Top 10 exercises for American Football players


Following on from focusing on the most common American Football injuries, we are now taking a look at how to avoid American Football injuries. It is important to build specificity into training patterns and think about how the exercises might correlate and cross over into the sport. So here are our tips on best exercises for American Football:

Power cleans

A powerful exercise where the athlete pulls a barbell from the floor before dropping under the bar to catch/position then standing up to finish in a front squat starting position. Power cleans have a direct correlation to explosive power, acceleration and sprint speed

Push jerk

Starting in the end position of a power clean the athlete bends at both knees, hips and ankles before extending upwards as if to jump then drops their hips again whilst pushing the bar with their arms in order to lock out the arms with the bar overhead.  This exercise is great for developing power whilst translating into explosive shunting force after the snap.

High bar back squat

Placing the bar just under the lowest of the neck vertebrae using the upper traps like a “shelf” to rest it in the athlete then performs a squat maintaining a more upright position than the low bar version. This is a compound movement that greatly improves lower limb strength and stability.


Like a power clean, a conventional deadlift starts with the bar on the ground. the athlete will step so that the feet are under the bar and grip the bar with both hands before standing up pulling the bar close to the legs until it rests just touching the mid thigh when fully upright. As with squats, deadlifts are seen as one of the most beneficial injury preventative exercises in the gym.

Concentric dumbbell/barbell bench press

Lying flat on a bench gripping a bar or dumbbells above the chest the athlete lowers the weight to the chest, pauses, then lifts the weight with force towards the ceiling. Combining a full depth eccentric motion with a pause to then explode through the concentric portion helps build great strength but also replicates the movement pattern used by lineman after the snap.

Bent over row

Standing in a bent over position with the core engaged whilst holding a bar towards the floor the athlete pulls the bar to the lower ribs with force before controlling the lowering back to the starting position. Bent over row is a staple in building shoulder stability across all sports with an emphasis on strength.

Pallof press

Holding a band or weighted cable pulley the athlete steps away from the anchor point the hands against themselves just under chest height. They then extend their arms in order to lengthen the band or cable applying more load to their levers. This core exercise works on increasing the strength of your anti-rotators making it more difficult for a player to be knocked off balance and to stay strong in a tackle.

Hurdle walkovers with medicine ball catch and throw

Standing tall with core engaged, the athlete takes big steps to walk over a hurdle without touching it and catches a heavy medicine ball from one side and throws it back to the same direction they caught it from alternating sides at each throw. This type of exercise is used more and more frequently in contact and passing sports as this exercise works on core strength as well as stability and balance.

Agility star with football catch and throw

Similar to a primary school agility exercise with bean bags the athlete runs to different points of a star catching an American Football then throwing it back as fast and accurately as possible. This agility drill is still relevant in injury prevention as the exercise becomes harder the faster a player becomes


From a 3-point start the athlete accelerates hard towards top speed over various distances ensuring good linear action, trying to maximise leg cadence. With average plays lasting 5 seconds and each play being as fast and intense as possible it’s important that sprint training is a regular part of training especially for players off the scrimmage line

It is advised that these exercises are educated and trained by an experienced coach or professional that can assess the players competency and technique as well as review and set their training programmes to incorporate these exercises making sure that adequate rest and nutrition is planned.

Ric Lockhart

MSK Physio Team Lead & Senior Physiotherapist

Ric qualified from Sheffield Hallam University with a BSc (Hons) degree in Physiotherapy in 2009.

Ric Lockhart

Downloadable Resources


Stay up to date with our regular advice articles and latest news

Share this Post

Our team are ready and waiting to assist with your recovery.

Doctor holding patient's shoulders

Contact Us

Request A Callback
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
close mark

Limited Time Sport Massage Offer

Release muscle tension, reduce niggles and find some relief with a Sports Massage this February!


By clicking Submit, you agree to our Terms & Privacy Policy.