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Band Training With T.O.


It’s truly a shame that most of what we know about Terrell Owens comes from sensationalized stores by overzealous reporters who are more concerned with what he said into a microphone after a game than his ability to tear through defensive backs while playing it. We have heard long diatribes about the dance Terrell did after scoring a particular touchdown, but not about the dedication that went into making that play possible in the first place. Overlooked is the fact that Terrell Owens is loved by his teammates and coaches and athletic players in the game of football today.

Even the most dedicated football fans know little of Terrell Owens’ story. It’s about an unexceptional young athlete who found a passion, then created his own destiny around it.

While playing for his junior high football team, Terrell was more likely to win a local Michael Jackson contest [yes, that really happened] than to make a play on the field. “I had just enough ability to make the team,” he says. And even though he began to stand out in his last two years of high school, Terrell wasn’t the team’s star; he didn’t even crack the starting lineup until his senior year.

During those early years of athletic anonymity, a crucial catalyst in the creation of the Pro Bowl receiver we know today was formed. “During my junior and senior years, we had enrichment periods where you could study or do whatever you wanted,” Terrell says. “So I asked the teacher if I could get a pass to go down and lift weights…If I didn’t have any extra work to do, I was in the weight room. I was probably 6’1”, 175 pounds—soaking wet. I was a stickpin, so it took a lot of hard work, dedication and hours in that weight room.”

Despite his newfound volition, Terrell’s late athletic development prevented him from being a top recruit. It wasn’t until the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was recruiting one of Terrell’s teammates that he was noticed. “They were watching film on him,” Terrell recalls. “They saw a few plays I made… [and] they invited me, sort of like a package deal. I just saw my time at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga as a means of getting an education; my mom wouldn’t have been able to afford it for me.”

By the time Terrell got to UTC, what started as something to do during free periods had become a deeply ingrained habit. While most of his fellow students and athletes were asleep or living up their college experiences in dorm rooms, frat houses and common rooms around campus, Terrell was honing his craft. On any given night in the off-season, any of the 8,000-plus undergrads might have noticed a fast-moving shadowy figure outside their windows. “In college, in the middle of the night, I would jump rope in the middle of the road or run sprints,” Terrell says. “I’m very competitive; [so] once you get those competitive juices and you want to be the best…you go the distance with it.”

Reinforcing his after-hours dedication, Terrell benefited from being a multi-sport collegiate athlete. He took to the hardwood as a member of the basketball team, which qualified for the ’95 NCAA tourney, and he anchored the 4×100 relay on the track team. According to Terrell, the form and technique he learned running track, and the hand-eye coordination, agility, conditioning and footwork he developed playing basketball helped him take his football game to a higher level. Terrell, who eventually hit 6’3” and more than 200 pounds, developed into a fast, coordinated receiver. And despite being keyed on and double-covered almost his entire senior season, he posted numbers that NFL scouts couldn’t overlook.

In 1996, when the San Francisco 49ers drafted Terrell in the third round, he got his chance to play in the NFL. “I can’t say that it’s always been a dream,” Terrell says. “It’s just something that I’ve always been competitive with. I think a lot of guys giving interviews or in a spur of the moment will say, ‘I’ve always dreamed of this moment.’ God blessed me with a lot of talent and a lot of ability, and it was something that I tapped into and honed my skills and tried to perfect the craft. As I’ve matured and learned to play the game of football, the dream for me is to win a championship—and that’s what I strive to do each and every year.”

Since entering the NFL, Terrell has continued to mature and perfect his craft, getting hungrier each year. “I learned from the best in the game at my position—Jerry Rice,” he says. “I knew that I had to prepare every off season like I was the number-one guy. I wanted to be the playmaker, the go-to guy. In the fourth quarter, you want to be the guy that can be counted on in those crunch seconds of a game. I want to be a guy my teammates depend on.

“When I prepare myself for each season,” he continues, “those are the things that go through my mind. It’s all about having that love and passion for the game. I don’t think anyone can ever dispute that I have that passion for the game or [that I] go out there and display it every weekend.”

