The Complete Guide to Football Combine Prep


Jan 3, 2018 //  by Parisi School //  2 Comments

When you’re a serious athlete, preparing for the football combine is much more than practicing the tests a few times. Every aspect of preparation must be accounted for – programming, nutrition, mental preparation.

This guide not only gives you some quick tips and insights on mastering the six football combine tests, but also advice on proper programming for both speed and strength, fueling your body with adequate nutrition, and training your mind for success just as much as you train your body.

Mastering the Six Football Combine Tests

Mastering the six football combine tests is, of course, crucial to your performance. If you think practicing the tests a few times leading up to the event is enough, it is very likely that you will be greatly dissatisfied with your performance come test day.

The combine tests are much more complex than a few running and jumping evaluations and there are specific strategies for each that can greatly improve your time.

The 40-Yard Dash: The first, second and third most important combine test is the 40-Yard Dash. It can make or break an athlete, so you want to keep a few things in mind:

  • It’s crucial to begin in an aggressive stance. Which foot you put back is determined by which is your dominant hand. (Right-handed stance, place the left foot back half a step.) Taller athletes will bring the foot back farther than shorter athletes. Your back leg is very important. It is your first step. The further back the foot is, the shorter the first step is going to be. Place your weight on your launch foot and opposite shoulder. The back is flat, hips are higher than shoulder and shin almost parallel to ground.
  • To maximize the first step, there has to be a violent exchange of the back leg with the down hand. Think of a pole vault. You want to launch off your down hand in the same manner.
  • Create abdominal pressure, stiffening the core by holding your breath to maximize force generation.
  • During the first 10 yards, your body remains at a 45 degree angle.
  • At top end speed, focus on arm action. Think of your arms as hammers and repeatedly hammer back, still keeping the core tight and body stiff to avoid energy leaks.

The 5-10-5: This is a measure of your change of direction and goes by a couple different names – Pro-Agility, Short Shuttle, and the 20-Yard Shuttle. Many athletes do not perform this race efficiently, but simple techniques can improve that. Memorize the following mental cues:

  • First 5 Yards: Cross, Cross, Turn
  • Next 5: 1, 2, 3 (midline)
  • Next 5: 4, 5 (touchpoint)
  • Next 5: 6-7-8 (quick steps)
  • Last 5: 1, 2, 3 (diving through the line on your third step)

The L-Drill: The L-Drill (also called the 3 Cone) is like a dance step, and also the test where the most mistakes are made. Each step is crucial to maximizing your time on this drill. Memorize the following steps:

  • 1, 2, right hand touch
  • 1, 2, right hand touch
  • 1, 2, 3, 4 around the cone
  • 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 around the cone
  • Head for home and finish through the center of the cones

The Standing Broad Jump: This is a true test of power. While your stance is important, mental preparation plays a huge role in this test. Creating a ritual will help you succeed. We recommend the following:

  • Hands come up, on your toes, hands come back (like an olympic diver).
  • Perform again and on the second olympic diver, rapid fire with your arms and leap straight out (think Superman!) Use your arms as anchors to project yourself forward.

The Vertical Jump: Everyone can improve the vertical jump with a couple simple strategies. Getting extra height through elongating your body all plays a role in adding marginal gains. Perform a hip flexor stretch to maximize glute activation and elongate your spine. Again, your set up and ritual are important here.

  • Shoulder is to the post, arm up, knees locked and you’re measured to the middle finger. Take one step out, toes lined up with post, arm straight up, middle finger lined up with the outside of the pegs. Be sure you do not line up too close to the post.
  • Pick a spot and pretend that’s the front of the rim. Visualize yourself jumping to that spot. Maybe even ask the evaluator to show you were 30 inches is.
  • Perform the same ritual as in the Standing Broad Jump. This is all about arm swing. The faster your arm can swing, the higher you will jump.

The Bench Press: Setting up for an effective bench press is important, but keep in mind, this is not the prettiest of tests. It’s all about getting as many reps as possible. We’re not looking for perfect form; we’re looking to move the bar as fast as possible.

