The Eye of The Tiger ~ Bring It Back

One was an executive in his late 50’s, another, a former teammate of mine in his mid-20’s and the last a total stranger standing in line at the bank, I would guess in his early 30’s. All of them were athletes at some point in their lives. These were three different people in three different places but all shared one common trait: I had the same conversation with each of them, and, in their own words, they all said the same things:

‘I used to workout.’

‘I’m so out of shape now.’

‘I wish I could get myself to start training again.’

If you were to ask, I bet 97 out of 100 people would tell you something similar. I can’t tell you what makes people stop training but I will say that its a challenge for everyone to keep going (yes, even highly motivated folks like me.) So what do you do?Let me first mention the fact that human beings seem to have this desire to make things more complex than they are (and certainly need to be.)

Remember what Apollo Creed said to Rocky in Rocky III:

‘Now when we fought… you had the Eye of the Tiger, man, the edge and now you gotta get it back—and the way to get it back is to go back to the beginning.’

Going back to the beginning – to simplify your training for one reason and one reason only: to take it to a level that you know and will actually do…so you can get started. Now here’s the Secret – training never needs to get more complex than ‘the beginning’ — basic exercises, done well, are all you’ll ever need.

At this point, I can only hand the ball off to you, dear reader, because you are the one who makes the decision to go out and train or stay on the couch eating potato chips and living a life of regret.

Train hard,
John Wood signature
John Wood

One was an executive in his late 50’s, another, a former teammate of mine in his mid-20’s and the last a total stranger standing in line at the bank, I would guess in his early 30’s. All of them were athletes at some point in their lives. These were three different people in three different places but all shared one common trait: I had the same conversation with each of them, and, in their own words, they all said the same things:

‘I used to workout.’

‘I’m so out of shape now.’

‘I wish I could get myself to start training again.’

If you were to ask, I bet 97 out of 100 people would tell you something similar. I can’t tell you what makes people stop training but I will say that its a challenge for everyone to keep going (yes, even highly motivated folks like me.) So what do you do?Let me first mention the fact that human beings seem to have this desire to make things more complex than they are (and certainly need to be.)

Remember what Apollo Creed said to Rocky in Rocky III:

‘Now when we fought… you had the Eye of the Tiger, man, the edge and now you gotta get it back—and the way to get it back is to go back to the beginning.’

Going back to the beginning – to simplify your training for one reason and one reason only: to take it to a level that you know and will actually do…so you can get started. Now here’s the Secret – training never needs to get more complex than ‘the beginning’ — basic exercises, done well, are all you’ll ever need.

At this point, I can only hand the ball off to you, dear reader, because you are the one who makes the decision to go out and train or stay on the couch eating potato chips and living a life of regret.

Train hard,
John Wood signature
John Wood

Winning Football Games with Hand-to-Hand Combat

I caught a little bit of the NFL combine on Television this past weekend. Having been around the game my whole life, I’ve seen the player selection process from a lot of different angles. While its true that there are lots of guys who can do amazing things in the bench press test or who are blazing fast at running the 40 yard dash – Big numbers don’t always add up to big-time players, it’s how they play that counts – or at least that should count the most.

It’s how that strength, speed and stamina is applied within the context of the game which really tells the tale. Sure a ‘big bench’ might look good on paper, but it is not necessarily going to help a player get off a block more efficiently and make plays. The truth is, football players are only as good as their hands, especially in the trenches, on the offensive and defensive lines.

Offensive linemen need to be able to punch and grab, to keep the D-linemen at bay during pass blocking and they have to have the hands in the perfect spot on the chest plate to ‘plant’ their man down field on run blocking.

Conversely, Defensive linemen need to be able to put all their strength into their hands when they come off the ball to strike, separate and make a play. Their hands have to be in the right spot or else their pass-rush moves won’t work. On both sides of the ball, this is Hand-to-hand combat and if a guy can’t use his hands, he’s a dead duck. Amazingly enough, this is something which the draft gurus have only recently started to take a look at. And even more alarming, many ‘top prospects’ are lacking in this area.

So let’s talk about what its going to take to build those kinds of hands.

