Talking with the experts.
Through the NFL Draft, Shutdown Corner's Kristian Dyer will be training at TEST Football Academy Powered by Parisi Speed School in New Jersey along with roughly 20 players. All of these athletes are prepping for the NFL Combine, different pro days and of course, the NFL Draft in April. A former college soccer player, Kristian was a playground legend at quarterback back in middle school but never played a down of organized football. He will be blogging about the life of training for the NFL Draft and a career in the league as he lives it firsthand.
MORRIS PLAINS, N.J. — A week before, I had just been tested after a little more than a month of training with the two dozen combine athletes at TEST Sports Clubs. My sprint times were down, my vertical increased and I had lost weight while adding strength. But let's be honest, I wasn't a professional athlete — I just cover them for a living.
So to get thrown into the mix with a bunch of early 20 something athletes all in prime shape coming off their senior seasons of college football isn't easy.
That's where Terrence Fabor comes into the picture.
Fabor played linebacker in college at William Paterson University and is now the Director of Training at Parisi Speed Schools. Fabor has trained Olympic and World Cup athletes at Parisi, which has now partnered with TEST Sports Clubs in training NFL combine athletes.
The thing about Fabor is that he doesn't smile, he just sort of looks at the athletes he's training, absorbing everything and taking mental notes. It had me sweating even before I began my stretching.
His job was simple: To give me a crash course on how to better utilize my muscles.
So I started with simple things, such as jumping jacks and some sort of crouching walk called "the caterpillar." Every exercise Tabor just watched, walking around me with his arms behind his back. What he could get from jumping jacks was beyond me. I was beginning to think this was stupid and looking for the exit.
He didn't smile, he didn't frown. Fabor just kept watching.
For some reason the uncertainty made me sweat more.
"One of the biggest issues I want to address is a lack of range of motion in your hips, which I noticed during our Active Dynamic Warm-up (ADW)," Fabor calmly explained to me.
"It also allows me to assess your largest areas of need, such as range of motion through your hips. By focusing on the little things and paying attention to detail, our athletes are better educated about their strengths and weaknesses and are able to achieve better results."
We did some basic exercises including lunges and a leg press using one leg to isolate the muscles and work on explosiveness. Then came squats, probably one of my favorite exercises dating back to my days of college soccer.
But rather than just load up the plates and squat, we started really light with just 10 pound plates on either side of the bar. Fabor messed with my feet, my hips, the pressure I put on my heels and even had me squeeze my shoulder blades together. Everything was weird and different as I went through my reps.
Again, I look for the exits, but Fabor had a plan.
"The purpose of this adjustment was to activate your hip muscles in the correct range of motion while also keeping your knees behind your toes. This will avoid unnecessary pressure on the knee joint, while also keeping your heels on the ground," Fabor said.
"If your heels come off the ground, it can result in a weak posterior chain, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles. Doing a squat in the correct position strengthens these specific muscles. Increasing strength in these muscles will help you jump higher and run faster during your top speed."
Six sets later as we added more weight and I got the hang of it, it seemed like my workout was over. I had gone through all the traditional exercises and had been pushed, using and engaging muscles in a new way. Not so fast.
Then I was introduced to the Prowler, which looked sort of like a sled that you can load weights onto. Fabor put 135 pounds of weight onto it and told me to get in a stance for the start of the 40 yard sprint. Remembering what Ato Boldon had taught me at TEST a few weeks ago, I get into my crouch. Fabor pushed the "Prowler" in front of me, had me put my arms on its handles and walked 20 yards away.
"Now push it towards me," he said. I did just that.
I push down with my legs a little more, almost kicking back on the turf field.
"Run with it, this isn't a walk."
I glare up. Does he realize I'm pushing 135 pounds plus the weight of the metal "Prowler" and I'm supposed to run with it?
Finally I reach Fabor and if I thought I was hurting before, standing up straight at this point was a chore. What little strength the squats left in my leg five minutes ago had now been "prowled" out of me.
"Remember when you're running the 40, you want your head down and you want to kick your legs up, right?" Fabor said.
"Do that here, keep your head down, your back down and get your legs going higher. This a specific form of horizontal resistance that will help produce the type of force that naturally occurs in the transitional acceleration phase. You are forced to use hip hyperextension which is similar to sprinting."
I do it again. Fabor claps and yells encouragement at me then tells me to do it one last time. Again I hit the "Prowler" and sprint to Fabor, 25 yards away. My stride is longer, my legs are firing into action. I'm going straight towards him.
For the first time all session, Fabor smiled.
Fast forward a week and I'm back with the two dozen athletes at TEST Sports Clubs. The combine is next week and the players are going through final training. It is leg day — which everyone hates — and we're going through our circuit rotation. I just did standing squats on the PowerPlate machine, which vibrates to fatigue muscles faster. Not fun and everyone is exhausted at this point.
Next up was 30 yard dumbbell lunges in the facility's indoor field.
No one likes lunges, but we pound through. One step forward, lunge, straight up and I continue. My legs are exploding a bit more as I remember my training session with the "Prowler." I reach 30 yards and look to my right — one of the players had to take a knee to catch his breath. Something had sunk in from training session at Parisi's a week ago.
Now it was my turn to smile.
Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter at @KristianRDyer