4 Foundational Lifts for Football Linemen

Linemen are usually bigger than everyone else on the field.  They may require some extra size to play in the trenches, so having adequate levels of strength to move their mass is necessary. Not only does a lineman need to master moving his own body, he’s working to control someone else’s at the same time.  All young football players will benefit greatly from basic-general strength training, but there may be a few lifts that compliment a lineman’s needs really well. linemen

Linemen make violent contact with another player almost every play. There’s a lot of things all going on at once. They’re using their entire body every snap. Every play requires at least a demonstration of strength, power and as the game goes on muscular endurance is challenged.

The list below includes exercises that’ll stimulate a large percentage of muscle fiber per repetition. They’re all multi-joint exercises that require control, balance and good concentration.

These exercises are relatively safe, teachable and Coachable. There’s several ways to progress with them and they’re all measurable, so strength gains can be quantified.  Most weightrooms have the resources already and they’re relatively affordable.

One of the main reasons why I’ve chosen these particular exercises is because each one will demonstrate some sort of limiting variable that I’ve seen common in linemen. Some significant weaknesses are going to come to light.  They might have a strong bench, but can’t push their bodyweight while controlling other parts of their body. They may have strong arms, but their grip is weak.  They might have a massive bench, but can’t pull their bodyweight up to a bar. These are some of the scenarios that this list addresses.

1. Trap-Bar Squat


Trap-Bar squatting will stress some of the posterior chain muscles that other lower body exercises won’t.

Squatting’s good and it’s assumed that most programs are doing it with a barbell.  Trap-bar squatting is similar, the loads just in a different place. Because the lineman has to grab the bar, they’re forced to stress parts of their body that barbell squatting won’t, namely the grip.

If they’re already squatting with a barbell, there’s no reason to stop and just use the trap-bar. Unless they’re terrible at squatting and you’re searching for another exercise, go ahead. Adding trap-bar squatting to the workouts is definitely worth the time and you’re probably going to find it easier to teach and Coach.

Adam Vogel wrote a great article on trap-bar squatting (deadlift) for t-nation. Take a minute to read it, as he did a great job at addressing the details.

Click here for Adam’s article on the trap-bar

2. Chin-Ups

I’ve probably gone blue in my face talking about how important these are. It’s a great measure of how well the player can handle their bodyweight.  Most high school freshman linemen won’t be able to do one at first, but with a good system in place 3-5 reps is a realistic goal by the end of the school year.

Click here for an article talking about some important things to think about before implementing chin-ups into your program.  There’s a section that addresses what to do when a lineman can’t do one rep yet.

3. DB Push-Ups


DB push-ups are a great way to measure how a lineman is able to handle their weight.

Here’s another great bodyweight exercise with a twist. By holding onto dumbbells so the palms are turned in, there may be less stress on the linemen’s shoulder girdle during the movement. Make sure that the DB’s are hex style so they don’t roll away.

Barbell pressing, machine pressing and DB pressing are great. Bodyweight pressing movements are a great compliment to any workout and can humble some of the strongest benchers.

4. Single-Leg Pressing

A comprehensive strength-training program for linemen needs to include a single-leg pressing movement.  There’re several choices like the rear-foot-elevated squat, lunges, sled pushes, glute bridges and step-ups.


Coach Mike Boyle has done a great job at educating others on the importance of single -leg work.

These are relatively easy to teach and Coach. During times of he year where the volume of work is really high, like in-season, it’s a great way to work the legs without having to load the spine. With that, the players don’t need to use as much weight either.

If the strongest linemen can squat 405 lbs for reps, can they hold onto a 100 lb DB in each hand and do rear-foot-elevated squats for reps?  It makes sense that they should be able to use approximately half the weight of a double-leg pressing movement, for a single-leg movement. That’s just something to think about.

I’ve always been a fan of Ben Bruno’s practical thoughts on single-leg squatting movements. There’s a great article below that’ll take care of most questions and there’s some impressive demonstrations of strength too.

Click here for Ben’s article

In conclusion

I’m not saying these are the only exercises that linemen should do, or that they’re better than anything else that’s similar.  These are great “baseline” or “foundational’ exercises for football players in general, but they’re probably going to address the specific needs of linemen really well, like being able to control their massive body.


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