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What does it take to make it in the NFL Combine?

What does it take to make it in the NFL Combine?
What does it take to make it in the NFL Combine?

   With the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine underway this week, college athletes from across the country gather in Indianapolis to (hopefully) impress NFL scouts, coaches and doctors. Some will shine and better their pick in the NFL draft, while some will fail to make their mark and go undrafted. Talk about an intimidating job interview.

In this four-day free-for-all, athletes are tested in six main athletic events: the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill and shuttle run. You may have participated in some of these athletic feats in your junior high gym class, but probably not like this.

So what does it take to excel in these events? What muscles are needed? How do you train? Let’s dive a little deeper and explore the answers by examining the three most popular events of the NFL Scouting Combine:

40-yard dash

The 40-yard dash is the staple of this event in that it is the metric most often used when describing an NFL player’s athleticism. It requires speed and explosiveness, as athletes are timed at 10-, 20- and 40-yard intervals from a static start.

There are two main muscle systems athletes must focus on for top results. The first is the anterior oblique system, which is comprised of external obliques, internal obliques, and adductors. You may know these muscles as your abs. These muscles contract to rotate the core and help propel us more efficiently and effectively.

The second muscle system is the posterior oblique system, which consists of the gluteus maximus and latissimi dorsi. These are the largest muscles in your buttocks and back, respectively. They are what produce explosive sprint speed.

Training for the 40-yard dash includes a regimen of core strengthening, plyometrics, as well as practicing your sprinting form.

Bench press

It is one thing to bench press an extremely high number once time, but it’s another to bench press 225 pounds more than 30 times. What this tells scouts is how dedicated the athlete has been to hitting the weight room during their undergrad career.

Bench press involves your pectorals minor and major, triceps, anterior deltoid (front of shoulder), serratus anterior (muscle from the bottom of the armpit to the middle area of the ribcage) and to some extent, your forearms. Scouts and coaches get a good read of an athlete’s upper body strength, as well as their dedication to strengthening.

There have been reports of bench press taking a toll on your shoulders, but this can be avoided with proper warm-ups, stretching and not overdoing it (which can be said about all exercise, really).

Vertical Jump

The vertical jump tests how high athletes can get off the ground from a flat-footed stance. This is a test of the lower body. Athletes with strong legs will simply jump higher.

Athletes train for this exercise by jumping rope, different variations of squatting, calf raises and jumping (lateral jumps, tuck jumps, lung jumps, etc.). Anything that strengthens your hamstrings, quadriceps and especially your calves will have you soaring higher.

You can find more information on the NFL Scouting Combine workouts here.

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