Ihedigbo player of Detroit Lions are also much famous for their body fitness. So I think it is very impotent to keep fit by workout program. thankyou.


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