No one outtrains Donovin Darius. The Jacksonville Jaguars' strong safety is his own fitness guru and taskmaster, having created the punishing workout regimen that helps him thrive as a bone-rattling hitter. (His 790 career tackles is a team record.) A workout obsessive since his days at Syracuse, where he got a bachelor's degree in exercise science, Darius, 29, experiments with new exercises (training with an ultimate-fighting champ led him to add martial arts-style punches and kicks to his routine, for example) and jazzes up old ones. Here's a guy who, when he hits a heavy bag to improve stamina, enlists a workout partner to bombard his midsection with a 20-pound medicine ball as he strikes the bag -- thus simulating being blindsided on the field. "I've known guys who've trained with Double-D," says Jaguars linebacker Akin Ayodele with a laugh. "Most come back saying the same thing: 'I ain't ever doing that again.'" Darius, who says his training "helps build the confidence I need on the field," worked out five days a week 9 a.m. to 12:30. p.m. for much of the off-season (weekends he rested).
Darius worked out five days a week from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. during the offseason.
Bench press: Eight sets of five repetitions, starting at 245 pounds and peaking at 265. Dumbbell incline press: Four sets of 10, starting at 80 pounds, then 90, 100, 110. Decline bench on hammer machine: Four sets of 10 to 12, between 300 and 315 pounds. Nautilus flies: Four sets of 12, at 140 or 150 pounds.
"I wait 45 seconds between each set," says Darius. "I want to see how fast my muscles recover. That's why I always wear my watch when I'm training. It keeps me on point."
Single-leg bound: Push off with left leg and drive right knee up and out, raising right leg as high as possible. Land on left leg. Continue for 25 yards. Change legs and repeat exercise. Do three sets for each leg.
Alternate leg bound: Start with slow jog. Push off with left foot and drive right knee up and out, raising knee as high as possible and reaching forward with left arm. Bring right foot down and drive left knee up and out in same motion while reaching forward with right arm. Repeat for 25 yards. Do three sets of 25 yards each.
Lateral-leg bound: Start in half-squat and drive off left leg to jump sideways, trying to achieve maximum distance on each bound. Continue for 25 yards. Switch legs and repeat exercise. Repeat using both legs. Do three sets with each leg and three with both.
Leap frogs: Spread feet a little wider than hips and squat. Place arms inside legs and place hands on ground between feet. Push off with hands and legs, exploding straight up. Land in a squat with arms in same position. Do this 15 times. Do one set.
Tuck jumps: Stand upright with knees bent slightly and legs shoulder-width apart. Flex knees, drop the hips and swing the arms backward at the shoulders. Squat down 10 to 12 inches and without pausing reverse direction and explode upward while swinging the arms upward. At peak of jump, pull knees toward the chest (grab your knees, if possible). Upon landing, repeat the exercise. Repeat 15 times. Do one set of 15.
Two forward jumps/one backward jump: Stand upright with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides. Push hips back, flex the knees and swing arms back while moving into a quarter squat. Without pausing in squat, jump forward and swing arms forward in one motion. Repeat again another forward jump, then jump back using the same technique. Repeat for 25 yards.
Reactive step-ups: Stand on step with feet shoulder-width apart. Jump down and immediately jump straight up. Do one set of 20.
Drop jumps: From raised platform or box, drop to ground and immediately jump upward. Do one set of 15.
Darius experiments with new exercises and jazzes up old ones, such as jumping rope.
Split jumps: Assume lunge position with right leg forward and flexed at knee, left leg slightly bent at knee. Right foot should be flat, only the ball of left foot should be touching ground. Using strength of right leg, jump straight up and land in same position. Do this 10 times. Switch legs and repeat exercise. Do one set for each leg.
"With these, you overwork the muscles for a period of time, says Darius. "The jumps help maintain proper technique, form and balance and have a full-body benefit."
Tennis ball drills
Variation 1: Stand five yards from a partner, who is holding a tennis ball. When your partner drops the ball, run and catch it before the second bounce. Do this 10 times.
Variation 2: Turn so your partner, who is holding the ball, is facing your left side. Keep head and eyes straight ahead while your partner drops the ball. Run and catch it before the second bounce. Do this 10 times, then turn so your partner faces your right side and repeat the exercise.
Says Darius: "These improve reaction time and acceleration. The second variation helps peripheral vision."
(Rest time is 15 seconds between sets.)
Hanging leg lifts: Grip a chin-up bar with your arms overhead and your legs extended to the floor. Slowly bend your knees and raise them toward your chest, then slowly extend your legs and return them to floor. Do 10 sets of 10.
Sit-ups on decline bench. Do 10 sets of 10.
Medicine ball: With back flat on floor, hold a ball behind your head with both hands. Sit up, keeping ball overhead. Do six sets of 10.
