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Welcome to the Big League

NFL vets offer tips to 2015's incoming class of rookies.
NFL Draft presenetation

Last night’s NFL Draft inducted 32 freshmen into an elite football brotherhood of super athletes, and to make it this far, being in peak physical shape was a top priority. But while reaching football’s biggest stage is certainly a major accomplishment, the road only gets tougher as the college stars adjust to a whole new ballgame—and an entirely new training scheme. We got four key tips from New York Giants running back David Wilson and cornerback Charles James on how the rookies can prepare for their big debut. Use this advice to take your own training to the next level.

1. Build up your endurance.

For these guys, playing 16 games a year (not even counting playoffs) on a national stage with millions of eyes watching requires a whole different kind of stamina, both mentally and physically. “By the time you get to your bye week,” says James, “you might have already finished your whole year in college!” But no matter how big your arena, any athlete knows that the key to winning often lies in the ability to keep on going. “Endurance is the main thing,” explains Wilson. “Even if it’s just running a couple of laps on the track a day, you’ve got to keep your endurance up.”

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2. Train on your own—especially when you don’t have to.

Wilson’s one piece of advice when it comes to training is simple—take your fitness into your own hands. “You’ve gotta do a lot more on your own,” he warns. “In college, if they wanted you to be there, you had to be there! Once you get to the NFL, a lot of training is voluntary.” While plenty of players use the offseason as a time to relax and let their bodies recover from a grueling year, when training camp comes around, it’s always obvious which players have been lifting weights—and who’s just been lifting the remote.

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3. Don’t just train hard, train safe.

We all know that getting faster and stronger on the field depends on what you do off the field, but Wilson stresses that being cocky in the weight room isn’t worth a life-changing injury. “We have an excellent weight training program, and we get a lot done in there—but sometimes when guys want to push it to that extra length, you have to be cautious. Once you become an investment, you don’t want to get injured fooling around in the weight room. That’s not what they’re paying you to do!”

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4. Train to your position.

It’s easy to tell the difference between a springy quarterback and a hulking lineman, and just as different body types are native to different roles on the field, it also means employing the best exercises for you to excel in your specific position. “If you’re a receiver like O’Dell Beckham (the Giants’ first-round draft pick), you’ve gotta run your routes!” says James, while Wilson never underestimates the value of the squat. “As a running back, I take pride in being able to break tackles with speed, and squats help that a lot. If I can hold 600 pounds on my back, I should be able to carry a 200-pound man for a couple of extra yards.”

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