Strength Training With Reggie Bush

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My main motivation is to bounce back harder and stronger than ever before. That's my job; that's what I do. I play football. And when I'm done with this game, I want to be known as one of the best who ever played this position. - Reggie Bush 



My main motivation is to bounce back harder and stronger than ever before. That's my job; that's what I do. I play football. And when I'm done with this game, I want to be known as one of the best who ever played this position. - Reggie Bush 

When Reggie Bush left the University of Southern California in 2005, he was invincible. The most electrifying football player in the country looked like he had been carved from steel, with muscle definition seen only in cartoon superheroes. The physique and athleticism that led to a Heisman Trophy, 8.7 yards per carry and 233 all-purpose yards per game during Reggie's final season made him the NFL's next franchise-changing player. Despite comments that he didn't have the size to compete with the NFL's monstrous power backs, the explosive burner from Southern Cal could hardly be stopped.

Simultaneously, 1,900 miles from L.A., the people of New Orleans were working hard to bounce back from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. They needed a positive distraction, a hope of some sort. And the night before the 2006 NFL Draft, through a surprise move by the Houston Texans, Saints fans got just that. The Texans picked D-End Mario Williams, leaving Reggie available to the Saints at the two-spot.

Reggiemania erupted, as Reggie t-shirts and jerseys sold at record pace. Mayor C. Ray Nagin even addressed his constituents to announce that "Saint Reggie" would be one of the major sources of hope in the region.

Accepting this role, the young back commenced his NFL career by doing what many expected. He burst onto the scene, his first TD coming on a 65-yard punt return against Tampa Bay. Not really surprising when you consider who inspired Reggie's game when he was a child growing up in San Diego—two of the NFL's greatest playmakers, Deion Sanders and Barry Sanders.

Soon, Reggie wasn't just a playmaker like his idols, but a game-changer for the Saints. He helped pave the Saints' way to the NFL playoffs with a key divisional win over the 49ers, in which he scored four TDs [three rushing, one receiving]. The Saints' unlikely and Reggie-fueled turnaround brought them within one game of the Super Bowl. New Orleans' future seemed bright.

Not so fast, Reggie. A slow start and a knee injury in 2007 put a quick stop to the resurgence. Though he attempted to battle through a slightly torn posterior cruciate ligament, the injury became too much for Reggie to bear. His stats declined significantly from his promising rookie season. It was the first chink in Reggie's armor. "Year one was okay because we got to the championship game," Reggie says. "But last year, we fell off the radar. This past year was the hardest thing for me to overcome in my entire career—being injured for the first time and having to miss games. I had never missed a game in my football career, whether it was Pop Warner, high school or college. That was pretty tough for me to sit on the sidelines and watch everything happen."

This past off-season, Reggie used as motivation how scrupulously his 2008 campaign will be watched and judged. "This is year three for me," he says. "And I feel like I really need to prove myself. That's what has inspired me to work even harder and come back even stronger. This career can be short or it can be long, you never know. So you have to take every year like it's your last."

To make his mark this season, Reggie tapped into his love of throwing around some serious iron in the weight room—what he says is his favorite part of training. "I really focused on getting stronger this off-season," Reggie says. "Coming off my injury last year, I wanted to beef up a little bit more and get stronger in that sense. It was part of the injury and me just realizing that I need to be stronger, because breaking arm tackles is very important for a running back. You get a lot of guys trying to tackle you with one arm, and I want to break those tackles."

Breaking tackles is only one of Reggie's expectations this year. "I have team goals first, then some personal goals," he says. "One of those team goals is to always win at home. [After that], win our divisional games, get to the playoffs, [then] the Super Bowl.

"For personal goals, I look to get to the Pro Bowl and rush for somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 yards. Just to be one of the top backs in the league and be very productive game in and game out."

The desire to beef up and achieve those lofty goals led Reggie back to southern California to work with Travelle Gaines, who was impressed with Reggie from the get-go. "I mean, Reggie is one of the best athletes in the world," Gaines says. "He is such a goaloriented person that sets very high standards for himself. After a two-hour workout, he'll stay for an additional hour of work on his own. I have never met a person who loved lifting weights or who enjoys being in the gym more than Reggie."

Each day Reggie showed up at Elite Athletics, he faced an intense, total-body training session. And nothing made him happier, because he was one step closer to becoming the strong, tackle-breaking back he set out to be. "From the time Reggie started earlier this summer until now, he's made a dramatic improvement," Gaines recalls. "He would come in every day, ready for the challenge to get better. And you would see a different person each day. You could see him transforming into the person and athlete he wanted to be. I figured out that any time you take God-given ability and add hard work, you get a player like Reggie Bush—and very rarely does that come around."

Don't be surprised this year if you see #25 dash between the tackles on an inside run, explode through a tackler, then move the pile after contact. That's his job; that's what he does.

Prehab Resistance Series

Before Reggie starts his intense strength training, Gaines works to get his upper-body muscles firing as quickly as possible. These prehab exercises prepare Reggie's chest, upper back, shoulders and traps, so he can tackle the explosive movements to follow. Watch video of Reggie Bush prepping for his weighlifting session.

1) Press

• With light band resistance attached to stable object behind you, step forward into staggered position

• Hold handles at chest so band has tension

• Continuously punch arms forward and back as fast as possible for specified duration

Sets/Duration: 2x30 seconds

Making Gaines: Make sure your back leg is straight and front leg is slightly bent, similar to a wide receiver's stance. Focus on punching straight out, coming straight back and pressing to full extension.