Terrell’s Drive

Terrell’s biggest inspiration
I grew up under [my grandmother’s] roof. My mom was there, but at the same time, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. She was very strict with me for whatever reason. You would think I’d steer away from her being my favorite person; in a sense, it was tough love. When I approach the football season, she’s always mentally with me. I take her with me sometimes in the locker room, the weight room, the field—she’s there with me every step of the way. She’s been the strength, the rock, the foundation [during] whatever turmoil or distraction that I may encounter.

Why Terrell says what he says
Her biggest lesson is honesty. I’ve gotten myself in a lot of trouble throughout my career by speaking my mind and not really knowing the whole concept of speaking politically correct. She always told me to be honest, no matter what. For me, that meant being honest with my feelings, no matter what a reporter asked me. I gave them my honest opinions and honest answers. It was [the] game within a game that I had to learn.

Terrell talks celebrations
I just love to dance and celebrate. It’s got nothing to do with me trying to make anyone look bad.

Shredded Up To Pieces
In the middle of performing his intense—almost obsessive—strength training routine, Terrell sums up his approach in one neat package. While patting his chest, shoulders and arms, he says: “These are my babies. I have to keep them strong.” He then holds out his open hands in front of him: “And these are my moneymakers!”

For Terrell, owning the NFL’s best physique and the most effective moves off the line is no accident. A realization early in his career fueled the development of both. “In my third year in the league, I was introduced to a trainer who I currently have, Buddy Primm,” Terrell says. “Once I got with him, I realized how bad of shape I was in—even when I thought I was in good shape.”

Following this discovery, Terrell set out on a journey to get into the best shape possible and to educate himself on what was most beneficial for his game. As a result, his training methods changed drastically. “When you don’t have the knowledge, you go through junior high, high school and college…all about impressing the girls—how much you bench press, how much can you curl, how much you can squat,” he says. “That is the traditional stuff that everyone learned growing up. But once you become knowledgeable about your body and what you are trying to obtain with it, you start to get into innovative and creative stuff. Once I got away from that traditional stuff and starting doing my own thing, I saw a big difference in my body make-up.”

Terrell’s search for the innovative and creative brought him to elastic band training. “I injured my groin and did some work with a guy who used bands to strengthen those muscles,” Terrell recalls. “I could just feel it strengthening me from the inside. And most people don’t know this, but a lot of your speed comes from your core, inside out. From that point on, I wanted to incorporate bands into my training.”

So impressed with the results was Terrell that he teamed up with Bodylastics to create the T.O. Strongman Edition training bands, which support heavy-duty strength training at a higher resistance than traditional bands. With this system, Terrell has created an upperbody workout suited to the demands of the wide receiver position. “I do a lot of work with my hands coming off the line [to] prevent a DB from jamming me up or getting off with different releases,” he says. “If I have a defender in front of me, I have my hands up and in front the whole time on the line. Depending on his body position, I’m either going to rip through, swim through, or catch him off guard and drive my hands straight into him at the same time. That’s why I do a lot band work that isolates the muscles in each hand, because everything I do is with one arm or one hand.”

Terrell’s training re-education came with a new approach to nutrition—a combination that’s produced exponential results. “My first couple years, I was eating McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Burger King. I had to weed all that stuff out,” he says. “[Buddy] introduced healthy eating and [the idea of] eating every three to four hours throughout the day—at least four to five meals a day, [which is] to speed your metabolism up.”

Terrell now eats eight to 10 egg whites and oatmeal in the morning. If he happens to hit up the Waffle House, he’ll order steamed hash browns, and when he wants chocolate, he’ll snack on veggies instead. “It’s crazy sometimes and gets monotonous. Many people have tried to stick to my diet, and they can’t do it,” he says. “But this on top of the training, it’s going to shred you up to pieces.”