Says Darius: "Since I know Wednesday is a big core day, I'll do lower abs on Mondays, upper abs and middle abs on Tuesdays."
Catching footballs: Using a Juggs throwing machine, he catches 100 balls. He'll cover phantom receiver routes, going as far as 40 yards downfield, or stand 10 yards away and catch balls fired at 60 miles an hour. "I started doing this after the 2003 season," says Darius. "I realized I needed to create more turnovers. My kids [he's holding Zakee, below left] feed the machine, and I pay them a couple of dollars."
Two 150-meter sprints. Run each in less than 17 seconds. Rest three minutes. Three 200-meter sprints. Run each in less than 24 seconds. Rest three minutes. One 300-meter sprint. Run in less than 41 seconds. Rest five minutes.
Says Darius: "When I ran track in college, I learned how to build endurance."
Resistance sled drill
1. HAVE A PARTNER stand as shown on a blocking sled -- in Darius's case the partner is 251-pound linebacker Akin Ayodele.
2. CROUCH IN A DEFENSIVE BACK'S STANCE, about one foot from the face of the sled.
3. EXPLODE TOWARD THE SLED, knees and arms bent. Hit sled with palms and extend arms upon impact.
4. DRIVE SLED 15 YARDS. When training without a partner, drive sled 40 yards.
5. DO SIX TO EIGHT repetitions with one-minute rest intervals.
"It's important to stay as low as possible in this drill," Darius says. "If I do that, I'm working on my ability to accelerate."
Similar to running through tires, ladder drills help Darius improve his footwork.
Similar to running through tires, these drills improve footwork. The primary goal is to pick the feet up and put them back on the ground as quickly as possible. Darius will do as many as five variations, including a backpedal, doing each drill 10 times.
Shoulders: Seated barbell press: Four sets of 12. Dumbbell lateral raise: Four sets of 12. Dumbbell front raise: Four sets of 12.
Abdominals: Hammer machine -- pulling and lifting legs/isolated training. Three sets of 15 or 20. "For the upper and middle abs," says Darius.
Calves: Seated calf raises. Three sets of 20. " When I work my calves from a seated position, I load as much weight as possible," says Darius. "Standing, I mix in some jumping. I try to flex my calves and push myself toward the ceiling, the way a basketball player might try to explode off the court."
Conditioning: Jump rope for 10 minutes.
Stamina: Box with heavy bag for five to seven 90-second rounds, using four different punches and four different kicks. Rest 45 seconds between rounds.
"In the medicine-ball variation, I'm trying to concentrate on what I'm doing while being blindsided by an opponent," says Darius. "It happens on the field all the time, and you have to learn to stay focused while the wind is getting knocked out of you."
Catching footballs: Same drill as Monday's.
(start at 9 a.m., end around 12:30 p.m.)
For his weekly resistance drill, Darius harnesses himself to a 35-pound sled and adds weight.
Medicine Ball: Twosets of 20 reps with a 20-pound ball.
Reach-ups: Lay with back flat on the ground and knees beent slightly. Partner stands over the top with the ball. Rise up, reach for ball, grab and come forward. Reverse direction, return to the ground, hand ball back to partner.
Overhead: Lay with back flat on the ground and knees bent slightly. Partner stands at your feet (or on them, if necessary) while holding ball. Partner tosses ball into your hands as you ease your back to the ground and extend the ball behind your head. After touching the ground, immediately pull body back up with the abs and lob the ball back to partner.
Drop-abs: Lay flat with back on the ground. Have a partner hold the ball three feet above your midsection and drop it on your stomach as you tighten the abdominal muscles. Push ball back up to the partner and repeat. Focus on breathing because you don't want the ball hitting your stomach when your inhaling.
Dynamic (20 reps)
Glute-ham: Start on all fours. Bring left knee to chest, then push it straight back and up. Repeat with right leg. (20 reps)
Fire hydrant: Start on hands and knees. Extend right hip and keep knee bent. Push right foot upwards without arching the back. Then abduct knee away from the body and across the body. (20 reps)
Knee to shoulder: Start on all fours. Bring left knee forward to touch left shoulder. Return knee to starting position and repeat with right knee. (20 reps)
Leg outs: Start on all fours. Left right leg straight back, swing it to the front and back. Repeat exercise with left leg. (20 reps)
Bridge lower leg: Start in a push-up position but with elbows and forearms on the ground. Body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Pull in abdominals while extending right arm outward and left leg straight back. After 20 seconds, return arm and leg to the floor and then extend left arm outward and right straight back. Hold for 20 seconds. Do two sets for 20 seconds.
