WSBB Blog: Max Effort Upper Exercises for Football Players

WSBB Education
Fri Oct 15, 2021

Tags: Max Effort Lower, Hamstrings, Sprinting

The sport of football not only requires a strong set of legs, you must have a strong upper body as well. Linemen need a strong upper body to engage blocks, linebackers need a strong upper body to make tackles, and ball carriers need a strong upper body to shed blocks and keep the ball secure. No matter your position, developing your arm and torso strength will lead to increased sport performance. Additionally, a properly trained upper body will lower the risk of bicep, tricep, and shoulder injuries.

To achieve a strong upper body, football players must press a barbell from a variety of positions. Max effort upper days will always feature a variation of the bench or the overhead press, typically performing two bench press variations for every one overhead press variation. Below, we will go over a few of the max effort upper exercise variations we recommend for football players.

Floor Press

This is one of the best ways to bench press if you are a lineman. Due to the position the bar will pause, the floor press forces you to reverse the motion of the barbell by exerting massive amounts of tricep strength. The ROM is similar to the ROM involved when a lineman goes to extend their arms after making initial contact with their opponent. This means that not only will you have the strength to land a powerful initial strike to the chest, you will also have overwhelming tricep strength to extend your arms and drive your opponent off balance.


The floor press should be executed using no leg drive. You want the focus of the exercise to be placed on the arms and shoulders. You can add in additional variations of the floor press by adding bands or chains to the lift. Players should work up to a top set single, triple, or set of five when performing this exercise.

Push Press

The push press is one of the best ways for an athlete to develop great amounts of upper body strength, while also learning how to create power using their leg drive to assist in upper body extension. The push press will help develop strong shoulders, arms, and will increase upper back strength as well. This exercise can also be done with minibands attached to the bar, forcing an athlete to be even more explosive to create the speed and power necessary to fully extend and lockout against the bands.

This movement is not only excellent for developing torso strength, you will also increase your leg drive and trunk bracing abilities as well. We recommend working up to a top set single, triple, or set of five when performing this exercise. When performing the push press, always be mindful of your fatigue level. It is of no use for an athlete to perform sloppy push presses in a fatigued state, this will only serve to increase the risk of injury.

Close Grip Bench Press

Much like the floor press, the close grip bench press is an extremely effective movement when developing the striking and blocking power of a lineman. To execute these correctly, you will want to have your hands positioned on the bar at the same width they would be if you were making contact with an opponent. This will allow you to become as strong as possible in this position. When executing close grip bench presses, be sure to keep as rigid a torso as possible, allowing your arms to do the work. When performed correctly, few exercises can increase your tricep strength like the close grip bench press.

Each rep should be lowered in a controlled manner, paused, and pressed with maximum amounts of force applied to the barbell. Letting the bar drop to your chest, bouncing the bar off of your chest, or raising your body off of the bench to complete a rep should be avoided at all costs. We recommend players work up to single reps, triples, or sets of five when performing this exercise.

The development of the complete football player must always include the use of max effort press training. Strong legs are important, but having the torso and arm strength to dominate your opponent is important as well. When programmed and executed correctly, the above mentioned exercises will give you the torso and arm strength necessary to manhandle your opponent. Not only will this strength lead to increased levels of sport performance, players will have a lowered risk of tricep, bicep, and shoulder injuries as well. Be sure to visit the Conjugate Club to find out how we program for football players at Westside Barbell.