First and foremost, it should be understood that a large part of having ‘good hands’ is going to be the specific practice in the skills of football which has to be done apart from the physical training itself.Another interesting thing about the hands – I have always found that the stronger my hands got, the more ‘aware’ they were and so if I needed to place one hand on a chestplate and one on an outside arm for doing a pass rush move, I could do that with relative ease. You’ll see lots of guys with ‘lazy hands’ who end up putting them outside the shoulders or who ‘double hitch’ when they come off the ball.
These are a problem, but I think both of these can be avoided by building stronger hands – proper technique demands it. Anyhow, with that understood, the hands can be made stronger, tougher and more efficient through specific exercises.

Here’s a few that I would recommend:

1. Hand grippers – the ‘crushing’ movement trains the fingers through a full range of motion, making them stronger and less likely to get jammed, sprained etc. You’ll also need strong fingers because sometimes that’s all you have to hang on with when making a tackle.

2. Sandbag Training – A tremendous conditioner which also helps build strength and mental toughness in ways no barbell can match.

3. Basic exercises using a Thick Bar are also very effective.

That’s just the ‘grip and forearm’ side of things. Training for football should involve other basic upper and lower body movements designed to strengthen every area. Conditioning work is also important and should never be neglected. Here’s an interesting stat – if you can get 1.5 quarterback sacks per game, you will be voted all state… get a college scholarship… or get drafted in the first round of the NFL.

Stronger hands can help you do this – I wonder if those combine guys realize this?

If you play football or know someone who does, how important is hand strength to you now? Start training your hands right now, you could be ready for one hell of a season next fall.

Train hard,
John Wood signature
John Wood
I caught a little bit of the NFL combine on Television this past weekend. Having been around the game my whole life, I’ve seen the player selection process from a lot of different angles. While its true that there are lots of guys who can do amazing things in the bench press test or who are blazing fast at running the 40 yard dash – Big numbers don’t always add up to big-time players, it’s how they play that counts – or at least that should count the most.

It’s how that strength, speed and stamina is applied within the context of the game which really tells the tale. Sure a ‘big bench’ might look good on paper, but it is not necessarily going to help a player get off a block more efficiently and make plays. The truth is, football players are only as good as their hands, especially in the trenches, on the offensive and defensive lines.

Offensive linemen need to be able to punch and grab, to keep the D-linemen at bay during pass blocking and they have to have the hands in the perfect spot on the chest plate to ‘plant’ their man down field on run blocking.

Conversely, Defensive linemen need to be able to put all their strength into their hands when they come off the ball to strike, separate and make a play. Their hands have to be in the right spot or else their pass-rush moves won’t work. On both sides of the ball, this is Hand-to-hand combat and if a guy can’t use his hands, he’s a dead duck. Amazingly enough, this is something which the draft gurus have only recently started to take a look at. And even more alarming, many ‘top prospects’ are lacking in this area.

So let’s talk about what its going to take to build those kinds of hands.

First and foremost, it should be understood that a large part of having ‘good hands’ is going to be the specific practice in the skills of football which has to be done apart from the physical training itself.Another interesting thing about the hands – I have always found that the stronger my hands got, the more ‘aware’ they were and so if I needed to place one hand on a chestplate and one on an outside arm for doing a pass rush move, I could do that with relative ease. You’ll see lots of guys with ‘lazy hands’ who end up putting them outside the shoulders or who ‘double hitch’ when they come off the ball.
These are a problem, but I think both of these can be avoided by building stronger hands – proper technique demands it. Anyhow, with that understood, the hands can be made stronger, tougher and more efficient through specific exercises.

Here’s a few that I would recommend:

1. Hand grippers – the ‘crushing’ movement trains the fingers through a full range of motion, making them stronger and less likely to get jammed, sprained etc. You’ll also need strong fingers because sometimes that’s all you have to hang on with when making a tackle.

2. Sandbag Training – A tremendous conditioner which also helps build strength and mental toughness in ways no barbell can match.

3. Basic exercises using a Thick Bar are also very effective.

That’s just the ‘grip and forearm’ side of things. Training for football should involve other basic upper and lower body movements designed to strengthen every area. Conditioning work is also important and should never be neglected. Here’s an interesting stat – if you can get 1.5 quarterback sacks per game, you will be voted all state… get a college scholarship… or get drafted in the first round of the NFL.

Stronger hands can help you do this – I wonder if those combine guys realize this?

If you play football or know someone who does, how important is hand strength to you now? Start training your hands right now, you could be ready for one hell of a season next fall.

Train hard,
John Wood signature
John Wood