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Strength Training for Wide Receivers
Strength in the gym does not necessarily translate to skill on the football field. Though you may be able to bench press 300 pounds, it takes agility, coordination and full-body power to use that same strength while running with the ball. For this reason, athletes like wide receivers have to focus on training their bodies to quickly, powerfully and accurately respond to in-game scenarios by using functional movements.
Strength for Speed
In order to accelerate off the line or execute changes of direction during route plays, wide receivers must have quick feet and strong legs. Jumping rope, ladder drills with high knees and lateral shuffling will increase foot speed and coordination. Do these as circuits with high repetitions and short rest periods. To get the most out of each stride, a receiver must also build the strength of his gluteus muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. To develop lower body strength and stamina, do three to four sets of exercises such as barbell back squats, barbell lunges and deadlifts. Do 10 reps each set.
Force and Balance
Wide receivers also have to be strong to break tackles, block or make tackles on a turnover. These features of play require upper-body strength as well as full-body stability. Receivers can strengthen their upper bodies with shoulder presses, shrugs, rows and pull-ups. They should also incorporate balance training whenever possible by standing on one leg, doing compound movements such as overhead squats or trading things such as bench presses for standing cable chest presses. An effective drill for developing better balance against a tackle involves throwing a heavy medicine ball back and forth with a partner.
In training, wide receivers should combine speed and strength to create explosive power, which increases their ability to accelerate, change direction and most importantly, move and jump in any direction to catch a ball. Classic power-lifting exercises like the clean-and-jerk and tire flips will develop explosive power through the entire body. Do four to five sets, with four to six reps in a set. Body weight plyometrics such as box jumps, forward and backward jump squats, burpees, clap pushups, lateral bounds and lateral hops are also effective. Do these as circuits and wear a weight vest for an extra challenge.
Guidance and Safety
Many of these exercises greatly stress joints like the knees and ankles. If you do them using too much weight or do them too often, you could seriously injure yourself. If you are training on your own or in the off-season, consider working with a personal trainer who can give instruction and recommendations based on your individual needs as well as your histories of development and injury. Whenever you train, especially with explosive exercises, use a comfortable weight level and plan your routines so that you increase resistance gradually over time to prevent injury.
Michael Shiva Best is a writer with Bachelor of Arts degrees from Eckerd College. He lives and works in Orlando, Fla.. and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.