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From The NFL Draft To Opening Day
NFL DraftThe dream is universal among aspiring football players — play hard, get drafted by the likes of the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Dallas Cowboys and win a Super Bowl. But the jump from college to the pro ranks is a daunting one, and many a "can't miss" prospect has gone from boom to bust because they just weren't ready to do the elite-level training, and study required on the NFL level. As we look at the upcoming NFL Draft, here's a look at how projected Top 10 studs like Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Michael Crabtree, and Jason Smith can prepare for one of the most important days of their lives ... Day One of 2009 NFL training camp.

At the same time, all of the workout strategies discussed below will surely prove invaluable to football players at every level, as you prepare for your own high school, college, Arena League or NFL training camps.

You can count on a number of things happening during the upcoming 2009 NFL Draft broadcast. Among the endless prognostication, a commentator will inevitably mention that the New England Patriot's MVP Tom Brady was drafted at 199 in an attempt to justify why someone should watch into the second day. There will be no shortage of colorful suits straight outta Pimps-R-Us Warehouse. And no matter whom the New York Jets pick in the first round, their fans will boo mercilessly.

Amidst all the chatter about 40-yard-dash times, agility drills, and bench-press totals at this year's 2009 NFL scouting combine, the most popular topic for commentators will be great boom and bust picks of the past. When the Lions pick at #1, you'll hear as much about super-bust Joey Harrington (picked #1 by the Lions in 2002) as you will about super QB prospects Stafford and Sanchez. When colossal OT Jason Smith is sitting at #2, somebody's bound to mention ultra-failure Tony Mandarich. Hey, that big OLB Aaron Curry is up? Remember how bad linebacker Brian Bosworth was?

Before the likes of the Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs go "on the clock" on April 25 to kick off the proceedings at New York City's Radio City Music Hall, it's interesting to take a look at just what the top players in the country may have done—and what they will surely have to do over the next few months—in an effort to improve their skills and status.

For instance, outside linebacker Aaron Curry, a senior out of Wake Forest who is regarded by many as the best overall player eligible if you take note of the numerous 2009 Mock Draft boards. Or perhaps Matthew Stafford of Georgia or Mark Sanchez of U.S.C., universally regarded as the most promising quarterbacks, who are both expected to go top 10 when all is said and done. Another top pick, who may go as high as No. 2 to St. Louis, is Michael Crabtree, the fleet-footed wide receiver out of Texas Tech.

Of course, they all have incredible skills, honed over years of playing time and success on the high school and college level. But whether preparing for a season, the NFL Scouting Combine, or with an eye toward their upcoming rookie stints in training camps, they also surely made weight training and conditioning drills a part of their regular regimen. We spoke with Hollywood-based celebrity trainer Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS, who also serves as the fitness correspondent on the syndicated show Extra, for his training advice for some of the key positions. If you hope to be a gridiron great yourself one day, these exercises and drills can give you a step on the competition.

Quarterback: Forward Momentum

Succeeding at the all-important quarterback position requires a range of finely tuned skills, from head to toe. "Much like a baseball pitcher, who wants to have the same power in the seventh inning as the first, a quarterback needs great legs," Peña points out. "That's why pitchers rely a lot on stationary bike training."

However, unlike a pitcher, whose range of throwing motion is very circular, a QB's motion is much more straightforward, he explains. "That motion relies a lot on the triceps, as far as explosion and endurance, especially the lateral head because of the angle of the arm to the body."

The prescription? Close-grip Smith bench presses incorporating a "throw," and high-rep dumbbell skullcrushers. For the former, set a flat bench within a Smith machine, load the bar with 50-60% of your max, and lie back into position, hands spaced less-than-shoulder-width apart. From there, you'll do a traditional close-grip press, but with a decided difference — you'll let go of the bar at the top, then catch it with slightly bent arms before performing the negative and starting the next rep.

"In traditional weightlifting, you start your motion but then begin to decelerate as the bar reaches the top of the motion," Peña explains. "However, a quarterback does not decelerate his arm — he uses maximum power in a short swift motion and lets the ball go. This relies on your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which the explosive Smith machine movement will target."

Follow those with dumbbell skullcrushers, otherwise known as French presses or lying triceps extensions. "Skullcrushers mimic the motion of a throw," Peña says. "And by using dumbbells instead of a barbell, you ensure that your throwing arm gets fully taxed instead of allowing your other arm to take on a disproportionate share of the workload."

Exercise Sets Reps
Smith-Machine Flat Bench Press with Throw 5-7 5-7
Dumbbell Flat-Bench Skullcrusher 4-5 20-25

Linebacker: Driving Force

To battle through an offensive line to get to a quarterback or running back, a linebacker needs to have a lot of leg and upper-body strength. While a traditional barbell squat or overhead press is standard protocol in the weight room, more apropos exercise techniques are "reverse" and isometric tension moves.

"When you do a normal squat, you're stronger because of the elastic energy built up when you drop your hips downward and then go into the ascent," Peña says. "However, on the field you don't always have that opportunity — essentially, you're often starting in the 'down' position." To hone your power specifically for that circumstance, try reverse power-rack squats. Place the safety bars at the point where you would finish in the down position, and set the bar on them. Load the bar, then situate yourself under the bar in full squat position. From there, drive up through your heels to a standing position. Repeat, resting the bar for 5 seconds on the safeties between each rep.

Meanwhile, the isometric overhead press can help you generate a lot of power, and more closely resembles what occurs as you come out of a three-point stance and press against an object that is pressing just as hard back at you. To do this exercise, put the safeties just underneath shoulder level so your knees have to be slightly bent (as they would be during a play). As most plays last 5-10 seconds, you'll want to push the unloaded bar up against the supports as hard as you can for 10 seconds at a time, resting 30 seconds between each press.

Exercise Sets Reps
Reverse Barbell Power-Rack Squat 5 8-10
Isometric Power Rack Standing Overhead Press 5 10 second holds

Cornerback: Back to the Top

If you're a cornerback, your first motion on each play is backward as you track the receiver with an eye on the line of scrimmage. The kicking motion and knee extension you use to drive through the ground is generated by your quadriceps. So in addition to regular gym-centric exercises like squats, deadlifts and machine leg extensions to strengthen your quads, you should get outside for a valuable cardio drill: Weighted reverse hill sprints.

"The concept is simple: Put on a weighted vest and run backwards up a hill as fast as you can," Peña instructs. "If you do this drill regularly, once you get on a level playing ground without a vest, you'll feel like you have an extra burst of speed. It's similar to why a baseball player swings a weighted bat before going up to the plate."

If you're a receiver, this drill is a must as well — you'll just want to spend most of your sprints running forward. Whether you're a corner or a receiver, you can also add some sprints where you shuffle up sideways.

Drill Sets Reps
Reverse Weighted Hill Sprints 8-15 20-30 seconds (or to the top of the hill)

As the new NFL season grows closer, we'll have more training tips and secrets from the experts to share with you. So check back often at your training and supplementation source,!