Pete McCall by Pete McCall

The college football season is over and the first non-SEC champion in quite some time has been crowned. The professional football season will also be over son and for those of us who are football fans, we’ll start looking forward to the next big event: the NFL Combine, where college players perform a number of grueling tests to see if they have what it takes to compete at the professional level.

Playing professional football requires strength, power, endurance, agility, quickness and rapid decision-making. These fitness-based skills can enhance overall quality of life and are not exclusive to professional athletes.

If you’re looking for some fun, interactive programming ideas for your personal-training clients or group-fitness participants, why not have your own professional football tryouts at your club or studio?

The following is a table of conditioning drills used by professional football scouts and coaches to determine a prospective player’s athletic potential. It would be easy to set up a “testing day” at your facility and have members or clients perform these tests (after a proper warm-up). You can record their results and compare them to actual professional athletes. This is fun to do because your members can see how they compare to some of the top athletes in the world.

Professional Football Testing Drills



What it’s testing

Exercises to improve skill

40-yard dash

Run as fast as possible for 40 yards

Acceleration and quickness
Top-end speed

  • Running form drills
  • 5 and 10-yard acceleration training
  • Barbell squats and deadlifts
  • Barbell power cleans
  • Resisted running with a sled or parachute
  • Uphill running


Bench press

Perform as many repetitions as possible with 225 pounds

Strength-endurance of upper-body musculature

  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Heavy barbell bench press
  • Strengthen the scapular stabilizers


Vertical jump

A counter movement—jump as high as possible

Explosive lower-body power

  • Heavy barbell squats
  • Barbell power cleans
  • Box jumps
  • Depth jumps


Broad jump

Standing long jump

Explosive lower-body power

  • Heavy barbell squats
  • Barbell power cleans
  • Linear forward jumps


3 cone L drill

Run in an “L” pattern, making rapid changes of direction

Acceleration, quickness, agility

  • Form running drills
  • 5-yard start/acceleration drills
  • Speed, agility, quickness (SAQ) drills
  • Split leg squat
  • Step-ups
  • Lateral lunges
  • Barbell power cleans


Shuttle run

Run 5 yards, turn 180 degrees, run 10 yards, turn 180 degrees and run 5 yards

Acceleration, quickness, agility

  • Form running drills
  • 5-yard start/acceleration drills
  • SAQ drills
  • Barbell power cleans


Almost all of these tests can be performed by most regular exercise participants. The one exception is the 225-pound bench press, but measuring the number of push-ups in thirty seconds would be an acceptable test of upper-body strength-endurance for the average gym-goers. Many of these tests require specific form and body position or optimal execution, so simply teaching clients proper body mechanics can help them experience significant improvements in these skills.

You could also develop a four- to six-week workout program to improve your clients’ skills in these tests and then retest them to see how they’ve improved. This could be a fun way to engage your clients and help them develop adherence to a fitness program.

Using pro football testing could also be a way to market personal training to existing health-club members. The NFL Combine is scheduled for February 22-25, 2014, and is covered live by the NFL Network. Setting up the initial testing to coincide with these dates will give you the opportunity to promote the fact that your members can compare their results to the top athletes coming out of college. You can offer a small group-training program throughout the month of March and then re-test all of the participants to show their improvements in the specific events. (To steer clear of legal trouble, it’s best to use the generic term of ‘professional football’ as opposed to any terms or phrases owned and trademarked, such as Super Bowl or NFL Combine).

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