Terrell’s Band Training

1. Chest Press

• With band resistance attached to stable object behind you, step forward into staggered stance and hold handles at chest level

• Drive handles straight ahead by fully extending arms

• Return arms to start position with control; repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 4×15

Owens: Keep your core tight and get into a position with a sound base and foundation. Push straight ahead, just like a bench press. You can rep out with this just like a 225 Combine sort of thing. Just rep out until you feel the burn.

2. Seated Row

• With band resistance attached to stable object at low position in front of you, sit on ground and hold handles with straight arms forward

• Drive elbows back until hands reach chest

• Return arms to start position with control; repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 4×15

Owens: Keep your upper body straight, stay stationary and let your arms do the work. Don’t get into rocking back. You’ll feel this in your back and the tops of your shoulders. This helps so much with muscle balance and being able to take and deliver a blow. It gives you all that power behind you when you’re trying to deliver a blow. You can increase the resistance by adding bands, or you can move yourself back to increase the tension.

3. Shoulder Press

• Assume athletic, staggered stance

• Hold handles at shoulder level with band under back foot

• Drive handles toward ceiling until arms are straight

• Lower with control; repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 4×13-15

Owens: This is good for the traps and shoulders. I crouch down a little to get myself a good base, so I’m not wobbly—and I’m tightening my abs. I have a technique now that my trainer gave me; he tells me to “key up.” It’s kind of like if you have to go to the bathroom and you cut it off; that’s what I’m doing the whole time—and [I] make sure my butt isn’t sticking out.

4. Single-Arm Crossover

• With band resistance attached to stable object to left of you, hold handle with left arm to side with tension in band

• Keeping body stable, bring arm across body to right

• Return arm to start position with control; repeat for specified reps

• Perform set on right side

Sets/Reps: 4×10-12

Owens: I’m working my core and pec at the same time. I keep my core tight and bring my arm to the middle and across my chest. You can feel that straight isolation in your chest. Again, I don’t have my butt sticking out; I’m keyed up. Start at a distance that puts some tension in the band.

5. Adjusted Lateral Raise

• Assume athletic stance with band under feet; hold handles at sides so that arms are angled slightly forward

• Keeping arms straight, raise them to shoulder level and slightly in front

• Lower arms to start position; repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 4×13-15

Owens: You’ll really feel this in the back and across your shoulders. You can do these with dumbbells, but I like to use the bands, because they’re easier on the joints; the movement is much more fluid, and it’s constant resistance. The more you spread your feet, the harder it is, because it’s more tension. This strengthens the shoulders and all the smaller intrinsic muscles on the inside. In football, there are a lot of guys with shoulder problems because you can get hit every kind of way; you can have an awkward fall; you can get hit on your shoulder. The stronger those internal muscles are, they better the chances of healing and coming back faster.

6. Front Raise

• Assume athletic stance with band under feet, and hold handles in front of thighs with palms facing you

• Keeping arms straight, raise them to shoulder level in front of you

• Lower arms to start position; repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 4×13-15

Owens: I usually keep my feet at shoulder width and focus on coming straight up. Keep tension on the band when you come back down, then go right back up. You can feel your shoulders burn all up the front; you get a different burn from the different angle.

7. Rear Delt

• With band resistance attached to stable object in front, step back into even stance and hold handles with arms straight in front of you with tension in band

• Keeping arms straight, bring handles back and to side until they are even with shoulders

• Return arms to start position with control; repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 4×13-15

Owens: This really gets the back of the shoulders.

8. Bicep Curl

• Assume athletic stance with band under feet; hold handles in front of thighs with palms facing out

• Without changing position of elbows, bring handles to chest level by curling arms

• Return arms to start position with control; repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 4×13-15

Owens: Keep your arms shoulder-width apart, and keep them in tight [to you]. Bring them up to a little bit more than parallel, and then bring them back down. This is a traditional curl. A lot of people use dumbbells, but with these bands you get resistance on the way up and on the way down. You get a constant pump.

Josh Staph
Josh Staph is a feature writer for Stack Magazine, providing performance and training info for athletes.

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