Defense: J.J. Watt
If you think being on a perennial losing team that can’t sort out its quarterback situation is demoralizing, you’d be right— except you’d be wrong when it comes to J.J. Watt, the Texans’ All-Pro defensive end who attacks his off-season workouts with the same ferocity he uses to charge an offensive tackle. “If you’re not trying to be the greatest to have ever played the game, then you’re wasting your time,” Watt told M&F. Watt is a walking embodiment of every dusty old sportswriter cliché about hard work and sportsmanship.
He’s brutal to go up against but has never been cited for dirty play. In the gym, he chases PRs on the kind of conditioning work most guys just want to skip. While doing box jumps a few years ago, he became obsessed with attempting higher and higher boxes. In April, he topped a staggering 61-inch box.
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When HBO featured Watt in the latest season of Hard Knocks, it showed him flipping a 1,000-pound tractor, which, two years ago, Watt could flip only once. A year later, he got 30 reps. This past off-season, in separate workouts, he got 51 and 65 reps. “It’s all just mental,” Watt said. “Create that vision in your head that nobody’s going to work harder than you. Then you go out and prove it.”
WATT’S UPPER-BODY WORKOUT
Designed by Brad Arnett of NX Level Sports Performance in Waukesha, WI. nxlevelathletics.com
Max-Effort Upper Body
(1) Shoulder Pack Roll : 2 sets, 10 reps (shoulder blade retraction and shoulder external rotation)
(2) Incline Bench: 4 sets, 10 reps (45%), 5 reps ( 60%), 3 reps (70%), 5 reps (80%)
Speed sets: 3 sets, 5 reps (55%), 2 sets, 5 reps (80%) (Watt has a 375–400 incline max)
(3) Dumbbell Floor Press: 4 sets, 8 reps (Watt uses 100- to 150-pound dumbbells)
(4) Fat-Bar Pullup: 3 sets, 10 reps
Superset w/Chest-Supported T-bar row: 3 sets, 12 reps
(5) Chest-supported T-bar row: 3 sets, 12 reps
Superset w/Straight-Arm Lat/Serratus Pulldown: 3 sets, 10 reps
(6) TRX Arm Curl: 3 sets, 12 reps
Superset w/Band or Cable External Rotation: 3 sets, 10 reps
(7) Tempo Run: Eight 40-yard tempo runs at 75% max speed
Offense: Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck led the NFL in touchdown passes in 2014 with 40. Being the NFL’s leading scorer not surprisingly has a lot to do with pinpoint accuracy and a meticulous attention to detail. In Luck’s case this carries over into his everyday life—which is programmed down to the minute with almost robotic efficiency.“I start my day with breakfast around 7 a.m., then we’ll have meetings for 90 minutes before our team walk-through,” says Luck, who was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2012. “Then, I rotate a one-hour lifting schedule every other day. Following the lift, I eat lunch and take a nap before practice. After practice, I stop by the training room for recovery, eat dinner, go to meetings, and get in bed by 10:30 p.m.”
In the gym, Luck makes leg strength a priority and favors deadlifts, split squats, and stepups. The three-time Pro Bowler also works on shoulder strength and mobility with stretches and soft-tissue work. “I keep track of my lifting numbers to make sure I’m improving, but I don’t max out,” Luck says. “Weightlifting is imperative to all players, even quarterbacks, because being stronger makes us more resilient to the physical nature of the game.”
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For recovery, Luck says sleep and nutrition are most important, and he pounds a BodyArmor sports drink with every meal to keep electrolytes up.
As for his goals this year, Luck says, “I’d like to improve my touchdown-to-interception ratio.” (He had 16 picks last season.) “I also think improvement in the red zone and third down is crucial.”
There are very few certainties in the NFL except this: If you knock down Luck (in the first two games of this year he was knocked down a league-leading 17 times), he’ll get back up and make you pay— right after he pats you on the butt and thanks you for it.
Andrew Lucks Workout
Luck performed this workout with quarterback coach George Whitfield Jr. prior to the 2012 NF L draft. The circuit is performed three times through.
(1) Agility Ladder* — 8 sets, 1 rep
(2) Cross-field Drop Back — 1 set, 4 reps
(3) Hurdle Drop** — 1 set, 4 reps
(4A) 2nd-floor Throw*** — 4 reps
(4B) Pass Under Pressure**** — 8 reps
(4C) Light Touch Throw — 15 reps
(5) Kneeling Med Ball Throw — 1 set, 30 reps
(6) Standing Med Ball Throw — 2 sets, 30 reps
*Four vertical trips, four lateral trips.
