How to train for the NFL Combine

Brian Martin

At the inauguration of each new year we shift our attention to the group of NFL Draft hopefuls beginning their preparations for the annual Combine in Indianapolis.

For nearly 20 years, TEST Football Academy has been preparing players to improve their draft stock, shave tenths off their times and get their minds and bodies ready physically and emotionally for the NFL Combine. Since 1992, our program has made the weeks leading up to the Combine the most important eight weeks of these young men’s lives.


The team at TEST offers an intense, eight-week Combine preparation training program

Over the last decade, the cottage industry called "combine prep” has grown into an integral part of transforming a college player into a professional football star. TEST Football has worked hard to stay ahead of the curve by bringing in the very best resources to prepare our athletes physically and mentally.

Our incredible team of professionals is made up of strength and conditioning specialists, Olympic sprint analysts, former professional football players (for position specific work), sports psychologists, a complete medical team, physical therapy, nutrition counseling, massage therapists and flexibility specialists to name a few. Anything that is needed to give our athletes the best chance to succeed is provided.

Assembling the best team in the industry to oversee these eight weeks of “NFL Combine Prep” is only the first step. The execution of a detailed, player-specific plan is truly what makes the training program give these athletes the upper hand at the Combine. Here is the eight-week breakdown:

Phase I: Setting the Foundation, Weeks 1 & 2

-Full medical exam

-Functional movement screen (FMS): Used to determine any imbalances or asymmetries

-Base line testing, address injury concerns, rehab plan: Based on results of testing, create player specific plan which sets the foundation for their strength program while teaching proper exercise movements

-Review sprint mechanics

-Prepare for positional work

-Review what to expect at all star games: During this phase, combine drills are done in segments using 50-60% effort.

Combine drills include the 40-yard dash, shuttle and 3-cone drill, vertical jump, broad jump, 225 pound bench press, and 60 yard shuttle.

The strength program is one of the most crucial aspects of the training program. The program we utilize is called T.U.T. (Time Under Tension). This is a timed repetition program to enhance stability in joints, tendons, and muscles in order to help athletes get stable after a long season. The typical timing is three seconds on eccentric movement and one second on concentric movement. The general repetition range is 10 – 12 reps.

Eccentric: The part of a movement where muscle elongates. When you lower the weight back to starting position. Also known as “the negative” portion of a lift.

Concentric: The part of a movement where the muscle shortens or contracts. Occurs in more rhythmic activity. The more explosive or working phase of a particular lift.

Chad Pennington
Chad Pennington

Former Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington is one of the coaches at TEST Football Academy.

During this important phase, our players are introduced to four-time Olympic sprint medalist Ato Boldon, as well as positional coaches such as Scott Brunner, Chad Pennington, Sam Madison and Cornelius Bennett in order to prepare these players for their upcoming all-star games.

It is imperative that the players illustrate the speed and positional techniques required to play at the next level.

Phase II: Acceleration and Endurance Building, Weeks 3 & 4

This phase focuses on enhancing speed and endurance.

-All drills are worked at an explosive pace. For example, during a bench press, the bar is lowered and raised at a one-second-to-one-second ratio (1:1). In a vertical leap, the athlete lowers their hips for one second and then jumps as explosively as possible.

-Reps are increased to 15-20 to improve muscular endurance. This is new to most college players as the majority of draft hopefuls do not exceed eight reps during their college training programs.

-Focus on acceleration training for all speed drills, continue All Star Prep: During this phase, Combine drills are done in segments using 70-80% effort.

Phase III: Hypertrophy and Explosive Power, Weeks 5 & 6

The focus of this phase is to increase strength and size. This is accomplished through training at much higher weights (70-80 % of one rep max).

-The target rep range is 6-8 reps.

-The base that was established in phases 1 and 2 is now used as the foundation to create explosive power and plyometric jumping.

-During this phase, combine drills are done in more complete segments using 70-80% effort.

Phase IV: Peak Phase, Putting it all Together, Weeks 7 & 8

The focus of this phase is teaching the athlete how to integrate all aspects of speed, power, endurance and mind-body.

During all phases, mental preparation is addressed. At the NFL Combine, each athlete is rigorously questioned and tested medically, emotionally and physically. To prepare our players we bring in Dr. Robert Price from Elite Minds to work on any concerns.

Some players may need to focus on the interview process. Others may need to overcome anxiety due to an injury and almost all need to overcome mental stress to be as focused and relaxed to perform optimally in all combine drills.

This overview of our eight-week Combine training program is highly individualized depending on each player. Some players need more classroom time while others may need more work with position specific drills.

During the eight weeks we include massage therapy, yoga, cardiovascular training, boxing, spinning, hand techniques and much more. For athletes who have less than eight weeks to prepare, we condense each phase down to one week. The minimum time required to prepare a player for the Combine is a four-week program, with a week accounting for each phase.

This is not an ideal situation, but when there are time constraints it can be accomplished.

After an athlete successfully completes the training program, many may ask whether or not they have really improved. The answer is a resounding, “yes.”

Our statistics show that an average player shaves 2/10ths off of their 40-yard dash, 4/10ths off their shuttle and 3 cone drills, increases their vertical leap by an average of four inches and increases their bench reps 1.5 times in a typical eight-week progression.

Although a tenth of a second may seem minimal to the average eye, it can mean millions of dollars for a future NFL star.

TEST Football Academy Powered by Parisi Speed School has been preparing football players to compete at the highest level since 1992. For more information on TEST visit our website.