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Every off-season T.J. Duckett hits the beach running. For each of the past five years the running back, whom Washington acquired from Atlanta last month, has gone to Del Mar, Calif., to work out with personal trainer Doug Hix and spend many hours in the sand (SI, Aug. 28). Hix, a former football and track star at Pittsburg ( Kans.) State has trained more than 70 pros (including quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Joey Harrington) and says training on an unstable surface such as sand forces a player to engage his core muscles and also improves balance.
"My philosophy is to take the essentials that you use in a game and make them more difficult," says Hix. "I tell guys that if they can do these drills in the sand, it will be that much easier when they get to the field."
Says Duckett of the beach's impact, "You're so off balance, it's the equivalent of someone pushing you from both sides while grabbing you from behind. You really have to pick your knees up to get through the sand, even though it feels like your legs are not going anywhere."
The 6-foot, 254-pound Duckett typically trains with a handful of other Hix clients, and after the sand sessions he hits the gym for more soft-surface drills and weight training.
AN UNSTABLE ALLIANCE
FIGURE EIGHT (left) DRILL Place four cones 15 feet apart, defining a square, and place another cone in the center. Start at center cone and sprint to one corner, circling the corner cone clockwise. Sprint back to center cone, completing a figure-eight pattern. Do this for all corners. Two sets clockwise, two sets counterclockwise. PURPOSE Strengthens legs and core. "Cutting around cones in the sand will stabilize every joint and make the core coordinate lower-body movements," says Hix. "When the sand gives and the leg slides, the core balances the athlete."
STEP KICKS DRILL Kick right leg up toward face, reaching left hand to toes. Alternate legs, stepping forward for 30 yards. PURPOSE Enhances flexibility, particularly in the hamstrings.
LATERAL QUICK FEET DRILL Set up four cones in a line, one yard between first and second; three yards between first and third; five yards between first and fourth. Start at first cone. Shuffle laterally to second cone, shuffle back to first; shuffle to third cone and back; shuffle to fourth and back. Do twice, then switch lead leg and do twice more. PURPOSE Improves ability to make a lateral change of direction. Ideally, do this facing, and racing, a partner.
BALL TOSS DRILL Duckett and another player stand beside each other, 10 yards from Hix, who tosses a ball straight up. Players sprint toward Hix, jostling each other to try to catch the ball. Do four times. PURPOSE Builds explosiveness while simulating on-field competition.
SPLIT THRUST WITH STABILIZATION DRILL (after beach workout) Place two Bosu balls (inflatable half-dome apparatuses pictured below) beside each other. Start with right leg on front ball, left on back ball. Jump and scissor-kick legs to land with feet on opposite balls. Three sets of 30 jumps. PURPOSE Works glutes and hamstrings. Core prevents swaying and falling off unstable surface.