**Drop back over four 12-inch hurdles.
***Throw over LBs from sideline to sideline.
****Whitfield Jr. uses brooms as defensive threats.
Defense: Mario Williams
After a decade in the NFL, Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams continues to be an opposing quarterback’s worst nightmare. The four-time Pro Bowler has started each of the 132 games he’s played in and recorded 14½ sacks in 2014, the fourth most in the NFL. Lower-body strength is hugely important for a pass rusher, but Williams pays equal attention to his upper body, building the strength necessary to win battles when he engages with an offensive lineman. “We never max out, but if we’re doing triples, I’ll do a 405-pound bench press and 150-pound dumbbell presses for five sets of five reps,” Williams says. Williams calls his training style “intense, rapid fire, and metabolic,” designed to increase heart rate by decreasing rest between sets. Some of his favorite circuits include lunges, hang cleans, leg presses, and safety squats. He credits the competitive nature of the weight room for making calculated gains.
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“Typically I train with [linemate] Manny Lawson, and even on a bad day, if one of us is under the weather, you still have a better workout because we push each other,” Williams says. “It’s always competitive so we might have done X amount last week, but today we’re pumping out more because of the atmosphere.”
To keep his motor running smoothly, Williams drinks half of his body weight in Penta purified water every day. During the off-season, the 2006 No. 1 overall draft pick prioritized dropping back into coverage and playing in space so he can make an impact anywhere on the field. “There are going to be times I rush the passer, but to be unpredictable, you need to make them think you’re coming, then drop and cover a route,” Williams says. “I’m trying to be disruptive and make plays. Everyone on the roster should feel like a leader. Go out there and prove it.”
Mario Williams Lower Body Workout
(1A) Hang Clean — 4 sets, 3 reps
- superset with -
(1B) Hip Flexor Stretch — 3 sets, 20 reps
(2) Safety Squat — 5 sets, 5 reps
(3) Single-arm DB Bulgarian Split Squat — 3 sets, 8 reps (each side)
(4) Dumbbell Shrug — 3 sets, 10 reps
(5) Kettlebell Single-leg RDL — 3 sets, 8 reps (each side)
(6) Dumbbell Hip Thrust* — 3 sets, 6 reps
*Hold for five seconds at the top.
The Rest of the Roster
Weight: 308 lbs
Note: The 6x Pro Bowler has nevermissed a game in his 11-year career.
Weight: 208 lbs
Note: Rushed for 1,319 yards in 2014; is a scoring machine with 55 TDs in six years.
Weight: 234 lbs
Note: The bruising back has rumbled for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Weight: 198 lbs
Note: Has a 38½-inch vertical to go with one-handed catch abilities.
Weight: 220 lbs
Note: An absolute bully at his position, Bryant led WRs in TDs (16) last year.
Weight: 265 lbs
Note: Gronk has the second-most receiving TDs in Pats history.
Weight: 307 lbs
Note: The 6x Pro Bowler is a wall at center; he allowed just one sack in 2014.
Weight: 320 lbs
Note: Cornerstone of a line that’s making Lamar Miller a breakout star.
Weight: 320 lbs
Note: Forget the 225 bench press. Smith can throw up close to 700 pounds.
Weight: 335 lbs
Note: Started every game for four years; 39 reps at 225; no sacks allowed in 2013.
Weight: 258 lbs
Note: Perfectly blends speed (4.68 in the 40) and strength (30 reps, 225 bench).
Weight: 198 lbs
Note: Regarded as the best at his position, Revis now has a Super Bowl ring too.
Weight: 219 lbs
Note: A perennial Pro Bowler at 25; owns a 4.34 40-yard dash.
Weight: 202 lbs
Note: 97 stops in 2014; is one of the strongest safeties—21 reps in the 225 bench.
Weight: 300 lbs
Note: In 2011 he set the NFL combine record with 49 reps in the 225-pound bench.
Weight: 300 lbs
Note: When 300 pounds can run a five-second 40-yard dash, get out of the way.
Weight: 238 lbs
Note: The NFL’s leading tackler in 2014 (153). Once made 24 stops in a single game.
Weight: 255 lbs
Note: He, not Ray Lewis, has the most single-season sacks (17) in Ravens history.
Weight: 248 lbs
Note: 2013’s top playmaker (171 stops) is training for a big comeback.
Weight: 195 lbs
Note: Muscular for a placekicker, Bailey’s accurate, too—90% for his career.
Weight: 195 lbs
Note: King doesn’t just hang a punt for five seconds; and he’s ripped.