When you reach the highest echelons of American football, the margins of error shrink exponentially. There is almost no tolerance for anything other than perfection.
I’m talking about pure speed here. 1/10th of a second can mean the difference between success and failure on the football field.
But that 1/10th of a second can also cost you financially.
When I was getting my EXOS 3 certification in Arizona this last spring, I had the chance to work with several NFL prospects.
These were guys that were on their way to the NFL Combine and, hopefully, to the draft.
We learned something shocking about how their 40-yard dash speed can impact their future potential contracts.
It turns out that if you can shave off 1/10th of a second from your 40-yard dash, it increases your potential NFL contract by $1.2 million.
$1.2 million for 1/10th of a second.
Want to know how fast 1/10th of a second is? Snap your fingers. It’s not even a full stride. It’s like half a stride.
As an EXOS Phase 3 XPT, CSCS, PN1, and CNS, I work with these types of ultra-elite athletes to help them maximize their biomechanics and genetic advantages to optimize their performance.
When you’re talking about 1/10th of a second, you have to dig into the smallest details of their performance. Their stride, their weight distribution, acceleration techniques, and they drill these skills over and over until they’re ingrained in these players’ DNA.
The goal of all of these drills is to make the movements an instinct to them; they shouldn’t even have to think about it.
That’s how granular these NFL players have to get in order to be successful at this level.
I spend 8 weeks with these players and if, by the end, we can shave off 1/10th of a second--sometimes even more--that literally translates to millions of dollars for them in their contracts.
So it’s 100% worth it for these guys.
In this article, I want to go over some of the technique, nutrition, and supplementation strategies that I use with potential NFL draftees.
What I hope to accomplish with this is two-fold.
First, I want to give you an idea of how hard these guys work to become world-class football players. It is insane what they are capable of.
Second, I want this to encourage you to get as detailed as you can with your training and nutrition planning.
There is something very inspiring about seeing someone develop a plan and then stick to that plan with discipline.
That’s what these guys do. They make a plan and then they work the plan with unwavering commitment.
If something doesn’t work, we adjust the plan, and they continue to work their asses off.
This is the methodology that the best-of-the-best use to become the best-of-the-best.
If it’s good enough for NFL Combine prospects, it’s good enough for pretty much anyone else that wants to see results in the gym.
So let’s get started.
If you don’t know, the NFL Combine takes place every year at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana in late February.
At the NFL Combine, potential draftees will be drilled on their physical and mental abilities in the game of football. They also undergo an extensive medical examination.
The physical drills that they must perform are as follows:
Guys that are serious about making a career in the NFL will usually spend the 8 weeks leading up to the Combine at the EXOS Combine training facility.
In fact, about 31% of all first-round draft picks attend EXOS, including guys like Odell Beckham Jr, Andrew Luck, J. J. Watts, and Robert Griffin III just to name a few.
They are trained to master each of these physical drills, the 40-yard dash being the most important. They also get training from former NFL coaches and players on position-specific drills.
During those 8 weeks, they train 3 to 5 times each day.
As you can see from the list of physical tests above, the training focuses on both upper and lower body strength and explosiveness.
With respect to the 40-yard dash, the players get some of the absolute best speed and acceleration training from EXOS specialists.
This training focuses on the first couple steps in the dash and acceleration. They use track and field sprint training, along with state-of-the-art equipment to shave off as much time as possible from the 40-yard dash.
On average, players can reduce their 40 speed by .2 seconds.
While running a fast 40 may not be that big of a deal for a linebacker, it holds huge importance for other positions like a receiver, running back, and especially the cornerback.
Like I mentioned above, these guys train 3 to 5 times every single day. So recovery is a huge part of EXOS.
The players have access to daily massages, acupuncture, and the absolute latest in fitness recovery and physical therapy technology. Each of these guys has a team of people surrounding him to help with the smallest details of their body.
But nutrition could be even more important for both their recovery and their performance during the EXOS 8-week camp.
Before they start, the players undergo a physical evaluation so we can help them maximize their performance.
We get baseline measurements of their current body fat percentage and we look at what their goals are depending on the position they’re going to play.
For most of the guys, we help them lose body fat while also gaining muscle.
To do that and also meet their needs during training, their nutrition will have to serve a few different purposes:
Now, the macronutrient profile for each of these athletes is a big part of their nutrition planning, but it isn’t the only thing we look at.
We also time their meals precisely. We don’t want them to eat a high calorie meal and then head straight out onto the training ground. Sometimes they’ll only have a short amount of time between when they eat and when they need to start training.
So these types of details go into how we plan to deliver these nutrients to the athletes.
In situations where they need an energy source very quickly, we’ll use supplementation, like a shake. The blending of the shake is sort of like a pre-digestion process that saves the body time in having to break down the foods. Plus, with supplementation, the energy sources are already processed so the body has access to them quickly.
However, the tradeoff with this is that this type of meal is usually less calorie dense. So while they’ll get a healthy source of carbs and protein very quickly without bogging them down, they’ll need to refuel afterwards.
So from there we can give them additional energy in the form of whole foods later in the day, maybe between training sessions, so they can finish the day with plenty of energy.
This is the type of planning that we’ll go through with each of the players and deliver customized nutrition and supplementation to support their training and also their recovery.
Now, I want to ask you: what kind of planning do you go through for your own nutrition?
I can tell you that when a lot of these potential NFL players come to EXOS, their nutrition is, frankly, terrible.
They eat a ton of fast food so their nutrition is comprised of simple carbs, lots of fat, lots of sugar, and some protein. They only eat once or twice a day so they’re constantly spiking their blood sugar. They also don’t time their meals right so their recovery and performance suffer.
But when we dial in their nutrition their whole lives change--literally. They experience what it feels like to be healthy. They get better performance, more energy, and better health almost immediately.
Their bodies start to respond better. They can jump higher, run faster, and they start to see incredible muscle definition.
For someone who wants to see results in the gym or in their school sports, even just a small amount of planning and thought can translate to incredible results.
When it comes to nutrition, performance, and looking how you want, you have to start thinking about your body more like a machine.
This isn’t always the best perspective to have of your body. But when it comes to fueling yourself for performance this is, in my opinion, a very efficient framework.
You have to think of your body as a machine with well-defined inputs and outputs. If you put in suboptimal inputs, you will get suboptimal outputs.
When you think about it this way, it gets easier to plan because you can better define what you need to do.
If you know your workout is going to consist of heavy weights and no cardio, you can plan your nutrition accordingly. You can eat lots of protein and a little less carbs. This prioritizes muscle building and strength over quick energy usage.
If you’re going to do lots of cardio, you can fuel up on carbs with less protein. You’ll get a terrific workout, your body will have all the fuel it needs, and you’ll feel amazing afterwards.
Building your training regiment in this way is how the best-of-the-best do it. It’s not easy and it’s not quick, which is why so few people do it. But it is proven to work.
In the end you can choose to continue to do things the way you’re doing them now and you will continue to see the results you’re getting right now.
Or you can change.
The question is: how much do you really want to achieve your goals?
The guys that come through the EXOS Combine facility know exactly how badly they want to accomplish their goals.
And when you figure that out, the decision is easy.