2) Row

• With light band resistance attached to stable object in front, step back into even stance, creating tension in band

• Continuously drive elbows back and forth for specified duration

Sets/Duration: 2x30 seconds

Making Gaines: Focus on body position— pushing your butt back [into a sitting position] and keeping your chest up. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and row back as fast as possible without allowing your form to deteriorate. Players start to wear out at about 20 seconds. This helps warm up the shoulders and upper back.

3) Rear Shoulder

• With light band resistance in front, step back into even stance

• Hold handles so arms are straight in front and band has tension

• Keeping arms straight, bring handles back and overhead into V position; return arms to start position

• Repeat movement as fast as possible for specified duration

Sets/Duration: 2x30 seconds

Making Gaines: Stand straight up and bring your arms straight out. We focus on this region because you see so many shoulder injuries in football. Players need to be strong there because they get hit there so often.

Core Circuit
Reggie completes the following four core exercises as a superset, repeating the circuit four times. Not only does this strengthen his core, it is a great warm-up, according to Gaines. Use a 6-pound med ball if you're a beginner, 10- to 12-pound ball if you're an elite high school or college athlete, and 12- to 14-pound ball if you're a professional.

1) Overhead Med Ball Throws

• Assume sit-up position, facing partner with med ball

• As partner throws ball, catch it and lower into sit-up

• Throw ball back to partner halfway up sit-up motion

• Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 4x15

Making Gaines: This works the overall front of the abs. Dig your heels into the ground, and keep the ball as high above your head as possible. Throw the ball back when you're halfway up in a continuous motion.

2) Elite Ab Throws

• Assume sit-up position, facing partner with med ball

• Catch ball from partner's throw; rotate right, then left, touching ball to floor on each side

• Throw ball back to partner in explosive motion

• Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 4x15

Making Gaines: This focuses on the oblique muscles. I tell Reggie to follow the ball with his eyes to get more of a twist and work more of the oblique muscles. [I] want [him] to get full extension when he throws the ball back from his chest to help warm up his upper-body muscles. It [is] important for a running back like Reggie to have strong obliques, because he is always twisting and turning and trying to break tackles.

3) Side Med Ball Toss

• Assume sit-up position with partner to left

• As partner throws ball from side, catch it and rotate right

• Touch ball to ground; immediately and explosively throw ball back to partner as you rotate left

• Repeat for specified reps; perform set on opposite side

Sets/Reps: 4x10 each side

Making Gaines: This works the obliques and abs. Given [how] Reggie bends and navigates his body through the field, he needs to be strong in the obliques. Again, he wants to follow the ball with his eyes and catch the ball out front. As soon as the ball touches the ground, he throws it back to me in one explosive movement.

4) Physioball Jacknife

• Assume push-up position with feet on top of physioball

• Keeping body stable, roll physioball toward hands by driving knees as high as possible and digging toes into ball

• Return legs to full extension; repeat in controlled fashion for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 4x10

Making Gaines: This hits the bottom half of the abs and also helps Reggie's overall core stability and strength, which gives him a better foundation. You need a phenomenal core to be a great athlete in general. I have Reggie focus on making sure he keeps his body in a stable position while driving his knees as high as possible.

Resistance Training
Gaines has Reggie perform exercise 1a for strength, then supersets it with 1b to work endurance.

1a) Alternate Dumbbell Incline Press

• Lie with back on incline bench, holding dumbbells with palms facing each other at upper chest

• Extend both arms toward ceiling, keeping palms facing in

• Keeping left arm locked out, lower right dumbbell to chest, then punch it toward ceiling

• Keeping right arm locked out, lower left dumbbell to chest, then punch it toward ceiling

• Repeat sequence for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 4x10 each arm

Making Gaines: We make sure Reggie keeps his arms turned in a punching motion, because there's never a time in football when your arms should be out wide. You're probably holding if they are out there. You have to be explosive and tight from the armpit and be able to punch straight up. Make sure to keep your arms locked out in close, not wide. This is a great stabilization exercise for upper-body muscles.

1b) Push-Up to Row

• Assume push-up position with light dumbbells in hands

• Perform push-up, then row with right arm

• Perform push-up then row with left arm

• Repeat sequence for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 4x16 [16 pushups with 8 rows per arm]

Making Gaines: Get into a good push-up position with legs spread about shoulder width. When you row, drive your arm up as high as possible and as close to your breastplate as possible. This helps tremendously with core stability, because it gets Reggie into an awkward position where he has to balance himself. On the football field, you are never in a standard position, where your weight is equally balanced.

2) Cone Touch with Resistance

• Set up two cones five yards apart, five yards in front of you

• Assume athletic stance with partner providing band resistance from behind you

• Holding football in left hand, explode forward at angle toward left cone, bend at waist, touch cone with right hand

• Backpedal with control to start position

• Transfer ball to right hand, then explode forward at angle to right cone

• Touch cone with left hand, then backpedal with control to start position

• Repeat in continuous fashion for specified duration

Sets/Duration: 4x30 seconds

Making Gaines: We do this with Reggie [to] get him sprinting forward and really force him to dig because of the resistance. As the resistance increases, he has to pump his arms and legs more violently and concentrate on his form. You don't want so much resistance that it breaks down your form, though. His body is being propelled backwards, so he is forced to squeeze his ab muscles to control his body. It improves body control and [helps him learn to] deal with resistance, very similar to dragging a defender. This will definitely help him shed off tacklers.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock