“In bull-fighting they speak of the terrain of the bull and the terrain of the bull-fighter. As long as a bull-fighter stays in his own terrain he is comparatively safe. Each time he enters into the terrain of the bull he is in great danger.” – The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
NFL offensive lineman and bullfighters have a lot in common; they both have to be smart and quick on their feet. Unlike bullfighters however, lineman spend all their time in “the terrain of the bull.” In fact, it is their ability to not avoid the bull and stand their ground that makes a great lineman.
An offensive lineman we work with was transitioning from college to the NFL. In addition to the increased demands and speed of the NFL game he was also moving from the outside line (tackle) toward the interior (guard). The position change was going to increase his need to stand his ground instead of being able to rotate and “avoid the bull.” His initial scan (on the left below) produced a Sparta signature typical for one of our elite rotational athletes (baseball players, quarterbacks). When an athlete excels at rotation the T Scores for LOAD and DRIVE are higher than EXPLODE, creating a “U” shaped graph. In order to stand his ground better he needed to increase his ability to create stiffness– which correlates with the LOAD variable in the signature– without increasing his risk for injury. Two of the main indicators for injury risk are when one T score is below 45 OR when one T Score is more than 15 below the other two variables. As you can see from the initial scan, he was at slight injury risk with EXPLODE below 45.
The first thing we did was remove split squats and single leg forward hop from his program. Both these movements emphasize prolonged force production (“time under tension”) from the posterior chain which increase the DRIVE variable of the signature. The second thing we did was prescribe heavy squats and shorter plyometric jumps like 6″ box jumps . Squats focus on the ankle joint and anterior leg muscles (quads), the structures that allow an athlete to be quicker. In addition, being on two legs (vs. one) takes balance out of the equation of a movement, so the overall load (weight) can be increased. This increased load provides a greater trunk stimulus and emphasizes bracing ability, both very important for an offensive lineman. The shorter plyometric jumps encourage stiffness and less range of motion, both critical to increasing the LOAD variable. We can see from the second scan (above right) that we were able to transition his Sparta signature from that one of a rotational athlete to a much stiffer profile. At the same time we were able to keep the T Score variable with 15 of each other and bring all his variables above our acceptable range for injury risk (>45). By increasing his LOAD and stiffness we ensured that this lineman was much less likely to get “bull rushed.”