I Tried It: The Football Player’s Workout

On field sports training exercise

The muscle-bound trainer posed the question to me carefully: “What kind of workouts do you normally do?”

“Spin class and yoga,” I said. My panic was palpable. The five instructors in the room were football-player massive, and there was unfamiliar fitness equipment in an obstacle course around the room, bolted to the walls and neatly piled in the corners.

“This is a little different,” he said.

A friend had told me about Tone House, a just-opened fitness studio in New York owned by Alonzo Wilson, a former college football player and current fitness model and personal trainer. When I heard it used all the latest exercise gadgets, my interest was piqued. Sign me up!

But as I milled around the room with a bunch of other people who have never done the 60-minute class before, I started to freak out. Didn’t actual athletes die during football practice? I can barely hoist my carry-on bag into the overhead bin—how was I supposed to lift that sandbag?

We huddled in a circle and did a team cheer before class. Ready or not, the warm-up began: We jumped over cones and then sprinted across the black AstroTurf-lined room. Along the way, trainers gave out instructions (“pick up your knees!”) and high-fives.

One woman fell down while doing double-jumps. A guy had to take himself to the bathroom for a “time out” while the rest of use wondered if he had lost his lunch. All this happened during the 10-minute warm-up. My competitive nature kicked into high gear. I would not wuss out in front of a room full of super-fit folks, even if it killed me.

After all that jumping, I was strapped into a harness attached to a bungee. I crawled on the ground against the resistance, tapped a foam block, and let go to be yanked back to the starting point. (I lost my neon pink sneaker along the way, but my dignity remained intact.) Then, I flung a sandbag across the room while doing mountain climbers with my feet in gliding discs. I hung on for dear life and did jumping squats on a TRX and did bicycle crunches with my feet bound to a resistance band.

By the end of the 60-minute class, I felt like a truck had run over me—in the best possible way. And even though the workout was hard, nothing felt unsafe because you mostly use your own bodyweight. The trainers had gone out of their way to encourage me when I struggled (read: most of it), and I felt accomplished by the end, not embarrassed.

But you don’t have to live in New York or own any fancy equipment to get the body benefits of a Tone House workout. We asked Wilson to create an at-home routine Elizabeth Street readers can do anytime. These five moves will challenge all your muscles and get results pronto:

Backwards squat twist with jump: Begin in high plank push-up position. Bend knees and press back, twisting obliques to right, so you are in a twisting squat position with hands on ground. Jump feet to hands, then jump up off ground. Jump feet back to high plank position; repeat. Do for one minute twisting to the right and then one minute twisting to the left.

Push-up scorpion: Begin in high plank push-up position. Complete one push-up, then flip over to left so that you’re in a backwards table top. Extend right hand and left leg up to touch. Flip back over to high plank and repeat. Do for one minute, flipping to the left and then one minute flipping to the right.

Bound jumps: Begin standing in squat position. Jump forward as far as you can, land in a low squat; repeat. Do for one minute. (If you run out of room, turn around and jump back the other way.)

Get up sprints: Begin lying on stomach. Quickly press up to standing and sprint forward. Run 20 yards, turn around and sprint back. Repeat 5 times.

Quick feet with push-ups: Begin standing with knees bent. Step feet back and forth, keeping a fast pace. Do for 20 seconds; drop down and do 20 seconds of push-ups. Turn over and do 20 seconds of bicycle crunches. Stand back up and repeat series. Do 5 times.