Bridge upper leg: Start in a push-up position with hands on the floor. Body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Pull in abdominals while extending right arm outward and left leg straight back. After 20 seconds, return arm and leg to the floor and then extend left arm outward and right straight back. Hold for another 20 seconds. (2x20 sec)
Bridge alternate arm/leg: Start in a push-up position but with elbows and forearms on the ground. Body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Pull in abdominals while extending right arm outward and left leg straight back. Return arm and leg to the floor and then extend left arm outward and right straight back. One set is two seconds. Do 10 sets of two seconds each.
Russian twist with weight: Sit on the floor with knees bent and feet flat. Hold the ball with arms extended in front of chest while leaning back at a 45-degree angle from the floor. Twist to the left as far as possible, then twist to the right as far as possible. (2x12)
Knee tuck: Roll the ball under your hips so you're balancing on your toes. (2x10)
Reverse crunch: Lay flat on floor with legs bent at 90-degree angle, hands underneath buttocks and ball in between feet. Raise legs knees back toward the face, then reverse direction and return feet to the floor. (2x10)
Bridge: Lay flat on the floor with legs straight on the ball (it should be touching your calves). Keep arms at your sides and hands on the floor. Tighten and lift buttocks off the floor while tightening abdominals at the same time. Hold for 20 seconds. Do two sets of 20 seconds each.
One arm rotational: Stand with left side facing the cable. Reach across the body with right hand while facing laterally, grab cable, squat and rotate hips through the motion. Turn hips all the way to right and sweep the strap across the body (it should feel similar to the motion of a golf swing). Switch sides and repeat. (Two sets of 10 reps with 70 to 100 pounds)
Cable lifting: Start in same position with cable handle down low. Reach down to grab cable with both hands. Pull cable across body, up to chin, rotate hips and extend arms upward. (2x10 with 70 to 100 pounds)
Cable chopping: Start in same position with cable handle up high. Right up and grab cable with both hands. Pull cable across the body, rotate hips and extend arms downward. (2x10 with 70 to 100 pounds)
(Start at 9 a.m., end around 12:30 p.m.)
Position drills (backpedal, change directions, driving on the ball).
Three sets of step-ups on Reebok step (10 sets consisting of one minute of continuous movement).
Back: Low row (4x12 starting with 175 pounds and increasing to 195, 215 and 235). Hammer machine -- pull-down (4x12 starting with 200 pounds and increasing to 220 and 240). Hammer machine -- pull-up (4x12 starting with 200 pounds and increasing to 220 and 240). Band exercises (sawing back and forth) (4x12). Weighted pull-ups (4x8 starting with 185 pounds and increasing to 205 and 225).
Biceps: Curls -- One set of six reps in the following order: 15 pounds, then 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25, 20, 15 (no rest between sets). Preacher curls (2x10 with 50 pounds). Isolated manual resistance (2x12).
Jump rope for 10 minutes.
Catch 100 balls on Juggs machine.
Ladder drills: Similar to running through tires, these drills improve footwork. The primary goal is to pick the feet up and put them back on the ground as quickly as possible. Darius will do as many as five variations, including a backpedal, doing each drill 10 times.
400-meter runs: Darius makes three runs, taking only a 60- to 90-second break after each. If doing this with a partner, he treats it like a relay: As soon as one person gets to the finish line, the other starts.
Jumping rope: Darius jumps for 10 minutes, without rest, doing various maneuvers and footwork drills such as crisscrossing the rope, jumping on one leg and running in place as he jumps.
Purpose: This exercise helps Darius with his strength, endurance, flexibility and hand-eye coordination. He trains for five to seven rounds at 90 seconds per round with 45 seconds of recovery time between rounds.
Technique:Stand on balls of feet, which are slightly more than shoulder width apart. Keep body weight centered and balanced.
Punches:Straight strikes, hooks and roundhouse blows (all with both arms). In a defensive-back stance (bump-and-run position), pepper bag with six-inch jabs, then chop the bag with the sides of the hands.
Kicks:Roundhouse and straight-on.
Twist:A workout partner throws a 20-pound medicine ball at Darius's midsection while he's punching and kicking. "I'm trying to concentrate while being blindsided," he says. "It happens on the field all the time, and you have to stay relaxed and focused while the wind is getting knocked out of you. Football is physical, but this drill is also about mental toughness."
Catching football. (See above.)
WEIGHTLIFTING (45 seconds rest between each set). Power clean: Two sets of five repetitions at 185 pounds; two sets of five at 225 pounds; two sets of five at 255; two sets of five at 275.
Squat: Two sets of five at 275 pounds; two sets of five at 315; two sets of five at 345; two sets of five at 365.
Single-leg press: Six sets of 10, each leg, 360 pounds.
Leg extensions(seated): Three sets of 15, each leg, 160 pounds.
Leg curls(lying on stomach): Three sets of 15 with each leg, 130 pounds.