  • Leading up to your football combine, train the bench twice per week – once for strength, once for speed. Take your time to learn the movement, working with lighter weight until you are comfortable
  • Ideally, take as wide grip as possible for shorter range of motion. Squeeze the bar as hard as possible. Make sure your feet are comfortable, but able to push down as hard as possible. Your feet are another gear to generate more force.
  • Slight curvature of the spine, engage your lats and keep your chest up. You will touch the bar at the highest point of your chest.
  • The key is pulling the bar down right as it gets to the top. The focus is on turning the force around at the top of the movement as fast as possible. You will fatigue quickly. This technique allows you to maximize reps.

For more detailed insights and training tips, read How to Master the 6 Football Combine Tests.

Programming for Speed and Strength

In preparation for your football combine tests, it’s crucial to be following a training program that focuses on both speed and strength gains. These days, a lot of fitness professionals will lean heavily one way or the other, but at Parisi Speed School, we know the importance of balancing speed training and strength training for a well-rounded, powerful athlete.

In our world, speed training IS strength training. It’s all about being strong enough. Strength is relative to body weight. A well-rounded, powerful athlete is strong enough in relation to their size while still maintaining optimal speed and agility.

A program for football combine preparation might have two days focused on strength training, two days focused on speed training, and one day reserved for dynamic training and drill work. The key to proper programming, especially for the dedicated athlete looking to excel at higher levels, is working with a certified professional who can help you set goals and exceed them.

Athlete Nutrition

There is an overwhelming amount of information out there on proper athlete nutrition. So much so, in fact, that many nutrition guidelines now seem somewhat contradictory. How is youth athlete or a parent supposed to decipher through all this information?

We like to keep things as simple as possible for our athletes, parents and coaches. Athlete nutrition is absolutely a priority, especially when preparing for something as important as a football combine event. Our rules of thumb when it comes to athlete nutrition are as follows:

Refuel. Extremely important to help your body recover, reduce soreness and inflammation after a workout. Right after a workout you want carbs and protein in a 2-to-1 ratio within a 30 minute window. Something quick and easy is chocolate milk. It might be a little higher in sugar but right after a workout that’s extremely important and that’s okay to be drinking. Beet juice, while it may not taste as good as chocolate milk, has a lot of benefits for you, such as increased muscular endurance and strength in your body.

Pre workout, something quick and delicious to fuel your body would be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Rehydrate. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! When it comes to what you’re putting in your body throughout the day, it’s extremely important. There are a lot of high-sugar energy drinks out there, but we highly recommend to stick with good ol’ H20. If you are dehydrated, you are at a higher risk of injury.

In terms of how much water you should be drinking, it definitely depends on how active you are throughout the day, but we recommend 0.5 to 1 ounce of water per pound of bodyweight per day.

Repair. When we think of repairing our muscles, we think of protein. When you workout, you are tearing down muscle fibers. Right after a workout, you want to prioritize protein (and carbs) to help build that muscle back up.

Rest. When you’re breaking down your body, you need rest to help your body get back to where it was. If you’re not sleeping at night, your body is not going to fully recover. 8-10 hours of sleep a night is just as important, or even more important than your training.

The Power of Mental Preparation

You’ve probably heard the old adage that “90% of sports is mental.” While this may or may not be true, mental preparation for your football combine prep is equally as important as the physical preparation. Many coaches and athletes underestimate the impact that positive thinking and confidence can have on performance.

So how do you mentally prepare for the football combine tests?

Commitment. You have to completely buy into the process. Trust the process. Have confidence in your hours and weeks and months and years of hard work all leading up to this moment.

Visualization. We tell our athletes to create a victory reel in their mind. Visualize yourself taking each of the evaluations and doing it to the best of your ability. Play that victory reel over and over again with the same result – success.

Goal setting. Set specific goals for yourself. If you don’t know what your goal is, how are you going to reach the goal? “Doing well on the football combine tests” is not a good enough goal. What does “well” mean to you? What time do you want to set on the 40-Yard Dash? How much do you want to improve your vertical jump in the weeks leading up to the event? Setting specific goals is crucial to your success.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

It’s our goal to help you maximize your performance. We’ve given you the best tools for your toolbox. Now it’s time to get to work! Team up with a local Certified Parisi Performance Coach or become a member of our 5-Star Combine Training Membership to deepen your knowledge and further enhance your skills.