Outside of strength sports, football players are often regarded as some of the strongest athletes by trade. In many cases, they train a lot like strength athletes, or at least perform a lot of the same movements: Squats, deadlifts, bench press, snatch pulls, and cleans.
At 39 year olds, now retired professional NFL player James Harrison was one of our favorite football athletes to follow on Instagram. He frequently posted heavy lifting videos and brought attention to some great movements others may have not seen otherwise. Was his form picture perfect every rep? That’s up for viewer discretion, but there’s no denying the positive light he continually shined on some strength training staples.
In honor of his retirement, which he announced two days ago, we wanted to take a few moments and highlight ten of our favorite Harrison lifting videos.
1. 675 lb Hip Thrust for Reps
Harrison’s heavy hip thrust video below got a lot of traction on social media for two reasons. First, it’s a ton of weight to thrust for multiple reps. Second, people had multiple critiques on Harrison’s form (mostly because the hitch at the top).
Internet debates aside, there’s no denying the power of the hip thrust and the benefits it can bring to your lifting.
2. Banded Z-Press With an Earthquake Bar
The video below highlights a Z-Press, which was a move popularized by legendary strongman Zydrunas Savickas. We love that Harrison featured this lift because it’s a great movement to build upper body musculature, core strength, and can improve one’s mobility, or at least shine light on potential areas of weakness, ie: tight hips.
If there’s one shoulder movements that requires you to check your ego at the door, it’s the Z-press.
3. Improving Lockouts With Banded Anderson Squats
The Anderson squat, also known as the bottoms-up or pin squat, is one way athletes can build postural awareness and power from a dead stop position in the squat. A lot of athletes are unaware of squat variations like Anderson squats, so we’re always pumped to see bigger named athletes featuring them in videos.
Typically, Anderson squats will be performed at parallel or below, but Harrison uses his variation slightly higher with bands, which can be used to help support lockout strength.
4. Walked Out Trap Bar Deadlifts
The trap bar is an excellent tool for strength training, but isn’t incredibly common in many big box gyms. An athlete can use a trap bar to improve hinge mechanics, overall back/leg/grip strength, and improve their knee tracking.
We don’t recommend walking out the trap bar like Harrison did in his video, but we definitely recommend implementing this training tool into your current program.
5. Wider Stance Belt Squats
Another piece of equipment that is rare to find in most gyms is the belt squat machine. In terms of sufficient leg development without spinal loading, few exercises can compare to the belt squat.
If you have a belt squat in your gym, then go to your gym’s owner, shake his hand, and say thank you for the leg and glute growth.
6. Back Foot Elevated Barbell Split Squats
If you asked most coaches and athletes where their weakness may lie, it’s usually in unilateral streength. Lunges, split squats, and any form of single limb work are some of the best tools an athlete can use to avoid imbalances, build coordination, and work stability.
That’s why we’re happy Harrison chose to highlight some back foot elevated split squats in the video below.
7. Duffalo Bar Bench Press
For athletes who experience elbow pain during the bench (and sometimes knee pains during the squat), then the use of a Duffalo Bar can be one way to help. This bar’s origins root back to legendary powerlifter and coach Chris Duffin, who if we might add, is currently squatting #800EveryDay to raise money for the Special Olympics Oregon.
Check out Harrison’s Duffalo Bar bench press below, and if you scroll around his page, then you can find him squatting with it, too.
8. Heavy Reverse Grip Floor Press
This video highlights two movements often underutilized by the common gym rat. The floor press is beneficial for improving tricep strength (especially at lockout) and can be a useful means to working at overload weights (95-100+% 1-RM).
In addition to using the floor press, Harrison is also rocking a reverse grip, which few athletes ever utilize in their workouts. Reverse grip bench has its place when working to develop proper elbow tucking mechanics and activating the lats/upper back.
9. Loaded Earthquake Bar Back Squats
Earthquake Bars are even more rare to have in gyms than Duffalo Bars. These training tools are designed to create a lack of stability in movements and have weights (plates, kettlebells, etc) attached to them with resistance bands.
If you’re lucky enough to have an earthquake bar at your disposal, then use it up and reap the benefits they offer. Although, keep it light and safe, as these bars are designed to lack stability and have a ton of whip.
10. Medicine Ball Volleyball (Hooverball)
Okay, this one is sort of the anomaly on our strength list, but we felt like this video was worth a mention. Most people hit up the volleyball courts to play…you know…volleyball, but not Harrison.
If you and your strength loving friends have a medicine ball laying around, then it’s time to hit the courts and gain a little extra core strength. Check out the 2 vs. 2 video below that features Harrison and posse playing medicine ball volleyball.
Harrison had a long and successful career and went out with a bang playing for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. He did an awesome job promoting a variety of underutilized strength movements to the mass public, and we wish him the best in his well-earned retirement.
Feature image screenshot from @jhharrison92 Instagram page.