How to Get in Shape to Be a Linebacker

Former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor

Linebackers are some of the most versatile athletes and football players on the field at all times. In order to play the linebacker position, you must be fast enough to run across the field to chase down running backs or to cover receivers, and must also be strong enough to fend off offensive linemen who will often be bigger than you in order to make unassisted tackles.

The position’s requirements offer great challenges on the field, plus equally important challenges off the field, as you get your body in shape for the football season.

Side view of beautiful muscular woman running on treadmill.


Whether you are a high school or NFL linebacker, your speed, quickness and endurance are among the most important traits you can have. Incorporating speed and endurance training programs into your workout routine might be tough at first, but it will not take more than a few American football practice reps to see why it is so important.

If you are someone who prefers to be in the weight room doing strength training and weight training as opposed to cardio, you might enjoy the fact that running is one of the best ways to improve your overall lower body strength, as it puts a ton of good strain on your hamstrings, calves and quads all at once.

African woman running on racetrack

Endurance and Speed Training

To get in shape to be a linebacker, it is important that you run as much as you can. Run for three or four miles -- or build up to that level -- to develop endurance, so you can keep going at 100 percent in the fourth quarter. End every distance run with a sprint of about 100 yards or a couple 40-yard dashes to work on your speed.

dynamic running uphill on trail male athlete runner side view

Running up hills also builds leg strength and speed. If you're big enough you may wish to emulate NFL star Terrell Suggs, who runs up hills with heavy tires strapped to his body.

To improve your speed, footwork and quickness, incorporate ladder agility drills into your cardio routine.

Other Sports

Play a sport that involves plenty of running, in the off-season. Sports such as basketball and handball require you to run forward and backward, and from side to side, as linebackers must do on the football field.

Strength Training

Building your leg muscles is an essential part of a linebacker workout. Strong legs will improve your speed and give you a solid base when you make tackles.

Back squats, front squats, leg extensions, lunges, Bulgarian split squats and deadlifts are all great examples of leg workouts that people in bodybuilding swear by.

Back view of young sportsman lifting a barbell at the gym

Core Strength

Strengthen your core. You must be strong from head to toe to play linebacker. You don’t make tackles with your arms alone, for example; you need strong leg and core muscles to push a charging runner back.

Perform basic bodyweight exercises such as sit-ups or crunches, and incorporate things like Russian twists from time-to-time.

Fitness woman doing abs crunches

Upper Body Strength

Build your upper body. You need strong arms to fend off blockers and to wrap up ball carriers when you’re making tackles. The bench press is classic upper body football exercise and is often used in strength assessments by college and professional scouts.

Two friends exercising bench press in gym

The bench press can be done in a variety of ways, like with an incline or using either a barbell or dumbbells. Pull-ups and push-ups are other great ways to build your upper body strength and endurance with little equipment required.